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Monday, April 30, 2012

A Wiccan Style Vision Quest

Sorceress (Witch Child, #2)Sorceress by Celia Rees
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



View all my reviews Get ready for a vision, or should I say a Wiccan style vision quest. The Sorceress written mostly for Middle and high school children is a tour deforce that will take the reader into another world. Beside being a great story the book gives the reader a glimpse into history and informs about the suffering endured by native Americans and the devastation wrought by the Salenm Witch Trials of the late 1600’s. The book is a sequel to the highly successful “Witch Child” Mary Newbury who the story centers around is an orphan who comes to the New World settlement of Beulah. She is accused of witchcraft and flees the village. About to die in the snow she is rescued by a white wolf, who is her manitou or spirit guardian. Her story is framed by her descendant Agnes who goes on a vision quest, not quite of her choosing and watches Mary’s story unfold. The vision quest is prompted partly due to Agnes opening up to a University researcher who is investigating Mary’s story. All her research leads to a dead end. Agnes was raised on a reservation by her aunti M. Her father is unknown and the mother is a croupier in Las Vegas. Mary is taught the ways of the medicine doctors by White Feather, her adopted father in law. She lives peacefully amongst the native americans for many years. Until the White man brings his war to their village. The wars and the plaques devastate life for the native americans. Mary looses family members, inckuding her husband Jaybird. She flees to Canada , gets captured by Europeans and gets adopted into an Iraqois tribe. What ever does happen to Mary? You will have to read in order to find out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Way of the Hedge Witch: Rituals and Spells for Hearth and HomeThe Way of the Hedge Witch: Rituals and Spells for Hearth and Home by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hedge witches were traditionally known as those who lived on the outskirts of the village. They had all soprts of knowledge of herbs, plants and various shamanistic techniques. Hedgewitches also used to travel to the spirit world and venture over to the otherside.

This book focuses on magic that can be done at home and most preferably in the hearth or the kitchen. The home is important which is why the author focuses on it. It is a place of centering and strength and hence the most important aspect of our life. In the old days of the Celts things centered around the hearth. It was the central fire where everything was kept warm quite literally. Everything centered around the hearth.

Now a days it is the kitchen. The book goes into some detail about how to set up an alter and a shrine and the difference between the two. A list of deities that pertain to hearth and home are listed as well. In the middle of the book are rituals that spiritually cleanse the house and protect it. Some general prosperity spells and over health spells are thrown in for good measure.

The last third of the book deals with recipes and herbs. I figure who needs recipes as anyone can access a cook book but the I guess of this nature would be complete without it. There are some great herbs and recipes and even some spell crafts which might be fun for little kids. But for herbs you really might want to check out Scott Cunningham's various books. A nifty little book for solitary home practice.


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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fairies, Witches and Werewolves

Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle AgesWitches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages by Claude Lecouteux
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scholarly piece of work that canvasses the gamut of European traditions and talks extensively about the Astral Double. Prior to the advent of Christianity which propagated the belief in just one complete soul and one complete body,the Europeans believed that there were three parts. The first part of the soul was called the Fylgja, the second part was called the Hugr and the third part was the Hamr.

The Fylgja acted as sort of an guardian angel. It could take the form of a human or animal. The Fylgja would stay with a person from their birth until their death. Upon death the Fylgja would go to someone else. For a male the Fylgja would often appear as a female. In the Siberian shaman tradition the man would meet this female and be married to her. The could not have children of course but the shaman would be taught magic by the Fylgja. The Fylgja would carry out battles on the behalf of their owner. The appearance of these Fylgjas lead people to call them fairies.

The Hugr is the astral double that usually looks like the person. Also called the fetch. It could travel far distances and be seen by different people as well as view what was going on in distant places. If it got wounded the persons physical body. This fetch could take human form or animal form, including that of the werewolf.

Werewolf was nothing but the astral double of the person who was astral planing. Usually the werewolf was born with six fingers, one eyebrow or with the caul still over it's head. Sometimes a person was spelled to be a werewolf. The werewolves of Livonia and the benadanti in Italy would battle evil sorcerers and take back seeds and grains they had stolen and brought to hell. They guaranteed the harvest.

Witches also sent their astral doubles forward to do certain deeds. Some good some bad. There were times when they stole children sometimes they did good things. On the sabbats they would smear their bodies with flying ointment and imagine they were flying with the Goddess Diana or her daughter Herodia. Sometimes they flew with Abonde. It was their Hugrs that were flying. Shamans could leave their body as will with special techniques.

While the Hugr was out the person's body could not be moved. They had to be left lying on their back.To put them on their stomach would not allow the hugr to return to the body and they would be forced to wander forever. Not much is said about the hamr although it seems to be like an energy that can be used to cause nightmares. Most people do not astral travel or have their Hugr leave their body unless they are sick or experience some grave trauma. Sometimes the Hugr would visit different realms.

The book uses many tales from the Norse religion and goes extensively into Romans and Greek lore as well. The similarity between them all despite the lack of connection is amazing. This is a must read.


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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Ravener

The Ravener & Others: Six John Dee & Edward Kelley Occult MysteriesThe Ravener & Others: Six John Dee & Edward Kelley Occult Mysteries by Donald Tyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Normally I am not one for fiction much less detective stories where crimes are solved. But when I heard that Donald Tyson wrote 6 short story mysteries that was published by Avalonia I knew I had to buy it and read it. I have no regrets. The stories have a lot going for them. They are easy to read, creative and downright enjoyable. I advise everyone to buy this book.

This is also the first book written by Donald Tyson for Avalonia publications. Normally he writes books on Western Magic and he is considered a foremost expert on the subject. Some of the subjects he has written about are Demonology,Enochian Vision Magic and Cthullhu mythos. By the way this is the first book by Donald Tyson that I have read.

The stories center on two main characters who were in fact real people. So this could be called “Historical Fiction” John Dee was Queen Elizabeth’s court astrology and conjurer. She relied upon John Dee for a good many things. Edward Kelly was John Dee’s Clairvoyant. Kelly was the one who could see the spirits and communicate with them. This team came up with the Enochian language and alphabet which is used widely by magickians to this this day.

The six stories are detective stories these two solve mysteries, sometimes with the help of spirits. Mind you Edward Kelley does not like working with spirits as he feels they do not always have our best interests at heart. Spirits are not exactly cooperative either. Some of the crimes they solve involve a woman acting raving mad in reaction to a family curse. One of the forefather who was a trader from England massacred an entire African village. Another story involves the murder a a wealthy farmers son. He is a sacrifice to being from the Cthulllhu mythos. Mention is made of the book “Al Azif” and the Sorcerer “Al Hazared” They solve haunting, ghostly murders , find stolen scrying stones. In one story Edward Kelly raises the dead and his witchy mother in law gives him a “familiar “gift. The gift is something that comes in handy but at the same time it is something that Edward Kelly dreads.

The last story “The Ravener” is not about birds and to be quite honest would be a perfect story line and setting for a horror move or a Predator movie. Needless to say the queen and her hunting party get trapped in some forbidden woods and have an encounter with some very small people and their guardian beast. I won’t divulge anymore details you will have to read the book yourself.


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Monday, April 16, 2012

Norse Shaminism

Seidr: The Gate Is OpenSeidr: The Gate Is Open by Katie Gerrard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Avalonia Publication have went and did it again. They produced a fine masterpiece on shamanistic practices of the Norse. Katie Gerrard has spent at least a decade developing her technique and methodology to enter into the other world. She has tried what she has written about in her own group and she has also learned from other groups as well. Katie is very knowledgeable of Shamanistic method and it shows in this definitive text. The book is steeped with references to old texts and sagas of the norse. If the Norse or Shamanism is your thing then this a great book to get.

Contained in the book are rituals written down step by step. Included in these steps are cleansing the area, casting your protective barrier, techniques for raising energy (chants, dancing etc) When to make offering and when to close the ritual and evaluate. Most of the rituals are geared toward the group but they can be modified for both smaller groups and individual practice. But be forewarned going deep into a trance and traveling to Aesir or Helheim alone with out experience and training may be dangerous.

For a group of people there is the master of ceremonies, the person running the ritual. Maybe 1-2 people acting as channels to receive the message of the deities. When contact is made people should ask questions of the deities and they will get an answer that they hopefully will understand. Around the group there are maybe 4-5 overseers depending on the groups size. They make sure that everyone is doing ok. Sometimes if someone goes to deep it will be their job to revive them.

In addition to rituals the book covers some techniques on shape shifting which involves shaping the Hugr into a certain shape to perform a task. The definition of a Seidr seem rather muddled or obscure. To some it means prophesying while to others it was sorcery. Seidr workers have used their magic in the Sagas to create storms, confuse their opponents and to due astral battle. Seidr working was by and large thought to be unmanly as men were supposed to be drawn to combat. It was supposed to be a woman's thing but there are instances of men doing Seidr. It should be noted that men did use rune craft and Galdr.

Ancient Norse Shamanistic techniques in addition to indigenous techniques that developed learned from the Sami and Lapp people from Finland. Such techniques as the raised platform etc are parallel. They may have also learned some techniques from the ancient Greeks with one exception. In the Greek world a male would interpret the results of the female prophecy in the Norse world the women were allowed to speak directly.
Much of the Ancient practices are lost so modern Seidr worker are piecing things together.

Inspiration for modern Sedr reconstruction comes from an examination of Sami, Lapp and Siberian Shamans. Michael Harner who developed a universal Shamanism is used quite extensively as well.Lastly voodoo techniques are culled as well. The author gives manyb rituals that not only involve traveling to other realms and shape shifting but also rituals for connecting with ancestors and possession. The rituals do not have to be followed rigidly in fact the author urges the reader to tweek things as needed. Over all excellent book.




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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pagan Prayer...All Hail the Gods

A Pagan Ritual Prayer BookA Pagan Ritual Prayer Book by Ceisiwr Serith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This little red book is an excellent book, especially if you are new to Neo-Paganism. I shall say that the book is very powerful and it changed me on a couple of levels, but this is not the time or place to get into that. Kind of got to think what is more powerful life changing tool prayer or magic? I am tending to think prayer because the Gods are way more powerful then we are.

The book has prayers to a variety of deities from a variety of pantheons. Most of the concentration seems to be on Greek Deities and Celtic Deities. There is a fair number of prayers dedicated to some Egyptian Deities but they missed my favorite of all, Bastet. There were a few thrown in the mix for Marduk and Inanna for good measure. Nothing was really dedicated to Canaanite Gods and Goddesses. Kind of a bummer I would like to see them represented as well. To be fair though prayers to Aphrodite, Haphestus and the Storm God could be modified for Ashera, Baal and Astarte. But hey no problem most Neo-Pagans are down with the Norse, Celtic and Greco-Roman Deities which this book has plenty of. Beside deities there are also prayers to the various land, air, water, home and other spirits. Heck there are even prayers to the ancestors. I hope I did not leave anybody out.

What makes it great is that it gives the reader a structure for creating a ritual. Most pagan will know the cleansing, calling quarters and casting the circle. There are also specific prayers for the Sabbats. There are prayers thanking the deities for the food , asking for what we need. Just about every area is covered. Before I go I must mention that at the books beginning it tells how to write a prayer. It gives the bare bones skeleton, poetics schemes, rhyme schemes. Making a prayer nice and pretty is important never mind about that coming from the heart stuff these are the Gods we are talking about, Make it nice. This book get five stars out of five.




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Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Spiral Dance

The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the GoddessThe Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess by Starhawk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book by far is the most influential book on Witchcraft to date. I would venture that every Pagan has a copy. Which is one reason why I hesitated to read it. It is highly feminist which was something I was not looking for. History and archaeology show that most of man's history was patriarchal. Man was in charge, he wanted to control the womb thus control the future. I must say that there were matriarchal societies in the Mediterranean. This was not the norm for all over the world. Her first chapter gives over a history that most society with exceptions with matriarchal and worshiped the goddess.After all she was the one who gave birth. The earth or the womb of the planet was where we returned to when we died in order to be reborn. She basically recycles or restates Margarette Murry's thesis albeit with simpler words. Her mythos, which she readily states is just that mythos meant to convey a truth. It is not fact per se. This too me is a strong point in the book. The use of mythos used as a tool to get the witch into a proper frame of mind.

According to Starhawk and Murray, life in Europe and all over the world was matriarchal. Everything was peaceful and fine with absolutely no violence. Men hunted and magic was discovered by dancing in circle and visualizing success in the hunt, as drawn by pictures in caves. This gave the hunters better success. As humankind grew older they domesticated animals and became farmer. Their rituals became agricultural and fertility oriented. They developed rituals for the solstices and equinoxes. Then came the Indoeuropean invaders from the east. As they stormed across Europe they brought with them a militaristic way of life and worship of male warlike gods. The original inhabitants fled to the hills and stayed hidden. They would have their rituals in secret. In time there would be some intermarriage between the conquerors and the conquered. The conquered people became known as faeries or Pixies after the people name thee Picts.

A complimentary mythos which I have never seen written anywhere else before was penned by Starhawk. Miria the star goddess is the primal creator she sees her reflection and falls in love with it and decides to create an other. The others starts out close and then slowly moves away. First he is the God of the hunt and then god of the crops. His intention is to reunite with the stargoddess. Miria has many connections. Marian is the sea goddess in Robert grave's work " White Goddess" There are a few other connections as well.

Leaving aside the myths and pseudo history this book has some great practical information for the beginning witch or magician. There are a gazillion exercises for both covens and solitaries to use. The range is from meditation, trancework, rituals, spells and group bonding exercises. These alone make the book very valuable to the beginner. Starhawk also traces her own development she started of like most of us reading books and doing it from there. She formed her own group , The Compost Coven. As leader she really got into the leadership role and sort of hogged it all. But she learned and grew out of it. She then went on to learn the Feri tradition from Victor and Cora Andersen. This is her primary model of spirituality. Starhawk would later found the Reclaiming movement.

There are several views of magic. Several magicians put forward the view that magic is causing a change in reality in accordance with ones will. Dion Fortune posited that magic is altering consciousness at will. Starhawk subscribes to Dion Fortune's view of magic. In the spell section and through out the book she gives techniques on raising energy and directing towards a magical goal. She gives techniques on making poppets and how to charge them. Starhawk is realistic about what magic can do. It will will not work miracles for you. Magic has limitations. Limitations are based on how much energy is required to reach a goal. Other energy currents which may hinder the reaching of a goal. Magic used as a transformation agent which forces our evolution seems to be the most realistic and effective magic.

Witchcraft is also about making things work for you. Tweeking it to meet your individual and group needs. Practical down to Earth leaving no room for a central or absolute authority to come in and tell you how to do things. Most witches work in covens or circles. These small groups are intimate, cozy, nourishing and involved. Witchcraft is not a passive religion. Gaining access to the divine is based on reaching states of ecstasy to alter your consciousness. Speaking of the mind Starhawk uses a modified Freudian/Jungian view of things. There is the Talking Mind which is our everyday conscious, the younger mind or our unconscious and Deep mind which functions as our higher self or connection to the divine. Accessing the deep mind via the unconscious mind is what magic is about.

The view of witchcraft is one of a transformational model. We transform our selves, our environment and our world.Starhawk is a staunch feminist and environmentalist. She uses her magic to change the situation. This comes through as she traces through the autobiographical elements of her life. The beginning witch or just the casual reader should enjoy reading this book. If you wish to go further I would advise reading the back and delve into the bibliography and suggested reading.




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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Blue Book

Buckland's Complete Book of WitchcraftBuckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have read count less Wicca 101 books, yet no one should pass through their basic Wicca education without having read Raymond Buckland's classic. Originally written back in 1986 this book foresees the needs of many beginner Wiccans more adequately then what is being cranked out today. Some of his info is dated and there are more complete instructions else in other beginners books of this magnitude but I still learned a lot.

Raymond Buckland was trained and initiated in Britain by Gerald Gardner himself and then he brought it over to the states. He quotes the standard line that it was the God and Goddess who created the planet and it's inhabitants. All goddess names are just label for the goddess herself in her many different aspects. Same goes for the god. Behind the Goddess and God is the concept of the all that is, an unnameable and unidentifiable source of everything. Buckland aptly states that the paradigm of the God and Goddess are ways of seeing the reality and cosmos and that other ways of viewing reality are just as valid. He does believe that the ancients in one form or another believed in a Goddess/God concept. Some examples would be found in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the European religions. But he is also respectful enough of different beliefs to state that there were differences to this as well.

The year is divided into two parts. The Spring and summer are belonging to the goddess and are dedicated to harvesting and crops. The Winter when the crops no longer grow and the animals hibernate belongs to the horned God. Funny I also thought the reverse. But hey Wicca has no central authority and is thus open to much interpretation and reinterpretation. buckland does not maintain that Wicca was around in it's present form many millenia ago but he does subscribe to concepts being present.

The book is thorough and I learned a lot. Of course there is the usual on circle casting, calling quarters and the well outlined rituals that are well scripted out and this includes not only the sabbats but also new and full moon rites. The book includes tons of information on divination, herbs, channeling, secret alphabets and magic. These lessons alone can be taken by the non wiccan and/or non witch and used independently. The book also gives different traditions of Wicca which allows the newbie to choose which to go to or at least peruse the options. Great adanvatage You do not have to be a witch too practice magic. Such people are called magicians.

The book has some drawbacks, however. Raymond Buckland has a habit of quoting, well of course, Raymond Buckland. Peppered quite profusely through out the book are quotes and sayings from his other works which he published. I would say he is a bit full of himself. He also pulls from some of his other paradigms which he call Seax Wicca and uses that as gospel. Seax Wicca is something that Raymond himself has to admit he came up with himself. Some of the instructions on Talismans, especially the seals of Solomon could benefit from more thorough instructions. I have read other magic books that I would consult for this matter. Another drawbacks and this would depend on your point of view are the couple of pictures that show nudity, especially included in the initiation section. Definitely not suitable for children or teens. If you are a parent with children you might not want to leave this lying around.

Other than that great book.




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Baba-Sali

Baba-Sali
Holy Morroccan Sage engaged in Prayer

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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