The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way, by Penny Billington
Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-2346-4, 384 pp, 2011
When dealing with the topic of Druidry there are inherent dangers. One can present a scholarly look at the few remaining historical references to the Druids and the speculation which has raged around them, one can present romanticized imaginings and call them “ancient secrets passed down in an unbroken succession through the ages”; or one can simply say “Here is what we know and this is how we relate to it in a vastly different world.” The latter is the method I personally prefer, it allows one to start from a solid base and then modify as required by the needs of the 21st century.
The approach to Druidry which Billington espouses is that of a living, evolving religion, and that seems eminently reasonable and practical to me. It is one which will allow the individual to discover the truths which work for them, while still providing a base of knowledge which will be acceptable to many others who follow a similar path. Each individual, ultimately, follows a unique path and has a unique perspective on religion and the religious experiences encountered along that path. Continue reading
Sacred Sounds of the Female Orishas: Rhythms of the Goddess, collected by Raul Canizares
Destiny Recordings, 1-59477-071-9, 60 mins., 2005
Raul Canizares, who collected and produced the recordings which are the basis for this CD was the head of the Santeria Temple Orisha Consciousness Movement in Manhattan, and the author of Cuban Santeria, as well as the producer of another CD , The Sacred Sounds of Santeria.
The emphasis of this collection is the female aspects of divinity. It helps to know some of the stories associated with these strong female images, although it isn’t absolutely necessary. The liner notes give a little sense of the strength of these goddesses. There are no shrinking-violets in this collection. Even the orishas associated with love are strong, independent figures. Their songs convey this as well. The rhythms are forceful and compelling. You can feel their presence and power as their songs are sung. Continue reading
Genuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of Monmouth
Capall Bann Publishing, 9781861633347, 486 pp., 2012
If your concept of witchcraft is composed exclusively by the neo-Pagan movement and modern day Wicca, this book is going to be a real eye-opener. For the majority of Wiccans and witches in the US, where I reside and write my reviews, there have been few choices – one either “trained” as an eclectic (usually by means of reading one or more books) or one looked for a “tradition” to follow (many of which touted themselves as having a long, distinguished linage, but failed to provide any substantiation of those claims). Within the past couple of decades the concept of initiation by another has fallen into disrepute and “self-initiation” has become the norm.
This is a massive book, but fully one half of it is composed of data which supplements the first half. The supplemental section includes photos of original documents from the Royal Windsor Coven (no connection to British royalty – just a heads-up to American readers). A large number of the documents which appear in the photos are almost indecipherable, since they were either hand-written, heavily amended, or carbon copies of originals. This is, in my opinion, not a shortcoming. The fact that these documents still exist at all is nearly miraculous, and the fact that they are being preserved and made available is a real benefit for those who wish to explore the development of Witchcraft in the 20th Century. Following these reproductions are transcripts of the documents which make it possible to read and understand the preceding illustrations. Continue reading
A Book of Pagan Prayer, by Ceisiwr Serith
Weiser Books, 1-57863-255-2, 245 pp. (plus Appendices, Bibliography and Notes), 2002
This is a book I never thought I would see. Most of the Pagans I know aren’t big on formalized, scripted prayer. There are going to be those out there who will swear by this book, and those who will swear at the author. Many neo-Pagans feel that prayer should be completely spontaneous and will find the idea of A Book of Pagan Prayer (akin to the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer) to be incomprehensible, if not incompatible with Pagan religion. Continue reading
Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, by Owen Davies
Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-959004-9, 380 pp., 2009
I need to acknowledge right now that I am not a ceremonial magician, but then again, this book is written for people like me. This is not a compilation of grimoires, nor is it a distillation of those books. It is a broad overview of magick books and books about magick (which are not necessarily the same thing). There is a fairly thorough discussion of the suppression of magick books, which makes it abundantly clear that, although most of us think in terms of the Christian church’s efforts in this respect, Christianity was a “Johnny come lately” to that game. There had been suppressions long before the beginning of the Common Era.
This type of book often falls into one of two categories. It is either heavily influenced by pop culture, or it is full of erudite, academic attitudes which leave you grabbing your dictionary as you read. This book walks the middle ground quite nicely. It answers questions with easily understood words, and saves the inevitable citations for the end of the book.
One thing which modern readers often forget when reading about the grimoires of the past is that simply because two (or more) books had the same name did not mean they had they same content, especially in a time when the books in circulation were manuscripts, as opposed to printed volumes. Religious scholars has this brought home to them with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library where there were numerous books with identical names and widely varying contents. Grimoires were, generally, perceived as having more power if they were handwritten (magicians would make handwritten copies of books which they had in their library to impart more power to them). What this means is that even those grimoires which have survived in printed form may only be one version of numerous ones which circulated during the Renaissance and later periods. Continue reading