Review: Circle of Isis, by Ellen Cannon Reed

By Mike Gleason | July 5, 2002

Circle of Isis: Ancient Egyptian Magic for Modern Witches, by Ellen Cannon Reed
New Page Books, 1564145689, 2002

Ms. Reed leaves no doubt in the mind of the reader where she is coming from – she is Wiccan. Many may dispute an Egyptian orientation for a religion with “European DNA,” but it obviously works for her, and no one has a right to question that.

She makes no pretence of presenting “the ancient wisdom of Egypt” (which she refers to as Tamera instead of ancient Egypt), but rather presents her interpretation of that wisdom. Bravo! It is a treat to read a book where the author admits that society and attitudes have changed, and that the old ways must also change and be reinterpreted.

On a personal level, many of the author’s comments and stories ring very true for me. I have shared circle with others who have similar views and experiences.

Ms. Reed introduces us to the Gods and Goddesses of Tamera (“Beloved Land”). And not just the “Big Three” – Isis, Osiris and Horus. She tells us about them as the ancient knew them, then lets us know how she and others experience them today. Her transitions from one deity to another are smooth and flow easily.

She devotes over 100 pages to the Gods and Goddesses of Tamera, and while by no means exhaustive, it is a list well worth taking the time to assimilate. Many have old stories attached, as well as relaying personal perceptions.

She spends very little time on the “traditional” descriptions, instead telling us how the deities appear to individuals today. She also enables us to relate to them as individuals and, dare I say it? – as people.

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Ms. Reed reinforces, at several points in her book, that if you are uncomfortable with the ideas of predators, the “dark side” of things, and difficult situations, it is YOUR problem. All of these are facts of life. Her views are NOT “New Age” (even though her current book is so classified). She knows well that “in order to cure, you need to be able to curse,” as one of my teachers said over a quarter of a century ago.

Reading this book took me back years. I began my Craft involvement with an Egyptian flavour. Isis has always been with me, Bast, Sekhmet and Anubis also keep me company. Over the years I have experienced many other pantheons, but this book has reminded me of the original focus of much of my devotion.

Included in this book is a good sampling of incense recipes (including one for Kyphi) which I am grateful for, as well as oils, songs, meditations, amulets and talismans, hieroglyphs and more. It is a valuable resource for one looking for a jumping off point for their own investigations.

The incense recipes she offers, while not “traditional”, certainly offer an alternative to the store-bought cones and sticks. Give them a try.

Also included in this book is an Egyptian calendar. I have only seen one other publication which included this calendar, and that dates back 30 years or more. A copy used to hang over my desk at home.

The divination methods Ms. Reed has devised should certainly provide some interesting results.

While a “traditional” Egyptian devotee might find this book less than appealing, the offerings from Ms. Reed will resonate with the desires of many readers. If you decide to invest the time and money to get this book, you will be rewarded.

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About Mike Gleason

Mike Gleason (1951-2012) dedicated his time to sharing his knowledge and opinions with others, and spent years reviewing books for the Pagan, Wiccan, Witch and magickal communities.