Old World Witchcraft: Ancient Ways for Modern Days, by Raven Grimassi
Weiser Books, 9781578635054, 272 pp. 2011
Raven Grimassi is a name familiar to those of us who have been reading books on Wicca and witchcraft for a number of years as to date he has authored 14 of them. His background is varied and extensive, running the gamut from Rosicrucian studies and kabbalah and various forms of “traditional” witchcraft. This background allows him to approach the subject from a variety of perspectives.
In Old World Witchcraft Grimassi is presenting his take on the argument that witchcraft is a survival of an ancient pre-Christian religion. One thing I am sure of is that this book has the potential to polarize the community because of Grimassi’s emphasis on the Goddess as the primary deity of early witches, with the God perceived as an invisible presence. This is not the only sacred cow he goes after, although I must emphasize that this is not a malicious attack, but merely an attempt to show how the Christian concept of witches and witchcraft coloured the perceptions of everyone — including both medieval and modern-day witches. Continue reading
Osogbo: Speaking to the Spirits of Misfortune, by Ócha’ni Lele
Destiny Books, 9781620550984, 240 pp., 2014
I loved Osogbo. I don’t say that often, or lightly; to earn such praise a book has to open up a whole new world for me, to change my point of view, to teach me something I can use daily. This is such a book.
Ócha’ni Lele is a master storyteller, and he has rich material to work with: the oral traditions of the Lucumí religion of western Africa. He opens the book with the story of the twin brothers Iré, blessings, and Osogbo, misfortune, and how Osogbo came to be dominant in our world. Never before have I read an explanation of their relationship so elegant — in the sense that mathematicians use the word, sensible and beautiful in its simplicity. I won’t recount it here; everyone reading this review should experience it through Lele’s words. Continue reading
The Heart of Buddhist Meditation: The Buddha’s Way of Mindfulness, by Nyanaponika Thera
Weiser Books, 9781578635580, 257 pp., 1954, 2014
This book is issued in the deep conviction that the systematic cultivation of Right Mindfulness, as taught by the Buddha in his Discourse on Satipatthana, still provides the most simple and direct, the most thorough and effective, method for training and developing the mind for its daily tasks and problems as well as for its highest aim: mind’s own unshakable deliverance from Greed, Hatred and Delusion.
The Heart of Buddhist Meditation is a classic of Western Buddhism from the ’50s, which Weiser has just republished on its 50th anniversary. It’s one of the first serious books on Vipassana meditation written for a Western audience. “This is the book that started it all — the book that, with great clarity and ardour, introduced Vipassana and mindfulness to the West.,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness for Beginners. Continue reading
Spirit Boards for Beginners: The History and Mystery of Talking to the Other Side, by Alexandra Chauran
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738738741, 216 pp., 2014
The mystery of the talking board or, less commonly, spirit board is exemplified by its most mainstream version, the Ouija board. While talking boards have been used for spiritual practice for centuries, the Ouija board was “invented” and marketed in 1891, where its popularity was only overshadowed by its controversy and mystery. Is it a game appropriate for children? Is it a tool for divination and exploring the spiritual realm? Is it evil? Does it even work? Alexandra Chauran explores that controversy through her personal experience, citing expert opinions, and sharing other’s stories.
The language is accessible, and the reader is given all the information they need to comfortably navigate a talking board session. Chauran expands on the history and spiritual origins of talking boards from using a swinging pendulum to the more modern versions we have today. Continue reading
A Druid’s Handbook to the Spiritual Power of Plants: Spagyrics in Magical and Sexual Rituals, by Jon G. Hughes, illustrations by Damien Switzer
Destiny Books, 9781620552650, 310 pp. (incl. index), 2014
In the introduction, author Jon G. Hughes writes that he “began with the intention of comparing the plant-based preparations, rituals, and magic of the Welsh Druidic tradition with those of the broader and infinitely more documented spiritual traditions practiced all over the world.” However, he continues, writing that he “came in contact with the works of ancient and modern alchemists,” and his “fascination was spurred by the alchemical search for immortality and the involvement with sexual ritual, as both have their place in the Druidic tradition.”
In the first section, Hughes goes into detail about the history of Druidic practices and alchemy. He explains that each practice was created and spread in separate parts of the world, yet they are similar when broken down to their individual workings. Continue reading