Runecaster’s Handbook: the Well of Wyrd, by Edred Thorsson
Red Wheel/Weiser, 9781578631360, 129 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 1988, 1999
Runecaster’s Handbook is a concise volume, targeted at providing the reader with just enough information to go about making and casting the rune-lots. As such, it touches briefly on a great many subjects, constantly referencing and referring the curious reader to Thorsson’s other works: Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, and Runelore: A Handbook of Esoteric Runology.
Thorsson begins with a chapter on the history of the runes, followed by a chapter on divinatory theory. His approach to history is scholarly rather than the wishful thinking commonly found in Occult or New Age books. He clearly outlines which associations and practices have been documented historically and is explicit in presenting interpretation as interpretation rather than fact. Continue reading
Teachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu, by Ocha’ni Lele
Destiny Books, 9781594773327, 270 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 2010
Teachings of the Santeria Gods centres on the diloggun, a method of divination involving cowrie shells cast on a mat. The backs of the shells are filed down, but the important thing is the “mouths” of the shells—how many are facing upward gives the diviner the number of an “odu.” Each odu comprises an almost-endless array of stories (the pataki) about particular orisha, or cautionary folk tales. This is what makes this style of divination so interesting; the choice of the story to be told to the querent, and the ebo (sacrifice to be made in order to banish the querent’s ill-luck, avert disaster, or appease angry spirits, among other things) to be made gives a diviner near-infinite possibilities. Continue reading
The Language of Birds, by Dale Pendell
Three Hands Press, 71 pp., 2010
Pendell views divination as being directed by spirits or gods, likened to possession or seduction, weaving poetry and meditation through myth and history. Etymologies offer shifting meanings, and we learn “Cicero thought fish too dumb to speak for the gods”.
Interspersed throughout are lists of divination methods, including some rather obscure ones, such as alectryomancy – divination by roosters pecking grain, gelomancy – divination from laughter, myomancy – divination by squeaks of mice, or (my favourite) tiromancy – divination by milk curds or the holes on cheese. Continue reading
Afro-Brazilian Tarot, by Alice Santana and Guiseppe Palumbo
Kit: Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738709603, 78 cards plus instruction booklet, 2006
I’m not sure what I expected when I requested this deck for review (although I was sure that the artwork would be impressive, based on other decks from Lo Scarabeo). Oh, I’m familiar with both the Tarot and with Candomble (the Afro-Brazilian equivalent of the Afro-Cuban Santeria), and I do understand the desire to provide divination decks which go outside the commonly accepted parameters which are associated with the Tarot.
The deck, which is a standard deck as far as number of cards and divisions, is accompanied by a multilingual instruction booklet (English, Italian, Spanish, French, and German, I believe) which gives very basic meanings for each of the cards, as well as an extremely simplified layout (in keeping with the traditional divination method of the Yoruban people, which the Tarot is definitely not).
Although the suits carry the traditional names – chalices, pentacles, wands and swords – some of the images are slightly unconventional. The chalice suit is represented by soperas, which are traditionally used as containers of the physical representation of the orixas; the pentacles are represented by opon, the plates used in traditional divination by cowry shells and the shells themselves; while the wands and swords are more conventional. Continue reading
Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, by Erynn Rowan Laurie
Megalithica Books, 9781905713028, 310 pp.
I must admit that I requested this book for review because I have only a passing acquaintance with the subject matter. I have reviewed dozens of books on Wicca/Witchcraft, Paganism, magick, Tarot, etc., all of which I am reasonably well-read on (as well as having personal experience to call upon). Every once in a while I like to find a subject I can approach as a novice reader, so I can see if the hypothetical average reader can make sense of what is being written.
The author makes a statement which should, in my opinion, be branded in the hearts and minds of every “eclectic” Pagan: “That said, these things [local spirits and personal ancestors] must be done with the utmost respect for the local people and traditions, and not stolen, twisted, and used without instruction or permission.” Far too many eclectics seem to feel that if it comes from a Pagan culture it is usable by any Pagan, anywhere, even without an understanding of the parent culture. Ms. Laurie recognizes that such behaviour is inappropriate, and for that, I applaud her. Continue reading