Homemade Magick: The Musings & Mischief of a Do-It-Yourself Magus, by Lon Milo DuQuette
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738732985, 203 pp. (incl. appendix, index, and photo credits), 2014
Lon Milo DuQuette‘s work will be familiar to many, especially those following a ceremonial or Thelemic Path. He’s written more than 15 books on magical and occult topics, covering the Thoth Tarot, Enochian magick, kabbalah, and Aleister Crowley. He’s also written several autobiographies, albums, and has occasional lecture tours. DuQuette’s history in the occult has been well documented, and he’s become well known for his folksy anecdotes grounded in practical work.
DuQuette has been a practicing magician for four decades, and was initiated into the Ordo Templi Orientis in 1975, and founded a lodge in 1976 that remains the longest continuously operating lodge in the United States. Since 1996, he has been an OTO Deputy Grand Master, and also serves as an Archbishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. So it should come as no surprise that his magical practice is heavily informed by Aleister Crowley, Thelema, and his work with the OTO.
His latest book, Homemade Magick, is in part a magical memoir, but it frames these sections with instructional guidance for budding magicians. It covers much of the groundwork for getting started in ceremonial magick, such as how to choose a meaningful magical motto, perform a self-initiation ritual to open oneself up to the mysteries, and learn how to integrate one’s magical and mundane lives into a unified whole. Continue reading
Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing, by Renna Shesso
Weiser Books, 9781578635733, 261 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2014
One of my strongest childhood memories is of a night in Mahopac, in upstate New York, lying on a chaise lounge on a family friend’s deck, mesmerized by a sky filled with stars! Where did they come from? To a city kid who saw a mostly dark sky every night, who was enamoured of astronomy at the time, the brightness and number of stars was incredible. This was proof that they really were there for me, too, and not only for some astronomer sitting behind a telescope in a desert or on a mountaintop.
One of the first things Renna Shesso writes – in fact, insists on – is going outside and looking at the sky, even if all you can see are a few of the brightest stars and planets. There is no substitute for direct witnessing, she tells us, and she’s so right. She explains how to identify the constellations and the space between their constituent stars using our hands – no fancy instruments required. This is the way our ancestors did it – who saw quite a bit more in the night sky than we do — and it still works. Continue reading
The Inner Light: Self-Realization via the Western Esoteric Tradition, by P.T. Mistlberger
Axis Mundi Books, 9781846946103, 585 pp., 2013
The Inner Light is a book geared around self-realization in the Western magical system. It seeks to help the reader find and understand the path to one’s self, how to peel away the layers of falsity to find their core.
As a reader, it is sometimes hard to tell if a book is right for me, so I’m happy to see when the author discuss whom the book is written for. Mistlberger describes the text as being for “spiritual seekers who desire some historical rigour and background theory,” as well as “academics or intellectually oriented students of the esoteric paths who desire to undertake some practical ‘inner work,’“ in addition to “the curious general reader,” and lastly the “serious student of inner work.” So this book is for occultists and non-occultists, as well as beginners and seasoned practitioners, and people interested in history and theory and people interested in practical work. Needless to say I wasn’t reassured by the sweeping claim of the book being for everyone literate, but that’s just the intro and authors need to sell their books, so let’s look deeper at The Inner Light and see who it is really for. Continue reading
The Wicca Deck, by Sally Morningstar, illustrated by Danuta Mayer
Connections Book Publishing, 978-1-85906-380-4, 42 cards plus instruction booklet, 2014
When The Wicca Deck came up for review I was excited to put in my bid for it. I’ve worked with tarot and oracle decks for about a decade, but never one based on my own spiritual path. The Wicca Deck is a 42-card oracle deck originally published by Godsfield Press in Great Britain in 2001 and republished this year by Connections, also from Great Britain. Some key elements account for its staying power.
First, the illustrations are simple, cleanly drawn and easily relate to their titles and keywords, reminiscent of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot. There is some abstract art in the cards, but card themes are always easy to detect; this is perhaps because the artist, Danuta Mayer, illustrates children’s books, which usually depict real, basic objects. The clarity works well in this deck. The nature of the Wiccan path is diverse; every practitioner has a slightly different vision, and by keeping visuals straightforward one is invited to see the cards in her own way.
As you’d expect, the artistic interpretations are clearly Wiccan: The Green Man is depicted as the classic face on a tree, Spiral is depicted as the spiral goddess, Black Cat (my favourite) depicts a cat in an Egyptian temple, taking her rightful place as the goddess Bast. Continue reading
Tarot Beyond the Basics: Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Meanings Behind the Cards, by Anthony Louis
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738739441, 383 pp. (incl. notes, appendices, and bibliography), 2014
Anthony Louis brings us an enriching and thorough examination of the modern tarot by first introducing us to its fascinating history. He begins in China, where the paper and cards was created, then to Egypt and the Mamluk slave soldiers who played games with a deck of 52 playing cards, much like today’s playing card decks. Then he travels into Spain where the court cards are changed to include Kings, horsemen and pages. In Italy is where the queens were added and the church became involved in their design.
Many readers of today have heard the rumours that the tarot is originated from the Egyptian pantheon, or that the 22 major arcana cards reference the 22 letters in the Hebrew kabbalah. Louis notes that this assumption appeared in an unsubstantiated paper that was published in Paris in 1781 by clergyman Antoine Court de Gebelin and the French occultist Comte de Mellet. The only reference that Louis could find about the tarot originating in Egypt was through the Mamluks and their love of playing cards. Continue reading
Grimoire of the Thorn-Blooded Witch: Mastering the Five Arts of Old World Witchery, by Raven Grimassi
Weiser Books, 9781578635504, 240 pp. (incl. appendices and bibliography), 2014
Plant spirits appear in the most ancient practices of Witchcraft. These primal entities possess power and knowledge that aids the Witches’ Craft.
Grimoire of the Thorn-Blooded Witch offers the magickal keys to accessing the spirits of the plant kingdom. Decidedly gothic, with many allusions to roses, thorns and shadows, the book’s formal, atmospheric tone is sure to stir magickal memories in the blood of those called to read it.
From the ancient practices of old world witchery springs the Rose and Thorn Path, a system Grimassi manifested after he “fell back into the brewing cauldron from which all things emerge.” He continues, “When I surfaced my self-identity as a witch of any specific cultural expression of witchcraft had dissolved away’. As a grimoire (a traditional book of spells) this book does not disappoint. It presents a usable system of witchcraft based on instantly recognisable archetypes. I have read a few of Grimassi’s books and feel this is his best to date.
The “mastering the five arts” subtitle suggests the book is aimed primarily at serious witches with some level of magical experience. As such I would have appreciated a deeper exploration of the origins of Grimassi’s chosen symbols and plants, but he writes with such authentic wisdom this hardly seems to matter. Central themes are natural divinity and spiritualism — the book deals not so much with plants themselves but the spirits inherent in and attached to them. By showing respect for “Shadow” (the collective wisdom of the earth and ancestors) the green mysteries can be entered. Continue reading