Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes, by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, translated by Michael Moynihan
Inner Traditions, 978-1-59477-421-8, 173 pp. (incl. Translator’s Foreword, Introduction, Notes, Bibliography, and Index), 1992, 2011
Barbarian Rites is an English translation of Die religiöse Welt der Germanen: Ritual, Magie, Kult, Mythus ,by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz.
It is a book that straddles categories. It fills the awkward space between lay-oriented summaries and academically oriented historical analysis. Insofar as it is one of the few academically inclined pieces that has been translated into English, it is invaluable, but it is likely too academic for individuals not of a scholarly bent, and too brief to satisfy a curious historian. It serves as a litmus test for whether it is worth one’s while to learn German and access the greater pool of scholarship that exists. It’s worth noting at this point that Germanic is a broad umbrella that includes what most of us will know as Norse.
Hasenfratz begins his introduction by questioning the meaning of the word ‘Germanic,’ bringing into question our very ability to define or describe both the Germanic peoples and their religion(s), noting that the availability of sources and accounts varies highly from region to region. Continue reading
The Shamanic Witch, by Gail Wood
Red Wheel/Weiser, 978-1-57863-430-9, 244 pp. (incl. Glossary, Notes, and Bibliography), 2008
The Shamanic Witch is targeted at introducing practicing witches to neo-Shamanism. As such, the first two thirds of the book introduce and instruct one in beginning a neo-Shamanic practice, and the last third is directed at incorporating Shamanic elements into a pre-existing Witchcraft practice. Even if one is not a witch, the introduction to neo-Shamanism is well written, accessible, and assumes no prior knowledge. It would be unwise to pick up this book with the intention of beginning witchcraft, although a reading list is provided at the end of the book.
The first two chapters introduce the concept and context of Shamanism and provide the reader with some expectations as to what the experience of journeying will be like. Wood includes a number of exercises to prepare the reader: becoming comfortable with their own style of visualization, connecting with drumming and non-ordinary states of consciousness. The third chapter is dedicated to introductory journeys, following what seems to have become standard practice for neo-Shamanism: journeying to the lower world to meet a power animal and then journeying to the upper world to meet a guide or teacher. Wood writing is casual and approachable. She draws directly from her own experiences both as teacher and student, presenting components of her own personal journeys but also alerting the reader that their own may take very different forms. Continue reading
Runecaster’s Handbook: the Well of Wyrd, by Edred Thorsson
Red Wheel/Weiser, 9781578631360, 129 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 1988, 1999
Runecaster’s Handbook is a concise volume, targeted at providing the reader with just enough information to go about making and casting the rune-lots. As such, it touches briefly on a great many subjects, constantly referencing and referring the curious reader to Thorsson’s other works: Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, and Runelore: A Handbook of Esoteric Runology.
Thorsson begins with a chapter on the history of the runes, followed by a chapter on divinatory theory. His approach to history is scholarly rather than the wishful thinking commonly found in Occult or New Age books. He clearly outlines which associations and practices have been documented historically and is explicit in presenting interpretation as interpretation rather than fact. Continue reading
Foundations of Magic: Techniques and Spells That Work, by J F O’Neill
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738707430, 253 pp. (incl. appendices and index), 2005
Reviewed from an uncorrected proof
Foundations of Magic is presented as an introductory course to non-denominational magic. It has been written with the absolute beginner in mind, even, or perhaps especially, the sceptical beginner. O’Neill’s goal is to teach the reader what he regards as the basic skills required for successful magical workings and provide a mini-grimoire of spells that the student can undertake for their own benefit and to demonstrate that magic does in fact work.
The book is organized into two parts. Part I comprises three chapters, covering the definition and description of Magic, the Psychology of Magic, and lastly, the actual process of casting spells, including a practise spell. Continue reading
Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening ot the Divinity of Trauma, by S. Kelley Harrell
Spilled Candy Books, 9781892718501, 146 pp., 2004
Gift of the Dreamtime is author S. Kelly Harrell’s account of her personal visionary experiences. Or at least we assume it is: we’re not given any context; there are no disclaimers or introductions. Harrell drops us right into the thick of it, beginning with her first visionary experiences, initiated by the drumming of a shaman (one whom we are never actually introduced to). After the initial exploration of her lower and upper dreamworld and an introduction to both animal and spirit guides, the shaman recedes from view; presumably Harrell undertakes the remaining journeys by herself.
This is an unusual book. It’s not a theoretical book. It’s not a how-to manual. It’s not a biography either. It’s a diary more than anything else. Harrell opens up to the reader; if she holds anything back it’s not obvious. This is the story of her pathway, the road she took to disentangle the complex ball of emotions generated by her incestuous childhood sexual abuse. Continue reading
Feast or Famine: Teachings On Mind and Emotions, by Lee Lozowick, with an introduction and afterword by Regina Sara Ryan
HOHM Press, 978-1-890772-79-6, 219 pp. (incl. afterword, appendix and index), 2008
Feast or Famine is a collection of partial talks and Q&A sessions given by Lee Lozowick to groups of his students. Lee is a spiritual teacher of 35 years, and the ‘spiritual son’ of Yogi Ramsuratkumar. Lozowick himself had minimal involvement with the book, which was the project of one of his students, Regina Sara Ryan. In addition to editing duties, Ryan wrote the Introduction and the Afterword, which includes a selection of Lozowick’s devotional poetry. She also includes a passage from one of Lozowick’s diaries (which he publishes for the use of his students) as an appendix.
The book comprises 13 chapters on the behaviour of mind and emotions, which follow a similar pattern: Lee uses teachings from other spiritual traditions as a starting point for discussion. Lozowick is an eclectic teacher, drawing from Tibetan Buddhism (Chogyam Trungpa, Pema Chodron), Gurdjieff, Sufi Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Zen master Seung Soen, Swami Prajnanpad, Arnaud Desjardins, E.J. Gold, Dr. Robert Svoboda, and Carlos Castenada, among dozens of others. Continue reading