Tag: Art

Review: Our Gods Wear Spandex, by Christopher Knowles

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Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes, by Christopher Knowles, illustrated by Joseph Michael Lisner
Weiser Books, 1578634067, 233 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2007

Much of the early praise makes reference to Joseph Campbell and this influence is indeed clear. Our Gods Wear Spandex takes a look at classical mythology (ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman in particular) and draws comparisons between comic characters and themes, starting with the earliest comics and moving right through to contemporary comics.

Observing the genealogy of myths, Knowles writes: Continue reading

The Book of Kaos, by Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

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The Book of Kaos, by Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule
The Book of Kaos, by Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule
Cards: Inspirational Ink Multimedia Press, 80 cards & 38 page booklet, 2004

First released in a limited edition of 111 decks in 1991 as the Bohemian Tarot, this 2004 edition has seen a number of revisions. Many of the major arcana were redrawn, and the deck received a new title: The Book of Kaos. The deck consists of 80 cards; the usual 78, with two versions of The Lover/s (VI) and two versions of Pan/Baphomet (XV, traditionally, The Devil).

The images in The Book of Kaos are gorgeous, drawn in pen and ink, but are not consistent in size; boarders differ, and some cards are lacking boarders entirely. Strength (XI) is printed in landscape, while the remaining cards are presented in traditional portrait format.

The major arcana uses Roman numerals, except for cards 8 and 0 which use Arabic numerals depicting a snake eating its own tail. The suit symbols for the minor arcana are Staves, Cups, Swords and Pentacles, and each depicts a line drawing of the symbol at the bottom of the card, with the card number in Roman numerals in the centre.

The rear image depicts the fiddle-playing Fool (0), dancing on the wheel of chaos portrayed in the Wheel of Fortune (X). Shuffling the deck the Fool rides the wheel – a lovely touch, though the cards are large for my hands, making shuffling awkward.

This tarot is well named; the illustrations are raw, primal, and occasionally violent. Some are disturbing, others delightful, but all are powerfully evocative. Many images are clearly inspired by the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, but modernized with figures depicting punks, drugs and fringe culture. While some are stark, many of the cards are quite dense, rich in symbolism with allusions to Egyptian, Norse, tribal and sabbatic traditions.

The 38 page booklet that accompanies the deck is packed with information and keywords, and while I don’t always agree with the interpretations given, this peek into the mind of the deck’s creator is interesting.

Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule has created a wonderful and evocative tarot, and I highly recommended it as both a divinatory and magical tool.

Review: The Mystery Traditions, by James Wasserman

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The Mystery Traditions: Secret Symbols and Sacred Art, by James Wasserman
Destiny Books, 1594770883, 147 pp., 2005

This profusely illustrated volume gathers together a dazzling variety of imagery. These images do far more to illustrate the Western Mystery Traditions than any text could. That is not to say that this book does not contain written descriptions. It does. But the images, including several sets of Major Arcana of Tarot decks, do a much expanded job.

It contains illustrations in a variety of topics – Astrology and Cosmology, Kabbalah and the Tree of Life, Initiation, Magick and the Gods, Secret Societies (a new addition to this revised volume), Sexuality, Alchemy, Tarot, and Symbolist and Visionary Art. These images have almost all been printed before, but this assemblage is, in my experience, unique.

The majority of the images are presented in colour – some of them quite stunning. On top of everything else this book represents a gathering together in one place of images, any one of which can easily serve as a focus for meditation.

Each chapter includes a short introduction (four pages or less) of the material contained within it. And each image is properly placed within its time period, even though these images surely transcend any such limitations.

It is difficult to find words to describe this work. The images are gathered from so many times and locations; the writing of the introductory section of each chapter is so succinct; and the overall impression is so overwhelming that it should be approached, I feel, in small doses. To attempt to comprehend it in one or two sittings does a disservice to the work, and to yourself.

Allow the images in this book to work their magick on you. Permit them to stimulate new thoughts and inspire changes both in how you perceive yourself and the wider world. The benefits you reap will, most likely, be beyond your current comprehension.

This is one of the most visually stunning works I have seen in a very long time. I would have expected a much higher price for the quality, or a much lower quality based on the price. The combination of excellent quality and reasonable price was a very pleasant surprise. If you are interested in symbolic representations of mystical themes, this book belongs in your library. It is a book to be savoured and enjoyed on an on-going basis.

Review: ABC Book of Shadows, by Katie Lydon Olivares

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ABC Book of Shadows, by Katie Lydon Olivares, illustrated by April Choi
Itty Bitty Witch Works, 28 (unpaginated), 2005

A board book for children on a pagan theme – it’s a novel concept, and it works well. The board book is sturdy and well produced, and will likely stand the wear and tear a child will inflict upon it.

The first twenty six of the pages are illustrated and coupled with a rhyming scheme, while at times awkward, is often delightful. The two remaining pages comprise a glossary of the terms used in the book.

Beautifully illustrated with a rich pallet of colour, this is the first board book with an explicitly pagan theme I have seen, and I know several pagan mothers and their children who will adore this little book.

Review: Revelations Tarot, by Zach Wong

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Revelations Tarot, by Zach Wong
Kit: Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738706078, 199 pp. & 80 card deck

The artwork of the Revelations Tarot is a sort of cross between pseudo-art nouveau and stained glass and the effect works. Each card also has a reverse image, not a mere mirror image, but a separate picture interwoven to display a different interpretation.

The major arcana depicts each character wearing a mask, representative of ‘a “human” relation, similar to that of mythical gods who stand in human form among us to ease our comprehension of the message they deliver’, apparently further identifying them with archetypes rather than physical people.

The minor arcana of the Revelations Tarot is distinctly different from many decks I’ve seen. The suits are arranged as one might expect, ranging from ace to ten, then the court cards of Page, Knight, Queen and King, and many of the scenes depicted are familiar owing to the inspiration drawn from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. For example, the Eight of Swords (a particularly beautiful card), depicts a woman bound with a loose cord in the upright meaning, and her blindfold off and unbound in the reversed. The colour schemes are not wholly unifying and the characters depicted in the suits are often quite weird and wonderful. The characters of wands are ‘magicians, warriors, saves, and opulent individuals’; swords are ‘warriors, highly ornate and decorated, firm, and serious’; cups are ‘merpeople of the oceans and seas’; and pentacles are ‘metallic humanoids that are one with their element’.

Each card is given an upright and reversed meaning in the Revelations Tarot Companion, with specifications for which image is the reversed in certain cards (e.g. The Hanged Man). Each interpretation takes three focuses: the individual, a relationship, and a situation. The meanings are also accompanied by helpful descriptions of the images and symbols used in the card and how they were intended by Wong.

The last two cards in the deck are cards depicting two different spreads, the Horoscope Spread and the Seven Day spread, both spreads are explained in more detail toward the end of the Revelations Tarot Companion, the book accompanying the deck. Indeed in addition to the two spreads mentioned above, two additional spreads are also given in the companion work, the usual Past, Present, Future spread, and the Four Elements Spread.

Overall this is a beautiful deck; different, yet easily accessible. Deck collectors will love it.

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