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Bookviews Book Reviews


 8-14-2005
 

 

Animals Divine Tarot
by Lisa Hunt

 

I am a big fan of Lisa Hunt’s artwork, so it seemed natural to review her new deck.  I received the box set which contains the deck, a companion book, a bag to store the cards in and comes in a nice, attractive box featuring her artwork.

The deck itself is a breath of fresh air.  First, the reverse color of the deck is a pale yellow with a gold stamped design of three flying birds and a triple spiral, reminiscent of Celtic designs.  Very attractive and a much needed relief from the dark or black reverses on many decks. It sets the theme for the rest of the deck.  Bright, colorful and airy is the description to give to the overall look of the deck.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The deck size is 2 ¾ “ by a little over 4 ½ “.  Nice hand size, the deck shuffles agreeably and fits well.  There are 78 cards in the deck, plus two cards which illustrate “spreads” suggested for use with the deck.

There are 22 “Major Arcana” cards, numbered 0 to 21.  Each illustration is bordered by a gold and white border, with the name of the card and number at the bottom, and the subject of the card at the top, to make correspondence easier for folks used to using the traditional tarot deck.  The similarities stop here.  This deck now progresses off on the path that Ms. Hunt wants to proceed on, which is the influences of animals and various Deities. The Coyote is depicted as the Fool, Cerridwen as the Magician, Bast as the High Priestess.  Except for the Wheel, which is labeled “All Animals” the Major Arcana’s focus is upon Deity and it’s animal association.  Referencing the book, which accompanies the deck, the artist explains “Each card showcases a different myth connected to the animal and god or goddess.  The art serves to elicit certain feelings or functions.  Animals can help us connect with our own psychological and emotional exploration.”  This is a new focus for a tarot deck, very original and very intriguing.

The artwork itself is stunning; very detailed and lifelike.  If you take the focus the artist has for the deck, you can see the stories, as outlined in the book, and reflection upon these does give you insight into the meanings of the cards.

The “Court Cards” consist of 4 cards, starting with the Queen, King, Knight and Page.  They are themed, with Cups representing Water, and using water Deities and animals.  The Swords represents Air and uses birds and Deities with bird symbols.  Wands is Fire, and uses reptiles and insects and Deities with these symbols and Pentacles is Earth, with mammals and Deities with mammals.  While the Queen and King retain their traditional male and female aspects, the Knight and Page seem to cross between the male and female, offering a nice change from the usual forced role models.  So, Venus shows up as the Knight of Cups, while Sadrapa is the Page of Wands.

The Deities and animals represented cross various cultures and spiritualities, creating a large base to work from.  Every spiritual path is represented here: Celtic, Hindu, Phoenician, Green, Native American and more.  Everyone will find something to identify with in this deck, and there will be plenty of fresh, new material for you to learn.  Ms. Hunt did her homework, with the book being a good reference and background work for those not familiar with the Deities or animals depicted on the cards.  Again, it gives this work a very interesting aspect.

The Minor Arcana is split up the same way the Court Cards are, and each card has an animal representation, in addition to the usual suit assignment.  But here again, there will be a learning curve, as the cards do not depict the traditional tarot designation.  The artist sums up her focus very nicely:  “How can thinking about animals help you to address needs of day-to-day life and thus help you to improve the quality of your life?”  She continues: “Animals can be your teachers and guides. “

Each card, when referenced back to the book and the “meaning” indicated, presents a point of reflection, and you tie in the importance of the card to your everyday life.  Take, for instance, the Ten of Cups, the Whales.  She uses the following meaning: “the achievement of goals and dreams, happiness and contentment reign, a feeling of wholeness permeates one’s being, renewed familial ties and friendships” She goes on to explain the timeless perfection of the whale, and how they are connected with the mysteries of the ancients.  Reading through her explanation, the connection becomes clear, and the meaning is simple and very personal. 

Working with the cards themselves was easier than I expected, though, as I said, I needed to work with the book a bit.  However, as I become more familiar with the way the deck works, I became more comfortable in “listening to the cards” and following what they were telling me.  The meanings are not really all that far off from the traditional meanings; you are just looking at the meanings in a different way.

This would be a great deck for those who are working closely with animal guides or with the animal aspects of Deity.  It is an excellent deck for anyone who enjoys variations on the Tarot.   And it is a wonderful deck for someone who is very shamanistic in their spiritual path.

This is a lovely deck, from it’s concept to the artwork.  Presentation is everything, and this deck presents us with some new ways of seeing the Tarot.  The artwork is outstanding, a perfect effort from Ms. Hunt, and a deck that I will be working with again and again.  boudica

 

Autumn Equinox: The Enchantment of Mabon
by Ellen Dugan

 

The latest offering from Llewellyn in their “Sabat Series” is the Autumn Equinox.  Ellen Dugan is well known for “Garden Witchery” and “Elements of Witchcraft”.  She is a “Master Gardener” and a psychic-clairvoyant. 

The book takes the tone from the expertise of the author.  There is a lot here about gardening.  While Mabon is one of the “Harvest Festivals”, the flavor of the book is written by a gardener and she expresses her interests fully in this book.

There is much talk about the Harvest in this book.  From different forms of “Harvest Festivals” celebrated around the world, to American traditional holidays, the topic is explored and discussed.  There is even a small notation about “Harvest Down Under” noting that it is a reversed calendar but also noting some traditional rites from native people from New Zealand.  A nice touch.

There is a section which discusses the sun and star signs.  Virgo and Libra heavily influence this time of year, and the influences are noted along with some spells to work with these energies.

The book goes into suggest activities for this time of year, harvest dances, magics to practice at Full Moon, a ritual for Full Moon for a solitary and group.  There is discussion on Goddess who are associated with the Harvest, citing Demeter and Persephone, Elen of the Ways and Pomona of the Apples.  The focus switches to “The Gods of Vegetation and Vine” and we are introduced to Dionysys, The Green Man, and Herne the Hunter.

The focus turns to the garden, fall flowers and foliage.  This is where the gardener in Ms. Dugan really shines.  Planting suggestions, zone charts, flowers of the Fall, spells for planting and growth, color magic by planting trees noted for their specific fall foliage, all suggestions from a “Master Gardener” who gives you the help you need to make your property or garden an Autumn Spectacular.

She also discusses use of special plants at this time of year.  The history of “ornamental corn”, grape vines, pumpkins and squashes, cornucopias, grains, even the scarecrow, it is all here for you to explore.  Ms. Dugan has researched this book well, taking into account that folks want more than crafts and recipes for their holidays.  But fear not, for those who want crafts and recipes, those are included as well. 

There is a Solitary Equinox Ritual for those who want to celebrate their holiday with ritual.  This is a nice, short, and pretty ritual which I think you will enjoy.

But back to the recipes.  There is a good section on “Seasonal Recipes” which includes roasting a turkey as well as all the trimmings.  There are also some vegetarian dishes included for the “no meat” crowd and a “sugarless” apple pie filling.  I especially liked the “Baking Tips, Kitchen Hints, and Fun Facts” section.  A couple of “Gee, I didn’t know that” are included here.  And there is, and why was I not surprised, a section on “Natural Floral Centerpieces” which I thought added a touch of class to this book. 

Then there are the spells and crafts.  None of these books would be complete without a section on this.  From making grape vine wreaths, garlands for protection, nighttime luminaries to recipes for herbal soaps, whatever your skill level you will find something fun to make here.  There are correspondence charts for “Autumn Enchantments”, crystals and stones for the Fall, magical herbs, plants and food.  There is even a worksheet to help you keep track of your spells and how you are doing with them.

The closing of the book is more of a wish that you make an effort to enjoy the season, and use the book to help you get more out of the Autumn.  It ends with a “Harvest Witch Blessing” that is delightful and very “enchanting”. 

Then there is a bibliography for further reading and an index.

Yes, this book is better researched than previous volumes,  but the focus is more on the season and how nature takes on a new face at this time of year.  There is more about enjoying what we have, celebrating in a way familiar to our culture, and enjoying nature in it’s last stage before it sleeps for the winter. 

This is a good look at the way we celebrate today, and how we can incorporate the season into our home, our garden and our lives.  I think this is one of the better books in the Sabat Series that Llewellyn offers and one which I think many folks will enjoy and use for many years to come.  boudica

 

Archangels and
Ascended Masters

by Doreen Virtue Ph. D.

 

Doreen Virtue is a doctor of psychology.  She is also a clairvoyant and a fourth-generation metaphysician.  She works with angels, the elements and what she calls “ascended masters” to augment her writings and her workshops.

She has appeared on such TV shows as Oprah, CNN and more.  Previous to this writing, she has a deck of Angel cards and books on working with healing and angels.

This book is her exploration and guide to working with angels, divinities and her “Ascend Masters”.  She explains what she means by this term as follows:

An ascended master is a great healer, teacher, or prophet who previously walked upon the earth, and who is now in the spirit world, helping us from beyond.”

She goes on to say, “They include legendary figures such as Jesus, Moses, and Buddah; saints, goddesses and gods; and bodhisattvas, devas and deities.”

Let me begin by saying that this book is not path specific.  I found, as a pagan, that there was material here that I could relate to.  I found many of her explanations of attributes of God and Goddess that I was familiar with to be very close to my own personal experiences.  Her deity “histories” are not tainted with doctrines and do not follow any particular dogma line. 

I found the first part of her book interesting.  She has an introduction which explains, from her perspective, what she feels has been carried forward from the old ways into the realm of “New Age”.  She discusses her workings, how she has come in contact with many divinities and angels and ascended masters, worked with them, and sets the basis for the rest of her book:

“So, in effect, I’ve written this book to function as a “Who’s Who in the Spirit World,” since, like many people I’ve met, I was confused about the identities, functions, and trustworthiness of the divinities I’d heard of up till now and had received conflicting reports about some of them.”

For the many followers of Ms. Virtue, this book is a guide to her personal experiences with these folks in the “Spirit World”.  For many, this will be the guide they will use to give validation to their experiences working with the various angels, deities and ascended masters in our diverse spiritual paths.  And from the vantage point of a pagan, this book is a good tool for those who are “seekers” and do not know what path they are looking at, but want to see what someone else says about personal spirituality.

As I said, I found her discussions on these deities to be interesting, and she is on the mark with many that I am familiar with.  I especially liked some of her comments about how she sees today’s spirituality.  In ancient times, many of the deities listed in this book were worshiped in the same way that many of us currently worship our Creator.  Today, we don’t worship deities – we appreciate them.”  She continues “The deities represent the various faces, aspects, personality variables, and unique traits that God presents to us.  And ultimately, since God is omnipresent, then God is within the deities and also within us.  In other words, all of the deities and all of us are one with God.” 

I also found her section on new ascended masters interesting.  Though not included in her book, I found her choices might be stretching it a bit, but then again, if you look at what these people stood for in their life on earth, then maybe we could see them as being role models.  I did have a problem with one or two of them, but this is, again, personal choice as to who we wish to honor and emulate.

The same goes for the second section of her book.  This is the section that contains, in alphabetical order, discussion, attributes and purpose of the angels, deities and ascended masters. 

Her list is taken from ancient Roman, Irish, Celtic, Judeo-Christian, Hindu, China, Asia and more.  There are 77 in all, and she has done some research, and made it simple and easy to identify, understand and read.  Taking just one, Brigit, as an example, she first gives location.  Brigit is attributed to Ireland, Spain, France and Wales.  She also gives the various names that Brigit is known by in various areas and different spiritual paths.  She has done her homework here, with a very good but brief history of the deity, and does not adhere to any specific doctrine.  She goes into her pagan path, her transformation into a Christian Saint. 

The history is brief, covering only one aspect of Brigit, her being a warrior goddess.  While this may not agree with some peoples research or personal experiences, remember this is a brief overview, and I believe Ms. virtue was looking at a specific attribute she personally may have had experience with. 

Each section has a “Helps with” guide so you know when or for what reason you may want to work with this deity, angel or ascended masters.  There is also an “invocation” written by Ms. Virtue, more of a prayer to ask for specific help from this deity, angel or ascended masters. 

The next section deals with “Invocations for Specific Needs and Issues”.  This is a section of prayers specific to a need or something you have to deal with.  These include abundance, healing, psychic talents, and health issues.  The prayers are simple, elegant, filled with honor and positive affirmations.  A lovely addition to the material included in the book.

The end of the book contains a “table of correspondences” of which deities you should call upon for what special need.  This is a helpful section so you don’t have to hunt through all the front material to find what you are looking for.  There is also a Glossary, so you understand her definitions of what she attributes to various wording, an index for easy reference and a bibliography for further reading.

I liked the book, though not specifically pagan, it has merit.  For those who are not specifically pagan, this book is a good reference book that will offer validation of experience.  For those who are seekers to the pagan path, it could be a book I would recommend to augment their reading.  It is a lovely work, containing some good basic prayers and helpful ideas. 

Ms. Virtue has a very large following, and I can see why.  She does offer elements missing in many main stream spiritual paths, and she does it with grace and eloquence.  A nice introduction to the author and her body of work.   boudica

 

Llewellyn’s Witches
Datebook 2006

It’s finally out, and just in time for me to start marking it up for next year!  The Witches Datebook has become a staple around our home, with both myself and my husband using it to keep track of our important dates, meetings and events in our lives.

As always, the book contains wonderful additions like stories and articles by well known authors, as well as the day by day listings of days, past events, astrological notations, monthly moon charts and lovely illustrations.

This year again features the artwork of Jenifer Hewitson.  This woman does some wonderful line drawings, and the cover art is another knock-out.  A great addition to the book.

This year, the articles contributions are by such noted authors as Raven Grimassi and Abby Willowroot to mention a few.  Raven Grimassi’s article “Walking the Path”, discusses witchcraft in today’s challenging world.  It contains some personal recollections of his own growing up witch in the mundane world while passing along some words of wisdom to those seeking to walk the way of the witch today.

Abby Willowroot’s article “The Magic of Time” is a discussion on the passing of time, how we perceive it, how it effects us, what we can do with it and some experiments with how we each mark the passage of time.  An interesting article you will not want to miss.

There is also an article on “Midnight Weeding” by Dallas Jennifer Cobb, which discusses Dark Moon magic and how we can utilize the magic of the Dark Moon for self improvement.

The calendar itself has a two page “week at a glance” that is chock full of interesting information, as usual.  I really wish they would consider adding a “month at a glance” view for long range planning. 

This year, the theme seems to be helpful hints on special days.  The information references stones good for spellwork, oils, and colors, along with interesting information about specific days, like birthdays, or “firsts” in Wiccan history.  Of course, there is the astrological influences for each day, color of the day, and either a really nice piece of art by Ms. Hewitson and/or a poem, notation about one of our Sabats, recipes, blessings and more.  Contributions are by folks such as Elizabeth Barrette, Ellen Dugan, Edain McCoy and others.

The appendices contain the standard tables and charts:  Daily Magical Influences, Color Correspondences, Lunar Phases, Moon signs, 2006 Eclipses, 2006 Full Moons, Planetary Retrogrades for 2006 and Moon Void-Of-Course Data for 2006. 

And then there is the most important section of this book… the names and addresses section.  This is sooooo helpful to me, as I can locate a phone number with a flip of the page.  Yes, I keep all my phone numbers and contacts in my computer, but what if my computer is off?  This section has always been a life saver in power outages, or when I experience down time due to storms.  While being a techno witch is wonderful, we do rely on paper “backups” still.  And yes, I have a PDA… it’s a pain in the butt.  Drop battery power, and you are back to reloading it.  Again, it’s great to have backup that does not run on power or batteries. 

This Datebook is a great time saver, provides much entertainment and is a wonderful witchy accessory for the witch on the go!  Already I have notes in it for next year!  boudica

 

Llewellyn’s 2006
Tarot Reader

While the book itself presents us with a pocket calendar to record dates and events, the big draw of this Llewellyn Annual is the articles written by folks who are familiar with the tarot, work with it, teach it and use it for readings for clients as well as themselves.  We have such well known authors as Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, teachers and founders of the Tarot School;  professional Tarot readers such as Bonnie Cehvet and Mary K. Greer;  book authors Elizabeth Hazel and Corrine Kenner; Tarot Deck designers Lee Bursten and Arnell Ando are but a few of the contributors to this journal.

The book is illustrated with card designs, tarot spreads, and images from the tarot.  This is a great feature as there are some new decks featured that you may want to view before you decide to purchase.

The articles cover some preset topics:  “The Fool: Tools for the Journey”, “The Magician: Practical Applications”  “The Hermit: For Further Study”, “Judgment: Deck Reviews” and “The World:  Spreads.  “The Wheel: 2006 Almanac” encompasses the date book section.

Articles follow the topics.  We have an interesting article by Arnell Ando about “Following the Fool”, a meditation for preparing you for working with your Tarot Deck.  There is also a good article on hearing your deck speak to you called “The Voice in the Card” by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone.  The article presents good personal experiences and includes techniques and tips for reading cards.

The second section “The Magician” has some articles on practical application of the tarot.  “Ask a Better Question” by Mark McElroy explores the possibility that the client didn’t get what they wanted out of a reading simply because they did not ask the right question.  Mr. McElroy discusses ways in which you can help the client form a better question, addressing the concerns the reader may have in suggesting this to a client, helping the reader clarify what the client really wants to know and working towards a solution that will benefit both the reader and the client.

There is also a good article on “Those Scary Cards” by Winter Wren, and what to do when a client wants you to remove those cards no one wants to deal with.  When teaching your students to deal with issues over the death and devil card, and other cards as well.   Ms. Wren offers some sound advice, some explanations to use with students and clients and how to help your clients and students understand how death and the devil work in the deck, what they really mean when we look at the philosophy and away from the fortune-telling aspects.

“The Hermit” section discusses deeper study of the tarot.  An in depth review of the Minor Arcana from the Rider Waite deck is provided by Mary K. Greer.  A great article on a deck that most people have and use on a regular basis, it explores several aspects of the deck not looked at before, including the artist, Pamela Colman Smith.  It explores the storytelling images on the Minor Archana and why some of them were used in the illustrations.  A very insightful look into the design, conception and reasoning behind the images we are all familiar with yet may not have considered in this light before.

There is also a good article called “World to World: Tarot and Kabbalah” by Rachel Pollack.  This article explores the links between the Tarot and the Kabbalah via the “Tree of Life”.  She lays out the four suits as “Worlds” and explores the meaning of each.  She even includes a “reading” to help you explore these worlds using the cards.  Another very insightful and thought provoking article.

“Judgment” focuses on deck reviews.  You may want to browse through here and see what other folks are saying about various new decks.  I was surprised to see the “Gilded Tarot” reviewed by Diane Wilkes, as it is one of my favorite new decks and she too was pleased with the imagery as well as the performance of the deck.

“World” discusses various spreads for readings.  The “Celtic Cross” is presented as well as a few other innovative spread designs.  You may want to check this out as well.

There are pages scattered throughout the book with advertisements for decks printed by Llewellyn.  While it is advertising, it is not a bad thing.  There are sample cards from the decks, and some information about the deck itself. 

This is just a sampling of the works included in the book.  Some folks will find the articles interesting and informative, some will find cause to dispute the material presented.  The idea of this book is to be a “reader” with a theme that will entertain, inform and present different aspects to the topic.  I found some articles well done, others were not of interest or presented material I disagreed with.  We all have different view points.

But the overall value of the book is to broaden our knowledge of the Tarot and this book does this very well.  I found it to be very informative, and well presented.  From the beginner to the experienced reader, you will all find information and illumination between the covers of this book.  Overall, a good presentation and one I am pleased with.  boudica