Bookviews Book Reviews
Confessions of a Teenage Witch: Celebrating
I’ve read the last two books this young lady has put
out. You could tell they were leading
into something. With this book, Ms. Rain
does a fine job at achieving what the previous books were leading up to: a well written and produced teaching book
about Teenage Wiccan Practices by a Teenage Wiccan.
Where her previous two books were samplings of her life so far as a Wiccan and a teen, this book puts it all together and blends a nice writing style with a well fashioned book and some handsome graphics.
The book is suitable for the teen starting their path in Wicca. I feel Ms. Rain has achieved what some of the other older writers have failed to do in previous attempts to write for the teen market – write on a level that teens of today will understand and relate to. Ms. Rain has worked out a very satisfying handbook on the Wicca Craft that explains details and goes into depth on many topics.
This is a beginner’s book. All the material here is basic Wicca practices. The difference is that Ms. Rain spells it out for you. She goes in depth, working through the various practices, holidays, beliefs and workings of what it is to be Wiccan. Additional excerpts from her personal growth diary (her “Book of Shadows”) allow us to observe a young lady growing in spirituality over her early teen years and maturing into a woman filled with her own inner strength and personal spiritual path.
She enlists the aid of several other young teens walking the Wiccan path as well. She introduces them to you, and adds their comments about how they feel in regards to the material being discussed. It is a lovely addition to the book, and it draws the reader in by suggesting that they too can reflect on this material and make decisions for themselves regarding their personal spiritual path.
Topics covered in this book include Wiccan Essentials, Goddess and God, Altar, Circle Casting, Sabbats, Full Moon, Spells and Magic. Each section has tips for doing these activities yourself, ponderings on the meanings of the material discussed, instructions for crafts and celebrations, actual prayers and spells and expanded basic practices.
These are all geared towards the teen practitioner; the student who yearns for something more from a Wicca handbook. This book goes into actual practices with the reasoning behind what we do, and discusses it on a teen level. This is not so much a book about Wicca, but more about who we are and how we practice. The level never leaves the learning stages, but expands the basics from how into why.
The book is peppered with some nice photos in black and white which enhance the material. They are nicely fitted into the discussion, like a picture of hand labeled oil bottles in the essential oils section. Ms. Rain and her mother composed and produced these shots with material that are part of Ms. Rain's practice, and they are a nice compliment to the material presented.
For the teen looking for a book that approaches Wicca on their level and gives more to work with than just correspondence tables and Goddess/God charts, this may be just the book you are looking for to progress further with your studies. This is a very nice book and one Ms. Rain should be proud of. boudica
This is a tarot deck in a presentation box. It contains the deck, a bag to hold your deck made from black organdy and a companion book for using the deck.
The author/artist, Zach Wong, grew up in Malaysia. He has studied Western and Asian mythology. He now lives in Australia as a graphic designer and illustrator.
First the deck. There are 22 Major Arcana cards. There are four suits: cups, pentacles, swords and wands. Each suit contains 10 numbered cards and four court cards. In this deck, wands are fire, swords are air, pentacles are earth and cups are water. All cards are labeled with their number and their name.
The deck's style is self described by the artist as “stained glass”. As I went through the deck, I got a feeling of stained glass in some cards, but others were slightly suggestive of the manga style of art. Still others were very definitely Western in influence of both design and meaning. There is an overall Asian influence in his style, and it is refreshing rather than unsettling.
In the Major Arcana, the artist makes this note: Each character in the major arcana wears a mask over his or her face, which is depicted by lines that break the face down into sections. The mask is merely a representation of a “human” relations, similar to that of the mythical gods who stand in human form amongst us to ease our comprehension of the messages they deliver. Again, a refreshing new look at the meanings of the Major Arcana.
I also like the “mirror image” effect the artist used to denote reversal of the cards. This deck needs to be used by someone who uses reverse meanings in their readings. If you look at the Fool, in the upright position you can see the traditional representation:, the innocent starting out on his journey in life. However, in the reverse, the image is somewhat mirrored in the opposite, showing the traditional meaning of the reversed Fool: loss of control and barreling into the great unknown head first. The Hermit, on the one side is looking for enlightenment with a lantern, on the other side mirrored again in the opposite, he is being shown sliding against the darkness. Very cleverly done, and a stroke of genius to be sure.
The Major Arcana is the only part of the deck that is entirely done in this manner. With the Minor Arcana, some cards have no reverse design. What the artist did do is associate numbers across the suits with a “theme”, such as the fives all denote “conflict, loss and change” while the tens offer “transcendence”. Again, a lovely addition to the cards.
All the designs are colorful and attractively done. Even the reverse side of the cards, a purple design that almost resembles the infinity symbol: two spiraling circles with an “X” design in the center connecting or separating the two spirals, is very tasteful and lovely to contemplate.
The book does a wonderful job of explaining how the artist interprets the meanings of the cards as reflected by his study of the traditional meaning and how he personally designed and defined his insights. It is clearly written and the material is covered in depth. The little illustrations make referencing the cards easier, but in no way are they substitutes for the deck itself. They are small and make you go back to the deck to observe the designs in relation to the card interpretations.
Using this deck was also very enjoyable. The cards are 2 ¾” wide by a little over 4 ½” long. The cardboard is standard stock and coated, making them sturdy to stand up to handling and shuffling. You may want to give the book a general reading, to see where the artist may vary with traditional interpretations, but overall the deck does have traditional associations. The learning curve here will be very slight.
This is a lovely deck, nice to handle and work with. The designs offer some keen insights into the mysteries of the Tarot, and the artwork is sure to please both the reader as well as the clients you may use these for. The book will assist with any questions you may have and will answer them clearly. This is a good effort on the part of Mr. Wong and one that will attract readers for both use as well as collecting. boudica
Spiritualism & Clairvoyance for Beginners
Here is a nice little book filled with validation of experiences and lessons on how to improve your clairvoyant talents.
Elizabeth Owens is a practicing spiritualist at the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp in Florida. She teaches spiritual development there as well as having several books on the subject.
This book provides an overview of the clairvoyant talent, that is, as the author puts it “a natural talent.” She goes further to explain “clairvoyance is a French word meaning clear seeing. It is the art of seeing spirit entities, which may or may not be visible through the eyes of others.”
She expands on this concept well in her book. She gives us some wonderful background and history about the Spiritualism and Clairvoyance experience, where it started and especially about her own camp in Florida.
She gives some good examples of the talent, and introduces some members of her group who also contribute their personal experiences and talents to the content of the book.
I liked the flow: simple and easy. It is not intended to be an advanced teaching tool, but a gentle introduction to the concept and basic practices.
Ms. Owens includes some of her techniques for advancing and improving your own natural clairvoyant talent. There are chapters on Meditation and Interpretation. There is a chapter on symbolism and using it to enhance the reading experience and improving connections with the spirit and the client. There is also a discussion on other forms of clairvoyance, such as “X-ray Clairvoyance” and “Medical Clairvoyance” and more.
The author provides some exercises in the book for you to work with. These focus on meditation practices, enhancing your abilities to observe and retain the observations, personal interpretation of various symbols, and other techniques to enhance your own talents. These exercises are well thought through, are short so you can concentrate on one step at a time, and can be worked into your own schedule. There is room on the pages for you to record your thoughts and experiences.
She also brings in the experiences of the members of her group, giving you some validation of experience in the variations that can exist in the talent of different readers.
There is a workbook section near the end of the book, for you to write down personal development, notations and experiences. There is also a resources section, listing not only contacts and websites for her own Spiritualist Camp, but also other well known Spiritualist centers.
This book is not really path specific, though the author and many of the members are of the Spiritualist path. But the benefit here is that anyone of any spiritual path can pick this book up and read it and not feel intimidated or pushed in any one direction.
If you are unfamiliar with clairvoyance, if you have experienced this talent yourself and don’t know where to begin, or if you think you have this talent and want to start expanding it, this is a nice book to start with. boudica
Lammas – Celebrating the Fruits of the First Harvest
This is another of the books in the Sabat Series that has been carefully crafted by Llewellyn. Anna Franklin, an English author and witch, teams up with English artist Paul Mason to give us a book on the history and folklore of the holiday of Lammas or Lughnasa.
It seems right to have an English author give us the background of the holiday of Llamas, or Lughnasa, celebrated on August 1. It is indeed a very English/Irish holiday in origins. But, again, in reviewing the bibliography, along side some very noteworthy historical references are references to the author’s own works and works done by other Llewellyn authors. However, in the case of this book, the historical references are noteworthy, and there are a few classic English/Irish authors, both historians and pagan, that stand out in the crowd, like Nigel Pennick and Daithi O’hOgain to name a couple. So, for this installment in the series, it appears to be better researched than previous volumes and it shows in the reading. It also does not have much of that “pagan spin” that dominates the series. The history of this holiday is not as “threatening” as others are perceived, so the heavy handed “pagan spin” was not necessary with this book, and it makes for a better read.
The history/customs/lore section is fascinating. The inclusion of many English/Irish festivals held at this time of year sheds light on the origins of this holiday. While some of the conclusions drawn might be strictly on the part of the author, it is easy for the reader to see the background of this holiday as being one of a harvest festival, and we can see how bread and berries have a major impact and are key to this holiday. There are some tidbits from other areas around the world focusing on other Deities, but it is very clear this is a Northern European celebration and this is the main focus of the book.
The discussions on Lugh, for whom this holiday is named, shed some light on this well known Celtic Deity. Ms. Franklin presents us with several stories of this Hero, from the Welsh and Irish. She also provides a “reconstruction” section, going over some customs and associating legends with these. She does bring out the harvest association with Lugh, and her historical references seem to agree with this.
The book is dotted with endnotes for the person wanting to do further research. The historical section of this book is probably the beefiest of all the books in this series so far and it is a credit to Ms. Franklin. The book is also well illustrated by Paul Mason, from the cover art to the black and white illustrations that pepper the pages of the book. The illustrations for the corn maiden, while lovely, are not all that exact, however, and would leave one scratching their head as to how to actually make one of the dolls illustrated. They are more for styles rather than instruction. It would have been nice to have a step by step instruction. But, that’s a personal preference, I suppose.
The Celebrating part of the book is classic Llewellyn material: crafts, cooking, and spells. There is a section on Goddesses. One can see the association of the Harvest aspect of these Goddesses.
In the magic section, the first spell a healing focusing on Osiris and Egyptian magic. It progresses into Irish/Celtic spells from there. There is a nice little section on “Ash Divination” where you read the images from the ashes of a bonfire. The table of correspondences that follows is fascinating. An interesting form of Divination if you are so inclined.
There is also a nice section on incense. Again, there is the inclusion of incense for Deities other Lugh or Celtic/Irish. Paul Mason also contributes with a section on Dyes.
There is a section on games. We then progress to “Warrior Magic” which seems appropriate as Lugh was a warrior, and the games thing does infer competition. Symbols, face painting and mask making all are part of the magics and traditions. An interesting addition which also includes warrior spirits and totems.
There is the mandatory cookbook section that is found in all these books. What is being pagan if it does not include food? While breads are the focus here, the recipes all appear to be very English in nature, a refreshing change of pace for these books. From fish to toffee, there are some yummy recipes here. The measures are in US, Imperial and Metric, so no matter where you live it will be easy for you to follow. Try the soda bread. I thought I remembered my grandmother adding bacon to her Colcannon, but I figure it’s an area thing, and folks make it according to their family recipe. The basic recipe is offered here.
There are also rituals offered here. There is a group ritual and one from her own group The Grove of the Silver Wheel, being Druidic in nature and again for a group. It would have been nice to have a ritual that a solitary could have performed on their own, but Ms. Franklin’s focus is group and we are given two rituals for group practice.
There are several appendices. There is a “calendar” running from July 15th through August 25th offering day to day celebrations of Deities, festivals and ancient events.
The “Names of Festivals” area gives us the ancient Irish names. What would have been helpful here is a phonetic pronunciation of the names.
There are some correspondences for colors, plants, symbols and the usual God/Goddess section with associations. Also some songs and chants but no music included. This is followed by the Glossary and the Selected Bibliography and index.
Overall, this is a nice addition to the Sabat Series, offering an English view of the first of our Harvest Holidays. This is a well put together overview of the holiday, including some information on other aspects of the Harvest. It is easy to read, has some interesting history that appears to be well researched. This is, of course, focused on the beginner or the curious who would like to get a feeling for the holiday, and it achieves a well rounded view of the myths, lore and practices of modern day pagans. It’s a nice addition to your library. boudica
Pagan Tarot ~
I was excited at the idea of a “pagan tarot”. My thought was that this would be a very generic deck that would appeal to any pagan on any path. I should not have thought; it is not good for me to think.
The deck comes with a tiny little booklet. The first line in the tiny little booklet reads: “This entirely new tarot deck is illustrated with scenes from the life of a modern pagan or Wiccan.” Looking at the deck… more Wiccan than pagan I’d say.
But, a closer examination suggests “Wiccanish” more than anything else. However, I get ahead of myself. Let’s start with the look and feel of the deck.
The reverse of the deck is the “World” card from the deck. Interresting. Shades of green. Subdued is the word that comes to mind. The deck is “hand size” making it easy to handle.
The cards themselves are... bland. The color scheme might have been called “earth tones” except for the overuse of black, grey and sepia tone. No bold, bright colors here. Very little color at all. Sometimes a touch of a dull maroon. Or a dirty lavender. I hope this was not a printing error, and the deck I got was a mistake.
The artwork itself is nicely drawn. The actual art is nice. Just wish it could have been a bit more “happier” in color and appeal. Our spiritual paths are happy, not sullen and monotone. Take a look at any pagan festival, the key word is color, no matter how loud or garish. We revel in color. We celebrate color. Yet, this artwork is colorless in my opinion, thus rendering the lovely artwork lifeless.
The tiny little booklet explains how to read the deck: “Overall, you, the reader, are asked to look at each scene and ask yourself “What is happening here? What is s/he feeling here? How does this work with the other cards around it?”
OK, so we look at the pictures and decide what the picture tells us and how it interplays with the various cards around it in the reading. Simple enough.
The cards themselves have the name of the card and the card number at the top of the card. At the bottom the name is in four other languages. I get this: a universal feel to the deck. That’s good.
The first card is the Fool. It shows a person stumbling in the darkness, with stars, kind of a universal or space theme and there is a cat at her feet. The woman is wearing a robe. I thought this was interesting for the Fool and moved on.
The Magician. Hmm… while all the parts/pieces are there, the Magician does not look very magical. Actually, he looks like he’s not succeeding at his art at all. No magic there. Nothing magical going on, this person looks like he might be praying or something.
Then there is the High Priestess. This one gave it all away to me. At first, it looked like the High Priestess was invoking the Goddess in a circle, but upon actually looking at the card, the group is not in circle, they appear to be just hanging about. The position of the High Priestess seems to be between the group and the Goddess. It gives more of a separation here, rather than the connection a High Priestess is supposed to give. If the Goddess form was above the High Priestess and the group was in circle around her, it would have been the correct Wiccan form. But this card seems to be saying that the High Priestess is the point between ourselves and the Goddess, rather than the point of connection between the Goddess and ourselves.
Wait, the images up to now are all wearing robes. Nothing pagan here, but again very "Wiccanish". Like someone who was not familiar with Wiccan rites and beliefs had heard or read a few things and was drawing the images based on second hand knowledge.
At least, that’s how it appears. I moved to the next card.
The Empress, traditionally the mother figure pregnant with the world, is broken into images of a child, a young girl and an older woman. That didn’t seem to fit right. The Empress is a mother, not a crone, nor is she a young girl, but sometimes shown as a young woman. She is usually pregnant, not shown with a child. I got mixed feelings here.
And the colors, so bland. This was getting monotonous. I skipped through the deck some more. The Lovers. What was this? Where is the usual young couple entwined with each other? Instead we have a young girl (?) looking at two paths, one with a person with a child and a house, the other with what appears to be a coven. What kind of lovers is this? Does she have to make a choice between family and religion? That doesn’t make sense.
Not all the cards were questionable in content. I liked The Hermit, as it suggested more learning and reflecting. Strength was an interesting concept, with a very earthy setting, a stronger green color than used in most of the other cards, and the animal totems around. At least, that’s how it appeared to me.
The Devil... hmmm. I’m afraid I didn’t get that one at all. Some robed figures behind a sitting young lady, who is writing by a candle light, and has a sword. There are two ethereal figures, one male and one female, in front of her.
The Tower, two couples, naked, passionately entwined with each other while a robed female who looks very dejected, walks away from the scene. I’m sure there is something suggested here, but I’ve always like the reference to the Tower being “House of falsehood”, from the Rider-Waite explanation. I didn’t get anything like that here, but what is suggested I didn’t like.
I skipped to the Lesser Archana cards. While swords is usually associated with Fire and Wands with air, the reverse is held in this deck. Swords are given air attributes, wands are associated with fire. I found myself referencing the tiny little booklet for these cards. Again, not very clear. I found myself fishing.
The Court cards are changed a bit as well. The page is now the “Elemental” of the suite. So swords is a fairy, ok… that works. Wands is a fire lizard. Water is sprite. And earth is a, oh my goodness, a leprechaun. What? That nasty looking creature is associated with Earth? Where did this come from? I’m sure they could have picked something more "earthy” in feel than a leprechaun.
The knight, queen and king become Novice, Initiate and Elder. In cups and pentacles they are female, in wands and swords they are male. Balanced, in a way, if nothing more.
To say I am disappointed with this deck is an understatement. To say I don’t like it personally is to be honest. As a Wiccan priestess, I have to say the images are overwrought, and do not address actual Wiccan practices or beliefs, but merely suggest from an outsiders point of view. As a Tarot reader, the images are strained, not suggestive of anything traditional, nor are they easily interpreted from the images presented. I also do not feel my clients would find the deck attractive. I certainly do not. It has to appeal to the client, or the client loses interest. As a pagan, it feels very specific to something “Wiccanish” rather than embracing the earth aspects and freedoms we hold dear.
Overall, I would recommend you give this deck a good looking at before you decide to order it. Based on the name alone it may spark some interest, but I found it lacking in appeal and questionable in content. boudica