Religion and Spirituality

Opiate of the masses, marijuana of the lunatic fringe.

Old World Witchcraft, by Raven Grimassi

By Mike Gleason | September 29, 2014 | Leave a comment

Old World Witchcraft, by Raven GrimassiOld World Witchcraft, by Raven GrimassiOld 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, by Ócha’ni Lele

By Susan Starr | September 23, 2014 | Leave a comment

Osogbo, by Ocha'ni LeleOsogbo, by Ocha'ni LeleOsogbo: 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, by Nyanaponika Thera

By Gesigewigu's | September 15, 2014 | Leave a comment

The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, by Nyanaponika TheraThe Heart of Buddhist Meditation, by Nyanaponika TheraThe 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


Temple of the Drum, by Dragon Ritual Drummers

By Mike Gleason | August 4, 2014 | Leave a comment

Temple of the Drum, by Dragon Ritual DrummersTemple of the Drum, by Dragon Ritual DrummersTemple of the Drum, by Dragon Ritual Drummers
CD: Dragon Ritual Drummers, 12 tracks, 55:34 min., 2011

I am extremely grateful that a friend pointed me in the direction of Dragon Ritual Drummers a few years ago. In the intervening years, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to receive and review several of their releases and I have yet to be disappointed by the quality of the performances and production values. These folks know how to use their instruments to attain the best possible results.

Almost all of their music is written by members of the group, though they do include a few traditional songs to add a little extra flavour and variety — “Fanga” and “Shaharazad” are examples on this album. Perhaps the most striking thing about their performances is that they don’t use “studio tricks” to make their recordings: there is no sampling from other sources, no instrumental enhancements of any sorts. What you hear is all natural, although it is possible Continue reading


Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore, by Melusine Draco

By Mike Gleason | July 10, 2014 | Leave a comment

Traditional Witchcraft for the Seashore, by Melusine DracoTraditional Witchcraft for the Seashore, by Melusine DracoTraditional Witchcraft for the Seashore, by Melusine Draco
O Books, 9781846944260, 159 pp., 2012

The majority of books I encounter on the subject of witchcraft and Wicca fall into one of two categories: they are written for rural witches, or for urban witches, as though those are the only two options. If you believe the stories of how things were in the “bad old days,” witches were seldom found in either of those two settings. They were most often found in the transitional (or “liminal”) areas – the last house in the village just before you entered the countryside, or the first house after such a point. They weren’t living in the wilds, but they weren’t comfortable in the daily to-do of the village centre either.

This book addresses another transitional space: the seashore. Continue reading


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