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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jinn Master

Master of the Jinn: A Sufi NovelMaster of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel by Irving Karchmar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining novel that is a quick enjoyable read. however, I would not venture that this will become some time honored classic. None the less it does offer a window into thee mystical world of Sufi Islam. interspersed through out the book are bits of wisdom and quotes from various sufi masters. The way of Allah is love and not only is Islam holy but so is Judaism and Christianity. What we have here is more than a tale of Sufi mystics and jinn haunting humans, we have here ann exercise of individuals from different backgrounds working together for the common good.

The story starts off sort of in the middle before going into the beginning. Ishaq is wandering the Sahara desert after being separated from his travel companions.. Hot and weary he wanders the desert in search of water, he becomes aware that even the animals pray to god.

Interestingly enough the story begins in somewhat modern Jerusalem, more precisely in the old city. A khaniqa or Sufi school is established in Jerusalem, and Ishaq goes searching for his teacher. In the market the Master Hayd is searching for a special coffee for some very special guests that will be attending the khaniqa that evening. On the way back from shopping Ishaq learns some spiritual lessons from a beggar in Jerusalem's streets.

That evening the Khaniqa holds a feast and three distinguished guests appear, three Israeli Jews. Dr. Shlomo Freeman is a professor at Hebrew University and is a former student of Master Hayd. Freeman's daughter Rebecca comes and so does a mossad officer who is involved with something archaeological.  THe Mossd agent was in the Sahara on some mission when he stumbled onto a cave with a corpse holding a cylinder .  The cylinder is written in ancient Hebrew or more appropriately called the Canaanite scripts. First he goes to Dr. Freeman and then Dr. Freeman goes to the Sufi master.

This of course leads to an adventure in the desert for Ishaq, two other students and the Israelis. Guided by the beggar from Jerusalem they take a ship to Algiers and embark with the aid of the Tuareg and Berbers to a place buried in the sands of the Sahara. The city of the Jinn. What follows is not much of an adventure but rather a tale of redemption for all of mankind and the Jinn if they want to take it.

The strong points of this story is that it shows Jews and Muslims working together and learning from each other. Combining the lore from both religions they are able to solve mysteries and problems. It shows venerated rabbis giing prophecy pertinent to Islamic issues. Both paths are holy. Yet I would debate a few facts mentioned in the book. Number one the Shamir was not a stone, according to Jewish lore , but rather it was a worm that ate stones in order to build the Jewish temple as steel and Iron could not be used. Tadmor is in Syria not North Africa. I am not sure King Solomon built the city for Queen Sheba and if he did would it not bee located in Arabia.

I have long known or suspected that people beside Muslims can join Sufi orders and be intiated with a symbolic conveserion. Why all the Israeli Jews involved end up converting instead of keeping their religion smacks of some propaganda , like promoting sufism.  Too bad a Rabbi could not have accompanied these guys and in addition to converting Jews to Sufism there could have been some Muslims converting to Judaism

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Huldu Folk of Iceland

The Little Book of the Hidden People: Stories of elves from Icelandic folkloreThe Little Book of the Hidden People: Stories of elves from Icelandic folklore by Alda Sigmundsdóttir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

According to legend, Eve , mother of mankind, was asked by god to display all her children. In a bout of laziness she selected he best ones and got them presentable. God counted them and made them royalty, the ones that were hidden were confined to a status of dwelling in boulder and mountains. These are the Huldu folk of Iceland which many refer to as elves.

Legend has it that if you are in the wilderness you may suddenly see one of them only to have them disappear into a rock or boulder. Much of the lore about these folk is reminiscent of faerie and elf folklore of old Europe.

It was on a whim that I decided to purchase this slender volume and believe me I am glad that I made this purchase. Too bad it was not longer as I consumed this volume in a matter of hours and it left me wanting more. Not only were the stories entertaining and the authoress's notes after each story informative but she also has a strong dose of common sense and strong Icelandic pride.

SHe starts off dispelling a rumor put forward in Vanity Fair that most Icelander believe in Elves and will not  begin a construction project unless an elf seer is brought in and determines whther or not it is ok to build there. The authoress states boldy that most people do not believe in elves and that before construction begins the place is checked out to see if there is any valuable archaeology or whether it is important in folklore. After all why destroy your own  history.

The stories of the Huldu folk arose from a harsh environment where only the strongest could survive. Believe me old Iceland was tough. Bitter cold, lack of food and primitive lodging made survival difficult. More over men could not marry until they accumulated enough wealth which was tough to do. Sexual relation were limited to reduce the number of births. If  the man of the house died the woman lost everything and was sent forward as a laborer .That meant kids were fostered out and the holding auctioned off. People could disappear in fog drifts or get lost along the way from one farmstead to another.

Where as the people were poor, the elves had plenty. Elves were known to seduce mortals, this could explain unwanted pregnancies . Humans were not allowed to dance together because it lead in their eyes to illicit unions. Elves often got people to dance. Being abducted by elves could be used to explain away how a child could get lost in a snow drift or step over a precipice. At least a parent could think the child had found a better life.

THe book itself is composed of 21 stories collected orally by the author. THey involve many motifs. One popular motif is a mortal woman called a away from church or home to help an elf woman give birth. Th woman is reward but gets an ointment on her eye that allows her to see elves. When the they find out they nullify the effect of the ointment or use some spittle to weaken the eye. Nicer then the European version where the woman in blinded. Several stories involve women meeting hidden folk in a dairy, being seduced and then made pregnant. Later the child is born and the woman gives it to the Huldu Folk. Later the lover comes back after she is married and the two die in each others arms. The child is sometimes raised by the remaining parent or goes off on it's own. There are also stories of those who disturbed eleves and ended up receiving a poor fortune for it. Others who helped the eleves received good fortune.

Enjoy these tales they are a quick and entertaining read and the author opens up a door into the mind and heart of Iceland.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Dynamite Comes in Small Packages

Paper in My ShoePaper in My Shoe by Catherine Yronwode
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THis thin little volume is packed with information on practical spell craft . There is no theory or theology in this one.....straight up Hoodoo spell craft involving written petitions. Written by Cathererine Yronwode, a foremost authority on Hoodoo, this books tells how to use written petition in Hoodoo. 

Using the written word for magic has a long history in magic going all the way back to the Sumerian times. THe Sumerians would use clay bowls with writing that started from the edge and made it's way to  the center. That way when demon's read it they  would go all the way to the center of the bowl and be trapped. ANother version has it going in the opposite direction. THe sumerians were not the only ones to use writing in magic. THe Greeks used lead tablets to write down spells. AFter writing what they wanted they would fold the lead sheet and nail it shut. From their they would throw it into a body of water or bury it in a graveyard. THe Norse used rune staffs to cast magic spells.

Among the several technique taught, are how to make a name paper , a paper petition and some cool ways to write words to increase the effect. Written parchment can be carried on your person, made into a mojo bag even burned with the ashes being swallowed or used as a linament. Uses for these techniques include money spells, love spells, protection spells and crossing spell. Would like to give you an example of each.

For example if you are a gambler you might get a whole nutmeg and wrap it with a signalized two dollar bill, including a mercury dime. Fold the money toward you. A simple mojo to attract love would be to write out a square name paper of the person you wish to attract. Fold it into a packet along with dried rose petal, coriander seed, tonk a bean and the person's hair. Once complete you can keep this as part of your person. A good protection spell would involve writing psalm 91 on paper and then burning it to ash. This could be mixed water for drinking or rubbed in as part of a massage oil.

Dynamite comes in small packages and this book though 96 pages is loaded with techniques. For all you spell casters this book is for you.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Scholarlarly View of Elves

Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and IdentityElves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity by Alaric Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here comes a scholarly look at the concept of elves in England as believed by the Anglo-Saxons who conquered the islands. In my reading of the book I found it to be very scholarly, dry and textbook like. Bit hard to enjoy and focus on but none the less informative.

The concept of Alf, Alp or alb comes up a lot in  English lore. Usually it is thought to mean Elf but what is an elf ?, especially in Anglo Saxon lore. The author here uses old lore from the norse and scandinavia to help give the reader a picture of what elves were. The author also relies strongly on linguistics and word variation to give us a definition. While that in itself can be enlightening it can also make for very difficult reading especially if you are not a linguist.

For starters going into old Scandinavian folklore we learn from bardic writing left behind that Elves were usually though of as males who were warriors at that. They were described in very human terms. The author nexts evaluates Icelandic Lore about elves. It is here we learn that Snorri Stulson had his view of elves influenced very strongly by Christianity. Especially with him dividing them into light elves and dark elves. Dark Elves lived below the earth and light elves lived above in the sky with the Aesir. THe elves in Snorri Stulson's view had their own world.

In Germanic lore there were no female elves, yet there were supernatural being that were supernatural. THe three that were spoken of were the Nornir, Disir and Valkyries. In original mythos the terms seem to bespeak supernaturalness and not a specific definition. It was only later that there would be female elves and these seem to have been based on the Greek concept of Nymph. Nymph were water maidens who could sing and seduce men.  In fact look at Grenedel from Beowulf. His mom was a water nymph. Female supernatural being were thought to be able to easily seduce men.

In Pagan times the Elves especially the light elves were thought to be on the good side with the gods of Aesir and menfolk.  On the bad side of things were the Jotun ( Giants) Dwarves and Darl Elves. In CHristian times the Elves became demonized quite literally. THey were sided with Demons, Satan and monsters. It should be of interest to note that in original mythos predating Snorri Stulson there is no concept of Vanir or the Earth Gods. There is just Alfar, the world of elves. Freyr was the the king of Alfar.

As time went on female elves were introduced and the roles of male and female were changed up in the elven world. Men were effeminate and attractive, while the females carried swords and fought about. Let us not forget that elves would merge into what is called the faerie kingdom andd that English lore would borrow bits from Celtic lore as well.

Elves were best known for shooting livestock and people with what is called Elf shot. The arrow would shoot into a human or cattle fin the elf was offended. This could manifest as fever sickness or shape pains.THe healer or witch would remove the arrows. This very similar to Shamic practices of removing spirit arrows.

remember avoid wild abandoned places for that is where elves tend to dwell. If you are as scholar who is researching this stuff and are going for a degree then this book might be for you. As for general info I would say go ahead and by it but it would be better if it was written more at a lay mans level.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Change Your Mindset Change Your Life

Mindset: The New Psychology of SuccessMindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My college age son recommended this book to my wife, but since she is not much on reading, I decided to give it a go. Personally I think he was trying to convey a certain message.

The main gist of this self help/psychology book is the juxtaposition between two different mindsets. The first mindset is called a fixed mind set. The second mindset is called the growth mindset. People with the first mindset see ability and talent as a fixed thing. You either got talent and ability or you don't. You are either smart or you are stupid. THe growth midst does not see the world in such black and white terms, rather it sees human potential and the psoobiblity of getting better. By putting in the effort we can learn things and become more more competent and better people.

Adopting mindsets has ramifications all the way though school, sports, the business world and parenting. Looking at the first mindset which indecates you are either born smart or you are not, we see that when people label themselves they do not open themselves up to the possibility for improvement or betterment. They tend to avoid challenges or things that might make them look stupid and they go for the easy tasks that make them look smart. If they pass or fail an assignment it is either because they have the abiloity or they don't. THe test is what defines the individual. Work is supposed to be effortless. After all if you are smart it should come easy.

THe growth mindset encourages individuals to seek out difficult challenges because it is through taking on challenges that helps you grow and become smarter. You performance does not indicate whether or not you have talent. It is a reflection of the effort you put into it in order to succeed. With this mindset you are open to improvement and betterment. If you bomb a test or an assignment then you need to study harder.

These mindsets play a role in the business world. Many failed businesses like Chrysler failed maybe in part due to the mind set of the company. THey believed that you had the talent or you you did  not. They did not look for potential or growth. THe company execs also were smug and arrogant not listening to anyone but sycophants. Rank and file, position was everything. Iacoca only cared for his ego. Lou Gerstner of IBM took a different tack. He got to know the people , he listened to criticisms and he believed that individuals can change and grow.

In the sports world this could not be made any clearer.John McKnight, felt that if his team lost it was a reflection on him as a coach. If he lost it meant he  was a terrible coach. Attitudes of this sort lead to emotional outbursts and abusive behavior towards the ball players he was coaching. John Wooden was the clear embodiment of the growth mindset. He approached th players he was coaching with a caring attitude and compassion. His coaching was not a teaching to be applied strictly the basketball court but rather it was also to be applied to life. Coach Wooden's attitude was that you are to dedicate yourself to be being better a little bit everyday.

Labels and praise are a definite trap if not used correctly. Every parent and educator knows you would never call a kid stupid or dumb as such a lable would depress them , lower their self esteem and then they would give up trying.  Labeling a kid smart or brainy , although meant to bee positive could also have a limiting effect. If someone is perceived as smart they are less likely to accept challenges that might make them appear less than smart.they will do assignments off tasks that make them shine. So what should be praised. How about praising thee effort and hard work that went into it. Or praise the perservereence.

People with a fixed mindset find criticisms crushing. It means they are bad or not so good. SOmeone with a growth mindset will experience criticism as a way to move forwards and improve. I am going to strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to better their life. remember we have to use our full potential in parenting, business, school and relationships and believe mee this book covers that.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

THe Ordeal Path

Dark Moon Rising: Pagan Bdsm & the Ordeal PathDark Moon Rising: Pagan Bdsm & the Ordeal Path by Raven Kaldera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When one hears the words like pain, submission, ropes or any other similar word normally one would tend to cringe. If i told you that pain and submission could be used for spiritual growth you would look mat me as though I were nuts. Truth be told pain and submission have been used for spiritual growth. Think of monks going into a monastery they sometimes give up their right to talk, they eat set meal times and are forced to live a life of austerity. This is submission to god. In the movie "DaVinci Code" we saw an albino monk whip himself quite regulary and tie something rather painful around his thigh. Thee pain could have been used to toughen him , expiate sins or force him into s certin state of mind. Some of the more painful rituals include the Lakota sun dance where in the celebrant put hooks though his body and supends himself . those hooks do leave scars. The pain supposedly puts them more in touch with the gods.

With the passing of the rule for gay marriage and Bruce transforming himself into Caitlyn, this is a time of celebration for the communities of alternative sex and lifestyles. Now whether such stuff has appealed  to you in the past well that is another story. Using BDSM tactics for spiritual growth will leave some wondering . Many CHristians feel that BDSM belonmgs to the realm of "Fifty Shades of Grey" Many neo pagans are very uncomfortable with inflicting pain and forcing submission . Yet on the the other hand there are people that feel a strong need to live that lifestyle.

In rituals is is the submissive who build the energy and it is the top who guides the energy. The top or master can use the pain to help the submissive reach a gnosis or certain state of mind . THe top also acts as a guide for the submissive taking him to the underworld and back. Pain can also be a helpful catharsis to relieve traumatic events.

Raven Kaldera himself a transgendered individual is quite knowledgeable about dwelling in those in between states. This book here which is the first I have read from him represents an excellent book. He has done his research and produced a top rate product. Raven describes the BDSM thoroughly and and all the interrelated magicals parts that could come along with it. I liked the techniques for charging user specific and purpose specific tools. There ar also seasonal rituals which use BDSM. Raven also discusses the top or dominants obligation towards the submissive and that that the dom is him or herself a slave or the gods meant to do their work.

Several other authors have written pieces and essays that add to the flavor of this book. Galina Krasskova tells how she was selected by ODin to be her bride. AUthor Jennifer Hunter tells of how she was seraching for a dominant pagan man and how the search continues. Joshua Raven's slave also writes severl essays.

This book is well reseached with plenty of reference to older cultures using pain for spirtual transcendeance. Flogging, hook suspencion, bondage, different pairing are discussed in detail.No review could capture all the details of this 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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