The Journey into Spirit: A Pagan’s Perspective on Death, Dying and Bereavement, by Kristoffer Hughes
Llewellyn Publications, 978-0-7387-4075-1, 312 pp., 2014
What a gift this book is. From the lyrical quality of Kristoffer Hughes’ writing, not often present in nonfiction, to the sensitive and thoughtful wisdom he imparts, The Journey into Spirit gives the reader a compassionate space to rethink beliefs about death.
Hughes is both a Druid priest and a professional pathology technologist who has worked in British morgues for the past quarter-century, and a funeral celebrant and a teacher of death customs and philosophy. He tells us how as a young child watching his first mortuary scene on TV he knew he was destined for a life entwined with death. Although the adults around him at that time were scared and taken aback by his interest, he felt no fear, only a deep respect for the physical process of death and curiosity about the ensuing spiritual transition. This is the perspective he’s carried throughout his life, and from which he has written this book.
He frames his views within the three Celtic realms of existence — the realm of necessity, the realm of spirit and the realm of infinity – and discusses his philosophical conclusions and certain Celtic teachings pertinent to each realm. Continue reading
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