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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Night Battle for the Harvest

The Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth CenturiesThe Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the area of Friuli Italy back during the medieval times there was a group of people properly known as the Banadante. There work was connected primarily to the agricultural farming seasons. There job was to protect the seeds and the harvest from the witches. Going to sleep at night lying on their backs there astral bodies would float thorough the air to meet the witches for battle. Armed with fennel sticks the Benadante were ready to defend , mean while the witches were armed with Sorghum sticks. Battle would ensue, no one really got killed but there were definite winners and losers. If the witches one it would be a year of famine if the Benadante won then it would be a bountiful year. Sometimes the Benadante ventured into Hell itself to rescue the seeds. Coming back from battle they would stop I houses and seek refreshment. If cool clear water was a available they slaked their thirst with it and if not then they would raid your basement drin the wine and then urinate in the barrels. Four times a year they would go out for battle, the ember days. Sometimes they went out every Thursday to do battle.

How does o0ne become a Benadnate, one is born with a caul over their head. They keep the caul and have a priest say mass over it or a blessing. Often times the caul is worn on the person in order for them to participate in the battle. One is usually summoned in their early 20’s and their service ends when they are forty or whenever they are inclined to leave the service. Usually they are summoned by an angel or the captain . The banner for the good guys is a golden flag and a lion. The bad witches had a black flag.The bendnantes sometimes knew who each other were and who the witches were at other times they didn’t. They were vowed to silence unless they get beaten or killed.

The Inquisition by the Catholic church which was started to route out heretics and witches took a lenient view toward the Benandante during the 1300’s . Often times they would question them and then let them go. As time progress they were associated more and more with witches and they could end up being imprisoned or tortured. They were often said to have gone to the witches sabbats and partaken in profane rites that blasphemed Christianity. A total change in attitude.

It seems connected with the Witches sabbat where in a goddess like Diana in Italy or Hulda or Perchta led a procession of fairies or souls of the dead. At their sabbats they would dance, sing, drink and eat among other things. The inquisition often made it worse then what it was. Like Margaret Murray had [postulated that therer was an ancient pagan religion of Europe that was goddess and agricultural based that prdated Christianity. These seemed to be connected.

Over all good book. The author does a great job explaining the concepts that even a layman would find it comprehensible and enjoyable. It is filled with case studies that document that change and progression of attitude by the church towards the Benadante. It get’s a bit over kill at the end with the appendices but then again this is a scholarly book.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meet Shawn McDaniels

Stuck in NeutralStuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Cerebral Palsy is a devastating condition that effects the baby while it is in it’s mother’s womb. Basically someone with this condition is totally unable to talk, move or even eat independently. Quite literally they sit there like a vegetable and no one really knows what is going on inside their head.

This story is a work of fiction and a very short story at that. The author gives voice to Sean McDaniel who is stricken with Cerebral Palsy. Told from the child’s point of view, we soon realize that despite the fact that he cannot speak or move or even communicate with people there are some deep thoughts going on inside his head. All his memories re intact. He can remember everything from the time he was a small child all the way to the present age .

He describes what it is like for his family to feed him and what his school day is like. It is a challenge to feed as he can spit up food if his automated swallower is not activated. Oft times he will spit up his food. People call him a retard and sometimes even make fun of him. Basically it is like he sits there drooling for most of the day. People ignore him and go about their daily routine almost oblivious to his prescence and they are oblivious to the thoughts going in inside his head.

The whole family is impacted by his condition. Most effected is the father who really cares deeply about his son but cannot stand to see him in such a condition. After all Shawn is vulnerable an cannot be protected his entire life. To end his pain the father talks about killing the child and Shawn is painfully aware of this.

Mr. McDaniels is involved in the media and he gives a special report on his son Shawn and others like him. In a newscast he visits his son’s school and gives a report that for each child like Shawn it cost the tax payer 35 grand yearly andhe may not even be able to tie his shoes. Shawn is in a word uneducable. The news report also talks about a Mr. Detraux who goes to jail for killing his child with the same condition. Mr. Detraux did not hate his child but he could not stand to see him suffering.

When Shawn has his seizures it is almost like a spiritual experience of astral traveling. In the end he goes in a trance but you are left unsure of what his father ultimately decides to do.


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Friday, May 23, 2014

Magical Innovations

Becoming MagickBecoming Magick by David Rankine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a book that upon first reading it I figured that it deserves a three star rating, but as I continued on I found enough useful information that it was deserving of a four star review. The book “Becoming Magick” is really geared towards the more advanced practitioner yet I was able to pull out several things that I would find useful and those things will find themselves copied into my notes for further use.

The author David Rankine combines many items in this book. He pulls from kabbalistic sources, Egyptian sources and Hindu sources. He has also added some new information gleaned from his working and personal gnosis. Perhaps what I found really useful was his invocation to Ma’at the Egyptian Goddess of balance and truth. There is also ritual opening that I found useful and one that I will use.

As we know magic by and large works with 7 planetary bodies: Mercury, Venus, Moon, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The author has found meaning and ways of working with the other planets in our solar system. This includes astral influences, sigils and magic squares for working with these planets.

One drawback to the work was the heavy emphasis on Gematria, most of which tends to put me to sleep. Yet I found that his new numerical meaning for English letters could come in quite handy and something that I intend to make use of.

Pulling from the Hindu sources he has identified like some sixteen kalas or timecycles and disclosed what they could be used for . Along with his descriptions he also details the goals that they can used for and different plants,herbs and stones that strengthen the use of the kala goal

Contained in the book is a brief description on thought forms and how to make use of them. He also teaches about Kameas. The explanations are simple but the concepts can be very challenging to understand. David Rankine is very Ceremonial in his outlook as evidenced by his use of Kabballa and other souces. For him magic is energy directed towards spiritual evolution. Yet David also realized that magic is best kept simple if it is going to be useful.


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Vana Troth of the Wiccans

Witchdom of the True: A Study of the Van-Troth and the Practice of SeidrWitchdom of the True: A Study of the Van-Troth and the Practice of Seidr by Edred Thorsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who are the lord and the lady of the Wiccan religion? What are there origins? Is Wicca really the Ancient religion of Europe that was totally Goddess centered. Wicca was founded or crafted by Gerald Gardner in the late 1940’s in Great Britain. Since it’s inception it has gone through a variety of changes all the while still maintain the worship of the Lard and the Lady.
What are the origins of the Wicca religion. First off we would have to look at the vocabulary. At the start it was not called Wicca. Wicca or Wicce meant witch or someone who could bend reality to their will. Secondly The words lard and lady translated ito German would mean Freyer and Freya. These two deities being brother and sister were part of the Vanic deities or Earth bound deities. The Aesire were the sky bound dieties like Odin and Thor.
The Vanic deities were revered by the common folk while the Aesir were revered by nobility. After a brutal war in which no one could win the two tribes decided to call a truce and exchange hostages. Among the Vanir to dwell in Asgard were Freya, Frey and Njor their father the sea god. Nojord himself has murky origins and may have at one time been the female Earth goddess Nerthus.
Freya was the Goddess of love, war and Seider magic. Frey was the king of Earht and land fertility. By now I thin we know who the God and Goddess of Wicca are, they are Freya and Freyer. There form of magic is called Vanatroth. It includes Seider magic or entering a trance via movement and dancing. Among their practices are wort craft, or herb magic and Galdr craft which magic through speech.
Rune craft beliongs more to the Aesir deities then it does to vana troth. Thrson the author of this work does a good job explaining Norse mythology, history and magic of the area and of the norse. It makes for a convincing argument and he has his facts straight.
Not only is Thorson expert in the areas of magic and history he also examines the Pagan community in general in one of his appendeixes. In it he talks about the general malaise of the Pagan community where in most Pagans stick with it for maybe 4-5 years and then drop it. He blames excessive eclecticism and lack of historical roots. He hopes that by realizing the source that maybe people will get some historical footing and stick more toward tradition and be less eccelcctic.
He also clears up the confusion between Asatru and Vana trath. The two are not the same despite the fact that both sets work with the Norse deities. The Aesir are about sovereignty and raw physical power, while the Vana troth is more sensual and earth related .
The Aewsir and the Vanir have different moralities. The Vanor are more casual in their physical relationships while the Aesir frown of promiscuity. Also no prohibition of incest is about in the Van ic way of loking at things where as in the Aesir mentality being similar to urs it is frowned upon. I advise reading anything put out by Thorson and Wiccans should especially rad this book.


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Monday, May 12, 2014

Dancing to the Mysteries

Seidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent MysteriesSeidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent Mysteries by Jan Fries
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jan Fries is one of those writers who manages to drive it all home with the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Of course the whole truth is something that we may never find. Still we do our best. This book which can be looked at as part two of Helrunnar, looks at achieving a trance state through the medium of movement and shaking.

Most of the book is dedicated to showing how different groups of people used shaking and dancing to indicate that they were in a trance and hence their soul was traveling through the spirit world. Various groups from around the world have used shaking and swaying. Our most noted would be the practitioners of Voodoo. When the practitioner is entranced it usually a sign that the participant has been taken over by a deity or Loa. The Skakers are another group of people who shook when in a trance and this meant usually that Jesus had entered them and was speaking through them. Other references are made to Ancient Druid practices and other Asian communities that use shaking and movement.

Of course shaking is not for everyone, and when practicing it one should be cautious and well prepared. One should be wearing comfortable clothing for moving around. One should not eat too much or drink too much liquid as that could make your stomach churn. Eating too little could cause you to feel light headed and sick. Best practice is to abstain from eating two to three hours before doing this and good idea to have a water bottle on hand that is sweetened with dextrose to keep your sugar levels from getting too low.

Included in this practical section is a meditation on connecting the earth dragon with the sky dragon. Then there is some discussion on shape shifting and the Martial Arts in the far east and how shamanic techniques may have been used to formulate the five animals of Shaolin Kung Fu. Animals movements can help people enter into a magical state of consiousness. A practice that the Viking Berserkers used to practice.

Another exercise that Jan Fries gives over comes on the tale end of Tliesyn and the Cauldron of wisdom. While II will not go into the story here I will say that using a poem of taliesyn using the words Iam could help one enter into a trance state. The book is not loaded with exercises and the author is going to let you make up your own based on what works for you.

Jan Fries is not into Dogma. He knows that cultures and people move about and influence each other. When that happens they borrow techniques and stick to what works. Even if you don’t shake you will enjoy this one anyway.


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Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Rescue Of Gilad Shalit

The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from HamasThe Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by Gershon Baskin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The year of 2006 marked a difficult period between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Conflict broke out with the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and then trouble brewed with Hizbollah from Lebanon. It showed that Israel was not immune to attack and that organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah , even though they are not as powerful as the Israeli Army could wreak havoc and there was not much the Israelis could do about it.

On June 25, 2006 Gilad Shalit was abducted by the military wing of Hamas and held in Gaza for a period of 5 years and four months. The Israeli Army could not locate him nor mount a rescue operation. Recalling the rescue attempt for Nachshon Wachsman which ended in failure it seemed the only route for securing Gilad’s freedom was through negotiation.

This book is about the back channel negotiations that took place in order to secure Gilad’s freedom. Gershon Baskin opened up the back channel with Ghazi Hamad and the two communicated for five years and four months. During that period of time official channels failed to produce results. For one thing Israel would not recognize Hamas and vice versa. Another fact was that the Israelis were rather stubborn and could have done more to release Gilad or get him released. Hamas set there demand to high. They wanted to release prisoner with blood on their hands and they wanted prisoner releases just for showing a video tape of the missing soldier.

Gershon Baskin is a peacenik and a secular Jews.he traveled widely meeting with Arabs and Palestinians always hoping for peace. He was the perfect negotiator as he was not connected to the Israeli govt. officially and he had many arab contacts on the Palestinian side. He also had something else going for him. Had empathy for the other side andd felt for the Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons. Hamad Ghazi felt empathy for Gilad Shalit. These two succeeded where the government officials failed.

Over the course of years two prime misters served their terms. Israel had several negotiators working on it , all of whom produced no results. It was finally under Netanyahu that things got rolling. He surprised everyone by making the needed concessions to bargain for Gilad’s freedom. In the end 1,027 Palestinian prisoner were freed from Israeli prison and Gilad was freed. Over the five years of captivity there was regional conflict . The exchanges between Israel and the Palestinian cost well over three thousand Palestinian lives.

The end result is that both side need to learn to recognize each other an grow to trust each other. Peace is along road but the first step must be taken.


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Friday, May 2, 2014

Journey to Heathen Britain

The Way of WyrdThe Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in the pre- Christian times of Great Britain when England was divided into
many small kingdoms , a monk from the Christian kingdom of Mercia is sent to
learn the pagan ways of a neighboring kingdom. The purpose is to bring them over
to Christianity .

Eappa , the head monk of the monastery sends him on this frightful mission. A
guide has been arranged for this hapless monk and what follows is the adventure
of a life time.

Brand, the protagonist arrives in a neighboring kingdom via ship to experience a
lonely shore beset by rainy weather . He spends a couple nights alone and one of
those nights he is presented with a nightmare of wild horses and dogs going on a
hunt. He hurts his ankle trying to hide . Later on he links up with Wulf, an
Anglo -Saxon sorcerer.

Sorcerers are both respected and feared. Brand and Wulf go on a series of small
adventures. Mostly healings of sick villagers and animals.

Later on as they enter the forest Brand is hunted by spirits who haunt him and
snatch his soul to the underworld. What follows is a gathering of plants, spirit
allies and an adventure into the spirit world . Brand is being watched and
chosen.

Bryan Bates is a scholar of Norse paganism. One gets a good view into the
animistic world of the Anglo-Saxons. Yet I detected many native American
influences in the work. Could be parallels or borrowing as he has worked with
Native American spiritualist and the books are listed in the bibliography.

Brand despite what he sees is always in doubt as to what is real and what is
not. In the end it becomes clear that what he is experiencing is real and true.
Mention of the gods is slight .
For a more thorough view of Saxon spirituality one should read the authors other
works.

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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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