Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide, by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling
Inner Traditions, 9781594770920, 213 pp, 2006
The subtitle of this book, “The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide,” helps to explain why I wanted to review it. Far too often people focus of the most visible of Yuletide symbols (the tree, the presents, the mistletoe and the decorations) and ignore the myriad of other details which surround this time of year. So I felt drawn to investigate these background items.
The authors focus on the ethnobotany (the study of plants) associated with the season. I had read and reviewed an earlier book by them and knew that the research and writing of this book would be first rate as well. I was not disappointed in that respect, nor in any other. The book is profusely illustrated with beautiful drawings and photographs. Continue reading
This slight annoyance of being regularly asked by ‘fluffy Pagans’ if we are Satanists probably goes with the territory of being chaos magicians – at the very least we are supposed to eat a baby a week, it seems. The founder of Satanism, the late Anton LaVey, made the very pragmatic point that “stories of unbaptized babies being stolen by Satanists… were not only effective propaganda measures, but also provided a constant source of revenue for the Church, in the form of baptism fees. No Christian mother would, upon hearing of these diabolical kidnappings, refrain from getting her child properly baptized, post haste.” It’s all about the money, honey.
We have also had dealings with several people who would fall under the stereotypical definition of ‘real nutjobs about Satan.’ These include one especially memorable person at an academic conference on alternative religion that we attended a while back. Continue reading
Gnostic Healing: Revealing the Hidden Power of God, by Tau Malachi and Siobhan Houston.
Llewellyn, 9780738719832, 178 pp. (incl. appendices), 2010
Most of us are familiar with systems of energy healing such as Reiki, or magickal healing of various traditions, but is there a parallel in Christianity? That’s what Gnostic Healing sets out to teach and explore. Over all I was impressed by this book and the teachings, but several parts of the book left me annoyed. I’ll voice several of my complaints before moving into why I enjoyed this book.
“The Sophian lineage has been, up until the last few years, a wholly oral tradition, which probably had its origins around the seventeenth century as part of the ‘Rosicrucian Enlightenment.’” Nowhere in the introduction or the rest of text do the authors offer any proof for what to me is a rather incredulous claim of an unknown oral lineage of spiritual healers surviving for a few hundred years under the radar, and we’ll see later why this is even more unlikely. Personally I think the content of the book is good enough that it doesn’t need a mythic history to give it credibility. Continue reading
Sun at Midnight: The Rudolf Steiner Movement and Gnosis in the West, by Geoffrey Ahern
James Clarke and Co., 9780227172933, 279 pp., 2009
Anthroposophy, and its founder Rudolf Steiner, are topics which, like many others I am sure, I have bumped into during my tears of study. This book, a reworking of Dr. Ahern’s PhD work, is one of those areas I wanted to re-examine. Anthroposophy (and Theosophy, from which it split off in the early 2oth century) underlie much of Western esoteric thought and are, if for no other reason, worthy of study.
Anthroposophy – at least in its “pure” form – is extremely Christo-centric, which may present a stumbling block for some. This is not, however, unexpected as its origins date to a time and place (late 19th century Austria/Germany), which was not particularly, with tolerant of non-Christian religious express, with few exceptions. Continue reading
Jesus the Wicked Priest: How Christianity Was Born of an Essene Schism, by Marvin Vining
Bear & Company, 9781591430810, 243 pp (with indexes), 2008
The topics of the origins of Christianity and their relationship to the Essenic community as portrayed in the scrolls discovered around Qumran in 1947 and afterwards are still being debated more than sixty years after first coming to the attention of the world. There have been hundreds of books written – scholarly and popular – which have been praised, condemned, and ignored. Why review another book on this theme? Because this author makes an effort to present his premise in terms understandable by the “common man.” Continue reading