Tag: culture

Witchcraft in Yorkshire, by Patricia Crowther

By Mike Gleason | July 9, 2009 | Leave a comment

Witchcraft in Yorkshire, by Patricia Crowther
Harvest Shadows, 9780974174013, 71 pp., 1973, 2008

The public perception of Witchcraft (or Wicca, if you prefer) has come a long way in 35 years. Looking through this short facsimile edition of Patricia Crowther’s 1973 work will make abundantly clear. Books written today tend to be too dedicated to explaining the history of the Craft, the contributions of various “names” in the community and forget about the witches were feared as often as admired and that there was (and is) a basis in local folklore. In the beginning, there was more emphasis on the more recent history and memories.

Ms. Crowther, one of Gerald Gardner’s priestesses, has gathered Continue reading

The Self in Transformation, by Hester McFarland Solomon

By Psyche | July 9, 2009 | Leave a comment

The Self in Transformation, by Hester McFarland Solomon
Karnac Books, 9781855755703, 332 pp., 2007

Solomon is a Jungian analyst who brings a depth of understanding to and sympathy to Freudian themes that I’ve not encountered previously. The papers collected here were written over a twenty year period, largely published in journals, save for the final essay, which was written especially for this volume.

Part I introduces the theme of the work, which is Continue reading

Review: Not in Kansas Anymore, by Christine Wicker

By Psyche | January 28, 2007 | 2 comments

Not In Kansas Anymore: Dark Arts, Sex Spells, Money Magic, and Other Things Your Neighbors Aren’t Telling You, by Christine Wicker
HarperSanFrancisco, 0060726784, 275 pp. (incl. sources and bibliography), 2005

Wicker is a religious reporter, who, two years prior to writing the book, had no idea that people ‘still believe in magic’. She repeatedly makes it clear that she doesn’t believe any of this magick stuff in a way that is rather condescending, given this is the subject and subculture she decided to tackle. She claims an irreligious stance herself in the beginning of the book, yet ends up in church by the end. Irreligious in practice initially, perhaps, but it becomes clear that her Christian upbringing heavily informs her prejudices throughout the book. This need not necessarily be a detracting factor, yet Wicker makes it so.

She frequently references a traumatizing event with a banana in her childhood, where she took the larger of the two offered and found it rotten. She interprets this as ‘bad magic’, which doesn’t quite follow with any sensible occult teaching. It could be interpreted in light of Wiccan karma perhaps, but this is not a widely accepted magickal law, and the subject is not approached from that perspective. Further, she claims paranoid fantasies, constantly visualizing death for herself and imagining the destruction of all she holds dear. She also interprets this as ‘bad magic’, though it is unclear how such bizarre fantasies, which have no tangible effects, relate to magick in any way. She acknowledges not everyone views good and evil (or ‘good magic’ and ‘bad magic’) in such black and white terms, yet she can’t seem to step outside this box herself, and enters every exploration with many prejudices she seems reluctant to depart from, and in most cases, fails to do so.

The subtitle and dustjacket description may lead one to believe that this book intends to illustrate the recent cultural effects of magick and occultism in America today, but unfortunately that is not what this book delivers. Briefly, Wicker touches upon America’s occult history, with Puritanism and Christian magic, and moves on to the new age movement of the sixties and then to the “positive thinking” of the eighties, swiftly and without evaluation, failing to note their influence in modern society in general.

The book opens with the author attending a vampire ball, and it becomes clear she assumes a direct association between vampire, Otherkin and magickal communities, but while there are some overlaps, no direct correlation exists. To her, vampires are “magic people”, Wiccans are “magic people”, hoodoo practitioners are “magic people”, and she often refers to “non-magic people” as “muggles”.

The words Pagan and Paganism always appear in lowercase, which is highly disrespectful. It is worth noting that the same treatment is not given to Christianity, Buddhism, and other religious traditions presented here. Further, she states that “witches are often called Wiccans”, when in actuality a distinction is usually made between a practitioner of witchcraft and a member of the Wiccan religion. She also confuses Drawing Down the Moon, a Wiccan rite which calls the Goddess into oneself, with the Great Rite, a ritual involving sexual intercourse, often symbolically.

She was horrified by the practices of Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner and makes a number of disapproving comments regarding each (the former, especially), but her information seems entirely second- or even third-hand as she does not appear to have read any works by either author (no works are mentioned in the seven page bibliography). As a result, her opinions seem uninformed and heavily influenced by fear and repression.

Rather than the cultural history implied in the subtitle, Wicker offers us a chatty and highly judgemental view of her personal experiences with several distinctly fringe occult communities and personalities. Unfortunately, she limits herself to selectively picking and choosing whoever appears oddest to her, rather than exploring the full range of occult practice and belief. As a result, she often finds herself extremely uncomfortable with the situations she puts herself in, and often comments that she can’t handle her brushes with expanding consciousness, and so retreats the moment she encounters a belief which contradicts her current worldview, head spinning, fearful of change.

Wicker seems to feel she was enriched by her experiences, but alas, she comes off as nothing more than a blundering, ignorant tourist for failing to engage, and the caricatures she portrays of the people she encountered insult more than illuminate. Not recommended.

Review: Lovecraft Lexicon, by Anthony B Pearsall

By Psyche | October 1, 2005 | 1 comment

The Lovecraft Lexicon: A Reader’s Guide to Persons, Places and Things in the Tales of H.P. Lovecraft, by Anthony B. Pearsall
New Falcon Publications, 1561841293, 472 pp. (incl. appendix), 2005

Lovecraft invented so many creatures and places, for a new reader approaching his works for the first time, keeping them straight could seem overwhelming. The Lovecraft Lexicon aims to aid the reader by providing a useful guide to his creations: people, places, things, and, of course, Things. It’s a neat idea, and it works. Continue reading

Review: Sacred Home, by Laurine Morrison Meyer

By Psyche | October 15, 2004 | Leave a comment

Sacred Home: Creating Shelter for Your Soul, by Laurine Morrison Meyer
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738705853, 247 pp. (incl. bibliography, suggested reading and index), 2004

The introduction describes this as a book on decorating, as do the promo sheets that accompanied it, and the rear cover, but much of the text is taken up with pseudo-history of Goddess lore, with loose associations to family-related material, such as fire, the hearth and home, child-bearing, etc.

It becomes clear early on that the major focus of the book seems to be on household deities, spirits, lars, and ancestors there is a major focus on female or neutral deities with only a short paragraph toward the end of the book on male deities. Meyer even gives an rather detailed account of the matriarchal societies that allegedly existed before patriarchy took over, which she describes as fact rather than theory. However the link between this and household spirituality is tenuous at best, and the relevance to the topic at hand is unclear, and at times stretched beyond obvious reasoning. For example, Meyer writes, ‘Although their [the Domovoi] appearance was similar to humans, they were covered with a sort of silky fur and sometimes depicted with horns and a tail (probably a leftover from the demonized female house spirit)…’ (pg 55) Though she’s left no indication of how she drew this conclusion based on a description of a Russian house spirit. Why female deities and spirits are given prominence in this mythology is barely touched on.

Meyer explains: ‘When we furnish houses strictly for the function of the bodies that will inhabit them, or to create a certain style, we lose touch with this vital animating principle. To create a home that feels spiritually alive, we must be mindful of our deepest thoughts and feelings, our connection to wise elders and ancestors, and to what lies at the very center (sic) of our beings’.

However, she also states that ‘it is not possible to eliminate aggression by deeming it hateful and imprisoning it. We must seek to acknowledge and incorporate our own aggression – not disown it, or euphemize only the cooperative and placid.‘ Further she explains that ‘we must find the common basis for respect of all human beings, all animals, and all matter. We must reincorporate the sacred in every aspect of our lives and our thinking. Bringing spirituality back into our homes is a step in the right direction for regaining personal power and thus balancing the sale between rigid dogma and intuitive personal belief.’

Meyer’s description of the difference between what should be considered superstition and what is sacred represents a rather one-sided attitude ‘if the dogma you are considering is shrouded in fear, then you are looking at superstition,. If, on the other hand, you adopt symbols and rituals that instill acceptance and reference toward all life and all beings, you are embracing sacred principles’. There is a bit of a mixed message in that Meyer seems to be advocating one, while demonizing the other, yet she has a section describing protections against the evil eye.

In Part Two the focus finally turns to design. Design concepts are described through the classical four elements and spirit and Tarot cards depicting archetypical styles. A breakdown is given including design elements, colours, patterns, textures and fabrics, building materials, architecture and furnishings with descriptions of balancing and clashing styles. This format is interesting, though it would have benefited from more pictures. Aside from a few symbols at the beginning, the only pictures are of Tarot cards.

Also presented in the second half are a few rituals and house warming ideas.

Overall, an interesting idea, but unless one is already familiar with design, more visual references would be useful in making this more practically applicable.

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