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Bookviews Book Reviews


 4-15-2005
 

 

Romantic Guide to Handfasting: Rituals, Recipes & Lore by Anna Franklin

The idea of this book is to offer a planning guide for anyone looking at having a pagan handfasting ritual.  The author has laid out the basic components of putting together a modern handfasting with all the romantic trimmings.

There is a lot here on tradition and background.  The opening of the book gives a good basic overview of handfastings and their historical background.  Also further along in the book the author covers are some wedding traditions from various countries.

The author includes a kind of “checklist” for organizing your event.  Tips include budgeting, members of the wedding party, family and friends and writing your own commitment.

The ritual part contains two basic rituals, one being pagan, or very general, and the other being “Wiccan” or path specific.  The idea is that you take the basics and embellish it to suit your own spiritual or ritualistic needs.  Further along in the book there are blessings, poems, and other ideas for these embellishments.   Ms. Franklin has even included a “hand parting” ritual. 

The balance of the book contains the “embellishments” to add to your handfasting.  Covered are various Gods and Goddesses that you may want to include in your ritual along with some background on those discussed. There is also a chapter on picking a date in accordance with phases of the moon, time of day, particular holiday, and specific month or day.

There are “themes” presented for your celebration.  Everything from “simple pagan” or “formal Wiccan” to Viking, Roman or culturally based wedding traditions, these basics will give you something to think about and possibly consider adding to your celebration.

There are correspondence tables for woods for brooms, if you are going to include this in your handfasting.  There are color correspondences for dresses and clothing, discussion on cords, the veil, rings and a correspondence table for gemstones.  There is even a “Victorian Language of the Flowers” list.  And of course, there is magical plant lore and some basics on wreaths, bouquets, and incense and oils.

The author includes a section on recipes for cakes and goodies you may want to have at your reception.  All include ingredients that have some romantic or magical correspondence.  There are some more complex recipes for wines, wine blends and mead which will require varying degrees of skill. 

And there is a section on spells and charms; little workings to assure a successful handfasting and future for the bride and groom.

There are samples of handfasting certificates, invitations and some appendices on anniversary gifts and some “Useful Addresses” most of which are in the UK as the author resides there.

The romance indicated in the title is provided by the bride and groom as they leaf through the guide and choose those things that will represent their lives together and prepare a ceremony that will provide meaning to them specifically.  The romantic materials are in the handbook for them to reference. 

The history and background section is a very good explanation of what a handfasting is all about and where it originated.  This can be helpful to the couple when they explain to their family and friends why they are choosing this type of wedding ceremony. 

This book is more about making the preparations for a handfasting than about the ritual itself.  This is a guide, a resource for the bride and groom to use for planning the extra touches for their special day.  Its focus is pagan and Wiccan handfastings, and it does offer many basic ideas which can be built upon by a couple who know what they want and just need something to walk them through the process.  The basics are here.  The book allows for you to pick and choose from some very extensive tables of extras that can make your handfasting both magical and romantic.  This book is a good choice for couples looking for a handfasting resource.  boudica

 

 

Dancing the Fire: The Ins and Outs of Neo-Pagan Festivals and Gatherings by Marian Singer

With the Festival season coming up on us, this book is a handbook on what to expect and how to handle neo-pagan festivals.  Ms. Singer outlines some very appropriate information and gives us some timeless advice on what pagan festivals are all about and everything you may want to know about them.

The book is divided into two sections, but the introduction should not be overlooked.  This section contains Festival FAQ’s which are priceless in their good, solid information and practical advices.  The part one section then covers “Everything Else You Need to Know About Festivals: and part two covers “Major American and Canadian Festivals”.  There are some well deserved Acknowledgments and a good “Authors Note to Gathering Facilitators and My Readers”, as well as an index for quick reference.

But to get into the “meat and potatoes” part of the book, first read the Introduction.  This is a well thought and put together section, in FAQ (frequently asked questions) format that asks just about every question you can think of regarding new-pagan festivals, and a few you didn’t think to ask.  The answers are thorough, and very “on the mark.  If you find yourself asking about whether you should attend a festival, medical issues, what about clothing optional or what if I see something that should not be going on, the answers are here.  Questions about what a festival is, what do I need, work passes and “Pagan Standard Time” are all here.  The author is very complete in her FAQ’s and my hat is off to her research and the care she put into this section.  Her advices are excellent and should be repeated to many groups before starting a festival.

In part two “Everything Else You Need to Know About Festivals” she covers anything else that may have been left out in the Introduction, and expands on other items covered in the FAQ.  Which festival should I choose and why, what should I pack, what should I wear and what can I eat?  What workshop should I attend, what vendors are the best, what about evening entertainment?  While Ms. Singer does not tell you where to go and what to do, she does offer information to help you make intelligent choices about events, vendors and workshops that might be of interest to you personally.   She also gives safety protocols, discusses what safety and protection steps should be in place at a festival you choose to attend and how to handle any medical or safety issues you personally need.  And she offers the best advice anyone could possibly give you regarding going to festivals:  Do research (check) on the festival, ask questions and get reviews and recommendations from others to help you understand what the event is about and whether it is the right event for you.  If you don’t like camping, then maybe a hotel event is for you.  If you don’t like cooking, find an event that offers meals, or has food available within a short distance from the event.  Ms. Singer wants you to make sure the event fits you, your personal needs, and your lifestyle preferences so that you will have the best time possible and a fulfilling experience to take away from the event.

The second part of the book is actual festival listings, by state and providence.  She has done much research on these events, listing websites, actual location, and contact person if available.   She lists available transportation, what the facilities are like and any special accommodations if available.  She also lists costs.

These are not recommendations.  While many of the “big name” events are listed, again she recommends that you "Check” the event before you decide on going. 

The only issue I have here is that events come and go. Costs go up.  Free events do not always remain free.  This list, while extensive and containing some annual events information that have been held for years, it also is only going to be as accurate as the year it was printed.  The printing date of 2005 will assure that many of the festivals listed will actually be occurring this year and the information is correct.  However, having presented at many events, I know that cancellations happen, sometimes happening very close to the event date.  Remember Ms. Singers word of wisdom – “Check” everything first. 

As a little addition to the material presented, there are little spells included in the book to help you through an event.  From “protective amulets” to “Dowsing for Dollars”, the author offers some practical, if not amusing spells for the magical festival attendee.  I enjoyed this bit of spellworking, and thought it a nice addition to the book.

A good section and one which I thought should be handed out to every festival attendee is the “Festival Etiquette and Safety” section.  Wonderful words of advice, some very practical safety instructions, and some very well thought out points on “Festival Etiquette” that should be mandatory reading.

Overall this is a really good book that should be in everyone’s backpack or suitcase.  The material covered is just full of ideas and advices that should be repeated over and over. 

If you are looking at attending your first festival, or are a regular festival goer, this book should be the one book you pick up.  This is a first rate handbook on neo-pagan festivals and events.   boudica

 

The Celtic Book of Seasonal Meditations by Claire Hamilton

The idea of this book is to provide the reader with points of meditation and inspiration based on the seasons of the year and Celtic sources.

The author takes the viewpoint that the Celts lived in harmony with the seasons and the cycles of the year and uses literature and writings to provide brief vignettes for the reader to focus on. 

This book is a lovely presentation.  A small, hard covered book, the dust jacket is a colorful Celtic knot work, but if you remove the dust jacket, the hard cover is embossed with the title and more Celtic knot work.  Each page is graced with a Celtic knot “watermark” in light grey that is not distracting but repeats the Celtic theme on every page. A very lovely presentation overall.

The book is pocket sized, making it easy to take along.  And the meditation pieces mostly cover one page, sometimes two at most.  This allows for brief meditations if the time is limited, say at lunch time or early morning.

The mediations are mostly derived from myths and legends of the Celtic people.  The author is well qualified in this area, as she is a Celtic scholar with several books published on this topic, founding member of a theater group specializing in presentations of Celtic myths, and an accomplished harpist who has a number of recording of Celtic music to her name.

Some of the material may have a lead-in to the meditative passages.  Shapeshifting, for example, is basically outlined, and then a poem on shapeshifting is offered for meditation.   I found this to be a nice addition to the material.

The meditations are grouped according to their content, focusing on the four seasons.  As the Celts were very seasonally focused in their practices, the material presented is well placed for the associations.  Each section is introduced with some background, a basic overview of the holidays associated with the season, and some facts that explain why some material is included in the section. 

Material is taken from a variety of sources, and while some are easily recognized, others will be new to you and are just as delightful.  From the story of Finn mac Cumhail to poetry that the author reworked from some ancient Celtic poems, the material presented is varied and does offer points for meditative contemplation and some personal soul searching.

There are meditations on some plights of various heroes and heroines, Celtic symbols, various Deities of the Celts and their stories and deeds, stories of the fairies, seasonal holidays and some delightful short poems.  An example, which I found very appropriate for its ability to invoke meditation on several levels, comes from the “Autumn” section:

“After the delight of summer
in each field and hollow
comes the weeping of the leaves,
the long sorrow.”

 A beautiful passage, and very much one to invoke much contemplation, not only about the season, but also on life itself.

The conclusions you draw on this material will be your own.  The author does not suggest any kind of “right or wrong” material, but merely provides the food for the thoughts you will come to on your own.  This is a book to draw your own thoughts about, and maybe reflect on in your own personal life.

This is a lovely work, and if you are drawn to the Celtic traditions, and find meditation a part of your life, this book will provide some material that will compliment your life style.  If you are curious about Celtic literary works, or just want a book of some interesting material for occasional reading, again, this book can provide a good starting point to your reading.  I very much recommend this title for your library.  boudica

 

My Life with the Spirits: The Adventures of a Modern Magician by Lon Milo DuQuette

This book is an autobiography. But it differs from most as it is also a teaching tool, with the focus being magic.  It is about personal responsibility and personal growth.   It is a book of inspiration as well as failure.  It’s about being human, becoming a holy man and dealing with the divine.  It is a book about the student who becomes the teacher.  Sounds interesting but confused?   Let me back up and explain.

Amongst his many practices, Lon Milo DuQuette is a Qabalahist, one who studies and practices the Qabalah.  No, he is not Jewish.  Not everyone who studies the Qabalah is Jewish.   He is a magician, in the truest sense of the word.

This practice of magic is the type your mother probably warned you about because she didn’t know any better.  Most often misunderstood by the mundane population, this type of practice has its roots in a few centuries of studies and practice.  If you are faint of heart and not the exploring type, this book probably will not be for you.  But if you are curious, if you want to know more about what really goes on, this book can give you a window into a fascinating field of magical practice.

Many are probably more familiar with the organizations that follow this type of practice, the Ordo Templi Orientis, or most commonly referred to as the O.T.O., and the Golden Dawn.  Names most commonly associated with this are Eliphas Levi, Aleister Crowley, and Israel Regardie, to name but an outstanding few.

But this book is not about these organizations nor these folks, but rather their influence on a singular person’s life, and how it changes this one person.

Mr. DuQuette starts out by giving us his background, his youth, and explains how his parents choices of a spiritual path failed to meet his special, personal needs.  Born in time to grow up in the 50s and 60s on the West Coast, he had the opportunity to seek out the spiritual path that made the most sense to him, and allowed him to explore it to the fullest.

There is much we could discuss about this book, the nuances of growing up and living in the 50s and 60s.  But what is important here is that Mr. Duquette has a way about him, of looking at a situation, in retrospect, and finding the “meat and potatoes” of why he chose a particular path or project, and making it into hash.  We all had adventures at that time.  Mr. Duquette had some whoppers.  And he admits to them and tells us all about them in a most charming way.

That is what makes this book unique.  This is not another dry and dull autobiography by some Ceremonial Magician that becomes an ego trip for the magical and famous.  This is a real person exploring magic.  He has some spectacular successes on his chosen path, and some stupendous flops.  We all learn from our mistakes, and Mr. Duquette is not afraid to admit to his share of a few.  He never takes anything so seriously that he forgets to laugh.  And he shares this with the reader to our delight.

Each success and each failure becomes a learning experience he shares with the reader, passing on his own brand of validation of experience. 

We read about Mr. DuQuette becoming a member of the O.T.O, his early studies and experiments with magic, and how cocky someone can get and what falling on our butts is all about.  Even when we have the best intentions in mind, we sometimes find we have maybe misunderstood or not gotten enough information, and we make some mistakes, sometimes good ones, sometimes serious ones.  We are, after all, human.  All this comes across in his book in a personal way, giving the reader many laughs, some tears, and much to ponder and meditate upon.

The humorous way Mr. DuQuette approaches his worst mistakes makes us understand that mistakes are to be owned, understood, corrected and then there to provide us with belly laughs years later as we look back and remember we were once young and foolish.  The incident of the “Magick Wand” is such a lesson, and one that the reader will not forget too soon, given the wonderful way Mr. DuQuette relates this story.

Mr. Duquette discusses his learning to invoke the Spirits of the Goetia, and his practice in Enochian Magic.  From his first humble beginnings, flashes of brilliance and some very humorous mistakes, we see a man work his way into the practice of working with Spirits.  Moments of luminosity are contrasted with seconds of ignorance, and we follow the progress of one man’s journey of enlightenment. 

He also shares some of his knowledge in a way that almost anyone can understand.  You don’t have to be a Qabalahist to follow what he is talking about or doing.  Mr. DuQuette lays it out for you in the simplest form, and you may even come away with some understanding of what the Qabalah is all about, without even realizing it.  We see the beginnings of a person who will become an excellent teacher. 

This is a wonderful book about one person’s journey along a magical path.  It is a book of exploration, a book of learning and a book to make you realize that we are all human and we are all magical.  It is about finding one’s path and making the most of our lives.  It is full of positive affirmations about life, and is inspiration for those looking at what magic is about.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone considering the path of magic in their lives, be it High Magic or kitchen witchery.  And I recommend this to anyone who knows someone on the magical path and wants to know what it is all about.  While it is very specific to Mr. DuQuette, I couldn’t think of a better teacher for what magic is and is not for those not familiar with magic. 

And for those who already walk the path of magic, I recommend this book as an essential part of our learning.  We can all use a reminder that we are but human, no matter how much we tend to think we are something more.  Thanks, Mr. DuQuette, for that lesson.  boudica

 

Becoming Magick by David Rankine

David Rankine has been practicing magick for 25 years.  His book Magick Without Peers was the handbook for his correspondence course on Progressive Witchcraft, a hands on primer.  This book continues in the same vein, giving you some further study in some material that Mr. Rankine has developed over and above conventional practices.

This book assumes you have some grounding in basic magical practices.  It would be a good to have some idea of what the Hebrew alphabet has to do with the Qabalah, and how it works with gematria, or better yet, have an idea of what gematria is.  It would also be a good idea to know a little about thought forms, a touch of Magic Squares, advanced mantras, and maybe some basics in the 9 Gates. 

From these foundations David Rankine takes us a step further, exposing us to some “out of the box” thinking on these particular essentials to basic magic practice, and gives us something to ponder and possibly incorporate into our own practices.  He also includes some “found” techniques he has devised from his own ponderings and practices, and he explains those rather well. 

Some topics of interest include The Prime Quabalah, The Kalas, The Mantra of Becoming, Magickal Ingestion, Magick Squares and so much more.  There is much to digest here, and I am going to give but a brief overview.

The Prime Qabalah is a look at gematria (Hebrew Numerology) applied to the English alphabet and using the 26 prime numbers.  Mr. Rankine has some interesting results, which give one cause for reflection. Well worth checking out.

The Kalas chapter is interesting, being based on the concept given by Kenneth Grant.  Mr. Rankine has developed his own 16 Kalas (five elements and eleven Astrological Planets) and gives all the properties and attributions of each.  From his explanation of what the Kalas are (cycles of energy), to the explanation of each Kala, he presents us with an extraordinary new working that many will find fascinating.  If you work with Kalas, you will want to check this section out.

The Mantra of Becoming is a discovery of Mr. Rankine, incorporating a root mantra of Kia with some variations that progress on the magical “ia” and incorporate the next four Hebrew letter, L, M, N, and S.  This revelation yields some very interesting analysis from the gematria aspect of the mantra, and Mr. Rankine goes a bit further to show the relationships suggested by the gematria analysis and gives us a very interesting mantra to work with.

Magickal Ingestion I found so basic that I wondered why someone else had not thought of it before.  In Egyptian, Heka is magic.  It is the spoken word that makes magic manifest.  The ancient Egyptians would take a spell, and write it on a piece of papyrus and dissolve it in beer and drink it, imbibing the spell as part of themselves as well as being a working.

Bringing that into the present, writing our working, or sigal, or spell on food, writing our intent on a magical cookie, writing blessings on the cakes for ritual with various methods would be an excellent idea to bring the magic and the magician closer together, as suggested by Mr. Rankine.  He gives some ideas, some uses and a whole new insight into “you are what you eat”.   Much to ponder here and discover.

Magick Squares are the basis for much of our magical workings, be it talismans or creating sigals for personal work.  The squares are based on the astrological information from hundreds of years ago and include Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury and the moon.  However, since the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, there has been no one who has updated these squares.  Mr. Rankine gives us his version of the squares using the Prime Qabalah and also includes Earth, which seems to have been neglected by the astrologers of the past.  Again, more interesting material to ponder over, chew up, and possibly incorporate into our own magical workings.

Note that if you do not understand the material discussed here, it is because this book is not a basic primer, and you are not at fault.  This can get to be very deep, covering some more advanced material and concepts that knowledgeable practitioners will understand.  I found this to be refreshing, and a bit challenging, as there was material here that went beyond my own basic knowledge.  I love a book that can teach me something new, or send me out looking for the basics so I can kick my own working knowledge up a notch.   Mr. Rankine did an excellent job of explaining the concepts he is suggesting, and included illustrations for much of what he discusses, and but for a few places where I had no working knowledge of what he was discussing, I did follow most of what he wrote.  And after a bit of backtracking and research, the material I was not familiar with did fall into place.  The mark of a good teacher is his ability to make the unfamiliar understandable, and Mr. Rankine succeeded.

If you are looking for new material for your own practice, if you are looking at what other working magicians are doing and are interested in some new concepts and ideas; if you want to challenge yourself with some new aspects to the magickal practices, then this book will definitely give you something to chew on.  Again, this is not a magic 101 book, but is intended for those who have gone beyond that.  This book is a wondrous look at another man’s discoveries and practices. boudica

 

Faery Healing – The Lore and the Legacy by Margie McArthur

Margie McArthur has gone into a lot of detail to present in her book The Faery Tradition of the Celtic peoples, and the art of Healing with the aid of the Faery folk.  She traces the practice of seeking aid from the Faery’s, as documented by many sources and brings it into modern day practice.

This is a big undertaking.  Ms. McArthur is very detailed and has documented her research well.   The book is easy to read.  It is a handbook for those seeking the history and lore of the Faery folk.  It is the actual history of the practice of “Faery Healing” and is more than just a casual read.

The Introduction of the book gives us the focus: “This book is about the traditions of Faery Healing among the Celtic peoples of the British Isles as evidenced in their faery lore and folk healing customs.  It will focus specifically, though not exclusively, on healing beliefs, traditions, and practices associated with the faery folk.”  Ms. McArthur has set up a big job with this, and she follows through very effectively.

The first three chapters are dedicated to the history and myths.  She includes documentation of Faery practices and lore.  Page after page of various stories, recorded history and references are expertly drawn together to a wonderful conclusion that the author draws from all the material presented.  Check the Chapter “End notes” for some very wonderful references that are worth following up if you wish to expand even further.

After giving you all the background, the author now draws you into the actual healing tradition.  There is discussion on the use of natural cures: herbs, insects, animals, stones and crystals.  All uses are discussed in connection with the healing arts as natural healing elements.  There is the discussion on magical practices, such as the correspondences for day of the week, tides, colors, and numbers – all important to working magic and here shown how to be used in setting up your healing practices. 

The beginning of the book does have the usual caveat right up front and well noted; that this book offers the history and folklore of a healing practice and that if you are ill, seek a doctor.  So, as you get deeper into this book, it is important to remember this book is for reference only as the topics that are covered do discuss medical references and healing.

The magical part of the book does get much more involved, as it begins to cover things we are more familiar with – crosses, amulets, circles, bindings, divinations, and magical beliefs.  There is discussion on the “Psychological Aspects of a Cure” that I found to be quite interesting and well researched.   Ms. McArthur also discusses hypnosis (Mesmerism), and again, the references are interesting, and the topic intriguing. 

There is a whole chapter dedicated to the medical healers of Irish Tradition, and is well worth the read for the reference material and the wonderful stories of Irish healers.  Another chapter covers Faeries and Witches, their associations and more myth and lore.  She draws references for both witches and faeries being healers as well as being able to curse, and draws the conclusion that both existed, as is the nature of the polarity/duality of life.  A very interesting chapter that is also worth the read for the references and the conclusion.

The section on “Making the Cure” discusses “Faery Induced Ailments and their Cures”.  This is an interesting section of those illnesses that have been associated with the Faery folk, such as “Faery Blast” or wind, “Faery Stroke”, “Evil Eye”, bad luck, and other such calamities.  This is followed by two chapters dealing with the cures, which cover Faery Herbs and Faery Stones.  This is a delightful section to be sure, giving all sorts of lore on particular herbs and their associations and a brief overview of some stones specific to the faery folk.

Ms. McArthur then delves into “Faery Healing for Today”.  She discusses the Faery Tradition today, how to get in touch with the Faery Folk in various ways, how the earth relates to our practice and respect for its properties, and a chapter on “Yesterday’s Faery Healing: Assessing the Past”, an interesting look at “Faery-Caused Disorders” and how we see these things today.

The last part of the book is “A Practical Manual for Faery Healing” and is just as large as the material covered to this point.  For those who are serious about pursuing this modality of healing, the manual offers reflection on the healing process as outlined by Ms. McArthur, gives you the tools, discusses basics such as grounding, chakras, magical exercises and associated correspondences and Deities.  There is a chapter on the “Cosmology of the Faery Realm” covering the realms of Faerydom, various discussions and meditations to bring you closer to these and tables that help explain it all.  There is a chapter on “Traveling within Faery Realm”, a chapter on “Practical Work within the Faery Realm”, a chapter on the emotional energies of working in the Faery Realm, some meditations on “Brigid’s Mantal” and “Airmid’s Cloak”, healing medicines, a chapter on “Empowering Yourself to Heal” and much more. 

The Book concludes with some Appendices and a Bibliography.  There is information on Festivals, the authors Fiona MacLoud and William Sharpe, and a Suggested Readings appendix.  The bibliography is extensive and there is an Index for reference.

The book is well put together.  It explains the material clearly using some interesting references and makes it point well.  The material is in depth, giving the reader something to chew on as well as being entertaining.  The more specific material does not become boring, and I found this book to be an interesting handbook on the Faery Tradition presented.

If you are looking at Celtic healing practices based on the Faery Tradition this book stands out as a good source of information. If you practice a Faery Tradition, or want a book that is a collection of some very good reference material on both Faeries and a healing modality based on this Tradition, or you are just interested in a well referenced book on Faery Tradition, this book is a good addition to your library. boudica

 

The Art of Ritual ~ Creating and Performing Ceremonies for Growth and Change by Renee Beck & Sydney Barbara Metrick

This book is a reprint of a book from 1990 which has been updated.  However, not having seen the first version, this new edition is very much up to date, and the material covered is as useful today as it was in 1990.

The author’s idea for this book is to introduce basic ritual practice to those who are looking to enhance their spiritual life.  It is meant for the practitioner who wants to work their own rituals, is looking for material that is not “path specific” (within the pagan paths) and needs a beginning point to work from.

The book is broken down into 10 chapters, covering much material.  I have to say that the authors took the time to put together their introduction and explanations of what ritual is, what roles it can play in your life and the history and mythology of ritual.  It is well researched, clearly explained and covers the first two chapters.

Each chapter ends with a “Self Exploration” box, which is a review of the material covered and gives you pause to reflect on what the material means to you, how it can be applied in your life, and how you are progressing.  The authors suggest at the beginning of the book for you to keep a “journal” and this is also a point for reflective meditation on your journal entries.

There are also margin “notes”, being quotes from various authors regarding the material covered.  Material from Joseph Campbell, Richard Wilhelm, and others occasionally grace the margins bringing a bit of outside observation to the material provided by the authors.

The book is also peppered with some nice black and white graphics, adding a bit of grace to the material and book.  It is a very nice presentation, overall.

While the authors did not make this book path specific to keep open your own personal spirituality, they do have certain elements in the book that may or may not be part of your own personal spirituality.  They associate the elements of ritual to the four elements and essence, or spirit.   They use the pentacle as the diagram for these elements.  However, they do suggest you “personalize” your symbols, using that which is meaningful to you.  They also provide some good correspondences tables which are offered as a basic guide.

The chapter on “Crafting and Consecrating tools” is a mix.  How well you are able to handle “arts and crafts” projects will greatly affect your participation in this chapter.  Also, some of the “tools” are created in the kitchen, and depending on how well you relate to the project will determine your choices here.  However, they do cover some very basic tools, making “dream pillows”, incense and various types of candles.  The “Consecration” process is simple enough and can be used both for what you make and what you man “find” to add to your tool collection.

There is a chapter on creating your own “altar” and again, it is very basic.  But the option to add whatever it is that you relate to spiritually will yield a very lovely altar presentation.  There are “themes” given for your altars, falling into the categories of “Beginnings”, “Merging”, “Cycles”, “Endings” and “Healings”.  While the categories seem self explanatory, there are subheadings that explain this further and are well laid out and clear in their purposes. 

Sydney Barbara Metrick is a PH.D. in expressive arts therapy.  Ms. Beck is a licensed therapist.  The reason I add this here is that once you get into the rituals area of this book, it becomes clear that the rituals are creative, thoughtful and intended to enable you to gain the maximum benefits for personal growth and development.  There is a chapter on “Ritual Guidelines” that also includes a worksheet to help you layout your ritual, focus on your intent, be creative with the purpose yet allows you to analyze the entire process after you have completed the ritual to see where you benefited as well as where you can improve.   The worksheet follows the entire process of the ritual, and is a great guide to working a ritual that will mean the most to you.   The worksheet is a wonderful addition to the process and for the beginner it is a very valuable tool.

In the chapter on “Applications of Ritual” the authors suggest rituals for various personal needs, from quitting smoking to business relationships, depression issues to obsession issues.  It is a really good section on ideas for various personal goals and spiritual needs, and is, again, well thought through. 

The end of the book contains a short “Conclusion” chapter tying it all together, and two appendixes covering correspondences, two rituals for spring for single practitioners or for groups, a glossary and a bibliography.  There is also an index for quick references.

If you are considering adding ritual to your life for personal growth and discovery and you are not going to be path specific, this is a wonderful jump off point for you to start with.  All the basic elements of personal ritual are here for you to consider and explore.  All that is needed is you. boudica

 

The Science of the Craft: Modern Realities in the Ancient Art of Witchcraft by William H. Keith

This was a fun read and enjoyable for me. The subject of Quantum Physics (hereafter referred to as “QP”)always seems to mark a groan from someone however Bill Keith has attempted to apply it’s Scientific understanding of this esoteric side of Science and Mathematics so you don’t have to know math to grasp it.

The fundamental understanding of this subject is outlined early on in the chapters. Now mind you this is NOT a hardcore text about the subject of QP rather it is how one can perceive it and assimilate it into the practice of Metaphysics – specifically in this book to Witchcraft.

One of the things I did NOT care for was how on page 65 the author continues to promote Isaac Bonewits silly ‘laws’ of Magic (sic). What would be fairer to say is that they are “Useful Beliefs of Magic”. There is no way to prove that any of these beliefs are immutable laws as say we know the Law of Gravity can be proven to work. Nevertheless, Bill goes on to apply his understanding of QP & how it can be integrated into virtually any esoteric belief. He begins to show how 12 of these Useful Beliefs are integrated with QP on page 131 starting with “A Magical Universe”.

Within the same chapter, the author discusses some of the other Magically oriented paths such as Ceremonial Magic, Voudoun, Druidism, Shamanism, etc.  The real fun begins wth Chapter 6 called “The Worlds of If” because it is here where he begins to discuss very esoteric concepts of QP such as parallel worlds, multiple universes, the Astral plane and Remote Viewing possibilities.

Chapter 8 is all about something from nothing. I was originally taught that according to the laws of Physics, “matter can neither be created nor destroyed” yet according to the author’s comprehension of QP, this is not true. Matter aka Energy DO indeed come from nothing.

Chapters 11 & 12 will be of use for you to understanding how YOU fit into QP. “Miracles Are Us” in chapter 11 discusses the principle component of Magic which is “belief” and chapter 12’s “You Have the Power” is all about his understanding of objective reality.

Now I was sorely disappointed with chapter 13’s “Quantum Magic” as it again focuses on Useful Beliefs but caring to call them “Laws” instead. This is not a good way to foster attracting new ideas because you are pigeon holing yourself by using an absolute term such as ‘law’. We all know that even some laws have loopholes and thus are not truly a law but rather a belief. Karma is one of them. For many it is a useful belief but for others it is not.

Chapter 15 is where he starts putting thought into action, theory into game plan. For most this chapter may be tedious as it is revisiting old Magical theories and fundamental Magical instructions such as relaxation, deep breathing, etc. The short section on affirmations on page 228 I found to be useful and incorporated several of these into my regular daily disciplines.

The anecdotes Mr. Keith provides are humorous as well as insightful. I chuckled at his mention of himself back in his “hyperational” days when he would hear a neo-Pagan mention they “raised their vibrations” and he wondered if the energetic individual would suddenly burst into flames. LOL I don’t care who you are, that’s funny!

All in all, with a complete index and full biblography plus copious footnotes spread throughout the book, I give it a 5 stars out of 5 due to his ability to take a tough subject and shape it so any 101 student could understand. Furthermore I found the twelve dollars and ninety-five cent price tag to be quite acceptable.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

 

 

Llewellyns’s Witches’ Calendar 2005 by Various Submissions

Well it’s really hard to screw up a calendar and thankfully Llewellyn hasn’t done that thus far! The calendar is colorful with nice artwork so it’s pleasing to the eye.

Each month has a theme and is written by an individual such as January’s is about doorways and is written by noted author Raven Grimassi whose works on Wicca & Stregha are popping up all over the place.

One of the better essays in the calendar is not attached to a month but follows the calendar proper and is by Yasmne Galenorn. Here she talks about honoring the Ancestors and setting up an Ancestral Shrine, something I HIGHLY reocmmend to any Pagan. In the Neo-Pagan community, it seems the ancestors are only shown homage once per year whereas in the African diaspora, one’s Ancestors are shown homage daily. My hats off to Ms. Galenorn for admitting she too honors her Ancestors in the morning and before retiring.

And the essay on the Orisha, Yemaya as the Lady of the Oceans, was nicely done by Denise Dumars. Here she mentions how you can petition the Queen of the Oceans with a simple ritual and it looks to me like Denise did her homework.

The calendar itself is useful to have around with the planetary data, Moon phases, and which Astrological sign the Moon is currently in all helps to facilitate your Magical practices – especially if you’re observant of such things.

All in all, I found the calendar to be terrific to add to your temple wall OR like me where I have my office. Plus at a price of only twelve dollars and ninety-five cents, it’s a nice piece of art to hang. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

  

Llewellyn’s 2005 Wicca Almanac by Submissions from Wiccans

I was asked by Boudica for her TWPT & Zodica Bistro sites to review this book. Typically I don’t enjoy reviewing Wicca books & in particular Llewellyn Wicca books because there is so much redundancy in them. However with an eight dollar and ninety-five cent price tag, I couldn’t object. After all even if I didn’t like the articles, the book is still primarily an almanac with useful Moon phase data and calendars.

Well first off it appears that most of the contributors used their real names in lieu of the the fluffy bunny names. I mean come on, “Flame Ravenhawk” is so cliche. And outside of Boudica herslef, the only other contributor I had ever heard of was Elizabeth Barrette and that only because of her work with PanGaia magazine. The rest of the authors all sport seemingly impressive backgrounds.

The choice of submissions must surely be difficult for the editor of such a book. Some of the articles such as “Teaching Wicca to Kids” & “Finding A Good Herbalist” really give you some food for thought as well as some things to take with you. If you bought the book for nothing more than these two essays, you couldn’t go wrong. There is a lot of useful information in each that I think the average metaphysical teacher or practitioner seems to ignore.

For those of us who have children, trying to introduce them into our belief systems is always a challenge what with the continual local governments sticking their noses into our lives. Then you take the herbal article and read it and it’s “HELLO! WAKE UP CALL!” because the prescription of herbs and remedies is highly illegal unless you’re a qualified physician!

Some of the other articles such as the “Pagan Erotica” I found just plain silly. I’m sorry but I don’t need to see a half naked fairy on the page baring her breasts acting demure. Oy vay! Talk about cliche! The article itself barely held my attention & I expected better out of the likes of Ms. Barrette. Ruby Lavendar’s essay on Pagan horror fiction was quite interesting to me what with my literary interests in the horror and sci-fi/fantasy genres. Ruby’s reading suggestions prompted me to pick up one of Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde mysteries from a local garage sale. Thus far I’ve found that story quite entertaining.

I found Flame Ravenhawk’s essay on Yoga and Wicca was fairly good in so far as I practice a morning short form of Yoga as outlined by Rodney Yi. One of the other essays I truly enjoyed was Liz Barrette’s article on Handicapped Pagans. Finally! Someone in the neo-Pagan community taking the views of handicapped individuals to heart. Particularly how she discusses some of the handicapped Gods and how we can embrace their myths.

Overall I found the book’s essays to be fun to read and as I said aside from a few of them being boring to me or disinteresting, the book is well worth the effort to procure for your own. The noveau patch-work style of pictures and art was too dijointing for my individual tastes but if you’re a fan of that style, then you’ll like the accompanying pictures. I rate this four out of five stars for completeness of information (the almanac) and thought provoking essays.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

  

Wicca For One  by Raymond Buckland

After reading this totally redundant offering, you have to ask yourself, “Is Ray Buckland, one of the most celebrated Wiccan authors, hurting for money?” This book really had a hard time keeping my interest. It’s got a pretty cover and that’s about it as far as I’m concerned.

This is just a shortened form of his classic big blue covered “Compleat Book of Witchcraft” adopted for a singular individual. Whoopee. Definitely NOT worth the price of fourteen dollars and ninety-five cents in my opinion.

The chapterson Magic were culled from his previous works such as “Practical Color Magic” and his candle magic book. Gods Ray, with all your years of practice and your lifetime of study, can’t you offer something more to bite on than this pathetic piece???

This shows me that even big name authors lack the balls to delve deeper into the mysteries OR are too damn stingy to share anything deeper than surface knowledge that can be found anywhere else. For instance both Marian Green and Scotty Cunningham both wrote excellent books on the solitary path years ago. Fine time for Mr.Ray to jump on the bandwagon long after the fact.

All in all, I rate this book 1 star out of a possible 5 and I’m being MORE than fair here. If I didn’t respect Mr. Buckland so much, I’d be calling for him to be drawn and quartered. Save your money and spend it elsewhere. If you already bought this book, give it away to some newbie.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

   

The Kitchen Witch Companion by Patricia Telesco

Just what the neo-Pagan community needs, another culinary cookbook. While Trish does an excellent job with her writing talents, surely the subject matter couldn’t be more benign? Is this yet another new age fare brought out to merely take up space on B&N bookshelves? You know with all the Pagan food recipes in the various occult books, you’d presume that when Joe and Mary Sixpack thumb thru a Pagan book, they’d figure we do little more than relax, visualize and eat!

This now begs the question as to WHY there are no Ceremonial Magic culinary cookbooks out in print? Why there are no Vodu culinary cookbooks or Shamanistic culinary cookbooks? These practitioners eat too don’t they? Or is this truly a superfluous subject that only Wiccans seem to have in common?

My take is that food is a very individualistic thing. Putting together a culinary guide that covers all the recipes I’ll ever want is tempting however due to personal tastes as well as spontaneous hankerings for a certain “something” makes that a bit of a dream. For instance I have your typical Pillsbury & Betty Crocker cookbooks that I’ve picked up from yard sales over the years plus several other books dealing with Oriental cuisines and Hispanic foods as these two latter cuisines are my favorite.

Given the cheeky names of her subjects such as “Casseroles Coven-Craft”, “Barbecues and Blessed Be’s” and my personal favorite “Prayerful Poultry” (I’ve never seen any poultry pray), Trish tries to be serious by inserting folklore, legend and customs about how the various ingredients were used or prepared or outright shunned in various cultures.

Some of the recipes actually do look tasty but again the tongue-in-cheek names are almost hystericaly “Make It Count Beans” reminded me of the oncoming flatulence episodes of if you’re gonna pass wind, make it count even though she was speaking in terms of “bean counters”. LOL

All in all, it’s a cute book at best but not one I’d take all that seriously to aid your magical practices. Though this IS a “kitchen witch’s” guide still I don’t know of too many Wiccan practitioners who’ll be waiting until the right Moon phase before preparing Solar Goose or Self Control Cabbage.

The book does offer an index and bibliography and at twelve dollars and ninety-five cents I thought it a bit too much even with the interspersed folklore that I found interesting. I give this book a solid two out of five stars merely for it’s whimsical attitude of Wicca and culinary creations.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

   

Exploring Scrying: How to Divine the Future and Make the Most of It by Ambrose Hawk

I have had the pleasure of knowing and conversing (thru E-mails)  with Ambrose Hawk for a few years now. He is a member of my own online discussion group as well as a continued contributor to the online site, A Mystical Grove.

This is a little book with a good solid message. It’s about helping you to open your creativity thru the use of an old technique called Scrying. In case you’re wondering Scrying is another term used by the Occult community for “seeing that which is yet unknown” usually thru a device of some sort such as a pool of ink, a mirror or crystal to name a few.

The book is chock full of ideas, tips, & hints to help you facilitate a better understanding of what Scrying is and how to use it. While not only helping you discover the future, Scrying also goes to help you learn to focus your mind. This alone is worth the time and effort it takes to learn to Scry.

Another important aspect that is often overlooked on this very subject is the use of Scrying to help one become more creative. For instance, take a problem or challenging situation you’re facing and focus your mind onto your speculum with the problem right there in front of you. Let it sit there and allow your mind a free rangeof possible alternatives. You will be surprised at what will pop up! Some of the ideas may not be useful to you at all however, many will be OR can be adapted to be useful!

One of the best chapters in here is Chapter 6 which is about choosing your Speculum – the device used to Scry with. Ambrose discusses the various potentials using the traditional crystal ball and whether you should or not opt for glass or real crystal. He also discusses the pros and cons of a dark surfaced mirror. Then you get him later discussing using wine in a bowl as a speculum.

He goes on to give you some of hs own lessons in exercises and how ritual interacts with the Scrying art. Plus he shares with you some subtle things like what you may see but is careful not to plant ideas in your head which is precisely the thing you DON’T want. Rather Ambrose allows you to make up your own mind.

All in all, I found the book to be useful and insightful. It had an index and biblilography and even had a short bio about the author at the very end. The book doesn’t have any redundant material other than maybe basic relaxation exercises but for the most part, it’s a complete and fairly tight book on the subject. At only twelve dollars and ninety-nine cents, I felt it rated 5 out of 5 stars of a book on this particular subject. It held my attention and offered much in the way of practical applicatons. Get this one and add it to your collection but most of all, study it and DO the work!

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

   

The Wiccan Mysteries by Raven Grimassi

Lest anyone thing I’m always hard on Wiccan books, here is a real gem! I was truly delighted to see this compilation of the Mysteries of the Craft laid out under one cover in a very lucid and respectable manner. If you don’t have this in your collection, go and obtain a copy.

If I had to choose only THREE Wiccan books (thus far produced) that I would want to own, I would have to say “What Witches Do” by Stew Farrar is one; Dorene Valiente’s “Witchcraft For Tomorrow” is the second; and finally THIS book by Raven Grimassi as the third and final choice.

Mr. Grimassi does a fine job of culling the various Mysteries of the Craft beginning with the Roots of Witchcraft and the Principles and Beliefs. Here he tackles what are the core beliefs and roots of modern day Witchcraft. Redundant perhaps for some but to not include it in such a theoretical text would be inexcusable. While I found the “Sacred Wiccan Texts” to be something of a misnomer since much of the Craft was/is oral, still his rendition of the core elements such as the Charge of the Goddess from Farrar, to the Witch’s Creed as put forth by Valiente to the Invocation of the Horned God by Sheba. Each ends with Grimassi’s commentary which he offers to help Newbies and Initiates alike make better understanding for use later.

The Wiccan Deities chaptere was well done and here again is the first time I bumped into how he shows the differences between the Stag-Horned God, the Bull-Horned God and the Goat-Horned God. This I had heard from various sources but never before pictured artistically and since I’m quite visually oriented, this definitely made an impact on me.

The book also covers such subjects as Planes of Existence, Wiccan Rites, Magical Arts, the Celts and Their Mysteries. Women’s & Men’s Mysteries all the way to Living the Mysteries. Whole books could be written about each subject in great depth however for the sake of brevity, I felt that Mr. Grimassi did a splendid job glossing over each in only a few paragraphs each. Enogh to whet the young Witch’s appetite for me I’d speculate.

I was both schocked and surprised by Llewellyn spending the money to put in an index to this manual. That is something that ALL Llewellyn books sorely need. I found the index to be useful especially at times when referring to a previous subject while reading thru the manual. The bibliography is moot as it holds the redundant Wiccan authors that appear in almost all Llewellyn books on the subject.

All in all, I found the fourteen dollars and ninety-five cent price tag to be a bit much but the publisher seems to think spending fiften dollars for a book nothing. Well for this one it’s palatable. Why? Because if you wanted to do nothing but study the Greater and Lesser Mysteries of the Craft, you’d have to buy a ton of books to get what’s been compiled and offered in this book. I rate this manual a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Add this one to your collection.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

   

A Wiccan Formulary And Herbal by A. J. Drew

Wow. Yet another herbal reference manual. At a stiff price of nineteen dollars and ninety-nine cents, I found this book a so-so read. Again if you NEED an herbal and this is the only one on the shelf, grab it. If you already have one by either M. Grieve, Paul Beryl or Scott Cunningham, save your money and buy something else.

My hat is off to Mr. Drew though in some parts of the book especially pages 11-13 where he discusses knowing what sorts of allergies you may have before diving into working with herbs.

Chapter 1 is seriously redundant. Do the authors and publishers of these books really believe that their book will be the ONLY one that a newbie will pickup and have read? I find this to be an arrogant assumption on their part really as well as unnecessary filler that can help promote the appearance of ‘more for your money’ and keep the price inflated as high as it is. In other words, how many damn primer chapters do you have to put into such a book?

I found chapter 5 “Herbal Recipes and Remedies” to be quite dangerous because it treads very close to the border of prescription remedies again which only a qualified medical physician has the training and legal authority to prescribe. I forewarn you now that if you contemplate taking any of the herbal remedies in this book, please make absolutely certain you know what are you are doing, you know your own body’s allergies AND you’ve shared what you plan to do with your medical physician.

The foods outlined in Chapter 6 were somewhat interesting but hardly anything new. I believe Cunningham covered the “Magic of Food” in one of his cliched offerings. The classifications were nothing that you couldn’t dig up in any other reference manual.

Chapter 7’s recipes for “Making Magick” sounded a lot like they were patterned after the Cunningham & Tarostar school of Kitchen Witchery and a quick look in the Bibliography shows that indeed they’re on the reading list.

Part of the problem I have with a series of recipes like this comes from my own training in Root-Conjure Sorcery where I was taught that these recipes are “generalized’ and their application may or may not work. The idea is that the practitioner will need to truly learn the recipe by studying how each ingredient in the recipe works as well as how it interacts with the other ingredients as they are applied to the situation for which they were blended. Plus given the fact that problems generally arise from people (ourselves AND others) and our interpersonal interactions with one another, thus a practitioner should custom make each recipe after knowing the given set of circumstances and all parties involved. This way you will know if you need to add more or less of any one or more ingredients to help treat the situation correctly.

Finally the last part focuses on the plants themselves. Drew follows the basic outline of both Grieve and Cunningham (minus a couple of things) to try and make a cohesive list of herbs, their folk names, Magical uses Astrological data and medical uses. The pictures of the plants really doesn’t help someone like me who does not go out into the wild and grow or harvest all that many plants. I have a few things I go in the woods for but for the most part, I buy my herbs and roots from reputable dealers online.

All in all, it’s a so-so book to me. His anecdotes didn’t really didn’t click with me but that is purely an individual taste sort of thing. Again if you don’t have an herbal reference, and can’t find one of the others I mentioned, this isn’t a bad book to get. I think the price would be justified IF the publisher opted for more graphic representations of the herbs in the wild & dropped the redundant chapters on the basics. I rate this 2 stars out of 5 for unoriginality and redundancy.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch

   

The Complete Guide to Labyrinths by Cassandra Eason

Interesting subject but difficult for me to really get into. I’ve always had a fascination with labyrinths and mazes from way back when I read about the Graeco-Roman legend of the Minotaur. Later I met a man at a metaphysical festival who setup a labyrinth using stones and offered people to walk it while meditating. I found the experience to be quite uplifting and useful.

One of my problems with new age books like this when the author has written over 50 books. This leads me to believe here is yet another cultural interest that they can exploit for a quick buck. Rather I prefer to read or hear about such a subject from someone who is truly passionate about the subject they’re writing of. Someone who has spent years studying and working with it so I know they DO know a lot about the subject matter as well as be able to provide some insights I may have not seen before. I didn’t get that impression here with Ms. Eason’s offering.

My favorite chapter hands down was four and that is about “Making A Labyrinth” as it outlines and gives you useful illustrations on creating your own backyard labyrinth. Having always wanted my very own Stonehenge but deciding that having several ton hunks of granite hauled in and put up made me give up that whole idea. Well now having a backyard labyrinth for my very own a viable substitute. In fact, I figure I could plant the medium sized stones deep enough so that they would not interfere with the mower blades but also remain visible.

Some of the other chapters that really turned me off was the integration of “Angels” and “Archangels” into the Labryrinth concept. Like this ancient Celtic device needs Angels to work? How silly is that? Then as in all new age publications, there has to be that token cahpter on "healing” somewhere. Oy! Talk about an overdone cliche! Then you find she takes the cliche’s further with the “Chakras & Labyrinths”! I felt like gagging here.

Even the chapter on Labyrinth Rituals I found trite, inexcusable pap offered. I did think she had something with the essay on Enhancing your Psychic Powers thru a Dream Walk. I’ve often found Labyrinthine like mazes to be useful for Ritual Purposes though these were imagined on the Astral plane and not created physically here on our home plane. Still the uses of a Labyrinth and Dream workings is not without merit and thus the subject should be pursued in more depth. Perhaps Lucid Dreams and Labyrinths?

All in all, the book was so-so to me. Again very hard to stay with it. I was constantly putting it down and picking it up again like it just did not hold my attention. The index is fantastic and very well done. The bibliography is seperated into subject categories but the downside is it again references those same old cliche loving authors of the New Age community.

At fourteen dollars and ninety-five cents, I found the book to be both pricey and lacking. I rate it 2 out of 5 stars for too much New Age hodge-podge and lack of real passion for the subject. Save your shekels and pass this one up. Wait for it to hit the used bookstore bins.

Reviewed for TWPT by Moloch