Reviews

Book, film, tarot and oracle reviews.

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

Prisma Visions Tarot

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Prisma Visions Tarot, by James R. EadsPrisma Visions Tarot, by James R. EadsPrisma Visions Tarot, illustrated by James R. Eads, written by Katherine Tombs James R. Eads, 79 cards, 96 pp. booklet, 2015There have been a number of gorgeous self-published decks coming out in recent years, and the Prisma Visions Tarot ranks high amongst them. It comes packaged in a sturdy flip-top box, with 79 silver gilt-edged cards, and a small booklet outlining the deck’s symbolism and use.This is James R. Eads’ second tarot deck, following the Light Visions Tarot, which was produced in a limited edition of 500 copies, and has since sold out. Unlike his previous deck, the Prisma Visions Tarot is full colour, and is slated to be available indefinitely.The trump cards of the Prisma Visions Tarot are bordered, but for the four suits, each card carries on from the next, creating a panoramic landscape for each suit. The cards have an impressionist feel, and the backgrounds are predominantly dark blue, and give the impression that the scenes take place at night, with the exception of the dusky oranges and yellows of the Pentacles. Read More

The Witch’s Eight Paths of Power, by Lady Sable Aradia

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The Witch’s Eight Paths of Power, by Lady Sable AradiaThe Witch's Eight Paths of Power, by Lady Sable AradiaThe Witch’s Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft, by Lady Sable Aradia Weiser Books, 978-1-57863-551-1, 275 pp., 2014Lady Sable Aradia has been a practicing witch for a quarter of a century. Being a third degree initiate in the Star Sapphire and Pagans for Peace traditions, she has a depth of experience and knowledge of Wiccan practices that are of value for initiates and veterans alike. Her aim in this book is to explore the concept of the Eightfold Way. This term refers to a Wiccan practice that was introduced by Gerald Gardner in the 1960s. It involves eight steps on the path to developing magical abilities. Lady Sable Arcadia provides a compelling and contemporary view of this Wiccan tradition.The Witch’s Eight Paths of Power is written in clear and concise language that is both informative while holding the readers’ attention. The book begins with an explanation of the very foundation of magick: intent. Aradia details the importance of forming an exact and precise intent in order for a practitioner to will it to happen. For beginners who are struggling with the concept or the practice, the chapter outlines several exercises that can help improve creative visualization, facilitate meditation, and raise conscious awareness. The next two paths deal with the trance -- developing a state of consciousness in which to gain insight, heal, seek knowledge, and the Craft -- the practice of ritual magick. Read More

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