Tarot Beyond the Basics: Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Meanings Behind the Cards, by Anthony Louis
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738739441, 383 pp. (incl. notes, appendices, and bibliography), 2014
Anthony Louis brings us an enriching and thorough examination of the modern tarot by first introducing us to its fascinating history. He begins in China, where the paper and cards was created, then to Egypt and the Mamluk slave soldiers who played games with a deck of 52 playing cards, much like today’s playing card decks. Then he travels into Spain where the court cards are changed to include Kings, horsemen and pages. In Italy is where the queens were added and the church became involved in their design.
Many readers of today have heard the rumours that the tarot is originated from the Egyptian pantheon, or that the 22 major arcana cards reference the 22 letters in the Hebrew kabbalah. Louis notes that this assumption appeared in an unsubstantiated paper that was published in Paris in 1781 by clergyman Antoine Court de Gebelin and the French occultist Comte de Mellet. The only reference that Louis could find about the tarot originating in Egypt was through the Mamluks and their love of playing cards. Continue reading
Spirit Boards for Beginners: The History and Mystery of Talking to the Other Side, by Alexandra Chauran
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738738741, 216 pp., 2014
The mystery of the talking board or, less commonly, spirit board is exemplified by its most mainstream version, the Ouija board. While talking boards have been used for spiritual practice for centuries, the Ouija board was “invented” and marketed in 1891, where its popularity was only overshadowed by its controversy and mystery. Is it a game appropriate for children? Is it a tool for divination and exploring the spiritual realm? Is it evil? Does it even work? Alexandra Chauran explores that controversy through her personal experience, citing expert opinions, and sharing other’s stories.
The language is accessible, and the reader is given all the information they need to comfortably navigate a talking board session. Chauran expands on the history and spiritual origins of talking boards from using a swinging pendulum to the more modern versions we have today. Continue reading
The Essential Enochian Grimoire: An Introduction to Angel Magick from Dr. John Dee to the Golden Dawn, by Aaron Leitch
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738737003, 352 pp. (incl. appendices), 2014.
Considering everything that has been written on Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley’s Enochian system in the last century and a half, one can’t help but wonder what could be considered “essential” for an Enochian grimoire. Where does one start? What is included? Which Enochian systems? Which elements? Leitch admits this was a challenge when sorting out the material and decided “[i]t must present a simplified overview of the entire system, thereby allowing the student to see the whole proverbial elephant before focusing on the trunk, ears, legs, or other elephantine components in detail.” Again though, with all that Dee wrote, and all that has come since, a simplified overview is not an easy task. Continue reading
The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way, by Penny Billington
Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-2346-4, 384 pp, 2011
When dealing with the topic of Druidry there are inherent dangers. One can present a scholarly look at the few remaining historical references to the Druids and the speculation which has raged around them, one can present romanticized imaginings and call them “ancient secrets passed down in an unbroken succession through the ages”; or one can simply say “Here is what we know and this is how we relate to it in a vastly different world.” The latter is the method I personally prefer, it allows one to start from a solid base and then modify as required by the needs of the 21st century.
The approach to Druidry which Billington espouses is that of a living, evolving religion, and that seems eminently reasonable and practical to me. It is one which will allow the individual to discover the truths which work for them, while still providing a base of knowledge which will be acceptable to many others who follow a similar path. Each individual, ultimately, follows a unique path and has a unique perspective on religion and the religious experiences encountered along that path. Continue reading
Anthologies provide themed essays from a variety of writers, allowing the reader to sample an assortment of styles and opinions. Finding new writers can be difficult for the average person, there’s so much out there that’s useless, or worse. Anthology pieces always vary in quality, and are frequently contradictory when taken as a whole, but that can be part of their charm.
Generation Hex was released last year, edited by Jason Louv and published by the folks at Disinformation.com.
It’s a collection of essays written by magickians under thirty, several of whom I’m familiar with online, and some I’ve not spoken to for years. I found it a great nostalgic piece, despite the fact it was supposed to be cutting edge; it more reminded me where I’ve been, and where I’ve found others. It’s the kind of book you can read to know you’re not alone. Continue reading
A Teaching Handbook for Wiccans and Pagans, by Thea Sabin
Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0-7387-2710-3, 309 pp., 2012
It has been a number of years since I have read any of Thea’s writings. In fact, it had been so long that, when I saw a quote from my review of her previous work, I had to go back and reread that review. As I delved into this latest work, my original opinion seems to have been more than borne out. I was impressed by her practicality at the time, and I am even more impressed by it at this time. If there is one thing sadly lacking in the field of Pagan education (after discounting the lack of uniformity) it is common sense. Thea supplies that in abundance.
This is a collaborative effort. Ms Sabin approached numerous teachers of Pagan topics – those who teach in-person; those who teach online; those who have been teaching for years; and those who are just starting out as teachers – on a variety of approaches, techniques and pitfalls. You know those things which are “needless to say…”, she says them because since everyone knows them, we often forget to include them in our thinking and preparations. You know the kind of disaster I mean – you have all your media on a flash drive, but when you arrive at the location you discover that the files have been corrupted (or even worse, you grabbed the wrong flash drive)…how do you recover? Or you have that one student who seems bound and determined to wrest control of the class away from you…how do you deal with the situation? Continue reading