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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Majestic Quest of JRR Tolkien

Tolkien's Heroic QuestTolkien's Heroic Quest by Robert Rorabeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A nifty book that examines a wide range of J.R.R.Tolkien's literature and gives a thorough and scholarly insiders view of his philosophy that is easily read by the laymen. Mr. Tolkien was a Philologist who taught at Oxford University. He was part of a group of people called the "Inklings" which included CS Lewis. His writing has often been considered a travel to the land of faeries. His work was also heavily influenced by life event, Norse Mythology and his Catholic Background. His writing was also a critique if society in general. Mr. Tolkien it should be noted lived through two world wars.

For Tolkien writing was both a journey into the faerie world and the faerie world which was based on the real world was also meant to convey social criticism. Two themes in general that concerned Mr. Tolkien were Ofermod and industrialization. Ofermod could be described as too much pride, and power hunger. Such a trait exhibited by our leaders in his opinion would lead the world to ruin. Industrialization was another concern. Man was distancing himself too far from nature and the machines were also ruining the landscape. Man was being dehumanized into a mere cog in the machine.

Tolkien believed in some divine order that was superior to man made order. The book is not that exact but he does criticize Ofermod and chivalry. In the Battle of Modon the leader of the anglosaxons could have crushed the Viking before they crossed the river but to follow the rules of warfare he allowed them to brook on the other side to make the fight fair. The anglosaxon lost the battle and died. Oaths that should not be followed are also deemed destructive. Tolkien's hero the Hobbit, Frodo or Gawain the Green Knight are not invincible fighters but rather dedicated servants who are very humble. They do not quest for power but rather strive to divset themselves of it. Tolkien does not have that much romance in his books. The books focus on male to male bonding....brotherhood.

Tolkien also believed that humans like his main God Iluvatar had the ability to create. We did this by works of Art and writing. In the Niggle Story the artists world does become real. All I can say is that I enjoyed reading this simple and educational work. Safe Journey's my friends.


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Teaching Tolkien in the Classroom

Reader and Educator Guide to Reader and Educator Guide to "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering that this came to me for free, who am I to complain. It helps if you have read the Tolkien books previously. This book was also put out by the company that is publishing the Tolkien books. That being said as a teacher I wonder if I will ever get the opportunity to teach Tolkien to Middle School Children. If it is not aligned to the standards the probably not.

For someone just delving into Tolkien and wants to go further this book is worth reading. It has nine chapters that conver different concepts that Tolkien wanted to elucidate in his writing. Each chapter comes complete with unit specific goals learning goals, comments or suggestions to teachers, preliminary quizzes, important vocabulary, required materials, topics for discussion, suggested activity and bibliography for future reading.

To elucidate Tolkien's philosophy and point of view, the company uses other sources such as Tolkien's "Simarrillion, Tolkien's letters and essays he has written to paper. The main focus of the book is the "Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Character's actions are analyzed from different scenes, literary techniques are examined as well as Tolkien's themes.

As many Tolkien fans will know from other literary analysis and critiques Tolkien was very concerned about the environment as during his lifetime he saw the agricultural way of life obliterated and factories spring up all over the place. This was something he lamented. He also criticized the concept of chivalry during a time of war when the other side was trying to kill you. Tolkien was also against the concept of power hungry leaders who he felt were leading the world to the brink of despair. Tolkien also had a differing concept of evil. While most would divide the two sides of good and evil as opposing forces, Tolkien believed that evil was nothing but the absence of good.

Tolkien's writing was influenced strongly by his Catholic upbringing as shown by his one true God Eru Illuvatar who created the universe through song and then had his demigods or angels enhance his creation by adding their own melodies. His act of subcreation via speech and words was his way of acting in the image of his creator. The elves could make gems and jewels it seems. Tolkien was a pholologist and he studied the language and literature of the Norse and Old Anglo Saxon. That was another source of inspiration for his creation of the Middle World. One this book will do for you is open a few doors if they have not already been opened. There are passages from Norse mythology, Finnish mythology and mythology from further east so that one has a point of comparison and that one can see the source of his illustration.

Great book for teachers and those just getting into Tolkien.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Entering the World of Faeries

Faery Craft: Weaving Connections with the Enchanted RealmFaery Craft: Weaving Connections with the Enchanted Realm by Emily Carding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lately the Fairy path has been calling out to many people, myself included, perhaps even more so then the Pagan Gods and Goddesses. I have read many books on fairy some have been simple and others have been complex. This book strikes a balance often times giving a through review. of what may have been read previously along with new information and insight. To explain the world of fairy the author uses the Septagram or seven pointed star as an out line. The Septagram was held sacred to the Goddess Inanna of ancient Sumeria. Along with a layout of the fairy world there are interviews with such gifted authors as John and Caitlyn Mathews, RJ Stewart, Charles De Lint and a whole bunch of others. Interviews are also given to Brian and Wendy Froud, Marc Potts, Karen Martinez and a slew of others. Singers and musicians are well represented also groups like Dolmen and SJ Tucker are interviewed often giving great insight in to the world of fairy. For those new to the fairy community there are resources for organizations and faerie festival. Alas I am jumping to the end of the book.
Top start with the beginning we must go with knowledge. Chapter one tells us several possibilities of who the fairies are. Some theories trace them back to old gods, other people posit they are aliens and the list goes on to spirits of the dead, fallen angels to expressions of the world soul. Some deities associated with faeries are Freya, Morrigan and Hekate. The first chapter also gives a thorough discussion on etiquette. Faeries hate Iron, be careful as to when you [partake of faerie food. Give them the first offering of a nhewly opened bottle of water, milk or alcoholic beverage. Leave food for them. About thanking faeries well perhaps follow through is very important. Always be honest when approaching the fae.

The other chapters include Connection, Trust, Honour, Magick, Joy and Inspiration. The book gives a thorough how to an doing rituals, finding tools and building a relationship with the faeries. At the end of the chapter there are exercises which help your spiritual advancement. They are worth doing as they help connect you to the environment and the fairy world. The book does not sell it self as a bible or a must do but rather as a gathering of tools as there is no room in spirituality for absolute authority.

For those seeking to walking the path of the fae or build a closer connection to them. I would advise reading this book. What is said there in will not conflict with any previous held beliefs. All hail the world of the fae.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Twilight for the Sword of Truth

Phantom (Sword of Truth, #10)Phantom by Terry Goodkind
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well it seems that this installment is an improvement over the last several books. The actions and story telling are compelling enough to keep the reader interested. There is less dwelling on the past that made his previous books very boring at times and caused them to lag. There is a suitable amount of action and surprises to keep the reader glued. I finished the book in 4 days. The book has many subplots brewing in this yarn and they all weave together quite nicely.

Kahlan Amnell is a prisoner to the sisters of dark. She has no memory o0f her previous life. The Boxes of Orden have been stolen by Kahlan and she is invisible to everyone except for a few people, most notably an inn keeper, Jillian the priestess of the bones and Jagang. The sisters take Kahlan to Coska where Richard found the chainfire book in the last installment. Along the way an innkeeper is dispatched and young Jillian is rescued. Jagang can see Kahlan because believe it or not he was inside the sisters of the dark's mind the whole time. Their false vow to Richard served them not. In Coska the sisters of the dark will face a nice surprise.

At the Wizard's Keep in Aydindril we learn that from a previous book that the Chimes witch where released into the world were destroying magic. Even once they were contained again their contamination befouled magic permanently and creatures of magic are dying out as are the memory of them. We learn that thousands of years ago Baraccus the first wizard put the chimes back in the Temple of the Wind but he knew that one day Lothain who is a wizard against magic would give rise to a dream walker. Richard was gifted both positive anhd subtractive magic to combat Jagang. Richard's army faces annihilation by the numerous troops of Jagang but Richard has a plan which involveds taking the offensive and fighting the old world without fighting the old world. Richard is still being attacked by the beast and he will lose his magic and bventure to the land of the Night wisps. Richard's adventures will lead him to the heart of Jagang's empire and right next to Kahlan.

Jebra and Shota inform Ritchard about the wiched witch named 6. She teams up with Violet to hatch a plot of vengeance against Richard with the help of a stolen sword of truth. I look forward to the last or supposedly last installment. Hopefully I will not be disappointed.



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Monday, October 15, 2012

THe Life of the Witchfather

a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14532258-witchfather" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, Volume 2--From Witch Cult to WiccaWitchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, Volume 2--From Witch Cult to Wicca by Philip Heselton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Philip Heselton is an authjor that cuts to the chase and get's down to the core of everything. He has written some fascinating books on Wicca and more importantly it's sources. Now he has written a thorough biography and has done his research into related sources. His biography relies a lot or has taken a major beginning from Bracelin's earlier work and Gerald Gardner's writings. He has taken the various claims and investigated their veracity. Not an easy thing to do.

Gerald Gardner was born in Bundensellands just North of Liverpool to William and Lois Gardner. The family had patriarch bought several houses in that new area of Bundenselands also known as the "Glen" The patriarchs name was Joseph. The family made their money making blockstops out of wood in the far east. Later on they made their money in the rubber production business. The Gardners were also involved in the Customs department. As a youngster Gardener was taken with asthma and could not thrive in those English winters. His nanny nicknamed "Com" took all around the mediterranean, and Africa. He has no formal education and thus taught himself to read and write. Com was a real party animal who sported lots of lovers and drank massive amounts of alcohol.
When he was around 18 years of age he interned on a plantation. From the tea plantation he himself went into the lumber and rubber business. While in Malaysia and Borneo Gerald befriended the natives and learned many things about their culture, religion and magic. He bacame an expert an the Malaysian weapon called the Keris. He was an amateur archaeologist who made some importatn finds about Malaysia. Later on he himself would work for British customs and was in charge of enforcing British opium laws. Gerald himself did take bribes.

Towards the end of his career he met Donna and got married. He took leave and used stored up vacation time to retire early. He later moved to New Forest and was involved in a nudist club. He would later meet the witches throught the Rosicrucian Theater in the town of Christchurch. Dafo or eEith Grimes initatiated him. THe book talks about his begining in the Witch cult and about the relations that he formed.

One must remember that Gerald was a trickster who was very capable of stretching the truth and telling tall tales. Sometimes what he said could not be verified. He even bought a doctorate from an Americans Unioversity that had a miserable reputation. yet he also shed light on Malaysia, archaeolgy and witchcraft. Great book if you wanna be come more familiar with the "Father of Modern Witchcraft"

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Sword of Truth is Getting Rusty

Chainfire (Sword of Truth, #9)Chainfire by Terry Goodkind
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is interesting to see how this author carried the series on for so long. My kids absolutely loved the books. I find that I can read them rather quickly and that the stories themselves are rather good yet there are several problems. Perhaps the first problem is the length of the book. We are talking a 700 page book here that totally lacks the elements of a proper story line. Most of the books are burdened down with recapping the past. Come on that is redundant. The story winds on for the most part with ever getting the reader past identifying the problem and then having a build up of action. Plenty of build up no rising action or very little of it and then the author takes the reader on a shortcut into the climax or the turning point of the story and it is never dramatic as one would expect it to be.Like letting air out of the tires. The story would be helped if there was more action and a proper story line to speak of. Also keeping the length of the story to around 400 pages would be a good idea. Time to edit out all the recap.

The stories do have some saving points. To merit the author he does seem have studied up a bit on Norse and Celtic mythology. Richard does have that warrior spirit, a warrior spirit that is not entirely comfortable with magic yet he is supposed to be the magic against the magic. When does he actually start doing some spells? There is a character or rather a Raven named Lokey. Ravens are trickster animals and are also very intelligent. Loki is a trickster god in Norse mythology. The sword of truth is all too reminiscent of Excalibur, then again almost all fantasy stories use the sword motif. Zed is like Merlin, Richard the warrior's adviser. Jagang is the epitome of evil but we never see him in the story. Of course there is a Pagan motif that I find rather enjoyable and it is of a woman bestowing sovereignty to the king by presenting him wit the sword or other memorabilia. Hearken back to the first book and recall that it is Kahlan's arrival to Richards homeland that declare or plays a part in him being named the seeker. It is Shota the witch, who playing the part of the crone who takes away the sword of sovereignty when the king is unworthy. Just how worthy is Richard of being the leader of Dhara? He is never with his troops fighting Jagang's invincible army. Of course as you may note in the story Shota takes Richard's sword in exchange for some information. The sword though did belong to her before Zed took it.

The plot is simple. Richard wakes up after having been wounded by the enemy's arrow. He is passed out for several days and is on the verge of death. Nicci the sorceress heals him but when he comes to Kahlan is gone and he is the only one who remembers her. Everyone else thinks he is delusional. So begins his quest to find Kahlan and rescue her. His journey takes him out of Altur Rang where the citizens of the Old world fight off Jagangs troops and win with the help of Nicci. This is also Jagang's hometown. Through out his adventures Richard is haunted by blood beast. An underworld creature that is bent on killing Richard. The creature kills everyone who gets in it's way. Richard and Cara his Mord Sith companion venture into Shota's swamp. After surviving a near death ambush by Samuel her so called assistant. Richard get's information from Shota at the price of returning the Sword of Truth to her. Interesting to learn is that this Samuel character is not quite human. He used to be but the Sword of Truth warped him. His yearning to get it back reminds me oft of Golem in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Richard learns from Shota the nature of the blood beast an how it was created. He is also given some keyword with which to work with. "beware of the four headed serpent", "Chainfire" and the "Deep Nothing" Riddle that the seeker must somehow figure out.

Back in Dhara Zed and other's doubt Richard's thesis of Kahlan's existence. He is on his own wit the help of Nicci and Cara. During his advenure Richard learns that Kahlan was kidnapped by the sisters of the dark and is being used to gather the Boxes of Orden to bring the Keeper of the Dead to the Earth. One get's killed interestingly enough by Samuel. Richard finds the book Chainfire and realizes that a spell has been cast that erases all memory of Kahlan and starts erasing prophecy. Richard does not find Kahlan in the book. I guess we must wait for the next installment.

But seriously now there is a prophecy that says if Jagang wins there will be darkness and this battle or war is crucial. Instead of looking at the bigger picture why is Richard seeking Kahlan? I scratch my head at the logic.


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Monday, October 8, 2012

Fast of Girls of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Girls of RiyadhGirls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was definitely fun reading and maybe even truthful to some extent, but definitely sensationalistic. I have heard that stories of a similar vein do in fact happen in this part of the world. A part of the world that is rich in traditions and has managed to keep their way of life intact despite the encroachment of technology and modernity. Yet it is also a world rife with double standards and inequality.

"The Velvet Class" is Saudi Arabia's uper class. These people live in palaces and have drivers chauffer them to where ever they wish to travel. Some families own houses in more than one continent. A definite minority and definitely not the majority. The story is framed in a series of emails that supposedly caused a major uproar and controversy. The four girls spoken about are Gamra, Sadeem, Lamees and Michelle. These four girls walk a fine line between modernity and tradition, not an easy thing to do.

The story starts out with Gamra getting married. She is joyous that this is the best night of her life. Yet, she is not the center of attention. Sadeem is shown to be more beautiful and the one the match makers are after. She even outshines the bride. Gamrah should be lucky but there is only one problem he is not interested in Gamrah whatsoever. Turns out her bride has a another girlfriend that he is in love with. After Gamrah gets pregnant with this guy. He divorces her and sends her back to Riyadh in humiliation. She must raise the baby on her own.

Sadeem gets engaged to Waleed and things are going really good for a while, but hold on good things never last. After they get engaged and sign the contract, which makes them legally maried. None the less he convinces her to go a little too far. Sadeem thought that just because she acceded to his request he would be good to hear. No such luck, Waleed breaks off the relationship which devastates Sadeem. After the break up she is so devastated that she fails all her classes and goes to London to try and forget. On the way back she runs into Firas who seems like the best thing in the world but ends up just stringing her along. Her father dies in the3 course of things and she ends up going to her aunt's house quite against her will. Tariq her cousin looks after her rather well. While Sadeem may not be the hapiest camper in the world she does end up achieving some measure of happiness.

Lamies is smart but also a trouble maker. She smuggles in secular videos to her class and gets a teacher to help hide them, She is not that dedicated to her studies, while her her sister Tamadour is a total grade grubber. Sghe ends up making friends with Jumana, a Shiite. Believe me I thought relations between Arab and Jew were bad. Sunnis and Shiite's do not like or trust each other. Sunnis beleive that Shiite's will poison their food just for the fun of it. Jews say the same things about Palestinians in Israel and their are Islamic verses waring against the treacheries of the Jews.

Michelle is half Arabian and Half American. Rather free spirited doing ok in school. Shje goes to San Francisco a bit and enjoys it but on a summer break they decide to move into Dubai which ends up being a good thing. She gets a job in the media and is really independent from men.

One will be surprised at the contradictions and deceptions. Woman have no rights. They must rely on a father or husband's permission to travel. They cannot inherit property it seems. Men cruise by in ex[pensive cars and SUV's and number girl for discreet conversation. Marriage partners will check out each others phone bill 6 months prior to marriage. Courtship consists of talking over the phone.


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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Financial Sorcery

Financial Sorcery: Magical Strategies to Create Real and Lasting WealthFinancial Sorcery: Magical Strategies to Create Real and Lasting Wealth by Jason G. Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hands down this is one of the best book on financial improvement I have read to date and I have read several. By far the best one for money magick. Jason Miller deals with common sense and shuns al the miracle crap. Sorcery can improve your odds of success but it is no guarantee he will tell ya. He is right. A bad business idea cannot be saved no matter how much magick you use. Wanna win the lottery as a wealth strategy think again. Most books on magic cover deities, spells and herbs related to magic. Jason gives you magic but he does not rely too heavily on it. Complementing the magic he gives the reader strategies to get out out debt, job hunting skills, how to get ahead at the work place, how to deal with negative situation. Magic and sorcery are to be used every step of the way not just for emergencies. The path to wealth is one of work and planning there are no overnight solutions. There are some great tactics and tips for emergency situations when you need fast money. That means magic and secular means for getting money and the suggestions are good.

I am not usually one for strict formulas and I always variate from them anyways. THe author does not weigh the reader down with rigid rituals. I sometimes I wish he did so I would have something to deviate from. The book has great meditation techniques and cover techniques from Hoodoo, High magic and the far east. I would recommend getting his book strategic sorcery before reading this one it will give you a much fuller picture. Happy Trails on the road to riches.


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Monday, October 1, 2012

True History of Witchcraft

A History Of Witchcraft, Sorcerers, Heretics, And PagansA History Of Witchcraft, Sorcerers, Heretics, And Pagans by Jeffrey B. Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magick and sorcery have been with mankind since the beginning. Witchcraft being the most popular branch of of has perked the curiousity of many people. This book give a real accurate accounting of it's developement spanning from man's humble beginnings up until the present. This book lays it out in a simple to understand format with the main ideas of the author expressed and then supported by trackable facts. There are a few details that are left out that those who are familiar with the modern craft would know should defintley be included. There are three phases to witchcraft. I shall call them sorcerous, diabolical and neo-pagan.

Early sorcerey recognized that there were hidden connections between various objects like words, herbs, stones and other things. The sorcerer knew how to exploit these and get results. Often times sorcerers were accused of blighting crops, sickening cattle and occasionally striking people with magic. If one was convicted of sorcery one could get lashes of a fine. Sorcery and witchcraft seem to have the same associations world over regardless of origins. Witches were knows to fly at night, haunt little babies and suck the blood of their victims. this holds true whether in Europe, Africa or South America. One African tribe has it that there are people who practice good magic, bad magic and then there are witches who seem to have the power within. The core magick practices come from the Graeco-Roman era. This is the basis for many practices associated with witches. Sorcery used folk magic, pagan religion and other local things. The Roman goddess Diana was the goddess of witchcraft. Artemis was a virgin huntress of the moon who Diana was patterned after. Later she got conflated with Holda or Perchta who were Norse fertility deities. This added a lust.fertility aspect to Diana. Diana's darker aspect was Hekate a three faced goddess of the underworld. The early pagans brooked no issue with having female deities or deities that could be both good and bad. Christianity did.

Christianity did not over take Europe so quickly. Paganism survived until 1100 in many places. Still Christianity was brital in the way it snuffed out opposition. It is argued that Paganism did not survive but rather there were customs and practices that survived from PAganism into Christianity. Many of these like Saint Hallows Eve, Christmas (Yule and Saturnalia), Walpugis night and others did not die away but survived in Christian form. It was during the Rennaissacne time that sorcery and witch craft got linked up with Satanism. Hersy was considered Satanic, practicing magic was considered Satanic. Witches and hereetics were accused of noght time revels cavorting with the devil and all sort of inaapropriate things. Witches were considered demon worhsipper. For this they were burned at the stake and murdered. There was no benefit of fair trials and the means of execution were horrid.Often times those accused were not actual witches but rather they were defenseless old ladies who served convenient scapegoat. This was know as the burning times.

During the 18th-19th century author's like Michelet proposed the theory that witches were good. They were remanants of an ancient Pagan religion that had a god and goddess. In a sense a fertility cult that withsttod the tyranical onlsaught of Christianity. Frazier would pick with the idea of the sarificial king in his Gold Bough. Charles leland wrote about about Italain Withccraft and the continued worship of Diana. Margaret Murry wrote on the Witchcult of Europe. All these were later discredited by the academic community yet these works also helped birth neopagan withccraft.

Most people think that gerald Gardner made up Wicca. So do I. yetr is still valid as a religious system because it answeers a need. All religions were made up at one point hence they aare all false and man made. The last part of teh book covers the bracnches of wicca and the people who made changes. It leaves out some keyplayers in the witchcraft world. Robert Cohrane for one who was one of Gardners opponents. He was a practitioner of "The Clan of Tubal caine" Victor and Cora Andersen who practiced the Feri tradition of Witchcraft were only made small mention of . These two branches though not Wicca are definitre branches of withcraft that should have been discussed. they have a goddess and god tradition as well and they do come beffore Wicca. Also there was no mention of Lamas Night whne witches used magic to repel Hitler's forces. Gardner and Crowley were supposedly part of this. Why no mention of such an important event?

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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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