The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook: A Grimoire of Philtres, Elixirs, Oils, Incense, and Formulas for Ritual Use, by Karen Harrison
Weiser, 9781578634910, 239pp., 2011
In this book, we explore Herbal Alchemy as practiced in the West, through the uses of the plants and their Planetary signatures as developed by the 14th century philosopher and Alchemist Paracelsus.
A book on this topic couldn’t start with a more hopeful introduction. After a brief description of alchemy in different forms (lead to gold, internal alchemy, alchemy as a path to the divine), the author states this as her purpose for the book. While it sounds good, this is the beginning of my problems with the book: her use of the terms “alchemy” and “alchemist.” Continue reading
Anthologies provide themed essays from a variety of writers, allowing the reader to sample an assortment of styles and opinions. Finding new writers can be difficult for the average person, there’s so much out there that’s useless, or worse. Anthology pieces always vary in quality, and are frequently contradictory when taken as a whole, but that can be part of their charm.
Generation Hex was released last year, edited by Jason Louv and published by the folks at Disinformation.com.
It’s a collection of essays written by magickians under thirty, several of whom I’m familiar with online, and some I’ve not spoken to for years. I found it a great nostalgic piece, despite the fact it was supposed to be cutting edge; it more reminded me where I’ve been, and where I’ve found others. It’s the kind of book you can read to know you’re not alone. Continue reading
The Candle and the Crossroads: A Book of Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root-Work, by Orion Foxwood
Weiser Books, 9781578635085, 234 pp., 2012
At first glance, I was expecting another introductory magic book with a bit of southern flair. On this front Orion Foxwood’s book does not disappoint, as it does provide a number of important basics in a clear, easily understood, and practical way. However, what really makes this book compelling is that in addition to the basics of Conjure, there are a few other interesting strands in the fabric of this book. These include auto-biographical elements, auto-ethnographical elements, and a sense of spirituality that goes beyond the use of magic as a simply occult means to practical ends.
Biographically, Foxwood opens a window onto his life growing up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and his later move to Maryland. He tells us about conversations with his mother and mother’s midwife, both practitioners of Conjure. His lived experience is an effective vehicle to introduce us to both Conjure and the culture it comes from.
Ethnographically, we are introduced to the magical side of southern culture in an engaging and accessible way. We see a world where African, European, and Native folk magic have come together to make a uniquely American, and uniquely southern system of magic. It is syncretic and eclectic, yet coherent and profoundly grounded in the land and the history of the people who live there. Continue reading
Moon Phase Astrology, by Raven Kaldera
Destiny Books, 9781594774010, 354pp., 2011
It’s always nice to see an astrology book that isn’t simply another introductory rehash. In Moon Phase Astrology, Raven Kaldera decides to narrow the focus of the book to just the Moon.
The book has the necessary section on how to find out what phase your moon is in, and the difference between the astronomical, astrological, and natural methods of calculating the moon phases. An issue pops up here though, for when discussing the rulerships of the signs not even a mention is given to classical attributions, only the modern are worked with in this text. To spend an entire book on the Moon Kaldera explores the eight phases and twelve Zodiac signs, meaning there are 96 different moons to work with. Continue reading
Advanced Sex Magic: The Hanging Mystery Initiation, by Maria de Naglowska, translated by Donald Traxler
Inner Traditions, 9781594774164, 119 pp. (incl. appendices, notes, bibliography and index), 2011
Originally published in French in a limited edition of 500, this is the second book in a four book series translated, introduced and annotated by Donald Traxler. These texts outline the mysteries and initiation system of the order founded by Maria de Naglowska (1883 – 1936), the Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow.
The “divine mission” of the Brotherhood was nothing less than the Redemption of Satan, which she saw as the redirection of “the Spirit of Evil onto the good path.” Naglowska’s spiritual formula viewed Satan not as an external being, but as an indwelling nature to be managed or conquered. Jesus and Judas are seen as equal, and both necessary for the crucifixion to occur. The hanging of Judas is central to the philosophy behind Hanging Mystery employed in her spiritual system. Naglowska prophesized a new age, which she called the Third Term of the Trinity, overseen by the work of the Magnificent Invisible Heroes, sometimes called the Magnificent Invisible Knights, for which the Hanging Mystery serves as an initiatory test. Continue reading