Bookviews Book Reviews
Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot
This book would better be entitled "An Accurate and
Complete Book on the Thoth Tarot Deck" or "A Method of Spiritual
Attainment Using the Thoth Tarot" because this is precisely what Lon
DuQuette has done in this offering.
Rarely since either Papus' or Mouni Sadhu's works on tarot
have I seen a book that is this much in depth in knowledge and scope as what
DuQuette has presented in this book. Also knowing the complexity of the
Thelemic system and the resulting madness which is rightfully Aleister
Crowley's, the Thoth deck is not something to which many are capable of
grasping more than straws.
I have owned a Thoth deck from the first year I got involved
in the Occult and that's been 17 years as of this writing and still there is so
much offered in the Thoth deck that I find something new about it each time I
unwrap my cards and gaze at them! How many other Tarot decks can make this
Originally I bought
Chapters Zero and One should be read a few times prior to
reading the rest of the book so you are prepped for what is to come and why
it's coming. Take my advice and do not overlook this step. You'll glean a
Chapters Two thru Seven are the obligatory history of Uncle
Al and why he was who he was. Frankly this material is not necessary in my
opinion as there are plenty of other sources Lon could have referenced just as
easily instead of adding this filler to the book. But there are some who have
this attitude that if you like their book they have to include as much history
or ethical platitudes as possible to make it a "complete" work.
Chapter Eight is very helpful if you happen to be into the
Rosicrucian oriented framework as it
covers the all important Rosy Cross. Now even if you're NOT into this aspect,
it helps to further understand the Qabalistic designs of Uncle Al's Thoth deck.
Why? Because this aspect of Thelema is patterened after the Golden Dawn's Rose
Cross symbol and is central to Thelema as well.
I could go on and on touching on each chapter and would end
up spoiling the fun of working thru this manual before you read it. So I won't
however I will say you should have your Thoth deck out and at hand as you read
thru each subsequent chapter on the various cards. Take your time and read each
section carefully then let that information flow thru your mind and let it
drift away THEN gaze and contemplate the card in your hand. If you don't gain
some sort of insights by the time you're done contemplating the card, then go
back and re-read that section on that card. You'll gain SOMETHING worthwhile!
I rate this book five stars for the breadth of the subject matter. The book is complete and tight in its offering. There are some useful insights offered by DuQuette as you work your way thru the book and he even offers some quips and personal anecdotes as well. I recommend this book to those who have a strong desire to master the Thoth deck. This is not to say that by reading this book you'll have mastered the deck itself but rather will gain a useful starting point from which to begin and material to help fill in the gaps of understanding which are most surely to plague you when trying to use this deck for more than mere divination.
Review by Moloch for TWPT
Inside A Magical Lodge: Group Ritual in the Western Tradition by John Michael Greer
Finally a decent book on forming a group in a modern,
esoteric, manner. Prior to this book, there hasn't been much on the structuring
of a formal magical lodge/order outside of a few
Part of the problem with such books is that little is
offered as guidance on dealing with the people within such a group. The group
dynamics is usually overlooked so the seeker looking to gain some knowledge
running a group and not just forming one is often left to his/her own devices
on dealing with people. This makes for a blind leading the blind type of
situation - at least emotionally - and usually what occurs is that the rest of
the group is leaderless.
In the Satanic oriented groups, the leader is often
encouraged to lead with an "iron fist" or "it's MY way or the
highway" as pointed out by Rev. Yaj Nomolos in his book "The Magic
Circle". Whereas in the Ritual & Ceremonial Magical traditions, the
heavy handedness is not always conducive to a smooth running operation.
Fortunately this book offers some simplistic thoughts on dealing with people
within the lodge and mainly that is covered in Chapter 2.
What this book does offer is pretty solid material on WHY
one should want to formulate a lodge and WHAT kind of structure the group
The book starts out with pretty basic historical information
on who the Freemasons were and why they came to be. This was based on the
Medeival Guilds that were formed around trades and craftsmen. What follows next
is the jump from the Freemasons to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and
it's not like we haven't heard of that particular order before.
Greer also points out the foundation of what a Magical Lodge
really is and offers to the interested party: structure, symbolism, magic and
secrecy. In chatper 2, he nails it on the head when he writes "A magical
lodge can take many forms and be many things. If it's going to function at all,
though, there's at least one thing it has to be: a group of people who are able
to put together the resources of space, time, and material needed for the
lodge's work and who can do so with a minimum of bickering, confusion, and hurt
feelings....A group that can't manage at least this much isn't going to likely
to last long or get far." This fact has caused many lodges (and covens) to
peter out long before they really could begin all over this very fact.
When we get thru the next three chapters on each of the
foundations of symbolism, magic and secrecy, Greer has done a pretty decent job
of offering more than mere platitudes in which to live by. He has explored very
real concepts such as the group's egregore which helps to keep the nucleus of
the group together. Then he tackles initiation and why this should be an
important step to getting into a lodge. Finally he discusses the practical uses
of secrecy and how this can benefit the group's continued focus as it
The next part of the book covers the forming of a magical
lodge. Greer uses a mythical group of personalities who opt to form their own
lodge using alchemy as a framework. This is a useful teaching method and it
allows Greer to give a better explanation of the various intricacies of sorting
thru the mess of trying to form a core lodge group. He calls this group
"The Order of the Athanor" and as we follow the formation of this
group, we see some of the pitfalls and highpoints of forming and operating this
One of the pitfalls of lodges has always been the monetary
dues contributions from its members. This is a sore point for many would-be
lodge members because of their current financial situation which most deem
financially strapped. Unfortunately, unless one has an ideal temple in their
home, it takes the combined efforts of an entire group contributing money to
rent a hall big enough to support a group. For example, if say you or I were to
invest in building a comfortable working space such as an insulated and climate
controlled pole barn, there is not only the initial cost of such a building and
land to worry about but also the ongoing day-to-day maintenance to deal with.
Utilities and upkeep usually are a drain on one person and without the group kicking
in some sort of monetary support, the person in question will more than likely
come to resent the fact that she or he has to foot the bill. And if one tries
to keep meetings in their home, the same sort of thing eventually happens.
Greer also discusses some of the more esoteric rites that
are available outside of just initiation
and one of them is the working of Invisibility. This subject has been covered
in Greer's prior work "Circles of Power". He takes this subject and
lucidly explains the concept and how to do it sort of approach that many
aspiring magicians drool to be able to accomplish.
All in all, this book is highly recommended with five stars because the author has chosen to tackle a very neglected subject and offers some very practical advice on forming a group. So much so that even Wiccans wishing to form a coven would be well to research from this book.
Review by Moloch for TWPT
Few books on the subject of Witchcraft come along that I'm
willing to doff my hat too mainly because so many are pedantic in their
offering. This book is not one of those pedantic offerings but rather a well
written and useful theory books that is so lacking in the Wiccan community.
This is not a cookbook or "how-to" manual. What it
is makes it all the more desirable for the budding and mid-level Wiccan
practitioner to want to own and study.
One of the things I have to give Grimassi is his due on
covering the balance of the Wiccan cosmology. Most Wiccan books tend to focus
solely on the divine feminine aspects and the chief reason for this is that
many of the authors of Wiccan books are feminists. Thus the divine aspect of
the male is either ignored (usually) OR relegated to little more than a
masculine "escort" companion.
The chapter on the "Witches God" I found useful
and entertaining. For instance, I chuckled at the thought of the looks of
horror on the faces of so many fluffy bunnies when they see the inverted
pentagram in the pages of a Llewellyn book on the Craft! Actually Grimassi uses
the symbol merely to point out the idea of the look of Hercules' ritual death
position which according to Grimassi was inverted.
When we get into Chapter Five, "Exploring the Inner
Mysteries", Grimassi offers up front a skull and crossbones and how it
symbolizes the "guardianship and power over the realm of death". At
last, a Wiccan book that doesn't eschew the mysteries of Death! Sadly this is
an aspect that is so lacking in modern Wiccan literature but is NOT neglected
in Wicca's cousin the religion of Vodu where a Lord of Death is given His
respect and dignity at every ceremony.
Next the author takes us thru standing stones and sacred
groves or that which we need to find peace in our workings. The idea that the
stones retained all which they witnessed and that groves of trees harbored the
Spirits of the Gods themselves. (Another concept that is found in other
cultures.) Two other subjects covered by Grimassi are that of Summerland and
Reincarnation both of which are not covered in any real depth but at least he
makes an attempt to help the reader delve more into the concepts of each
instead of just paying lip service to the notion as so many other Wiccan
authors tend to do.
The next two chapters were reminiscent of Stewart Farrar's
"Eight Sabbats For Witches" as Grimassi tries to offer more than an
overview of each sabbat and the meaning behind its importance. Not since Stew
Farrar has this subject been dealt with in any real depth and due to the lack
of written evidence on neo-Celtic sources, this does not help make it any
easier for Grimassi to explain the spiritual significance underlying each one.
I for one would like to see Raven take his time and research this area of
Wiccan lore more in depth perhaps even with a book devoted solely to the spokes
of the year.
The rest of the book delves into other areas that are worthy
of study for the Wiccan. One of the interesting things about Grimassi is that
while I don't consider him a scholar in his research, I do consider him to be a
valid reconstructionist. Why? Because some of his theories & conclusions
just do not convince me when he points to historical evidence (sic). Too much
of this material is skewed by minimal accounts and smacks of way too much
The bibliography is not full of other Llewellyn books and
thus lends more credibility to Grimassi as a researcher for this work. This in
itself is a refreshing break from your typical Llewellyn offering. One sore
point though is in the section on "The View from Colleges and
Cauldrons" where Grimassi quotes from one of $ilver Ravenwolf's books and
he was doing so well up to that point!
In my advanced, un-edited copy, there was no index so I'm not sure if the finalized version does indeed have an index. All in all I rate this book four stars and recommend it to anyone who wants to get a valuable overview of the mystery aspects of the Craft of the Witch.
Reviewed by Moloch for TWPT