Tag: fiction

Review: The Book of Wizardry, by Cornelius Rumstuckle

By Psyche | June 18, 2003 | Leave a comment

The Book of Wizardry: The Apprentice’s Guide to the Secrets of the Wizards’ Guild, by Cornelius Rumstuckle
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738701653, 325 pp., 2003

This book presents it self somewhat confusingly. On the back of the book the category indicates it as fiction, yet inside it describes itself as ‘positively not fiction’. It might be more accurate to say it’s a bit of both. As it is, the book is comprised of two parts, the first deals mostly with magickal theory and simple exercises (mostly non-fiction), the second a game (fiction, though it repeatedly claims not to be).

The first part includes twenty-two short sections on magickal topics with practical exercises describing how to make simple tools and use them with simple techniques – and as an added bonus, he manages to do this without including any religious elements that usually pervade introductory books of this sort. The practical exercises given are generally quite good, and will prove useful to the budding trainee wizard.

However, Rumstuckle’s advice regarding ritual tools is somewhat shaky. He sensibly substitutes a feathered wand for a knife or dagger – rather dangerous weapons in the hands of a minor. Yet his advice regarding making a wand out of cardboard that I find most bizarre – if you’re going to go to the trouble of having ritual tools, make them of substantial quality – eight year old or not, use a real stick. I’m not sure how serious anyone would feel waving around a cardboard roll.

The exercises given for charging and purifying aren’t bad, but there is a ridiculous sense of dependence on the tools, indeed he states that any elemental ritual cannot be done without them – in my experience, I have not found this to be the case.

The second part of the book is written in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style game where you use the practical advice and lessons taught in the previous twenty-one chapters to arrive at a coded message, instructing you to mail and request further lessons.

While the practical section is quite good, I’m not impressed with the fabricated history surrounding the lessons and the author – the exercises can stand alone without it. Indeed, much of the information contained within resonates with popular occult theory, and tables of correspondence are taken from such sources as Eliphas Levi and actual recognized occult authors. I understand that falsifying is supposed to add to the mystique and it’s supposed to be a clever marketing tool cashing in on the Harry Potter craze, but it takes away from the true validity and practicality of the book, which is a shame.

It’s not a terrible introduction to the basics of the magickal arts for the group its aimed at, but it’s not the best it could have been either. ‘Rumstuckle’s’ falsification of history and lineage and his insistence on its importance makes this book simply sound phoney – had the information been presented in a more honest manner it might have been more suitable for recommendation, as it is, I’m sorry to say I don’t find it to be so.

Review: From the Ashes, by Meghan Brunner

By Mike Gleason | May 1, 2003 | Leave a comment

From the Ashes, by Meghan Brunner
First Books, 0759681708, 544 pages (+ glossary and character listing), 2002

Although I’m not a Ren Faire goer myself, being chronically cash-strapped, this book rang very true for me. The differences between a week-long Pagan gathering and a Ren Faire are not that great. I felt, immediately, like I knew these characters.

There were minor typographical errors (missing words, some irregular spacing, and such) but nothing major enough to detract from my enjoyment of Meghan’s crisp and vivid writing style.

By the time I was a quarter of the way through the book I had one major regret – that I only had another 390 pages to go. I already knew that I was going to want more (which is why I am glad to see that this is only the start of a series).

The characters are very vivid and have rapidly become like members of my extended family. I will miss them while I wait for the next instalment in this wonderful series of books.

This is not a children’s fantasy book. It is set firmly in the real world and deals with real-life issues such as sexuality, jealousy, power trips and more. It is not blatantly sexual, but it does not shy away from the topic either.

Although it has Pagan/magickal themes running through it, it is a book, and a series, which should be thoroughly enjoyed by a wide cross section of readers. One does not need a working knowledge of Paganism or magick to understand it. More mundane readers will simply enjoy the stories of personal interaction and growth which a major part of this wonderful book.

The development of characters and plot-lines is very smooth and vivid, and makes the images come alive. I have seldom read a book where I developed an understanding and empathy for the characters as quickly as I did with these people.

Ryna and Phoenix are meant for each other, but neither is sure the other shares those feelings. In the manner of all lovers, they stumble through the opening phases of what each hopes will be a life-long commitment. They brave dangers for each other, often from a single enemy shared though the centuries. They find happiness, share the fear of loss, and find themselves part of a family which offers love and support unconditionally – something Phoenix has looked for all her life. Along the way, as often happens with lovers, they spread their happiness through their circle of friends and acquaintances unconsciously.

Not to give away secrets or spoil anything, I must say that the “initiation” ceremony near the end of the book is profoundly moving, and I wish I could have taken part in it myself.

If you want a fun read, something to take your mind off day-to-day mundania, the price of this book is money well spent. On top of that, the book is available in a variety of formats (Electronic – ISBN 0-7596-8169-4; Rocket – ISBN 0-7596-8172-4; Softcover ISBN 0-7596-8170-8; and Hardcover ISBN 0-7596-8171-6). So, choose how you want the book, then go to www.1stbooks.com and order your copy today.

Review: Cosmic Banditos, by A. C. Weisbecker

By Psyche | July 7, 2002 | Leave a comment

Cosmic Banditos, by A. C. Weisbecker
New American Library, 0451203062, 1986, 2001

Mexican drug dealers, quantum physics, and the pursuit of enlightenment through obscurity with a cast of many interesting and bizarre characters.

This edition comes with a forward by the author, which is interesting in and of itself, but would probably make more sense had you read the book beforehand – as it is with most forwards in works of fiction.

The plot mainly surrounds around three main characters. On whose name you never learn, though he goes by ‘Mr. Quark’ in messages to Tina’s father. You also meet Jose, the Bandito, became Drug Lord, exiled Drug Lord, thusly back to Bandito, then back to Drug Lord; he doesn’t speak English. And High Pockets, ‘Mr. Quark’s’ dog – he doesn’t understand Spanish, he likes the bitches though.

Rollin’ high times and good fun, this is on my list of books to recommend to people during especially mundane times in addition to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Principia Discordia, Illusions and similar great works of literature.

“When all is said and done, when all the shouting and philosophizing and moralizing is over, I suspect that this tale is simply another example of something.”

Review: The Great and Secret Show, by Clive Barker

By The Wizzard | November 23, 2001 | Leave a comment

The Great and Secret Show, by Clive Barker
HarperCollins, 0006472257, 1989, 1994

“Memory, prophecy and fantasy –
the past, the future and the
dreaming moment between –
are all one country,
living one immortal day.

To know this is Wisdom.

To use it is the Art. “

If you have never read Clive Barker before, prepare to be impressed. His books will be like none you have read before. It is hard to sum up his genre, it crosses from fantasy to horror to metaphysical wonderings. Each book, or series of books is different, yet they all share one thing, and that is Barker’s ability to create not just a new world of characters, but an entire system of beliefs and philosophies that create a story so deep you can almost believe it’s real.

This series (Books of the Art) is my personal favourite out of his books I have read so far. The ideas he puts forward in these novels are as well thought out and tenable as any contained in magickal treatise or religious text.

They concern The Art, while it is never really clarified as to what The Art is, Barker’s creativity and attention to every details convinces you it is real and attainable. These stories provide ideas about our world and race and that of worlds outside our own, of the way that life itself, our every essence of being relate to an overall scheme. Without wishing to ruin aspects of the story, it sets out a clear, and yet not so clear, paradigm of existence, with our world (the cosm) and an almost polar opposite (the meta-cosm) set opposing each other, separated by the dream sea ‘quiddity’ , the place where everything comes from. Our world and that outside our own both seem to be reflections of that which comes from quiddity and it is never perfectly clear what Barker is suggesting about the nature of reality, are we real and the enemy (Iad) in the meta-cosm mere creations of our minds or the other way around?

There are so many levels to this story, as people step up to take their rolls, people searching for The Art, people who know, people who don’t, people finding out, Barker sews together a million little threads seamlessly into one story.

In trying to write this review it became apparent to me how complex these two books are and how hard it is to sum up the plot. It is a series of books that just have to be read by anyone with any interest in different ways of thinking about how everything fits together.

Clive says he will start work on the long awaited book 3 of the art sometime soon, personally, I can’t wait.

Witches in Literature and Lore

By Jade Raine | February 4, 2000 | Leave a comment

Fair is foul, and foul is fair,/Hover through fog and filthy air” WITCHES, “MACBETH,” ACT I SCENE i. Macbeth’s witches are three strong, female characters, puppet-masters, weaving complex webs of deceit, and then pulling the strings swiftly, strongly and subtly. Many other characters throughout literature and life are shadowed by these 3 sisters, and are shadows of them. Many others, too are made of the same mold, and yet are the opposite of these “rump-fed ronyons.”

“All the world ‘s a stage, /And all the men and women merely players.” Jacques, AS YOU LIKE IT. The three witches really take this to heart, Shakespeare must have wanted them to follow his own philosophies. They, mind you, are no players, but more, the directors. Another three famous “directors” in mythology are the Fates.

Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, the spinner, measurer, and the cutter of life, these three sisters controlled both man and god, their word was indisputable. Men were subject to being cut down at the whim of Atropos, and the happiness in their lives was dished to them by Clotho. They too, manipulated men to fit into their schemes, and cut short any whisperings of good fortune.

The Hindu goddess Kali, the demon form of Parvati, is another likeness to the three witches of Shakespeare’s. She, however, is not a methodical, controlling force, she is pure and utter murder incarnate. Like the weird sisters, Kali obliterates anyone in her path, literally. But the sisters take their revenge in more sly ways, the most cruel way of all. Macbeth is used as the pawn to make the sisters’ plans come to life, whereas Kali’s plan comes from the tip of her sword. She is as fearsome to behold as the sisters are to interpret.

The quote “Foul is fair, and fair is foul,” spoken by the witches applies also to the Greek demi-goddess Eris, or Discord. Most famous for starting the biggest war in Greek history, by throwing the golden apple into the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, she takes another of Shakespeare philosophies deadly serious. To her, mischief is a serious business. Riding in Ares’ chariot, she incites riots, quarrels, and general pandemonium. Calculation is part of her craft. She used greed, just like the witches, to make those around her play into her plans. Carving the words “to the fairest,”into the skin of the apple was a parallel to “All hail Macbeth! That shall be king hereafter,” ACT I SCENE iii. By offering something desirable to those avaricious enough, it is easy for these women to bend the entire world to their plans and desires.

Sarasvati, Queen of the heavens, is the Hindu embodiment of wisdom. She sits on her lotus throne, is personifies spiritual knowledge and mastery of the arts. She is a foil to the sisters. She has the same level of intelligence as the sisters, the same wit and she sees the same depth past the surface as do the weird, but she uses her wisdom to help people, not to harm them. Sarasvati achieved a place in the sky as the Queen, where the sisters are left to crawl on the earth like the snake of Eden. Sarasvati commands the same kind of results as the sisters, only she instills peace, love, health and loyalty in those whom she touches, and everything the sisters manipulate withers away.

Nyai Loro Kidul, a mermaid goddess in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, is like to another face of the Scottish sorceresses. She is a goddess of desire and temptation. She, much like the Greek sirens, lures men to her with the promise of unspeakable beauties, and when the are finally drawn close enough, drunk with their own desire, they are drowned by the illusions she has shown them, and sink to the bottom of the sea. The Wyrd obviously use the same tactics, only, as stunningly portrayed in the movie “Macbeth,” they proffer not personal physical attraction, but they lure prey into their intricate web using promises of greatness and power.

Each of the three sisters seems to have no personality their own, they are all the same, cruel, manipulative, sadistic bitches. This seeming oversight on “Big Bad Bill’s” part is part of what makes the witches so intriguing. To have these three connected so closely by being the acting, thinking the same, being the same, its adds more to the mystery surrounding them throughout the play. The reader knows nothing of the plans of these hags, their backgrounds, or their ulterior motives, and this makes them all the more interesting. We do know, nonetheless, that whatever it is they have in mind, it is unanimous between them what the fates around them shall be.

Very few characters in Shakespeare’s works are strong females, and the witches don’t really count as women, but as something more. Lady Macbeth, as heartless and driven as she was, was no match for the witches. A small foray into their world drove her insane and killed her, and look at how ambitious she was. The witches are by far stronger than her, even stronger than the male parts in Shakespeare’s plays. King Lear broke down, and railed against the rain, and even before the death of his daughter, he was gone. Macbeth himself was easily driven over the edge, all the while the sisters calm, collected and unwaveringly dedicated to their chosen path. It takes pure gall to sit back, and ruin an entire country without the least bit of remorse, or regret. Dedication of that lustre takes a spine, and theirs were unbreakable steel spines. The potion they make, without ever flinching at what’s inside of it is a salute to their hardness and fidelity to their mistress, and their mission, whatever it may be.

Fair is foul. What is good is evil. There are innumerable interpretations to this line, but the one most consistent with the persona of the witches is that playing the fair route, sticking to morals and principles instead of having a little initiative is rotten, weak and putrid to them, whereas “what is foul is fair,” creeps into believing that pushing others to get to the front of the line is perfectly justifiable. This glimpse into them is very small, and also very large. The faithful reader never learns much about the witches, but this reveals much of what is exposed to us. This line also identifies them to other personalities, gives them the flavor that is similar to other characters in history.

Calling Macbeth and Banquo like sirens, with the cunning of Eris offering them the riches of Nyai Loro Kidul, their Kali-esque drive and backbone urge them into caves within the earth, hiding from the sky, and those like Sarasvati, the witches are complex, unique characters. They share traits with many, but there are none that are their equal. Perhaps another “fair is foul and foul is fair,” is that their infamousness is greater than millions of people, goddesses, characters and demons will ever see. Their sadism won them higher notice than any of the people they shadow, and that, though foul, is fair. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but the real stench is in the bowels of Scotland.

Grapes of the Silver Moon

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