Book, film, tarot and oracle reviews.

Silver Witchcraft Tarot Kit, by Barbara Moore

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Detail of the Ace of Pentacles, from the Silver Witchcraft TarotThe Silver Witchcraft Tarot Kit, by Barbara MooreSilver Witchcraft Tarot Kit: The Ancient Wisdom of Tarot, booklet by Barbara Moore, artwork by Franco Rivolli Lo Scarabeo, 9788865273104, 78 cards, 160 pp. booklet, 2014Illustrated by Franco Rivolli, The Silver Witchcraft Tarot is a Pagan deck that focuses on the cycle of the year and feminine energies. It draws upon traditional Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (RWS) imagery as well as nature-based “magickal spiritual understanding,” says Barbara Moore.When opening the deck for the first time, its most striking features are the silver gilded edges and vibrant colours. The cards are easy to shuffle, riffling showcases the beautiful gilt edging, and the cardstock feels sturdy, but not too thick. The large box that houses the cards and booklet shows off the prettiest card in the deck, the Ace of Cups, and is great for storage, but a bit cumbersome for travel. Read More

Manual of Psychomagic, by Alejandro Jodorowsky

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Alejandro JodorowskyManual of Psychomagic, by Alejandro JodorowskyManual of Psychomagic: The Practice of Shamanic Psychotherapy, by Alejandro Jodorowsky, translated by Rachael LaValley Inner Traditions, 978-1-62055-107-3, 243 pp. (incl. appendix and index) 2009, 2015In essence a self-help spellbook, Alejandro Jodorowsky begins Manual of Psychomagic with a brief introduction outlining his perspective. He believes that many of an individual’s problems (including physical ailments such as psoriasis, cancer, and infectious disease) stem from the effects of misguided parental actions and sociocultural restrictions on one’s unconscious. To allow one’s unconscious to release the tension it holds one must undertake a dramatic ritual. Through the ritual’s performance and the symbolic fulfillment of desires or release of bonds, the unconscious will be satisfied and one’s problems will dissipate.Jodorowsky’s method is as follows: he uses the tarot to discover and diagnose a consultant’s issue and then prescribes them an act to undertake. He states explicitly that psychomagic is not in fact magick, but acts directly on the individual’s psyche. Unfortunately Manual of Psychomagic suffers from a number of endemic flaws -- including one piece of critically misguided advice. Read More

The Secrets of Tantric Buddhism, by Thomas Cleary

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The Secrets of Tantric Buddhism, by Thomas ClearyThe Secrets of Tantric Buddhism, by Thomas ClearyThe Secrets of Tantric Buddhism: Understanding the Ecstasy of Enlightenment, by Thomas Cleary Weiser Books, 9781578635689, 226 pp., 1998, 2014The Secrets of Tantric Buddhism is collection of 46 writings from more than 20 prominent siddhis within the Carya-Gira from the 10th century, translated by Thomas Cleary. The mystic poets discuss the nature of reality, the processes of the self, and the path to enlightenment, often framed as the relationship between the practitioner, and a beloved partner (representing at different times reality, self, or enlightenment). These writings are a form of mystic poetry, not surprisingly very reminiscent of the Bhakti devotional mystical poetry from Bengal.Cleary does a great job with translating the poetry, always a more difficult text than translating prose, especially when the poetry is focused towards an abstract mystical understanding. Each section contains the poem as a whole, and then over the course of the next few pages it is pulled apart and built upon a few lines at a time. While the book comes with an introduction, I wish Cleary had spent more time explaining who the poets were, as well as his process of translation. Read More

Tarot of Loka

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Tarot of Loka, detail from the back of the cardsThe Tarot of LokaTarot of Loka: A Card Game Based on Medieval Tarot Games, designed by Alessio Cavatore, illustrated by Ralph Horsley Lo Scarabeo, 9780738746753, 80 cards, 61 pp. booklet, 2015Loka is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning world, realm, or level of consciousness, an apt choice for an elemental fantasy game or tarot oracle, but there is no Vedic symbolism on the cards as might be expected. “Good” and “Evil” cards are a clever and original addition to the major arcana, making 80 cards instead of the usual 78.The major arcana are resplendently prominent in this deck, but their divinatory meanings are not. Marketed primarily as a game, the Tarot of Loka’s accompanying booklet does not discuss tarot interpretation, but it does endorse the cards’ use for readings, if desired. Tarot purists may not approve of using the same deck for both gaming and divination, but I like the versatility. After all, divination can be done during all kinds of mundane activities. Loka might be just the thing for bringing tarot into the mainstream as a fun and safe activity. Tarot originated as a card game, so any objections to its use this way are easily refuted. Read More

Under the Roses Lenormand

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Under the Roses Lenormand, by Kendra Hurteau and Katrina HillUnder the Roses Lenormand, by Kendra Hurteau and Katrina HillUnder the Roses Lenormand, by Kendra Hurteau and Katrina Hill U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 9781572817609, 39 cards, 55 pp. booklet, 2014It’s only in the past few months that I’ve begun to play with Lenormand oracles, and it’s been a challenge to locate a design that I connect with, but I think I’ve finally found it with Under the Roses Lenormand. It’s illustrated with a subdued pallet, and the backgrounds are sepia toned, which allows the primary colours of the symbols to really pop. It has a kind of Victorian nostalgic feel that I really enjoy.The Lenormand oracle is named after Marie Anne Le Normand, a 19th century French  celebrity fortune teller. Though she never used the cards herself, she did popularize cartomancy and fortune telling in general. This deck also takes its name from sub rosa, a Latin metaphor meaning “under the rose” that refers to buried secrets -- an apt name for a divination deck. Read More

Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac Cookbook

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Herbs, photo by En BoutonLlewellyn's Herbal Almanac CookbookLlewellyn's Herbal Almanac Cookbook: A Collection of the Best Culinary Articles and Recipes Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-4563-3, 358 pp., 2015For the first time this spring, I gave in to a long-held hankering to plant an herb garden. A gardening newbie, I was assisted by a knowledgeable neighbour who appeared out of nowhere bearing pots of young basil, sage, thyme, tarragon and parsley. They say parsley goes seven times to the devil before it germinates and grows; mine decided to stay with him. Oh, well. The other herbs are doing fabulously, with very little effort on my part.So when the Herbal Almanac Cookbook showed up on the review list, I had to have it. It's a compendium of the best cooking-with-herbs articles from Llewelyn's Herbal Almanac, and features writers Susun Weed, Dallas Jennifer Cobb, James Kambos, Magenta Griffith, Nancy Bennett and others. Their articles discuss such topics as edible weeds and flowers; cooking with magical intent; home beer brewing; making herbal wines, liqueurs and herbal syrups; using herbs with soy and tofu; and adding herbs to all courses of a meal to enhance flavour and nutritional content. Read More

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