All posts by Taylor Ellwood

About Taylor Ellwood

Magician, Writer, Experimenter, Spiritual Coach, Explorer of unknown territories, Gamer Geek, Eccentric, and just plain weird and contrary.

Review: Real Energy, by Phaedra & Isaac Bonewits

By | Leave a comment

Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, And Substances to Heal, Change, And Grow, by Phaedra & Isaac Bonewits
New Page Books, 288 pp.

If you’re looking for a book that provides you a thorough examination of the basic concepts of energy work, in terms of both personal energy and environmental energy then you’ll find that this book is right up your alley. Phaedra and Isaac do a wonderful job of explaining energy and its connection with elemental energy, astrology, natural resources, Chinese belief systems, and more.

This book is theory intensive. They provide a few basic exercises so readers can work with the concepts, but their focus is more so on explaining the why and how of energy work. I would’ve liked to have seen more focus on practice, and particularly some intermediate and advanced energy work, but even without that the theory in the book can provide readers an opportunity to experiment if they are willing to take the concepts and run with them.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about energy work and what it involves. You’ll also get a dose of Bonewits humor, always good for giving you a moment to take a break and think, “Did they really say that?”


Review: Philosophy of Magic, by Arthur Versluis

By | Leave a comment

Philosophy of Magic, by Arthur Versluis
168 pp, 1986

This is a quick and short read. I liked some aspects of this book, but I’d also have to disagree with this author on a lot of his views. He tends toward a very mystical approach to magic, that its done mainly for spiritual purposes. He considers the use of it for practical purposes to deviate from the true goal of magic. The influence of Eastern mysticism is pretty apparent in this book. He also had a lot of inaccurate information on alchemy, trying to reduce to solely a symbolic activity. In this his book echoes the trend of a lot of authors that have attempted to reduce magic to pure symbolism.

It’s an interesting read for a mystical perspective on magic. Some people will like it better if that’s their approach.


Ceremonial Magic & The Power of Evocation, by Joseph C. Lisiewski

By | Leave a comment

Ceremonial Magic & The Power of Evocation: A System of Personal Power, by Joseph C. Lisiewski
New Falcon Press, 204 pp.

This books is a paradox in that it is both an excellent reference book and tome and at the same time illustrates what happens when a magician becomes inflexible. Lisiewski makes some excellent points about the new age movement of magic and the problems that can occur if you only visualization. Also his point about being as faithful as possible to the grimoires you work with is well worth noting in terms of the build-up of magic and belief that can make an evocation successful, or not as the case may be. Continue reading


Review: Postmodern Magic, by Patrick Dunn (2)

By | Leave a comment

Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age, by Patrick Dunn
Llewellyn Publishing, 2005

For the most part I enjoyed this book. The author impressed me with using footnotes, which is definitely a step up from the majority of occult books out there. A lot of his advice and ideas are practical and useful for beginning magicians. All of the exercises in the book are ones I’m familiar with, as it’s written for a beginner to intermediate audience, but they are useful to work through. I particularly liked the invent your own magical language exercise, which reminds of TOPY speak, and also Spare’s alphabet of desire technique. The questions at the back of the book were handy and useful for processing information and extending the ideas in the book further, which is again a rarity and something I applaud Mr. Dunn for doing.

The author’s focus on semiotics and symbolism is a fresh perspective and will offer readers food for thought and action, should they follow through on doing the exercises. Also Mr. Dunn does a good job of covering a wide range of occult techniques and presenting them from a symbolic perspective.

However, while I did like this book, there are some issues with it, which I find problematic. I would have liked to have seen an integrated system of in-text citations such as APA to get a better sense of the sources he draws on. Also he does not draw on enough available sources. As an example his paradigm piracy in chapter one doesn’t cite Josh Wetzel’s work, which given that Mr. Dunn lives in Illinois, is surprising, since Wetzel’s work is available there, although in limited print. He never defines the term postmodern, which given the title of the book, is rather important. Also beyond providing his own definition of semiotics, he doesn’t draw on any semiotic theory. A brief introduction to semiotic theory complete with some references to semiotic theoriticans for curious readers would have been nice as well as drawing on the most updated semiotic work. His influences seem to draw more from Saussure’s work than anywhere else, but again without a reference list, that’s only a guess.

The other issue I had was his focus solely on magic as a symbolic reality, with him throwing out the energy/spirit models because they couldn’t be “proven”. Given that he is drawing on a social science background, his focus is ultimately on what he knows as a social scientist, and yet his stance as a social scientist frequently seems to take the magic out of magic. Ironically at times he comes off as contradicting his view that magic is entirely and only a symbolic reality that can be worked with. As an example he worries about whether cutting a tree would hurt it, and yet earlier argues that everything, even a physical cat you look at is just a symbol. If that’s the case, the tree is just a symbol, so why worry if it can be hurt? The argument that symbols and reality are one and the same is intriguing, but also dangerous in terms of leading a magician toward solipsism.

In the end, the book is worth checking out and reading for some intriguing ideas. Keep a bit of salt and skepticism on hand and try his paradigm out, but also do some further research into semiotics on your own.


Review: Harm None, by M. R. Sellars

By | Leave a comment

Harm None: A Rowan Gant Investigation, by M. R. Sellars
Willow Tree Press, 0967822106, 368 pp.

Harm None is a pagan detective fiction book, with a refreshing twist. The pagan isn’t the detective. He’s a consultant for the police. Not only does is he consulted on the images, but he becomes a spiritual medium that can give the police clues to the murders.

What I find most refreshing about this book is that the author notifies readers at the very beginning that there are intentional grammatical errors, purposely included, because as the author notes, no one he knows (or I know) speaks perfect grammatical English. By no means however should the reader of this review think that the author has made tons of grammatical errors. While I think some of the grammatical errors could be cut down on, I do also think that they do make the speech of the character more believable.

The plot for this book is excellent. The dealings with the police seem to be accurate and at the same time the character of the story is not some omnipotent magi. Rather while the main character is a practitioner of magic, he is nonetheless who acknowledges the need to learn and hone skills as well as how terrifying it can be to have an ability and not necessarily have full control of it. The supporting characters for the story are believable, from the skeptical police friend to the villain. Some of the ethical ramifications of magical acts are also explored.

This is a book that is written from the perspective of a Wiccan practitioner of magic, so some fields or practices of magic are not included or represented. It would be interesting to see how the main character would interact with a chaos magician. Overall though the book is an excellent read, which will keep you up into the early hours of the morning, turning pages and waiting to see what next happens to Rowan Grant.


Page 1 of 212