Datura, edited by Ruby Sara
Scarlet Imprint, 9780956720368, 2011
To be honest, I’ve dodged a serious bullet with Datura. When its editor, Ruby Sara, put out a call for submissions on Scarlet Imprint last year, I almost submitted a handful of poems for inclusion. The thought of an anthology of occult-themed poetic work and essays on the mystical aspects of the creative process struck quite a nerve with me, and I was eager to contribute. Luckily a combination of a busy life at the time and a creative dry spell prevented me from sending Sara anything by the deadline, and after reading through Datura, I’m deeply thankful that the few pieces I was able to conjure up never got sent her way. For even if they were accepted and published in the pages of Datura, the quality of the content is so high my work would have looked like utter shit next to everything else between its covers.
Datura contains the work of 26 poets, that work being a mix of 6 essays and 47 poems. When I picked up Datura, I was really eager to read the essays. Scarlet Imprint has published three other anthologies in the past – Howlings, Devoted, and Diabolical - and their occult essays were absolutely stellar. While I do love poetry, and have a deep fondness for the Pagan and fortean realms, I’ve read enough awful odes to Odin and tree-spirits (and composed quite a few myself, to be fair) that the thought of a book devoted to such poetry might be a risky gamble. I figured that six good essays could make up for some lousy astral-poetics. Thankfully while the essay-work is every bit as good as I hoped it would be, the poetry in Datura manages to keep its nimble-feet from stepping into the bear-trap of twee Pagan clichés. Continue reading
The Akashic Experience, edited by Ervin Laszlo
Inner Traditions, 9781594772986, 288 pp., 2009
The Akashic Experience presents a series of accounts dealing with the intrusion of nonlocal events into everyday life. Ervin Laszlo, systems theorist, philosopher of science, concert pianist and recipient of two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, has gathered individual contributors from a range of fields to recount their experiences. Contributors include Alex Grey, Stanislav Grof and – most surprising to me – Raffi Cavoukian, the children’s musician.
The main thrust of the book is aimed at establishing the existence and utility of the akashic experience. Laszlo defines this as a “lived experience that conveys a thought, an image, or an intuition that was not, and very likely could not have been, transmitted by our senses at the time it happened or at anytime beforehand.”
The collected reports include predictions that came to pass, past-life memories that later had elements factually confirmed, communication with spirits of the dead, group-mind phenomena, distance healing and various types of artistic or professional inspiration. Continue reading
The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes
Weiser Books, 9781578634798, 272 pp., 2010
When a field guide is well done, it gives the reader the means to distinguish between species and can be an incredible aid to study, classification, and practical knowledge. When a field guide is not so well done, it can very quickly become a mess.
I really wanted to like The Weiser Field Guide to Witches. For one thing, I like and admire Judika Illes, whose Element Encyclopedias I consider useful as well as beautiful, well-researched, and wonderfully organized. I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy spending more time with her blend of wit and erudition. The subtitle, “From Hexes to Hermione Granger, from Salem to the Land of Oz”, is marvellously enticing, as well as the idea given in the back cover copy that the field guide could help you, the reader, discern if you are a witch. Continue reading
Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes, by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, translated by Michael Moynihan
Inner Traditions, 978-1-59477-421-8, 173 pp. (incl. Translator’s Foreword, Introduction, Notes, Bibliography, and Index), 1992, 2011
Barbarian Rites is an English translation of Die religiöse Welt der Germanen: Ritual, Magie, Kult, Mythus ,by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz.
It is a book that straddles categories. It fills the awkward space between lay-oriented summaries and academically oriented historical analysis. Insofar as it is one of the few academically inclined pieces that has been translated into English, it is invaluable, but it is likely too academic for individuals not of a scholarly bent, and too brief to satisfy a curious historian. It serves as a litmus test for whether it is worth one’s while to learn German and access the greater pool of scholarship that exists. It’s worth noting at this point that Germanic is a broad umbrella that includes what most of us will know as Norse.
Hasenfratz begins his introduction by questioning the meaning of the word ‘Germanic,’ bringing into question our very ability to define or describe both the Germanic peoples and their religion(s), noting that the availability of sources and accounts varies highly from region to region. Continue reading
Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, directed by Patrick Meaney
Halo 8, 80 minutes, 2010
I suspect there are only a few kinds of people who’ll be interested in the documentary Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods – either serious documentary fans, devoted comic-book readers, or magical practitioners. Each of them will come away from this film quite happy.
Director Patrick Meaney largely works with a familiar pattern for this kind of celebrity documentary – one of mostly stepping back and letting the interviews (and, of course, editing) tell the story. There are several attempts to visually represent the psychedelic elements of the tale created by cinematographer Jordan Rennert, though the results are far less annoying than is often the case in such films! The perspective is mostly one which aims at the comic-reading audience, introducing them fairly gently to the core of occult thought that permeates his work. Continue reading