Spiritual and Well-Being

 

Brujeria starstarstarstar

by Katrina Rasbold

Brujeria is a form of folk magic that is specific to Mexico. Most of the practices sound like many other Shamanic methods, but the modern version the book explains is based firmly in Catholicism and works through patron saints. Presumably Mexico had an earlier version before the invasion of Christianity.

It is a healing magic and I found the ideas behind using the breath as a magical conduit especially interesting. Some of the chapters sounded very familiar, working with auras, and chakras etc., but then something new would come up. The four stage procedure for a healing was of interest, starting with just getting the client to talk about their problem.

A little bit psychology and a little bit woo, things like a sage bath or pendulum use to locate areas of the body that represent psychological blockages but are healed through channelling a divine power separate this tradition from some similar Shamanic practices. Using modern and imported terms is, I suppose, is expected in this age of globalism.

Though the practice has too much of religion about it to be something I would practice personally, I found reading about it informative and interesting. Some of it could be dismissed as superstition, like transferring maladies to an egg or sweeping away bad energies like in Wicca, but I keep an open mind and would certainly allow a practitioner to work on me without being too dismissive.

Most importantly, the book details what’s involved so it’s done it’s job well.

 

A New Dictionary of Fairies starstarstarhalf

by Morgan Daimler

This is a good resource for Celtic and Irish mythology and folklore. It starts with a foreword that has grammatical issues that make it a little confusing to read, but that’s by another author. The gist was that Daimler has the qualifications and has done the research.

As I got into the main part of the book, I found this easy to believe. It’s laid out in dictionary form, but rather than only defining names of fairy creatures, it gives a brief synopsis of various legends and is really a very thorough record of fairy lore from this culture (though I don’t equate aliens with fairies).

Keeping in mind the amount of research a tome like this takes, it would be great if this sort of information from other cultures was covered in other books by experts in those cultures’ fairy lore, because of course the British Isles don’t have exclusivity on the little people! It’s an excellent reference book for the material it covers.

 

Urban Magick starstarstar

by Diana Rajchel

I first came across the concept of the ‘spirit’ of a city in a book called Chaos Monkey, which is surprisingly absent from the extensive bibliography of this book, especially as the author mentions chaos magic a few times.

The book starts out with an explanation very similar, including going into the role the inhabitants of the city play in creating the collective feel of any given city. It then goes on with a lot of references to general magical knowledge and cites various well-known books on magick, but I couldn’t see a connection between this and specifically urban magick until later on when some examples are given of spells you might apply to urban situations.

I did like some of her ideas for tuning into a new city. Again, the idea of walking the city to get the feel of it was in the book I previously read, but there were some new ideas as well. There’s a long chapter about the history of cities in ancient civilisations, though Rome only got a couple of brief mentions, and some mythology loosely connected to specific cities.

The book talks about invoking energies of ancient cities but the author doesn’t seem to feel you actually have to have ever visited these cities to do so. It wanders pretty far from working with the city under your feet, then offers rituals for connecting to ancient patron deities of cities you’ve never been to and somehow connecting that to your own city. It started losing my attention with some new agey ideas.

I got the feeling a lot of the digression was coming straight from the cited references, although in some cases it didn’t ring just right. For example, the author mentions Marduk but leaves out the bull sacrifice Marduk requires.

It then goes into urban planning and the history of garden cities, and off to the realm of making your own astral garden city and spirit hunting.

The author did make a very good point that different parts of the city would engender different energies, for example, doing financial spells in a financial district and more sedate spells in residential areas. She describes a sort of psychic vampirism, collecting energy from the collective buzz of city residents and describes a little about energy manipulation, but assumes prior knowledge of magical cleansing and grounding.

A lot of exercises are given, though many like researching buildings or lurking in places that might bring the terrorist squad out to see what you’re up to aren’t likely to get many takers. Still, a few original ideas.

 

The Healing Powers of Essential Oils starstarhalf

by Cal Orey

It’s encouraging that the Foreword of the book was written by someone with a Ph.D in Biological Science. I could warm up to this idea of essential oils having healing properties.

I just finished reading a book on essential oils that warns against ingesting them, so I was a little surprised to see an emphasis on ingestion and using them in recipes! The tone of the author’s writing struck me as a little new age and trying too hard to convince, but the information was good. As much as I love the scent of Lavender, I have no interest in eating it, considering I don’t even like Parma Violets, but I found the information on olfactory sense and how it affects the mind and body of interest.

The second chapter is about the history of essential oils, or at least starts out that way. It gives more of a time line than a comprehensive history and delves into usage and cautions by the end. The book as a whole is a little scattered and non-linear in relation to most non-fiction books and often goes into the autobiographical before getting to more general information.

The weight loss chapter had an interesting concept about scents diverting us from eating fattening foods which bears some personal research. I did wish the author would quit going on about the Mediterranean diet and giving us health food recipes, as I didn’t choose this book for food or lifestyle advice, just to learn more about essential oils. The idea of using cinnamon or ginger oils in a recipe where you could use the actual spice didn’t sit well.

There was a long medical uses segment which I will refer back to and try as needed. It’s mostly for things like colds and skin ailments, what you would expect to treat with this medium. This flowed neatly into Aromatherapy and Spa treatments, followed by a chapter on scenting cosmetics with some recipes that bear testing.

Next is a chapter called 27 Essential Oils for a Healthy Household, but there is no list of these 27 oils. There is, however, some very interesting ideas for scented household cleaning products made with things like baking soda rather than harsh chemicals.

The book goes over trends, making scented candles, and to my alarm, a chapter on using oils on babies and cats which were strictly warned against in other books on the subject and this makes me very uncomfortable.

Then it wraps up with food recipes that I won’t be trying. As I said, I’d rather use the spices than a concentrated oil. Resources for obtaining oils are provided, but all American.

Overall the book had some very interesting information, but it wasn’t organised as well as it could be and the safety of using oils in food, on babies and on cats is something I feel is just wrong here.

 

Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Ceremonial Magick starstarstarhalf

by Lon Milo DuQuette; David Shoemaker; Stephen Skinner; Dennis William Hauck; David Rankine; John Michael Greer; Brandy Williams; David Shoemaker; Sam Webster; Anita Kraft; David Allen Hulse; Randall Lee Bowyer; Aaron Leitch; Chic Cicero; Sandra Tabatha Cicero; Marcus Katz

There are some very familiar names among the authors of this work, though I don’t recognise all of them. The work consists of several smaller ‘books’ written by people knowledgeable about the various subjects covered. It starts out with introductions by Lon Milo DuQuette (a well-known and respected occultist) and David Shoemaker (whom I haven’t come across before). This is followed by a section on the history of magic by Sam Webster (a name I’ve seen before but don’t know well) which touches on some key events but makes no attempt to be comprehensive in the short space allotted.

Next is a section on Kabbalah by Anita Kraft and Randall Lee Bowyer. It has an extensive history, but I felt it failed to get the real depth of the subject. Why would an occultist want to learn about this? I know the answer to that, but I didn’t feel it was provided for the newbie reader.

This is followed by Planetary Magick by David Rankine. I’ve been wanting to read something by David Rankine for a while as he’s someone I keep hearing about! Planetary Magick is basically astrology re-branded and this gave a history of it, rather than a how-to, which seems to be the theme of the book.

Then we have a chapter on Alchemy, written by Dennis William Hauck. Again, we got a good overview of history. I was pleased to see mention of the Greek occupation of Egypt, though I’ve yet to find a book that goes into Alchemy among the Ancient Egyptians compared to the Greek interpretation that is known as Hermeticism.

Demonology & Spirit Evocation by Dr Stephen Skinner comes next. This is one of those very familiar names. He explains the history of demonology and how the name ‘Demon’ got applied to a variety of pre-Christian spirits, both good and malevolent. Apparently he believes all magic comes from spirits, which many magicians might argue.

The Magick of Abra-Melin by Marcus Katz follows. I read the Book of Abra-Melin the Mage when I was in High School and fairly new to occult literature so I was a little surprised to see how steeped in Judeo-Christian religion this book actually is. The ritual to contact your Guardian Angel plays an important role and for that reason would be of interest to Thelemites. As with the other sections, this one gives a history and a general idea of what it’s all about.

Enochian Magick and Mystercism by Aaron Leitch is about Angel Magick and provides some interesting history about the Elizabethan era and especially about John Dee. The Golden Dawn by Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabitha Cicero, authors I’ve heard of for years, follows. This one started out sounding like a recruitment advert for the Golden Dawn, but settled into history after the initial burst. I think this one crammed too much history of Western esotericism into one chapter. If I hadn’t already been familiar with half of the history, which covers far more than the role of the Golden Dawn, I would have been lost. Ironically all that history fits into a fifteen year time frame in the Victorian era and emphasises that much of what we know as Western magic(k) is based in 19th century Christian mysticism. They didn’t mention that the original GD members believed in celibacy, even between married couples, but it did point out that women were included and even influential in the Order.

Thelema & Aleister Crowley by David Shoemaker was no surprise as Crowley would have to turn up in a book of this nature. He was mentioned briefly in the previous chapter, but there was more focused attention on his magical influence in this one. The only thing that niggled is lack of information about the actual origins of the concept of Thelema, which is written about in Plato and the Bible.

Polytheistic Ceremonial Magic by John Michael Greer I found a little confusing. It started out with a welcome overview of magic(k) preceding the Christianisation of various systems, then suddenly I was reading passages from a couple of other authors. Perhaps some extracts needed introduction. It then goes into the authors own amalgamation of Druidry and Golden Dawn format ritual instruction as well as a couple of well-known rituals like the LBRP.

We wrap up with Magician’s Tables by David Allen Hulse, something important to any book about Ceremonial magick, then The Future of Ceremonial Magick by Brandy Williams, which was, shall we say, abstract and more about the future of our world than specifically about where magick is going.

The author information, placing them both in the Caliphate OTO, explains the lack of mention of Kenneth Grant or of Austin Spare and the rise of Chaos Magick from the 1970s. Despite that, for someone completely new to magic(k) of any kind, the book does provide a lot of interesting history and context for a lot of practices still prevalent today. It would make a good companion book to go with the old texts mentioned throughout the book.

 

Essential Oils For Beginners starstarstarstarhalf

by Kac Young, Ph.D

I liked the fact that cautions are in the introduction to this book about allergy testing and about not putting oils on children and pets, but I would have taken it a step further and pointed out that pets lick foreign substances off their fur and some things perfectly okay for humans can be lethal for pets.

The first chapter gives a history of essential oils going back to Ancient Egypt and is followed by a chapter about what essential oils are and the various methods of extraction. There’s a lot of repetition about how good they are for health, balanced against the usual legal warnings, but there is also good information.

The third chapter really impressed me. Rather than vague safety warnings, it went into detail about how oils affect the body and which can be potentially dangerous, exactly what can happen if you don’t dilute properly and ratios of essential oils to carrier oils for safety in different age groups. I haven’t seen this kind of information in previous books I’ve read on the subject.

Next we learn about carrier oils in more detail than I’ve ever seen. This is followed by segments about each of 20 popular essential oils, covering their scent, their uses, what they mix well with and any special cautions. This is where this book excels, giving the reader a real feeling for the oils and carriers that could only be improved by waving a bottle of the stuff under your nose. It has given me the confidence to try some experiments and see how close I can come to duplicating some very special oil mixtures that I can no longer find for sale.

The author did get a little airy-fairy when talking about Melissa Oil, but a lot of good information is included in these segments and she seems very knowledgeable.

I was especially interested in the chapter on how to actually blend oils! She goes over details of the technical side as well as information on top notes, middle notes and base notes. She also explains how to use the scents in perfume, cologne, hand sanitiser, roll on or inhaler, as well as various forms of diffusers and room sprays. Using it in jewellery to diffuse was an interesting approach. Adding to cosmetics, like moisturisers is also included.

She then gives recipes for some of her own blends, while encouraging the reader to experiment and explaining how to do it safely. The medical uses give me mixed feelings. She makes a good point that anything you rub onto the skin is absorbed into the body and can even affect internal organs. I can definitely see how certain scents can help clear congestion. Some of the more internal healing claims hit my scepticism, but I’d try some of them. The important thing is that full instructions, including cautions, are in the book.

The psychological uses I find easy to accept as scent has such a mood shifting influence. I’d like to see if it actually does help depression and other major conditions, but certainly relieving stress and tension makes perfect sense. The book finishes off with a chapter on ritual where the woo comes out, followed by a glossary of terms.

Regardless of the reader’s beliefs, from a purely scent oriented interest in the subject I’ve never seen a better instructional book on making essential oils. The descriptions of the different oils make me feel as if I’m familiar enough with them at least enough to know which I want to buy and the details about amounts of carrier oils and which to choose are unequalled in anything I’ve seen before. This may be one I need to buy in paperback to keep on my shelf for frequent reference.

 

I’ve Never Met A Dead Person I Didn’t Like starstarstarstar

by Sherrie Dillard 

I found this a very autobiographical account of the author’s life, as of course it’s meant to be. What distinguishes it is the incidences of psychic perception of spiritual entities.

A lot of people are skeptical about spirits, ghosts, afterlife or what have you, but taken at face value, it’s an interesting look at how someone who does see spirits has their life affected by it.

Though much of it seemed to be unrelated and just a story about incidences in the author’s life, I found it strangely interesting and well expressed. This would appeal to people who are curious about the spirit world or psychic phenomena.

 

The Ancient Magick of Trees starstarstarstar

by Gregory Michael Brewer

This is a very informative book, presented in four parts. The first part covered lore about trees in different cultures. It seems well-researched, but I found the tone reminiscent of children’s textbooks. Still the information was interesting.

The second part is the books greatest strength. A list of trees with attributes and detailed drawings to show leaves, bark and any other identifying characteristics of the tree. These entries would make identification very easy and I may well take it out on my walks to get to know my local trees better.

The third section details tree correspondences in various systems, followed by part four which suggests activities to work with trees magically. These were written in a tone more in keeping with other new age books and the actual content seemed well thought out and appropriate for the target audience with an interest in paganism and nature magic.

Overall a very worthwhile book on the topic.

 

The Art of Jin Shin starstarstarstarhalf

by Alexis Brink

Jin Shin Do (“The Way of the Compassionate Spirit”) is a therapeutic acupressure technique developed by psychotherapist Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, beginning in the 1970s.

I had never heard of it before seeing this book so I have no basis of comparison, but I found the instructions easy to follow with interesting results. It’s considered alternative medicine and is based on ancient Japanese techniques.

The soothing, full color photographs of natural settings throughout the book have a calming effect and the first hand account by the author in the introduction gives the method clear context. It’s an energy manipulation technique and can be used to treat both physical and psychological problems. Like all ‘natural medicine’, it is not a substitute for a doctor’s care, but anything that helps relieve symptoms is worth knowing about in my opinion.

The first part of the book tells about some case studies with seemingly remarkable results. I’m always a little sceptical of these, not in that I don’t believe they happen but in that I wonder how much of the recovery is psychological. But I keep an open mind until I try something like this for myself. There is a lot of anecdote followed by a reminder that this is a beginning book to teach how to deal with relatively easy conditions.

Instructive photographs and diagrams are very clear and detailed instructions about exactly how to practice the method couldn’t be easier. Some methodology will be familiar to those who have practiced any form of Yoga or martial arts, such as breathing techniques and philosophy of the body’s channels.

The sections that explain the flows may not be as familiar. It’s worth reading these and maybe reading them again, tempting as it is to jump to the instructions for treating specific ailments. A symptom encyclopedia covering much of the second half of the book makes for easy reference and is alphabetical from allergies and anger to well-being.

I don’t suffer from any chronic health conditions so I haven’t been able to really test the ideas here, but next time I have a cold or hiccups or anything covered in the symptoms provided I will definitely be trying it! Testing out some of the holds, I could swear I did feel something. I keep an open mind. Either way, the book is well-presented and clear so it deserves a high rating.

 

Pagan Portals – Gods and Goddesses of Wales starstarstarhalf

by Halo Quin

This is very much a Pagan book, but includes the original folktales of many Welsh legends. These were well-researched and it’s good to find them collected in one place!

The first part goes through rituals and offerings, visualisation suggestions, that sort of thing. The second part is more what I expected, following through the tales and their relationships to history and belief in Wales. Sources are cited and there’s a pronunciation guide at the end.

There’s a heavy dose of the author’s personal beliefs throughout, but the folktales are genuine and this would be a good reference for anyone interested in British folktales and legends.

 

The Illustrated Bestiary starstarstar

by Maia Toll

There’s an immediate connection with spirituality in this book, even before the Introduction. It’s very much a modern shamanism perspective and featuring popular animal totems or endangered species. The book is a companion for a deck of cards for animal spirit meditations.

The full color illustrations are very well done and probably translate well to the cards, which I don’t have and couldn’t actually find for sale anywhere, even the author’s site.

Each animal has a section with general information about the animal followed by a ritual and reflection. The emphasis is on spirituality rather than science and gives the reader a reference for animal symbolism and possible meanings.

Quite honestly there isn’t a great deal of substance, but despite that, I can see the cards working well as a meditation device and really the pictures in the book would do if the cards can’t be found.

 

Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Essential Oils starstarstarstar

by Sandra Kynes

After a substantial introduction telling about the author’s personal history with essential oils, there is some well researched history of their use in various times and cultures.

We are told how to differentiate pure from synthetic commercial oils and about their processes. One thing I really liked seeing was safety guidelines and specifically safety for children and pets.

Details are given about shelf life and how to choose and blend oils. Perfume notes are explained, which I haven’t seen in other books on the subject.

It goes into basics in a clear and concise manner and then into ‘remedies’. After aromatherapy and self-care, it gets a bit new age with chakras and magical uses.

There’s an interesting balance of practical and woo. The profiles of individual oils are well-informed and would satisfy any academic. We finish off with conversions and two different glossaries. Over all a well-written and pretty thorough book on the subject.

 

Splendor Solis starstarstarstar

by Dr. Stephen Skinner; Dr. Rafal T. Prinke; Georgiana Hedesan; Joscelyn Godwin

The Splendor Solis was a 16th century Alchemical text. This is a modern new translation with commentaries by academics. Dr. Stephen Skinner is familiar to me in relation to esoteric material, so I found this very interesting.

It’s very much an academic work, so of most interest to people with an interest either in ancient Alchemy or in the history of esoteric texts. It is, as one reviewer said, basically a biography of the book, but I would add a fascinating analysis of hidden meanings in the 22 color plates that were originally hand drawn. My advance review copy didn’t show these plates, but I found them online as the British Library has a photographed copy.

A bit dry at times, but a very interesting and informative book.

 

African Cowrie Shell Divination starstarstarstar

by Zolrak

I have always loved cowrie shells, from when I was a child and my aunt brought one back for me from a trip to Hawaii. I never knew they could be used for divination!

This book was a strange mix. It’s about African divination and has chapters on Orishas, Eshu, Yoruba, Santeria, etc., but in the introduction the author talks about God from an apparent Christian perspective. I found that a little odd, even though I know Voodoo and Christianity have combined in places like Haiti.

The second part of the book is about the actual method of divination with cowrie shells, about a third through the book. This gives instruction for prayers and preparation, followed by methods for reading with four cowrie shells, then the sixteen cowrie shells. These are given with lines in their native language and I have to admit, go on a bit for something with no translation.

The instructions for the actual reading methods are fairly straight forward. This would be a good book for someone studying the cultural influences behind these methods, but the necessity of steeping oneself in Yoruba or Santeria in preparation might not be to everyone’s taste in practice.

There’s an extensive glossary and overall I found it a very informative book.

 

The Hearth Witch’s Kitchen Herbal starstarstarstar
by Anna Franklin

A very thorough book on kitchen herbs, if a bit dry. This one focuses on medicinal use of herbs you may already have in your kitchen, or could easily pick up at the supermarket.

It explains the difference between infusions and decoctions, tinctures and glycerites, etc.

It gives internal and external remedies and detailed information for making salves, balms, poltices and infused oils and there’s a section on cosmetic use for hair rinses, facial scrubs, masks and toners.

An A-Z herbal is included as well as recipes for using each one, correspondences and magical virtues. History of each herb actually is very interesting. The book is well researched and very informative.

It finishes off with weights and measures converting metric to cups and includes a recipe index before the regular index. Overall a good reference book to keep handy if you’re into natural medicine or kitchen witchery.

 

The Great Wizards of Antiquity starstarstarstarstar
by Guy Ogilvy

I have to admit I was expecting this to be more biographical about the known magicians in history, but it actually turned out to be even more interesting.

The first part covers the prehistoric culture of the Lion Man and tribal magic, then it moves on to the Orphic and Dionysian cults and the great figures of myth, which I found very interesting. A lot of history and basically anthropology comes into it, then it moves forward in history eventually coming to mathematicians and alchemists, some of whom are better known like Paracelsus, though I have to admit a little disappointment that John Dee and Nicholas Flamel got left out as these are two of the most relevant personages in the history of magic. But then another reviewer said there was a series, so maybe we’ll eventually see even relatively modern magicians like Crowley, Austin Spare, Jaq D. Hawkins and Peter J. Carroll!

The writing style might seem dry to some, but those of us who enjoy mythology don’t mind that. The personal experiences of the author also lent interest. Altogether a fascinating and well researched piece of work.

 

Keeping Her Keys starstarstar

by Cyndi Brannen

My first impression of this book was that it was similar to many beginning books on Wicca, but the introduction explains that it’s meant to be a training course, practiced over a year and a day, for a solitary self-initiation dedicated to Hecate. After I read the first exercise, I did see a different slant arising.

The lessons, while not offering anything really new, would be good for someone new to this path and the choice of Hecate as a patron goddess is as good as any other. It’s a good choice for someone who wants to learn self-development and overcome limitations in their life.

Mostly it felt like the author’s personal path, but could be followed as if being guided by a personal teacher. Not a bad choice for someone who is new to Wicca or who wants to become familiar with genuine study rather than television depictions of the path.

 

The Art of Connecting to The Akashic Record starstarstar
by Leonid Altshuler M.D

I’m generally familiar with the concept of the Akashic record and although I pass on a lot of books that look like they are taking too much of a ‘new age’ approach to it, the author of this one went on a trip to Nepal and learned in a Temple, so it looked worthwhile.

It’s a short book, just 46 pages, so not a lot of filler. Admittedly, the first chapter wasn’t expressed as well as it might be and made him sound as if he had forgotten his meds. He does actually explain his method, which is basically sublimating a question and seeking answers in dreamtime or sudden inspiration. I admit I had hoped for something more quantifiable.

He also goes over some preparation, much of it familiar, like spending time barefoot on grass to ground yourself and taking yourself out of stressful situation. My one concern here was his recommendations for diet. All jibes about the availability of yak meat in the supermarket aside, I don’t believe for a second that an almost all meat diet is healthy. Eliminating processed foods and excess sugar, yes, but we need vegetable carbs to live!

I can’t say this book gave me anything really new. However, for someone who hasn’t read other material on the subject, it could be enlightening and I expect the method will have some success.

 

Numerology starstar

by Elen Sentier

This was very different from what I expected. Rather than being specifically about numerology, the book is effectively a guidebook for a certain set of new age and Pagan beliefs that might or might not be associated with numerology. People interested in the title subject will have to wade through reincarnation, dowsing to establish your time of conception and some ‘out there’ concepts to find relevant information.

The graphs and charts make no sense to me at all. The author suggests meditating over them until it sinks in, but I’d rather have had the system explained in some manner than just thrown out there to absorb. Eventually she does write about number meanings and later gets into how to establish birth and name numbers in the same ways that other numerology books do, but there is only references to [number] people like 5 people, eight people, etc and no extrapolation of the relevance of birth number as opposed to name number apart from one is flexible and the other not, and nothing whatsoever about combining the two.

Overall I found the writing disjointed and digressive with very little clear information offered. I get the impression that the author does have some deep understandings, but just hasn’t worked out how to express them. I had hoped for more, I admit. More commercial books on the subject seem cold and limited, but they actually offer more information than I found here. Very disappointing.

 

Everyday Enchantments starstarstar

by Maria DeBlassie

Non-fiction

This is a book of snippets of thoughts about some of the things many of us contemplate, but don’t think to write down. Things like the wonders of synchronicity and observations of everyday life. Many of these are related from the author’s point of view but written in second person so that the book tells me there are roadrunners where I live and that I like chamomile tea (not!)

The further I read, the more I felt I was looking at the author’s perspectives rather than my own and experiencing her thoughts from looking over her shoulder. What is striking about these short thought-spills is the consistent positivity expressed and how one might find joy or strength from ordinary things.

While I didn’t always feel the perspectives applied to me, the second person format worked to draw me into the author’s mind and see her life from an optimist’s view. The idea here is to turn around and apply these positive thoughts to your own life details.

I could see this being of benefit to those who tend to get down about things generally. I’m rather an optimist myself so although I couldn’t identify with the details, I could appreciate the author’s attitude.

Sound – The Fabric of Soul, Consciousness, Reality, and the Cosmos starstarstarstar

by Ramiro Mendes, João Mendes

This was interesting from the start. Physics as it applies to the natural world has always been of interest to me so as soon as it mentioned that sound waves forty octaves above middle C become light, I was completely entranced.

It went a little transcendental after that and seemed to strike a balance between science and the metaphysical. The first chapter made an astonishingly good point about the effect of music, how the anger behind gansta rap breeds more anger which made me think of the light-hearted music of the early 1960s that brought out the flower child revolution, then how it was followed by protest music that raised anti-war activism.

Beyond that it went a totally different direction than I was expecting. Having found the book under ‘Science’, I was expecting information about the dynamics of sound in Physics. Instead it leaned towards the cosmic and I think would be better classified under Philosophy or even Theology.

Despite my misguided expectations, I found the book interesting. There were some ideas presented that gave me a lot of food for thought and although it sometimes got a little over my head, it made too much sense to dismiss as ‘just new age’. I did feel there was a lot more on the power of emotion than on the subject of sound, but I did find it an interesting read.

Kitchen Witchcraft: Spells and Charms starstarstar

by Rachel Patterson

It’s refreshing to see a book of this nature start with warnings about allergies and toxicity when working with herbs or essential oils. This is so often missed out! It’s the first book of a series that looks very interesting for beginners.

The tone is like one of those teenage witchcraft books, but there is some good information and from more modern paths included that you don’t often see in Wicca/Witchcraft books, like a very basic explanation of sigil magic.

There were a few things I would disagree with, like being very specific when doing a spell to get a job. If you target just one application, you don’t leave room for other opportunities to pop up out of nowhere! And some of the correspondences didn’t sit quite right, though these will always bring disagreement. The lists looked more like examples and weren’t extensive.

Overall I found it light on instruction. Someone wanting to construct a formal spell will have to look elsewhere for details, but there are a lot of books on the market for that. The one worrying thing is that although how to banish something from your life was mentioned, there was nothing about banishing residual energies after doing a spell.

What it was strong on was folk magic spells. There were a lot of examples for how to apply these to various purposes and a lot of definitions for forms of magic, if only partial information on how to do them. There was also a lot of “use your intuition” and plugs for the author’s other books, as well as a story told about a candle flame gone wrong that could have been avoided by using a proper candle holder. This surprised me after the good advice at the beginning about toxicity safety.

Overall I think it would make a good first book for someone who wants to dip their toe into magic and see how it sits without getting into too much trouble. I’d still like to have seen more detailed information about how to clear unwanted energies, just in case.

Llewellyn’s Little Book of Life Between Lives starstar

The Newton Institute

I have to admit that the first few chapters of this put far too much emphasis on belief. Maybe it’s because I’ve read other books on this subject matter but I feel that someone who takes the trouble to read about it has already become at least open to belief and the ‘exercises’ in the first few chapters seem redundant and amount to quiet contemplation of the sort of things that will have already led the reader to pick up the book, like being attracted to certain places or eras.

As the chapters went on I had hoped for something more, but the ‘exercises’ continued to be more suggestions for things to think about rather than guidance for self-hypnosis as I’ve seen in other books. There were references for going between lives but no real instruction about how to accomplish that.

All of the ‘evidence’ presented was completely subjective accounts. No examples of evidence that got confirmed by historical records or surviving relatives of the previous person as I’ve seen elsewhere.

When it began talking about a council of elders, the book pretty much lost me and it went further into new age territory after that. To be quite honest, if this were the only book I had ever read on reincarnation, I would be writing the topic off as total fantasy. The writing itself is good, but there is nothing to convince the questioning reader that any of it is any more than imagination.

Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals Vol. 2 starstarstarstarstar

by Dr. Jill Stansbury, ND

This is the second of a five volume set of herbal formularies, this one focusing on respiration and circulation. It starts with an introduction about honoring traditional knowledge, remembering that modern pharmacology came out of folkloric herbal medicine and most medicines are still refined from the same plants our ancestors used in raw form.

The book is well presented and reads like a serious book on medicine rather than the sort of airy-fairy new age stuff you often see about herbalism. There are three chapters within 184 pages of fascinating information, partially laid out in encyclopedic form. The first chapter is The Art of Herbal Formulation. This covers diagnosis, symptoms, and basically how to determine what herbs to use for a problem.

There is preventative advice like how to support vitality instead of opposing disease. The second chapter goes into creating formulas for the circulatory system. This includes what nutrients will support various biological processes and parts of the system. Some of the information like using cardio glycosides makes me think that a doctor’s advice would be needed rather than self-treatment, but as a reference volume for someone in the medical profession it would be brilliant.

The drawing of various herbal plants add visual interest and are very well done. A lot of the herbal names are full Latin rather than common names, though the common names are included in the encyclopedic lists, so this is a book for serious study. Even if it gives me mental images of shelves lined with arcane bottles and a wisened old man with a long beard as apothocary!

The third chapter is on formulas for respiratory conditions. Like the second chapter, it explains the processes and follows with an encyclopedic list of relevant herbs. There is an appendix to compare scientific names to common names followed by another one to translate the common names to the Latin, then a glossary of therapeutic terms.

Unlike a lot of reference books, I think this one would be worth reading all through to familiarize the reader with the material, after which it would sit well on the shelf of a medical reference library. Someone with a formal medical education would probably already be familiar with most of the terms, but I found it all rather interesting.

Sigil Witchery starstarhalf

by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Non-fiction

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

Non-fiction

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s