A Magical Tour of the Night Sky: Use the Planets and Stars for Personal and Sacred Discovery, by Renna Shesso
Weiser, 9781578634958, 261 pp., 2011
A Magical Tour of the Night Sky is a pretty unique book. Despite the title, sub-title , and even some of the back cover this is not a book about astrology; it is a book about the sky, and our selves. While astrology does come up, there is some discussion of signs and planets and what they mean in astrology but it isn’t about astrology really, there are no mentions of personality traits, predictions, or matching Sun signs with one another. Instead this book focuses on the mythology, and the astronomy, the latter making it an especially interesting book.
Each chapter – starting with the Pole Star, to the Zodiac, then out through the planets – has Shesso weaving together mythology and history from various cultures, most notably Greco-Roman, Norse, Egyptian, and Babylonian. The reader is given a sense of the spiritual importance placed on the planets, as well as seeing how these views permeated the cultures and show up in everything from basket weaving to architecture. Though occasionally the links feel like a bit of a stretch, and some are just incorrect (the etymology of Yule and the history of term Summerland for instance) overall they’re sound and intriguing. She also then explains some of the astronomy behind the planets, and that’s the section that is probably most useful to a magickal practitioner. To generalize most Pagans (like most people in general in modern Western culture) can’t look at the Moon and say if it is waxing or waning, but Shesso explains simple ways to tell just that. She explains how the orbits and motions of Mercury and Venus function, the appearance of the morning/evening star, and interesting mathematical and astronomical facts about each, such as how Venus’ solar conjunctions slowly trace a pentagram in the sky. The ability to locate and understand the movements of the planets is a great step in being able to use them more efficiently. Continue reading
A spiritual path is, among other things, a way of seeing the world. That is to say, a spiritual path is a way of understanding or interpreting our relationships with the many things, events, people, and places in the world. In most cases, the path will be expressed or configured by a logic of correspondences. In accord with this logic, the appearance of a certain animal, or plant, or weather event, or whatever, signifies realities beyond itself. Similarly, every spiritual path will have meditations, rituals, techniques, practices, and so on, designed to help the practitioner recognise those signs and read the messages they convey.
The co-ordinates of the correspondences will vary in accord with language, culture, climate, geography, and other factors. They can grow ever more complicated and intricate, in order to accommodate an ever growing range of things and events in an ever-changing world. The associations of the four classical elements to cardinal directions, colours, ritual objects, seasons of the year, times of day, and so on, are well known examples. Yet the logic of correspondence can appear in things as simple as children’s rhymes. The game of counting crows: “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy,” and so on, is also a logic of magical correspondences. Continue reading
The Starry Rubric: Seventeenth-century English Astrology and Magic, by Alexander Cummins
Hadean Press, 9781907881213, 166 pp., 2012
Alexander Cummins is a new name in the field of historical research, but you will hear more of him in the future, I hope. This review is based on an electronic copy of the work, but having seen the quality, appeal and sheer tactile beauty of Hadean’s previous output, buyers of the physical book are in for a treat; the production standards and quality of materials in use are both extremely high. These books are going to be around for centuries, which is pleasing.
Both (some) academics and lay readers might ask “Astrology? A load of old nonsense isn’t it?” Maybe, but it still has a power to influence behaviour and beliefs in the 21st century (for example I bet you can tell me your star sign, without even pausing?) when we are all supposed to be rational scientific thinkers. Imagine the added power, then, of a system that was so all-encompassing, some four centuries ago, before the advent of mass literacy, TV and the internet. Wisely this book does not delve deeply into whether the systems in use ever worked, instead this worthy book concentrates more on the history and social function of how believing that it did work affected how people acted, what they did and believed, and what they thought, and said, and wrote. That is definitely fertile ground for the researcher, and this book plants many seeds in that ground. The harvest is exceptionally interesting, with chapters covering both prophetic and propaganda uses of astrology, and the personal, the societal, the political and the practical implications for those who consulted astrologers in those times (and, indeed by implication, those who do so now). Continue reading
Moon Phase Astrology, by Raven Kaldera
Destiny Books, 9781594774010, 354pp., 2011
It’s always nice to see an astrology book that isn’t simply another introductory rehash. In Moon Phase Astrology, Raven Kaldera decides to narrow the focus of the book to just the Moon.
The book has the necessary section on how to find out what phase your moon is in, and the difference between the astronomical, astrological, and natural methods of calculating the moon phases. An issue pops up here though, for when discussing the rulerships of the signs not even a mention is given to classical attributions, only the modern are worked with in this text. To spend an entire book on the Moon Kaldera explores the eight phases and twelve Zodiac signs, meaning there are 96 different moons to work with. Continue reading
Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment, by Tony Mierzwicki
Megalithica Books, 1-905713-03-7, 256 pp. (Incl. bibliography, appendixes, and index), 2006
Tony Mierzwicki’s Graeco-Egyptian Magick is an excellent beginner’s guide to the astrological magick found in the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM or Papyri Graecae Magicae as it is referred to in academic circles). It’s clear that this is not the only source text he’s well acquainted with.
Those who practice modernized astrological magick may find this book difficult at first. The astrological sequence of initiatory and practical processes follows the Ptolemaic Order (Luna, Mercury, Venus, Sol, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) because that was the order most prominently used in Antiquity, particularly by the magicians whose works form the basis of the book. He also includes the Homeric hymns for six of the planets, and all of the Orphic hymns for the seven planets. Continue reading