After writing “God, Goddess, and Other,” I felt skeptical that Wicca could be inclusive to the extent that I wanted it to be, and besides, I hadn’t identified as Wiccan for several years, so who was I to keep writing about it? In the end, I decided that my curiosity outweighed my skepticism, and went for it anyway. I had personal reasons as well. (Who doesn’t?) I miss certain aspects of Wiccan ritual, and am coming to the end of my resources as a solitary practitioner; I’m hoping to find enough common ground with the mainstream Pagan community to be able to join a coven or a grove. So, with these ideas and desires in mind, I began to read. Continue reading
Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism: A Beginner’s Map Charting an Ancient Path, by S. Kelley Harrell
Soul Rocks Books, 1782794336, 148 pp. (incl. resources and references), 2014
S. Kelley Harrell, a veteran shamanic teacher and practitioner, has written a fine book on shamanism – but not necessarily for teens. I was excited to come across this title for review, because, to my knowledge, no other book on shamanism exists aimed specifically at teens. Although Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism contains much useful information I feel it lacks the “grab” factor needed to draw today’s teenager in.
I believe the problem may simply be one of organization and voice. “Our Wise Young,” the first chapter, describes Harrell’s early years and how she came to shamanism, along with a discussion of animism. The first chapter of part one is a rather pedantic discussion of its history – a necessary topic at some point, but not one that teens might be dying to read first if they don’t have a clue what shamanism is. I love Harrell’s voice in her preface, where she speaks directly and simply to the reader, without jargon or academic-sounding prose. I sincerely wish she had kept it up throughout the book. Continue reading
Homemade Magick: The Musings & Mischief of a Do-It-Yourself Magus, by Lon Milo DuQuette
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738732985, 203 pp. (incl. appendix, index, and photo credits), 2014
Lon Milo DuQuette‘s work will be familiar to many, especially those following a ceremonial or Thelemic Path. He’s written more than 15 books on magical and occult topics, covering the Thoth Tarot, Enochian magick, kabbalah, and Aleister Crowley. He’s also written several autobiographies, albums, and has occasional lecture tours. DuQuette’s history in the occult has been well documented, and he’s become well known for his folksy anecdotes grounded in practical work.
DuQuette has been a practicing magician for four decades, and was initiated into the Ordo Templi Orientis in 1975, and founded a lodge in 1976 that remains the longest continuously operating lodge in the United States. Since 1996, he has been an OTO Deputy Grand Master, and also serves as an Archbishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. So it should come as no surprise that his magical practice is heavily informed by Aleister Crowley, Thelema, and his work with the OTO.
His latest book, Homemade Magick, is in part a magical memoir, but it frames these sections with instructional guidance for budding magicians. It covers much of the groundwork for getting started in ceremonial magick, such as how to choose a meaningful magical motto, perform a self-initiation ritual to open oneself up to the mysteries, and learn how to integrate one’s magical and mundane lives into a unified whole. Continue reading
Planets for Pagans: Sacred Sites, Ancient Lore, and Magical Stargazing, by Renna Shesso
Weiser Books, 9781578635733, 261 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2014
One of my strongest childhood memories is of a night in Mahopac, in upstate New York, lying on a chaise lounge on a family friend’s deck, mesmerized by a sky filled with stars! Where did they come from? To a city kid who saw a mostly dark sky every night, who was enamoured of astronomy at the time, the brightness and number of stars was incredible. This was proof that they really were there for me, too, and not only for some astronomer sitting behind a telescope in a desert or on a mountaintop.
One of the first things Renna Shesso writes – in fact, insists on – is going outside and looking at the sky, even if all you can see are a few of the brightest stars and planets. There is no substitute for direct witnessing, she tells us, and she’s so right. She explains how to identify the constellations and the space between their constituent stars using our hands – no fancy instruments required. This is the way our ancestors did it – who saw quite a bit more in the night sky than we do — and it still works. Continue reading
The Path to the Guru: The Science of Self-Realisation According to the Bhagavad Gita, by Scott Teitsworth
Inner Traditions, 978-1-62055-321-3, 342 pp. (incl. prologue, introduction, epilogue, notes, bibliography, and index), 2014
In The Bhagavad Gita, guru Krishna employs a “secret dialectic” with his pupil Arjuna. “Teacher and taught begin as polar opposites in whom a kind of osmotic interchange takes place, each stimulating and edifying the other, until they become as one in realization.” The oppositional stance Teitsworth takes in The Path to the Guru seems intended to provoke the same kind of response in the reader.
It strikes me that this review is a commentary on a commentary on other commentaries about a story of a guru guiding a guru guiding a guru. I feel like the Hindu deity on the cover, waving a thousand arms in front of a mirror, my image refracting into reflection upon reflection — one of the more pleasant effects of reading Teitsworth’s dense and thought-provoking book. Continue reading