Spiritual and Well-Being


Sigil Witchery starstarhalf

by Laura Tempest Zakroff


This is a book about sigil magic, something that has roots in a spectrum of ancient cultural esoterica but became popular with the rise of chaos magick in the 1970s. The book starts with a general explanation and some history of some of the systems where sigil magick began. It then continues with a full chapter on pictorial art from cave paintings to symbols used by secret societies, hitting a few little known facts but missing out obvious things like Runes, which is later explained.

I have mixed feelings about this book. As a book about art and how to apply drawing techniques for interesting looks for sigils, it excels. On magic… not so much. I have no doubt that the author’s spells would work for her, but the explanations of how sigil magic works falls short and in some instances contradicts safety information I’ve read from more experienced and trusted authors on the subject.

I noted that an early reference to the method used in chaos magic(k) gave me the impression that it had been taken from a couple of variations that might have come from Internet forums and thought the author could benefit from reading the book by Austin Spare where that particular method originated, then later she talks about having read that very book and suggests it’s difficult to follow.

She also never mentions anything about charging the sigils, which is an important step in the process. For people new to sigil magic, I’d suggest people start at the known authors; Spare, Carroll, Hawkins and possibly Hine.

I think this book would be a good resource for someone who already has a working knowledge of sigil magic and is looking to expand on the artistic possibilities. Her information on art materials was excellent and it’s clear she knows her stuff on that. This would be a good supplement for visual appeal and some alternative approaches, plus some I’ve read about elsewhere like motion sigils get more attention here than in the earliest sources.


Fairies starstarstarhalf

by Morgan Daimler

This book is about the folklore and fairy tradition of Ireland. It may well be the most down-to-earth book on the subject on the market to date. Rather than the airy-fairy Victorian ideas of pretty little girl fairies that popular culture has spread, this is about the original tales and beliefs that are still prevalent in a mostly Christian Ireland.

The book is well researched. Tales from many places in the British Isles and Europe are cited and the folk beliefs are given context. Actual belief in fairies isn’t required to enjoy the relation of the stories, though the author is mostly directing the information at a Pagan readership where some degree of belief is relevant.

There is a lot of repetition. Perhaps it was needed for context but I’ve seen the same information about fairy behavior in three different chapters and that gives the impression of padding. My only other complaint is that in an early chapter there was a promise to explain the difference between fairies and nature spirits, but only a passing reference to the latter later on. I pretty much understand the difference but would have liked to see it put into words to clarify.

Overall a good reference for anyone new to the subject, although the classic reference books are cited so often that I wonder if someone with more than a passing interest should just reading those works. Mostly well written, though it meanders in the last couple of chapters.


Original Magic starstarstarstarhalf

by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D

This book claims to reveal for the first time the origins of the study of magic, specifically Zoroastrianism. This origin comes from Ancient Persia, now Iran, the etymology given as Mazdan -> Magian -> Magician.

The author asserts that his intention is that Western students of magic will use this information as a basis to further explore their own methods, but with knowledge of a 4000 year old history that forms the basis of much of what has been filtered through many cultural influences over that time to develop into modern magic as we know it.

There are five chapters followed by seven appendices. The first chapter is entitled It’s Time to Life the Ban and is about the basic training system for a Mazdan and the knowledge they are to accrue over a twelve month period. The chapter explains the significance of an initiatory path and defines terms for the purposes of the book, explaining the difference between magic and sorcery as well as various cultural terms. I really enjoyed reading about history of this culture from a philosophical perspective rather than a political one.

The second chapter goes into more detail about the history of Iranian magic. The ideas of Zarathustra (called Zoroaster by the Greeks) and the progression of religion all the way up to current Muslim prevalence in Iran is covered as well as the idea of magic as religion.

Chapter three is called Theories of Mazdan Magic. Here we go into cultural ideas of duality and cosmology that look rather a lot like the roots of Judeo-Christian religious structure and morality, but with Astrology providing a cosmological model. Then chapter four brings us to Initiation to Magic. The author emphasises the importance of initiation and lays out a twelve month process for accomplishing a self-initiation according to Mazdan practices. Here it is easy to see the basis for many systems of elaborate daily ritual using specific ritual equipment.

As a historical record, this is brilliant. The exercises themselves present a solid structure of discipline, but is culturally based in a basically monotheistic religion that is the basic for the Abrahamic religions. I can’t imagine that Western practitioners would benefit much from reciting the formulae in the Avestan language. It’s a strong academic work that would be of value in the reference library of anyone interested in the history and study of magic on a spiritual level.

The fifth chapter is on Rituals of Mazdan Magic. The author starts by stressing importance of using original languages for manthras and of both inside and outside environments for performing the rituals. These rituals are very ceremonial and steeped into the belief system of the Persian Mazdan.

After these chapters we have seven appendices. The first is a brief history of Eranshahr, which is basically cultural background for the beliefs and practices of what this book is about. In just a few pages, the author explains several hundred years of Middle Eastern peoples, migrations and empires in a straightforward narrative that I personally found fascinating, as someone who has an interest in history.

Appedix B is a pronunciation guide for the Avestan language, then Appendix C details the Three Major Avestan Manthras. Appendix D lists 101 names of God to be used in the manthras, then Appendix E explains basic Mazdan astrological lore. Appendix F is resources; addresses online to find further information.

The Appendices are followed by a glossary, notes, then a bibliography and reading list, and of course an index.

I found the book historically fascinating, though the belief system involved doesn’t fit with my own beliefs. It is certainly well-researched and a gem of a historical record. A very interesting read.


Crystal Magic starstarstarstarhalf
by Sandra Kynes

This is a Llewellyn book, definitely targeted at Pagans and Wiccans and about using crystals in magic to enhance magical ritual with the use of crystals.

Unlike a lot of books of this kind, it has a wealth of practical information that would be of interest to anyone interested in gemstones or any mineral that might be used in jewellery. There is some history of the use of gemstones in medicine as well as cosmetics and information about their constituents, followed by a science chapter that I found very interesting indeed. This included information about how crystals help to support life and how crystals are formed and reformed in nature. Also about crystal structures and non-mineral crystals like Amber, jet and petrified wood. The information about optical properties of stones was especially fascinating.

There are many pictures in black and white, but of such good resolution that they work in a book where color might have been expected.

Chapter 3 is about Selecting and Preparing Stones. This one hit my ‘new age’ meter and I questioned some of the advice, particularly about putting salt water on stones. For many that will do no harm, but opals, especially Ethiopian opals, would lose their color, at least for several weeks.

Chapter 4 on using crystals in magic, however, mostly impressed me. There was some good advice for charging crystals and color correspondences given that actually matched up with older information about associations. I liked the explanation of crystal grids, though I’ve heard of this idea before.

There were two things I thought needed a warning. One was that you should never stare directly at a candle flame during a divination as it can harm the eyes. I can see the method of watching the flame through a clear stone working okay if the stone was big enough, but I did feel some caution should have been given about keeping the flame completely behind the stone at all times.

The other thing was about using oils. Oil an opal and it will lose its color forever. Other than that, the part about herbs and oils was very interesting as was the mention of the significance of birthstones, though it seemed to skirt around some of the disagreement about which stones belong to each month.

Much of the book is a compendium of stones, giving information about more that a hundred varieties of minerals. It was strong on history and description, but didn’t give hardness index.

Appendix A deals with magical properties of stones, while Appendix B lists associated deities. I’m not knowledgeable enough to judge the accuracy of either of these, but found the information interesting and the extensive bibliography suggests that the author did a lot of research.

Over all this was a very good book on the subject with its strengths being on history, science and thoroughness. I may well get a hard copy to keep on my reference shelf.


Ghost Box starstarstarstar

Paulette Moon,Chris Moon


This is the authors’ relation of their experiments with a ‘ghost box’, literally a box that works like a radio transmitter to pick up the voices of ghosts. Spooky! But that’s what attracted me to the book.

It requires a big leap of faith. Apparently much of the activity happens on a psychic level so you’re basically taking the word of the author that anything was heard at all, although some recordings apparently produced voices. Putting belief aside, I found the book interesting. The incidents mentioned in relation to a few high profile historic deaths made for good reading, scepticism or not.

I did find the suggestion that the box picks up alien voices as well a stretch. It started ticking too many woowoo boxes at that point and I found it more difficult to suspend disbelief. I keep an open mind about spiritual activity, but this pushed it a little too far for me and I found myself reading with more scepticism after that part.

Despite this, some of the stories related towards the end appeared to be corroborated by real world evidence, if you take the author’s word for it. I decided that belief is subjective and on the bottom line, I enjoyed reading the book. It was well written and provided some interesting food for thought. Would I try the spirit box if given a chance? Definitely. Like some of the other sceptical people who came into contact with the authors, I would ask questions that only the person I was contacting would know, but I would not hesitate to give it a go and see what happened.

The only thing missing was any information whatsoever about how it supposedly works. Maybe the authors will include that in their next book.


sound healingWhat is Sound Healing? starstarstar

by Lyz Cooper

This is an alternative therapy book based on serious study of therapeutic sound. It asks the fundamental question, how does sound affect our well being?

It has been established scientifically that we respond to music or to abrasive sounds with our moods, but the premise of this book is that sound also has a physical effect on us. When you think about how our nervous system is affected by sounds from relaxing music or the purring of a cat, to grating noise, the idea of physical effects becomes plausible.

The first chapter will be most accessible by those who have studied music theory. While the author repeatedly assures the reader that it isn’t necessary to have studied music to use sound healing, the frequent references to the effects of “a perfect fifth” and other musical terms left me feeling like I was missing something.

The subsequent chapters define what is meant by the word ‘healing’ and some history from different parts of the world of how sound has been used for meditation, including Tibetan spirit bowls and chanting. In the fourth chapter the Om chant that is familiar to most people gets a basic explanation.

In the fifth chapter we are told what happens in a sound healing session. The author writes about using voice intoning, Tibetan spirit bowls, gongs, drumming and a crystal version of the spirit bowl. Different effects from high and low tones are mentioned, but to my surprise there didn’t seem to be detailed techniques. It sounded pretty much the same as hippy/Pagan/Alternative practices.

The subsequent chapters cover attentive listening, some expansion on rhythms and self-experimentation and further resources, including the author’s website where CDs and MP3 downloads are for sale, the British Academy of Sound website where courses are available and several other website addresses.

While the book gives a good overview of sound therapy, I would like to have seen more detail about both application and how it works. It strikes a balance between ‘new age’ techniques and scientific study, but I felt that it only touched on the latter and could have expanded more.

Still, I’d say it’s a good starting off point and the subject probably takes extensive study to become a sound therapist. I’d still like to know what constitutes a ‘perfect fifth’ and how that resonates with the nervous system to create effects.


Yellow Monkey Emperor Chinese MedicineYellow Monkey Emperor’s Classic of Chinese Medicine starstarstarstar

by Damo Mitchell, Spencer Hill

This is like a complete course in Chinese medicine in graphic novel form. It’s mostly in full color and explains the correspondences between ailments of internal organs and symptoms that might be in physical form or personality clues in a sort of parable form.

The book explains meridian point locations according to Traditional Chinese medicine as well as other esoteric terms including Zang Fu syndromes. While I’ve never been sure what I thought about Chinese medicine and its growing popularity in the west, this at least explains it in a simple and even amusing form.

The Preface explains that Chinese medicine is largely about identifying underlying causes of disharmony in the body. It also explains that the book illustrates 78 Zang Fu syndromes and that anything else that might be out of balance can be assessed once these are learned.

The cartoon characters who take us through the book include the Monkey Emperor, which should be a familiar idea to anyone who has followed any Chinese literature, and a wise bee. We also have a pig, a dog, a donkey, a horse, a duck, a goat, a snake, a rat, a dragon and various other creatures like a sheep and a couple of bovines.

Bee Bo explains to the Monkey Emperor the basic concepts of Chinese medicine is a straight forward way that anyone could follow and absorb. Through the Monkey Emperor asking questions, the reader will learn a lot about the basics in very little time. About 15 pages in, it becomes more visual with cartoon images of our animal characters.

The books reads fast from this point in full graphic novel form. It’s entertaining and holds attention, yet many concepts are explained in this simple and visual form. The emphasis is on symptoms, including behavioral and mood symptoms in concert with the physical, and in dianosis. While herbs and acupuncture needles are referred to as treatment, no detail if given about these cures.

The book is divided into sections based on seasons which are relevant to the ailments they cover. I found it both interesting and entertaining, though I had hoped for information on what herbs might be used for the conditions and maybe even accupressure points. It is meant to be a starting point and in that it succeeds. I have a much better idea of what Chinese medicine is about for having read it and I enjoyed the humor along the way.


dark spiritsDark Spirits starstarstarstar

by Stephen Lancaster

This is a book relating the ghost hunting experiences of the author, who claims to have witnessed some very bizarre happenings. It starts out relating a story he heard about second hand about a woman who had the ability to predict events, including her own death. She told her son that her husband would remarry in six months and that she would haunt her favorite room for a while, “messing with” the new wife. Apparently she was as good as her word as the new wife experienced a lot of weird phenomena in her kitchen and was never able to complete making a meal.

More stories follow, some of them very bizarre and creepy. I will admit that I looked up the author on YouTube to see if any of the footage he describes in the book was available, but all I found were trailers for movies he is soon to release.

This brought up the question; do I accept the genuineness of his stories at face value, or do I dismiss them as sensationalism preparing the way for commercial films to come? I don’t have an answer for that yet, but a clip of the demonic presences found in the attic and under a table at a farmhouse he describes in one of the stories would make me want to see what else he’s got enough to watch the films. Trailers with nothing but people talking about what they’ve seen all seems too ‘Blair Witch’ for me to accept validity.

All claims aside, the book is well written in a way that makes the stories sound real, so there is entertainment value to be had regardless of belief or the lack thereof. The tone of the writing is convincing and the details are related in a way that makes it all sound plausible, apart from the willingness of the team to go back into haunted places after having extreme physical reactions.

The author explains towards the end that his first book was about the mechanics of what he does, but this one is intended to be about the human experience. In this I think he succeeds. Some things could have used more explanation, like what is involved in a communication session. But overall I think I did get a feel for what he does, though I can’t imagine being calm during some of the ghostly or possibly demonic activity like getting throw against the wall or down the stairs. An interesting read.


something wickedSomething Wicked starstar

by Debi Chestnut

This is a non-fiction book written by a professional ghost hunter who reports encountering negative entities, even demons.

I’m always fascinated by this sort of book that presents spiritual entity experiences as true things that happened because it makes me examine my own beliefs. Do I believe in ghosts? In demons? Do I believe things actually happened as the author relates? These are scenarios I would happily read in a fiction story, but the claim that it’s all true adds a different perspective to the reading experience.

Right at the beginning the author says that her ghost hunting team is made up of people from different religious beliefs, including Christian, Buddhist and Pagan, but that each of them is qualified within their belief system for dealing with these negative entities. On one hand that sounds a bit like the one size fits all, totally inclusive attitude that a lot of new age books fall into so that they will appeal to the widest possible audience, but on another level it is a recognition that practices like exorcism don’t belong to just one religion. The author herself takes a Christian perspective on how she operates, because it “works for her”.

In the second chapter she explains different types of spirits and especially negative spirits from her own perspective. It correlates reasonably closely to similar definitions I read in my high school days. The problem I have with it though is that it begins sounding like a thinly veiled born-again Christian attempt to convince people that demons exist, then flips over and starts talking about new age methods like visualizing white light and at the same time refers to using tools of magic as something that will invite demons in. References to “God’s law” for how demons can behave followed by instructions for how to use crystals for protection and clean the house with smudging just sounds like the author is confused.

The writing itself is good, but the mixed messages fail to convince. There is also very little about the ‘other negative entities’ or malevolent ghosts that are referred to now and then. No instructions for how to deal with the ghosts or what these ‘other’ entities could possibly be or what to do about them, apart from calling in a ghost hunter who says it doesn’t matter what method you use to rid yourself of demons as long as you believe in it. Approach as fiction and be warned, the section about false exorcisms is not for the squeamish.


crystal spellsThe Second Book of Crystal Spells starstarstarhalf

by Ember Grant

The first part of this book tells some really interesting things about salt in relation to crystals which I haven’t come across before. I found this section very interesting and informative. Then the second chapter went into tarot card correspondences and I found this part much less helpful, suggesting several stones that might go with each card to the extent that the reader might as well make up their own system if they want to correlate crystals with cards at all.

This is followed by suggested spells, which are always subjective. Some interesting ideas for those who are looking for spells, which is after all what the book is about! The properties and spell suggestions for several kinds of crystals follow, especially different kinds of quartz and chalcedony. At some points I was made aware that I hadn’t read the first book, which would be necessary to get complete information. While the rhymes for the spells were cringeworthy, the ideas themselves were solid and worth adapting.

One of the most interesting things the book talked about was making grids of gemstones, to enhance their power. It’s an interesting idea and worth some experimentation. The book then goes on to suggest spells to use crystals for enhancing natural intuition. I liked that the appendices included a list of the stones dealt with in that book, including their crystal structures, as well as a glossary that covered both geological and new age terms. Overall it was interesting enough to make me curious about the first book in the series and to wonder if further books are planned.


witch mirrorThe Witch’s Mirror starstarstarhalf

by Mickie Mueller

This is one of the Tools of Witchcraft series from Llewellyn publishers. It starts out telling the history of mirrors in both physical form and use in folklore, plus superstitions regarding them. In this the author seems to have done a fair bit of research. My one issue with the first part is the frequent references to television programs I’ve never seen or heard of and the assumption of adolescent games that gives me a feeling that an American author is speaking to an American audience and assuming that these references will have meaning for anyone who reads her book. On the positive side, it gives the reader some insight into the culture the author is coming from.

There are a lot of good arts and crafts ideas for ways of making different kinds of mirrors or mirrored boxes and suggestions for washes. The washes are fairly traditional herbal combinations and I’ve noted a couple of them that I might actually use.

The writing style is bubbly in a way that made me think the author might be very young, though things she says later in the book indicate otherwise, and the spell suggestions would probably appeal to young people who watch The Craft and such. It did worry me that she didn’t seem to know about the traditional wormwood paint used in making black mirrors, but otherwise there were several examples of how mirrors have been regarded magically in different cultures.

There were also some guest essays which got a little repetitive and gave me the impression they were for added page count, but some were interesting. Some general correspondences and such are in the appendices and there is a leaning towards chakras that people into new age subjects can identify easily.

This could be a good book for a young person just starting out on learning about magical tools and implements.


magical yearThe Magical Year starstarstarstar

by Danu Forest

I’m always a little sceptical when a magical author gives themselves a lot of titles, but apparently this one is a member of OBOD, the respected British Order of Druids.

As books of the Pagan festivals go, this one is very informative and well written. It gives an overview of the eight annual holidays that are common to both Wicca and modern Druidism, followed by chapters on each of the festivals individually.

There’s nothing new here, but familiar folklore is presented well and the rituals offered are straightforward and simple. Not too much airy-fairy new age posturing. There are rituals, spells, recipes and crafts to go with each festival.

It explains where some holiday traditions come from, like decorating eggs at Easter (Eostre) and symbols and such that experienced Pagans will already know, but it would be a good choice for new Pagans who have yet to learn the significance of these holidays.

Best of all it’s from a British perspective, so closer to the original cultural references without getting watered down by popularist adaptations, although there are some concessions to choosing your own words or which way you prefer to believe that tries to cater to everyone on a commercial level.

Still a good choice for a beginner.



divineThe Practical Art of Divine Magic starstarstar

by Patrick Dunn

Dunn explains the information in the book as a Postmodernist approach to esoteric ritual practices. It draws from Graeco-Roman historical perceptions and is basically about approaching old gods in a modern way to create divine magic. Theurgy basically means godwork.

I have to admit that I found it rather dry reading. There is an academic flavor to it that might suit another reader better. The chapters go through what divine magic is, what is a god, addresses of the gods ritual and tools, including astrology and planets and offerings, divination, daimonology, self actualization including how to make a talisman and knowing oneself.

Dunn talks about the lessons of Aleister Crowley about the Holy Guardian Angel and similar perceptions of a higher being and how the pronunciation of words can affect magic. Though I can’t fault the information, I didn’t feel it added to my store of knowledge significantly. I would suggest it perhaps for beginners in ceremonial magic.

CrystalCrystal Resonance starstarstarstar

by Kerry Nelson Selman

The Introduction to this book gives me the impression that we’re about to have a look inside the author’s personal spiritual journey, which to an extent is proven true when we read the parts about specific stones and the oils and essences that have been attributed to them by her.

The book is about semi-precious stones, oils, and flower essences working in conjunction in a New Age, spiritual context. Some of it does go further into ‘New Age’ than I can personally identify with, but I found it interesting all the same and have already started experimenting with the author’s ideas. She mentions practicing Reiki among other disciplines associated with healing.

The book has a very upbeat tone. There are 13 combinations of highest resonance covered and in Part One: Understanding the Energy Body, we read about energy, movement, and how vibration is at the heart of all life. Chakras are briefly mentioned and how the system relates to color correspondences, which in turn relates to choice of crystals for various purposes.

There is a practical explanation of how crystals work with vibration, citing crystal radios to demonstrate physical evidence that crystal vibrations do have practical application in some way. Then we move on to the author’s theories for adding essential oils and flower scents that work in conjunction with the crystals for best effect. There is also information about how flower essences are made, which explains the hefty prices they can command.

The author also assigns Archangels to each combination, which I have to admit is a step too far for my personal beliefs and I sort of skimmed over those parts. She tells us about her personal practice and offers meditation rituals that incorporate all of the elements of crystal, scent and Archangels.

Part Two is about Synergistic Crystal Combinations and Practices. This is where she gives the meditations and Chakra associations. Each section is in a standardized format giving the main application, in other words, what it’s supposed to do, followed by the combination of crystal, oil, flower essence (from two systems) and associated Archangel.

The author explains how she has made personal experiments to determine these close resonances and makes no secret of the fact that they are her own attributions. She also allows for disagreement and states that she does not intend to replace any other system and that all that is in nature is good, but in her own experience, these combinations work most effectively together.

I found the book interesting and plan to experiment a little with some of the suggested combinations, though I’m not particularly drawn to flower essences. Mixing essential oils with crystals may be as far as I ever go personally, but the concept behind these combinations is something that is likely to stay with me.

BeltaneBeltane starstarstar

by Melanie  Marquis

I liked that the series introduction acknowledges the differences in the northern and southern hemispheres and how they fit into the wheel of the year. There’s some really good comments about various beliefs in entities that made me expect good things from the book.

This book is well researched, but a little dry and academic. Sometimes it feels like a list of historical information bytes. Before I read the author’s history in the back, I had no sense of her having any personal experience or connection to ritual.

She seems unaware that traditions like Morris dancing are still widely practiced in England and much of the information was very much from an American perspective, especially the ‘denominations’ of Paganism that might practice Beltane. What I found most ‘off’ in this section was the explanation of Eclectic Witchcraft, which the author seems to connect specifically with sex magick. In my experience, sex magick is more often practiced by magicians and Eclectic Wicca is just a name for those who borrow rituals and traditions from a variety of sources.

There’s a section on festivals, but none of the really well-known ones like Starwood seem to have been included.

This seems to be directed mainly at beginners. There are a few simple rituals, which are pretty elementary, and there is a section on recipes and crafts. No traditional Honey Cakes, but the ‘Sun cakes’, which are basically orange cookies, sound nice. There are instructions for wand and crown decorating that many may find useful.

There’s a section called Prayers and Invocations which provides some rituals of celebration, but they put too much emphasis on deity for my personal taste. Also given are Correspondences for Beltane, which is basically a collection of lists.

Further reading is also suggested, which included material from Ron Hutton which I would certainly recommend.

PlutoHarness Astrology’s Bad Boy

by Hazel Dixon-Cooper & Bridgett Walther starstarstar

This is a book that would appeal to those interested enough in astrology to read about the specific effects of different planets. It begins with an introduction called “Why we wrote this book” and gives some general information about astrology and Pluto’s significance, touching on the official ‘downgrade’ of Pluto from planet status and the irrelevance of that to Pluto’s position in astrology.

The book acknowledges Pluto’s bad reputation and clarifies its purpose in presenting challenges, then goes on to talk about how best to use Pluto energy for positive reinforcement. Death is one of Pluto’s areas of influence, but the book claims that this is the death of self-destructive behaviors and promises to show you how to overcome self-imposed obstacles.

There is an interesting segment on how the name Pluto comes from Mythology. The official part 1 after the introductory information is about how Pluto has affected each generation. Part 2 is how it relates to each of the sun signs. This part is very general and padded with some information that is likely to be redundant to anyone with enough interest in astrology to be reading books about specific planets.

The third part is about Pluto in the houses. Readers are encouraged to read both the sections on their natal Pluto house and on the current transit. Since Pluto moves slowly, the information is likely to be relevant for the next ten years.

While most people reading this book will probably already have a natal chart for themselves, I think with all the other generalized (beginner) information included in the book that it would have been useful to include a diagram to show the reader how to determine their natal and current house transits for Pluto. It’s familiar to me, but there is no guarantee that all readers will have this much previous knowledge of reading astrology charts.

Much of the information offered in the third part sounds rather like a Psychology book, speaking of repeating life patterns that hold us back, only it postulates that Pluto will reveal when and how we are making choices that will continue the repeating patterns. The one thing that bothered me was the level of negative reinforcement, suggesting that everyone has self-destructive behaviors and that Pluto points out the area where they are focused. When I looked at my own transited house, I found an area where I was very much aware of issues and was already on top of taking control of them.

The biggest weakness of the book is not the fault of the authors, but of the limitations of the medium of books written for a wide audience. I felt that the only way to fulfil the promise made in the introduction would be for every reader to obtain an individual analysis to see how Pluto’s transit if effected by other elements of their personal natal chart, as well as other current planetary transits. Astrology is a fairly complicated system when done properly.

The one thing I thought would improve the book and overcome the need for padding with general astrological information would have been to be a little more specific with the natal-transit information. Instead of telling the reader to read the segment for both their natal position and the transit, to have sections that related them like “Natal 3rd house, transit 7th house”. I have seen Sun and Moon or Sun and Ascendant combinations done in this way in other astrology books.

Overall, I thought the book was interesting and useful and could give someone some perspective on the effects of Pluto in their chart, but it fell a little short on detailed analysis.

weatherPredicting Weather Events with Astrology starstarstarhalf
by Kris Brandt Riske MA

I’ll admit that I approached this book with some healthy scepticism. I’m interested in astrology and we all know the sun and especially the moon have gravitational effects that affect the weather, but predicting weather through astrology? I decided to see what the author had to say.

The book begins with a few words about weather prediction in general and the limitations that meteorologists face in predicting events beyond the scope of a few days. She then goes on to claim that Astrometeorology can predict long range weather trends and which planets affect different aspects of the weather.

Some of the astrological jargon gets a little hard to keep up with at this point, but it’s only the introduction so I press on to chapter one.

Chapter one launches right into technical information about what charts are to be cast for a location in order to predict the weather. This part will be easier for those already familiar with astrological chart calculations. The different purposes of solar and lunar charts are fully explained, though I had to look up what an ingress chart is. The significance of transiting aspects is also explained clearly.

In further chapters we learn about interpreting planetary positions and aspects and combinations of astro data. Many examples are given of retrospective national & local predictions and what astrological influences were in place at the time.

I have to admit that much of it is over my head, but for a practicing astrologer it should make perfect sense. I’m not going to make a judgement whether I believe that weather can be predicted with Astrology, but will rate the book highly for being clearly written and explaining the process in detail.

Do planets effect the movements of wind as they do the tides of the oceans? I will be taking note of planetary positions during future significant weather conditions. The fact that we’ve been having an unusually hot Summer as I read this book, just when Mars is conjunct the Sun, hasn’t escaped my notice.

Most of the examples of notable weather phenomena in recent years and the planetary influences are US based, but still make good examples for readers in other countries. They include conditions during the drought in the 1930s that turned Oklahoma into a dust bowl and long range weather patterns are figured in.

There are quite a lot of examples of droughts, floods and extreme temperatures in the past and the planetary positions that indicate the potential of these conditions. There are a couple of near future weather predictions that a reader could observe within a few years of buying the book, but I would have liked to have seen more of these and will have to wait until 2018-9 to see if they pan out.

Example forecasts are gives and step by step instructions for how to chart predictions. I’m not sure my limited astrological knowledge is enough to make best use of the information, but I would be very interested to see if an experienced astrologer could make accurate predictions based on the information.

Overall an interesting and well laid out book that is as clear as a book that must include technical information could possibly be.

IncenseIncense: Crafting and use of magickal scents starstarstarstarhalf

(New and Expanded)
By Carl F. Neal

My copy is an uncorrected proof, provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

This book is about making incense for personal use with all natural ingredients, rather than the commercial ‘dipped’ incense. It starts out by telling us about how scents can trigger memories and are directly wired to the brain.

The use of incense in meditation and to send messages to the gods is covered, as well as how to use it to cleanse space for magical ritual. The perspective of the book is for practitioners of magic and new age methods, though the practical information is very thorough and would be very useful for anyone who wanted to make their own incense. There is a List of figures, so I expect the finished book will have illustrations.

The author gives us good reasons for why we would want to make our own incense rather than just buying commercial as well as some history of how incense is made and the changes in manufacturing methods over time. He expresses some concerns about commercial incense and the chemicals that are included in it, especially saltpeter, which is used in self-lighting charcoals. Reasons for making your own include total control of what goes into it and making magical connections during the process, plus the issue of ethical concerns that some people might have about some of the ingredients, such as using animal products or allergens.

The book is written very much from a practicing Pagan point of view, but it is primarily a practical book and the author invites readers to challenge or dismiss his philosophies while gaining the benefit of the hands-on practical information.

We are given the difference between whole herb incense vs incense that contains essential oils and also the difference between dry mix and wet mix. The book favors dry mix methods. We are told how to make powder for incense trails, though the book is mostly focused on “formed” incense – sticks and cones. We are given the relative advantages of masala sticks, joss sticks and cones as well as incense disks which you can wear as a necklace, then toss into a bonfire. It’s a form I hadn’t come across before. We are also told about the process for making Kyphi, which involves cooking ingredients in wine.

The author occasionally diverges into the Pagan aspects, telling us about the feeling of ritual pageantry that goes with tossing loose incense over hot coals etc. Throughout the tone gives me the feeling that he is speaking to me like an ordinary person, almost as if he was giving personal instruction rather than writing a formal instruction book. I rather liked this aspect of his approach.

He goes on to explain the different kinds of aromatics – resins, plants & woods, then forms of binders and fixatives. We learn a little of the Physics of making it burn and how it is affected by shape, about avoiding dangerous material and about getting artistic with shapes as well as how to empower your incense with Magick.

Different types of burners and what shape incense is suitable for them is covered as well as safety precautions in an easy and sometimes entertaining narrative. There is some repetition, but mainly on things it is essential to learn so the extra emphasis is justifiable. My only real complaint is that there are a few too many plugs for the author’s other book which begins to reek of salesmanship.

There are sections on growing your own ingredients and considering the needs of the plants when collecting in the wild, proper methods for drying and some advice on buying ingredients as well as proper storage. Tools & workspace as well as ritual tools are very thoroughly covered including consideration of children and pets.

Blending and adding liquid is explained along with troubleshooting and there are several basic recipes included to get the novice incense maker started.

The appendices include an ingredient chart, a section on ingredients that can be obtained through any grocery store, suggested ritual uses and a rather interesting section called “Listening to incense” which is about the Japanese art of Koh-do.

Overall, from a practical point of view it is a wonderful book. I expect that I will try some of the recipes and may take enough interest to expand into concocting my own incense blends, knowing that everything I need to know is here. The more philosophical aspects of the book are subjective and will appeal to some people more than others, but it does add an interesting angle to the information to see how incense is used in both modern Western Pagan practices as well as the Japanese Koh-do tradition.

Herb BookThe Herb Book starstarstarstarstar

by John Lust

I have an old copy of this book that I’ve had for years and would never let go of, no matter how many times I moved and thinned out my books. This is a re-release and I’m really happy to see it back in print.

The book has some interesting information about herbs and history, especially medicinal uses of herbs. There is a little basic botanical information that anyone can follow and instructions on how to gather and dry herbs as well as information on growing your own herb garden and how to store them properly.

Commercial sources for buying herbs are given for various states in the U.S. Presumably these have been updated for the new version.

How to make infusions and decoctions is covered as well as extracts, juices, powders, syrups, tinctures, poultices and other forms of preparing medicinal forms in which herbs might be used.

The bulk of the book is encyclopaedic. There is a large section for looking up herbs that might be used for various medicinal purposes, for example if you want an analgesic or antibiotic property, you will be guided to pages which have herbs listed which contain these properties. From there, the user must read properly about all the qualities of the herb and use some common sense.

This is followed by a section on common complaints and which herbs might be useful for treating them.

Part two of the book is the real treasure. It is an alphabetical list of herbs that gives detailed information about their properties, including any cautions required. This section rivals the classic Culpepper Herbal in complete information about pretty much any herb known to humankind.

There are line drawings to help to identify the herbs as well as detailed descriptions, Latin and common names, designation of parts of the plant to use, properties, preparations and dosages. This section is extensively indexed to make any herb you want to find information on easy to find, regardless of what name you know it by.

Part three goes into herbal mixtures for health and some information on vitamin nutrition and minerals, then talks about seasoning with herbs and herbal teas for enjoyment. It also suggests some natural herbal cosmetics for skin care and perfumes and even natural dyes. Some legend and lore is included.

The description of the book doesn’t tell me if any of the information has been updated, but I suspect that it is very much the same as the first edition. Some information just doesn’t get outdated. I have to give it 5 stars because this is still and will always be the one herb book which I feel is essential to always keep on my shelf and I particularly like the ease of use that it has always given me.

Reluctant EmpathThe Reluctant Empath starstarstarhalf

by Bety Comerford and Steve Wilson

The Introduction begins by explaining what an empath is, which will be easily identifiable by anyone who has spent their lives being hyper sensitive to the emotions of others. It also postulates that an empath can feel the emotions of the dead, which I’m not sure I would agree with as I have my own beliefs about ghosts and spirits and such.

All that aside, the book approaches the subject as a skill to be embraced, where other books speak of shielding and how to protect oneself from the sometimes overwhelming emotions of a crowd of people. It promises to explain how to change the energy of emotions so that the empath can affect the world around themselves, actually changing the vibrational level of emotional energy. The authors style themselves as “Shamanic healers” and use an example from an empath named Alex to demonstrate their methods.

Each chapter breaks down the idea of what it is to be an empath. The first chapter tells about Alex learning to discern between what people say and the emotions they project, while finding pure comfort in nature and among animals who communicate purely on an honest, emotional level. It paints Alex as a solitary child who instinctively knows that his parents won’t understand his internal perceptions. In some ways I think using Alex as an example became too simplistic. I also found it incongruent that he didn’t pick up on the false laughter of older boys making fun of him when he could easily note false sincerity in adults.

The book suggests that energy from negative emotions can be felt physically and create feelings of unwellness, that this is what separates an empath from the rest of the population who all feel some level of empathy and that learning to deal with a high sensitivity to emotion is part of the lessons that we are meant to learn. The authors postulate fatalism to a degree that some readers might agree with and others will find at odds with their own beliefs.

Subsequent chapters include subjects like energetic safety, keeping silent, bad things that happen and dealing with a sensitivity that lasts forever, as well as acceptance, simultaneous time, how to use the energy (or magic!), responsibility and energy evolution.

I felt that Alex’s teenage experiences were too cliché. People react differently to situations and the depiction of Alex didn’t come over as quite right for the typical teenage empath. I’ve known a few and find them generally more intelligent and less reactionary than the average teenager. Alex’s response to frustration didn’t quite fit. However, I could see the lessons couched within the tales of Alex. One particularly important one was in letting go of struggle when dealing with spiritual entities and allowing energy to naturally flow.

The book explains some color symbolism and how it relates to Chakras. It also talks about using empathic energy to cast spells and about grounding as well as auras. I’m inclined to disagree with the assertion that “everybody wants to fit in”. In my own experience as an empathic teenager, I found the facade of conformity to group trends of little interest and whatever need I might have had for friendship to be satisfied by those few others who felt themselves similarly different, usually found in music, literature and drama classes.

Despite the book’s preachy tone and diversions into things like ghosts, UFOs and other strange phenomena, I think there is a lot of valuable information for the natural empath who might not have encountered others who understand this extra sensitivity in their lives. The example about the rock musician who needed to learn to ground his excess energy was particularly good. While I don’t think the needy version of the empath depicted in the text is at all universal, there is useful analogy for anyone and this book would be especially valuable for those who actually do need validation from people outside of themselves.

Near the middle of the book, the authors relate some of their own life experiences. These give some good examples of how things can kind of fall into place and for situations where sometimes the best course just ‘feels right’, even if it doesn’t appear to be the most logical choice. They also express a belief in reincarnation and the concept that each life is meant to become a lesson in a longer series of spiritual existence, stating that you choose your circumstances before birth according to the lessons you are meant to learn that time around. It’s a fairly popular view within the new age paradigm.

The chapter on simultaneous time quotes Einstein, then goes into reincarnation and UFOs, so the reader’s beliefs will determine what they get out of this chapter. It also postulates the belief that everything happens for a reason. As new age books go, this one feels like it’s talking down to the reader much of the time, yet there are some important lessons and it could be valuable for someone who is new to the subject matter and is in need of guidance through their own empathic experiences.

CelticMagicThe Book of Celtic Magic starstarstarstar

by Kristoffer Hughes

To start with this book has some beautiful cover art. I don’t usually comment on bookcovers in reviews, but this one is both organic and magical and definitely made me want to pick up the book to see what it was about.

For anyone looking for a comprehensive explanation of the Druidic religion as it is practiced today, this is it. Hughes very clearly explains the definition of what is Celtic, something that isn’t as simple as a specific tribe or nationality. He goes on to mention that the tradition represented in this book is based on Welsh roots rather than the Irish Celtic tradition which has been covered in many other books.

He succinctly describes a mytho-centric belief system wherein a pantheon of gods and goddesses and their mysteries are an inherent part of ritual and practice, as well as the role that singing and verse play in this form of magic. Hughes also gives sources, some of them not commonly known, for the historical basis of the tradition that is described. The Tale of Taliesin features highly.

I was pleased that he explains the particularly Druidic term ‘Awen’, the divine spirit of inspiration. This was something that people unfamiliar with the Pagan traditions and especially with modern Druidism may have needed clarification on.

Hughes also does a good job of explaining ‘magic’ in terms of natural forces. The philosophy expounds that all things are connected and everything we say or do affects the world around us. There are explanatory historic references of folk magic in Wales that tie history and modern tradition together.

Hughes does assume that the reader practices certain conventions, like keeping a journal, but he also reminds us of the accepted ethics in religions that practice magic and warns of natural consequences.

I’m not sure if I could agree with his statement that a magician must live a life of servitude, but the spirit of the idea of doing good is sound. Parts of the book did seem moralistic, but the explanation about living a magical life and direct consequences for magical actions is well placed.
The whole book is rich with symbolism and contains many meditation exercises to fully embrace the information imparted. I found some of the given rituals repetitive for my taste, but who am I try argue with the traditions of others?

Hughes explains that the Celtic tradition includes ritual other than the well-known Gardnerian formula and the Celtic connection to land, sea and sky as the elements, also explaining where fire fits in to this alternate view.

He emphasises planning and assessing reasons for performing ritual and offers ritual formulas with many variations to suit individual taste. There is a large section about magical allies or guides as well as Celtic gods and goddesses. Here he seems to qualify the information with a concession to those who choose not to believe in these deities. Do they exist or not? I appreciate that he’s leaving room for disagreement, but I’m reading about his system and beliefs so why hedge?

I especially liked the material on the genius loci, or place spirits, which correlates with information I’ve read on these elsewhere.

Hughes asks us to use our imaginations and follow guided journeys through visualization. He draws on his personal experience and encourages the reader towards self evaluation as to why they want to do magic.

He shows us the meanings behind Ogham script and the significance of the wand and cauldron in Celtic ritual, and also teaches us a mixture of folklore and herbal medicine and where animals fit into this magical philosophy, often appearing as teachers.

Near the end of the book, he shows us a form of divination specific to this system that I haven’t seen before.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to study modern Druidry or who just wants to round out their knowledge of Pagan paths with something different than the plethora of books on Gardnerian tradition. I found it interesting and informative.


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