Tag: history

Christian Mythology, by Philippe Walter

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Christian Mythology, by Philippe WalterChristian Mythology, by Philippe WalterChristian Mythology: Revelations of Pagan Origins, by Philippe Walter Inner Traditions, 9781620553688, 213 pp., 2003, 2014We all know the story: as Christianity moved into Europe it absorbed and transformed elements from Paganism to help convert the population. Pope Gregory told Saint Augustine not to destroy Pagan temples, but to exorcise and bless them, not to ban festivals but “let some other solemnity be substituted in its place, such as a day of dedication or the festivals of the holy martyrs whose relics are enshrined [in the converted temples].” The idea was that by adopting Pagan places and festival dates it would be easier to convert people through familiarity.In Christian Mythology: Revelations of Pagan Origins, the question Philippe Walter raises is this: how much of Christian mythology and celebration is a carry-over from a pre-Christian Pagan Europe? Walter is a professor of medieval French literature, so he is very well-read in the literature and folk tales of the times, which he believes preserve the Pagan elements before they were completely lost into Christianity. Read More

Mabon, by Diana Rajchel

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Harvest apples, photo by Liga EgliteMabon, by Diana RajchelMabon: Ritual, Recipes & Lore for the Autumn Equinox, by Diana Rajchel Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-4180-2, 227 pp. (incl. appendix, further reading, bibliography, and index), 2015Reading Mabon: Ritual, Recipes & Lore for the Autumn Equinox brought my attention to Lewellyn's Sabbat Essentials series highlighting the eight sabbats celebrated in many Pagan traditions. The Wheel of the Year is common throughout many Pagan communities and creating literature for each season sets a great intent to understand them more deeply. As a career author and journalist with publications in Llewellyn's annuals, The Beltane Papers, Circle Magazine, Facing North, and SageWoman, Diana Rajchel (also the former executive editor of the Pagan Newswire Collective) has the chops for this title.Mabon has six chapters bookended by two sections. Following the series introduction, Rajchel dives into the topics of old and new ways, spells and divination, recipes and crafts, prayers and invocations, and rituals of celebration. The appendix of the book includes tables of correspondences for Mabon, a list of further reading, a bibliography and index. The book as a whole provides many ways to enjoy the autumnal equinox, regardless of the path one walks. Ritual leaders, festival-planners, school-groups, and families can all use this book to deepen their understanding of the myths and practices of Mabon, while also providing some great conversation starters for discussion groups. Solitaries will enjoy the many simple and home-based crafts, spells, and divinations. Read More

Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic, by Stephen Skinner

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Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic, by Stephen SkinnerTechniques of Graeco-Egpytian Magic, by Stephen SkinnerTechniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic, by Stephen Skinner Golden Hoard Press, 9780738746326, 388 pp. 2014

Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic exhibits a soft spot I have for magick: the academic approach. This Ph.D. paper by Stephen Skinner is the latest of the his many works on the Western esoteric tradition, in addition to many books on feng shui. His clear grasp on the historical data and his academic lens make this paper-turned-book a highly educational though sometimes mundane read. There is no fluff here -- just facts, charts, and the occasional historical backtracking. Yet, Skinner’s painstaking translation, organization, and interpretation bring to light many long-standing traditions’ origins in the magick of Late Antiquity. Skinner describes a snapshot in time when magick held reverence as part of a tradition tied to the mystery cults and religions of the day.  Read More

The Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude Lecouteux

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The Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude LecouteuxThe Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude LecouteauxThe Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices, by Claude Lecouteux, translated by Jon E. Graham Inner Traditions, 1620551055, 227 pp. (incl. index and eight pages of colour plates), 2013Ever since his first book, Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages in 1992, I've quite enjoyed Claude Lecouteux's work.Claude Lecouteux is a French historian specialising in the Middle Ages and its understanding of the spiritual world, the chair of German civilization and Literature of the Middle Ages, and a professor emeritus, at the Paris-Sorbonne University.The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices was initially published in French in 2000 as La Maison et ses Génies: Croyances d'Hier et d'Aujourd'hui. Personally, I find the French title more apt, since it more clearly describes the content, but that's a fairly minor quibble on my part. In the original French, this was Lecouteux's fifth book published. However the English translation are being published in a different order, and this is the seventh book released in English.The first part of the book begins with the actual house, while the second part of the book turns to the spirits themselves. This is followed by a brief exploration of the notion of haunted houses, and a few appendixes about proverbs associated with household spirits and a few other odds and ends. Read More

The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses, by Claude Lecouteux

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Claude LecouteuxThe Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses, by Claude LecouteuxThe Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses: From Pagan Folklore to Modern Manifestations, by Claude Lecouteux Editions Imago, Inner Traditions, 9781594774652, 246 pp., 2007, 2012Claude Lecouteux offers an exhaustively researched history of poltergeist activity and hauntings from the middle ages to today. Packed full of case histories and general information, The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses is an essential addition to the library of any serious ghost hunter or paranormal enthusiast. Lecouteux maintains an evidential viewpoint, balancing skepticism with the inevitable conclusion that, like it or not, poltergeist phenomenon is real.One particular gem is a chart that compares the views of different eras regarding "Poltergeists due to the presence of living beings." In the Pagan Middle Ages, this activity was mostly attributed to the dead, genies, and spirits. During the Christian Middle Ages, attribution was given to the devil, demons, and the dead. In post-Medieval times (16th-17th centuries), witchcraft and hoaxes were usually to blame, and of late, paranormal researchers attribute the phenomena to the dead or people with psychic abilities. With regard to the difference between spirits and the ghosts, Lecouteux writes: Read More

Genuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of Monmouth

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Genuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of MonmouthGenuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of MonmouthGenuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of Monmouth Capall Bann Publishing, 9781861633347, 486 pp., 2012If your concept of witchcraft is composed exclusively by the modern Pagan movement and Wicca, this book is going to be a real eye-opener. For the majority of Wiccans and witches in the US, where I reside and write my reviews, there have been few choices – one either “trained” as an eclectic (usually by means of reading one or more books) or one looked for a “tradition” to follow (many of which touted themselves as having a long, distinguished linage, but failed to provide any substantiation of those claims). Within the past couple of decades the concept of initiation by another has fallen into disrepute and “self-initiation” has become the norm.This is a massive book, but fully one half of it is composed of data which supplements the first half. The supplemental section includes photos of original documents from the Royal Windsor Coven (no connection to British royalty – just a heads-up to American readers). A large number of the documents which appear in the photos are almost indecipherable, since they were either hand-written, heavily amended, or carbon copies of originals. This is, in my opinion, not a shortcoming. The fact that these documents still exist at all is nearly miraculous, and the fact that they are being preserved and made available is a real benefit for those who wish to explore the development of Witchcraft in the 20th Century. Following these reproductions are transcripts of the documents which make it possible to read and understand the preceding illustrations. Read More

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