Reviews

Book, film, tarot and oracle reviews.

Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, edited by Tara Miller

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Tree roots, photo by pink fuzy ratRooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, edited by Tara MillerRooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addictions, and Illness, edited by Tara Miller
Immanion Press, 978-1-905713-91-2, 222 pp. (incl. introduction and bibliography), 2013

Tara Miller has compiled stories and interviews about Pagan spiritual practices and how these practices help practitioners cope with disability, chronic pain, illness, addiction and compulsive behaviour. The compilation begins with an interview with Dr. Kimberly Hendrick about her ground-breaking Pagan Health Survey that highlights the main issues within the health system and its intersection with a Pagan lifestyle. The survey sheds light on to the immense overlapping of the LBGTQ community (40%), the idea of Pagans viewing their health care more holistically (mind, body, spirit) and systematically rather than symptom by symptom, and the stigma of seeking out mental health services and having spiritual practices considered a mental health diagnosis. From the findings of the Health Survey, it seems Pagans have a model of self-empowerment in religious practices as well as health care. Continue reading


The Magickal Union of East and West, by Gregory Peters

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White lotus, photo by peaceful jp sceneryThe Magickal Union of East and West, by Gregory PetersThe Magickal Union of East and West: The Spiritual Path to New Aeon Tantra, by Gregory Peters
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738740447, 177 pp. (incl. appendices, glossary, and index), 2014

Gregory Peters was a student of Phyllis Seckler (Soror Meral), and New Aeon Tantra, a system which merges Aleister Crowley‘s Thelema with Buddhism and tantra, was developed for the Ordo Sunyata Vajra, an order Peters founded in 1999.

Though the practices Peters outlines in The Magickal Union of East and West rely on a Thelemic framework, he clearly states that they are not tied to Thelema, and may be used by other practitioners. That said, this is not an introductory text — a background in ceremonial magick is assumed, and even a passing familiarity with eastern systems would go a long way.

Many of the introductory practices follow a typical yogic regimen: hatha yoga, surya namascar, lunar adorations, as well as selecting a goddess to work with. (Though Peters doesn’t go into detail about how one should either choose a goddess, or find a goddess who would choose the practitioner; in place he offers a brief list of popular goddesses and their mantras.) Peters’ notes on dietary considerations are refreshingly forgiving, as they allow the practitioner to discover and use a dietary model that best suits their body’s needs, rather than proscribe constraints. Perhaps this is in light of the axiom from The Book of the Law, which states that the word of sin is restriction. Continue reading


All Acts of Love and Pleasure, by Yvonne Aburrow

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All Acts of Love and Pleasure, by Yvonne AburrowAll Acts of Love and Pleasure, by Yvonne AburrowAll Acts of Love and Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca, by Yvonne Aburrow
Avalonia Books, 9781905297733, 276 pp., 2014

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, by S. Kelley Harrell

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Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism, by S Kelley Harrell

Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism, by S Kelley Harrell

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, by Lon Milo DuQuette

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Lon Milo DuQuetteHomemade Magick, by Lon Milo DuQuetteHomemade 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, by Renna Shesso

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Planets for Pagans, by Renna ShessoPlanets for Pagans, by Renna ShessoPlanets 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


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