By Mike Gleason
Signs, Symbols & Omens: An Illustrated Guide to Magical & Spiritual Symbolism, by Raymond Buckland
Llewellyn Worldwide, 073870234X, 234 pp. (+ bibliography), 2003
This is a reference book which will appeal to a large number of people. First, it is written by a recognized authority in the field (Ray Buckland was one of the first visible Witches in the U.S.). Next, there isn’t a whole lot of text – most of the book is composed of hand-drawn symbols (just like the ones most of us draw). Finally, it is nicely organized.
If you are interested in using time-honoured symbols, this is a very convenient book to have on your shelf.
Although I was familiar with many of these symbols, and in fact have several other reference of a similar nature in my personal library, this book is notable for being concise and well-organized. I must admit that there were, in my opinion, a few things that would have made it a better work. It would have benefited, I feel, from a bit more cross-referencing. Some symbols appear in more than one section and, although a short statement is made that it appears in other contexts, the symbol is not illustrated in the other sections. If you happen to be looking for, in one case, the swastika in its Buddhist context, you won’t find it, although you will find it in other areas.
Obviously, in a small book such as this, notes and explanations must be kept to a minimum. Perhaps the author would consider a large volume in the future with more details and an even wider range of symbols included.
The Bibliography is long on current (or recently published) books, and short on out-of-print, hard-to-find volumes. While I can easily think of a few more books I would have included, I most certainly can’t quibble with the choices selected.
Is this a definitive work on Signs, Symbols and Omens? By no stretch of the imagination. Is it a good, introductory overview of these topics? Yes. Would I add to my library? At $14.95 (U.S.), without hesitation. There are more extensive books on the market, but few as well written and organized as this book.