Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion, by Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera
Destiny Books, 9781620550830, 320 pp., 2013
This book is an excellent exploration of communication with the spirit world with material of interest to the curious, the absolute beginner, and the experience spirit- worker. While it is primarily informed by Northern Tradition Paganism, it draws first hand examples from a wide array of spirit-workers from a variety of paganisms, including Asatru, Heathens, Druids, Celtic Reconstructionists, Hellenics, Kemetics, modern Shamans, and more. It also does an excellent job reminding us that these communications take place in cultural contexts and in the broader context of the natural world itself.
The book begins with an exploration of what personal gnosis is and what it feels like; and since much of the information we receive from the spirits can not be verified and may not be for everyone, how we can respond to what the gods, ancestors, and spirits are telling us. It explores why we want to cultivate more direct communication, what that communication might look like, and some of the risks and dangers along the way.
The book frankly addresses delusion, scepticism, lies, and inflated egos in a way which is constructive – discerning without being overly judgemental. It also has an entire chapter addressing the relationship between spirit contact and mental health concerns, do so in a way which is supportive, sensitive and informed. Too many books on magical practices simply say that anyone with any mental health issues should simply avoid esoteric work; but that ignores the fact that much healing can be found in these practices and that some of the sensitivities that leave certain people vulnerable to mental illness can be the same sensitivities that leave some of the same people open to spiritual awareness. Managing these gifts and burdens together seems to me to be a far cry better than shutting everything down because some ‘spiritual leaders’ don’t have the skills to mentor such individuals. Given that I work in the intersection of spirituality and mental health, I was delighted to see it introduced so well here. Continue reading
The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa, by Kenaz Filan
Destiny Books, 1594771251, 204 pp., 2007
I have a certain level of trepidation as I read any book devoted to a religion which actively incorporates the use of magic in the daily life of its followers. The gods (or in this case, the lwa) know that there exists a surplus of spell books on the market today. There are plenty of books which reveal the inner workings of non-traditional (read: mainstream) religions. And the number of authors out there who claim high degrees of initiation which prohibit them from saying anything intelligible is legion. This is not one of those books and/or authors.
Filan carefully draws a distinction between the lwa, angels, and God, which may be surprising to many in the Neo-Pagan community as well as the more accepted Christian community. He does point out, however, that his beliefs may not be shared by all Vodouisants. He is honest enough to state that disagreements do not mean one side is right and the other is wrong, merely that they differ. Continue reading
Vodou Money Magic: The Way to Prosperity through the Blessings of the Lwa, by Kenaz Filan
Destiny Books, 9781594773310, 212pp., 2010
While I enjoyed this book it has left me with fairly mixed feelings. Many parts of the book I really liked and appreciated, but there were also parts that just rubbed me the wrong way. I’ll first air my issues then continue with the rest of the book.
Hoodoo is a cousin, so to speak, to Vodou and related traditions, but Hoodoo is a system of magick, where as Vodou is a religion. This book seemed like it was advocating a personal devotional religion for financial aid. It just seemed to be going the wrong direction, imagine “Join the Church, learn how Jesus can get you money” as a parallel, and that’s what felt off with the book. The religion is one of dedication and personal relationships, and I think undertaking such a relationship only for financial gain is the wrong path. “The better you understand Vodou’s roots, the more effectively you will use Vodou to your advantage.” This is sound advice, but a touch muddled by having this book as an intro to the religion, and focused on money magick, not the practices as a whole. Continue reading