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Bookviews Book Reviews

 

5-15-2004
 

 

Gaia Eros
by Jesse Wolf Hardin

 

 

 

Jesse Wolf Hardin and Loba own and operate a 'wilderness retreat' called "The Earthen Spirituality Project and Sweet Medicine Women's Center' in New Mexico.  This center forms the basis for this book, in their connection with their land, their very strong feelings for the earth and earth based spirituality, the sacredness of all things and the sacredness of self. 

What connects all pagans is their love and respect for the earth.  Mr. Hardin can be considered a very 'extreme' pagan in his dedication to the protection of the environment and his teachings of respect for all things.  

This book outlines the retreats they hold at their New Mexico center, and combines their practices with their teachings and presents us with a path that is as inviting as it is intriguing. 

This is not just about the land.  Respect is for all things.  The retreats focus on self in relation to your inner being, your connection with all things natural and taking the time to stop and smell the sage.  Exercises in self indulgence, respecting and appreciating your food, proper and natural diet, and pursuit of your own personal spirituality are the focus of these retreats.  Each step is a magical journey in reconnecting yourself to the land. 

Mr. Hardin includes questions to explore your own personal beliefs and life style, discusses his ideas and teachings regarding personal growth, sexuality, and of course, our responsibility to the earth and his ideas of maintaining Gaia. 

Mr. Hardin has a way with words, and it enables us to experience not only the taste of his center, but also his ideas, his teachings and his personal path.  He is very eloquent in his descriptions of his concepts, from his ideas on sexuality to the smell of fresh baked bread.  The book is very well written.  Like his excellent pen and ink drawings which grace some of the pages, verbal details awaken the senses as you read through the material. 

Mr. Hardin includes many diverse topics for discussion, from his own personal ideas on sexuality to war and its effects on the planet and ourselves.  Some of this can be disturbing, we may not agree with all the thoughts presented by Mr. Hardin, and some will seem extreme.   These are his teachings, and are meant to provoke thought on the topics. 

But do not let that stop you from savoring the ideas and rolling them around in your mind.  Extremes can be a wake up call.  Do we respect ourselves, our own personal piece of the earth, or our own spirituality?  Can we adjust our daily lives a little at a time so we can enhance our own personal experience?  And do we respect Gaia enough that when we refer to ourselves as 'pagan' we mean it? 

Though provoking, intelligent, subtle and sexual, this book covers all that Mr. Hardin and Lobo consider 'Gaia Eros' and their form of natural magic and spirituality.

 

Moonbeams and
Shooting Stars
by Gwinevere Rain

 

 

 

This little book focuses on Teens and their connection to spirituality and the Goddess.  It is a step by step guide to finding inner spirituality. 

Ms. Rain's  focus is on the female teen, offering a spiritual journey filled with personal empowerment as an alternative to the usual distractions of the teen years.  The suggestion is to start young working on personal spirituality, enabling you to grow better and happier.  She discusses some of the obstacles that many teens encounter, discusses her own personal experiences and has room in the book for personal journaling as you deal with events in your life. 

I liked the layout, the progression of the book.  The chapters deal with self, the Goddess, listening to the Goddess and finding your own personal power, exploring your points of hurt and finding healing within.  There is a chapter that explores your own hopes and desires and how to set your own personal goals. 

I had some trouble with her 'Angels' chapter.  There are many religions that have 'angels' in their makeup, but to suggest that bodhisattvas, Orishas or Taoist Immortals are angels or angel like beings shows much Silver Ravenwolf influence and should have been left out.  Bodhisattvas, Orishas and Taoist Immortals are Their own Beings, and should not be forced into someone's definition to accommodate a personal idea or writers need.  Angels are angels in their own context and the religions they apply to and should not be included in someone else's pantheon for the sake of 'inclusiveness'.  

Native American beliefs should not have been included either, as they too are a path unto themselves. 

Ms Rain seems to have tried to include all paths, but reading the previous chapters, the material first appears Wiccan in nature but then shifts towards general pagan religious beliefs.   She discusses Christianity and Judaism and Islam beliefs and then tries to include everything else.  It becomes confusing as to what spirituality Ms. Rain was trying to focus on.  If it was supposed to be a general spirituality, then Angels should not have been included or at least confined to their own origins and that would have eliminated much of the confusion and misinformation. 

The balance of the material is good; it works well, and can be an excellent beginning for the teen girl who is looking to connect with spirituality and the Goddess and foster personal empowerment.  The journaling is a good idea and works well with the material presented here.   Nice book if you can overlook the youthful enthusiasm to be all inclusive on a Goddess path. 

 

Progressive Witchcraft
by Janet Farrar
and Gavin Bone

 

 

 

Offered here by 'Janet and Gavin' is an insider's look at the progression of Wicca over the past 50 years and a glimpse into their private workings and teachings and some visions of where Wicca will be headed from here on forward. 

The first part of the book deals with their view of how Wicca as a religion was founded, became established as it is today, how it has evolved and how it related directly to the Farrar's as they saw it.  

The next part of the book discusses the evolution of the religion of Wicca, the constant process of change and maturity.  There is much discussion of the discovery process of Gavin Bone on his path and of Janet's progression along her own. 

There is the process of teaching the Wiccan path by their own group, discussion of the mysteries and their experiences and their validation process.  Ethics, comparative religion discussions, different aspects of the Wiccan path such as the spiritual planes, magic and witchcraft, reincarnation; all are discussed in connection with personal experiences and the process of Wicca to constantly change to meet the spiritual needs of the individual. 

This book is not just a discussion of the personal experiences of Janet and Gavin, however, but offers a view into how they taught their path in the past, and how they teach now.  The example of the evolution of the 'degree' system into a system of dedication to Deity and discovery of the various aspects of the Triple Goddess was interesting in that it is not confined to their particular path alone, but has been in use in other Traditions as well.  There are many points discussed that were once engraved in stone that now have been re-etched to allow for a much broader and deeper personal meaning. 

This is revolutionary thought for two people who have stood for Traditional Witchcraft in the past.  But if you follow their thought processes, and examine the reasoning behind what they are doing, you see that they are following a natural progression of maturing within the religion, and not a complete diversion or a deterioration of the original inspired idea. 

There are points that will cause some to balk.  There is material that some hard core traditionalists will find hard to swallow.  There are points that I personally did not agree with, but that is to be expected.  No two people see the same thing or agree upon the same ideas.   For example, Janet's statement regarding the 'King or Queen' of the witches "What replaced it was not one, but multiple leaders who have surfaced within the community. ...Instead of one, there are now many leaders of the movement to reestablish witchcraft - mostly, but not exclusively, authors."  And they go on to name those who they feel deserve the title.  Personally, I feel this is not the case in many instances, but that it is a perceived notion rather than actual fact.   There are many leaders of communities I've met here that have never written a book, have no intention to, and yet strive for the best for the communities they work in.  They work quietly, and would go mostly unnoticed except for the people within their communities who noticed them well and acknowledge them as leaders.  Not everyone sees authors as leaders. 

For teachers, there are many ideas in this book that are presented as food for thought to broaden the mindset of any group.   There are many good ideas; there are many new concepts and approaches to group construction, group working and individual development here that make it a book worth having. 

As in all things, this is a book from the perspective of Jane and Gavin and will not be suitable or accepted by all.  Because of the nature of the material, the excellent examples of personal revelation and experience, and the knowledge base from which much of the material flows, it does stretch the mind a bit.  There are one or two blatant errors.  But it steps beyond the usual 101 material and progresses to the next level, taking the basics we have learned, and taught, and challenges them and moves them along the natural chain of evolution. 

An excellent volume to have in any library and one which will give you material to chew on, contemplate and even... consider. 

 

Before You Cast A Spell
by Carl Mccolman

 

 

 

Carl McColman offers us a simple, easy to understand book on the ethics, laws and logistics of working and using magic in spells. 

The book is well laid out, contains some wonderful pearls of wisdom and some basics that will benefit the beginner and those not acquainted with the practice of magic and spells. 

The 'Thirteen Myths of Magic' covers some of the most commonly asked questions from the novice and offers some very basic and practical answers to most of them.  While there are one or two points I would question, for the most part the reasoning is good and the approach logical from a simple perspective. 

The 'Thirteen Laws of Magic' covers some of the most commonly asked questions from outsiders and novices and again, while a couple of the answers pose more questions than satisfaction, from the novice perspective, the answers are clear and simple. 

"The Ethics of Magic' is a good addition to this book and are very well explained and very clear.    

The experienced worker of magic will see some flaws in the thinking of some of the material offered here.  Things are not always simple and personal approaches to magic and personal paths are not covered in many of the answers Mr. McColman gives.  Mr. McColman sees this book from his perspective and offers answers that are on a level that he can answer from his view point.  Not all aspects are covered, not all situations are explained and the fact that there are many paths that do not believe the fundamentals that Mr. McColman believe in is not even approached in this book. 

However, if you look at this book as a very basic primer meant for someone who is not familiar with magic or spell work and who wants something to reassure them that the first steps they are taking are not leading them into danger or off the path of good and right, then this book is a good choice.  It would also serve as a 'mostly harmless' type of introduction to spell work for those who are outside our path and looking at what is going on in a very simple and basic way. 

Mr. McColman also includes some discussion material on the purposes of spells, on working with Deity and personal spirituality.  He offers a few chapters on his ideas of magic and its purpose.  He  looks at the involvement of Deity and spirituality in magic and allows the reader to think on this and contemplate higher existence. 

There is an appendix of material for study, a virtual 'do it yourself' collection of older books by some authors not well known in our community, with the exception of Robin Wood and her book on ethics.  There is also the practical advice on finding a teacher which is good advice in any book.  There is a basic glossary of terms and keywords, and an index for quick reference. 

For those who have walked their path for many years and are experienced in their own practice or path or Trad, this book will probably not be a good choice.  This book is meant for those who have no background.  It is a stripped down offering of the simplest and most basic of information and explanations. 

This is a well thought out book from that perspective, good for those who are still leery of what part magic and spells will play in their spiritual path.   It may also be a good tool for those who are unsure if they want to include magic in their path or a basic book for those who have relatives or friends who are not involved in our way of life and are questioning the purpose or ethics of magic by those who do practice. 

 

Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard
by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and the Grey Council
 

 

 

 The original purpose of this book was to offer information on magic and 'wizardry' for the teen group in a format that would appeal and speak to them on their own level. 

What is presented here is a commercial venture by OZ and his 'Grey Council' to cash in on the 'Harry Potter' phenomenon by reprinting material from the works of people such as Ellen Evert Hopman, Raymond Buckland, Raven Grimassi, Patricia Telesco and other well known authors.  What results is a mish mash of information on different levels of understanding that looks comically like a Hogwarts Wannabe volume of collected wisdom and falls far short. 

What could have been a stroke of genius becomes laughingly a flop in its intent to copy a popular fictional wave and use it to promote what could have been a really good source of collected information. 

Not to be overlooked are some really good tables of correspondences, some very complete glossaries of terms and meanings of occult words and practices, very well illustrated explanations of such items as tarot cards and their meanings, animal and mythical beast interpretations, good basics in astrology and the short stories of Gods, Goddesses and mythical heroes. To its credit it does have a well developed index. 

What does come across is multiple works tied together by OZ himself, making for simple easy to read introductions to works that become clumsy because they do not address the younger reading audience or are misplaced because their content wanders off to cover topics that, while they are needed to explain the original topic, are above the reading level of the intended audience and can be confusing. 

The introduction of the book does not begin to focus on the contents of the book, but rather tries to sell the author as one of the all time great wizards right up there with Merlin himself.  Why, the front page of the book is nothing but testimonies acclaiming the author.  Such ego, such cheese! 

What would probably have been better for this book would have been to scrap the Harry Potter junk altogether, and approached it as an encyclopedia of material that should have at least been rewritten down to a teen level and sold as an encyclopedia edited by OZ, comprised of the material by the 'Grey Council' and offered to the practicing teen as an essential compliment to their working library. 

But that would not have given this book the controversy it has received nor attracted as much attention as it has by being a Hogwarts wannabe.  So much for commercialism.  The object here was to sell a book.  

What could have been a useful and well put together tool that was geared towards the younger practitioner suffers from a sad case of over commercialism and bad taste.  It could also have used a bit more editing to make it more consistent towards the audience it was trying to approach.  If you can overlook the book and authors faults, it does contain some really wonderful information.  

 

Silver's Spells for Protection
by Silver Ravenwolf
 

 

 

 'You are no longer a victim, you are a victor!'  'The techniques herein, however, should not preclude obtaining professional assistance, whether we are talking about the need to notify the police, a counselor, or medical professionals.'  'Throwing magick at a problem or goal isn't the ultimate solution to all of our difficulties.'  'Like the famous guy says, "Don't sweat the small stuff".' 

While I find this refreshing coming from Silver Ravenwolf, and commend her on placing this most valuable common sense in the front of her book, I wish she would have focused more on this kind of wisdom throughout her book rather than offering the 'book designed to teach you how to prevent bad things from occurring and how to protect yourself should you walk into something that you shouldn't have.'   It would have been better if she had also offered the advice of 'look before you walk' so you would not have walked where you should not have been. 

This book is a re-release of the book originally issued in March of 2000.  It is a 'cookbook' of spells, rituals and incantations to assist in protecting yourself in a variety of ways from a plethora of potentially harmful situations. 

The novice will find the correspondence tables useful and those familiar with Silver's personal path will find this book enjoyable.  There are things that can be confusing such as the cross used for a spell for 'sick and broken cars' on page 47 and invoking Venus to protect police officers on page 66.  This is Silver's particular path.  There are one or two spells that are inspiring, while there are those that are lackluster and need some adjustment to timing and rhyming to make them work.   Some spells are short and quick while others appear to be major undertakings. 

Her book offers a suggestion of protection for the mistakes we made or troubles we can encounter.  But this book is not a total solution for our own errors of judgment or actions we knowingly take and we realize we should never have approached.  And it is not a cure all for what threatens us.  As she states in the beginning of her book, and I wish she would have repeated through out the book in bold letters, 'The techniques herein, however, should not preclude obtaining professional assistance, whether we are talking about the need to notify the police, a counselor, or medical professionals.'    That should be repeated as a mantra over and over in the book. 

For the occasional bump that we encounter in life, this book can provide some positive reinforcement a la Silver Ravenwolf style.  For serious issues, there is proper counseling, assistance from the proper authorities and the support of friends and family that will assist us out of trouble and protect us.  The wisdom is knowing how to balance magic with the mundane to achieve the desired levels of protection.