The Way of the Oracle, by Diana L Paxson
Weiser Books, 9781594774904, 247 pp., 2012
This book is an excellent follow up to Diana Paxson’s previous work, Trance-Portation: Learning to Navigate the Inner World (Weiser Books, 2008).
The Way of the Oracle is divided into two parts. The first explores some of the historical evidence for oracular practice in Celtic, Greek, and especially Norse cultures. The second section has more of a DIY how-to quality. Paxson has made a very complicated subject engaging and accessible without ignoring the historical and practical problems that exist.
I love that the first section is chalk-full of historical quotes and references paired up with personal anecdotes which connect the background material to lived experience. The historical and mythic examples from Norse and Greek culture are excellent, and the author makes a valiant effort to include Celtic material where possible. Unfortunately, despite having strong traditions of prophesy and second-sight, the Celts did not have many oracular sites, like the Greeks, or travelling oracles with elaborate rituals, like the Norse. While it is not suitable to group ritual, a nod to the tradition of kings, heroes, and regular folk meeting receiving prophesy otherworldly beings at certain times and places (such as late on lonely roads or at dawn on the liminal ramparts) would have been nice. Continue reading
There are some books that are required reading for the serious tarot enthusiast, and this list represents my top five foundational books on tarot – books that will provide a solid historical, symbolic and esoteric foundation for any student.
1. Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (available in English as Transcendental Magic), by Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse-Louis Constant)
First published in 1855 as Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, it became a foundational text for the French occult revival. It was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite in 1896 as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual and gained wider recognition among English-speaking occultists on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dogma et rituel became the first occult text to weave elemental, alchemical, astrological and planetary theory with kabbalah, the tarot and ceremonial magick, synthesizing the first wholly integrated system of magick. It served and continues to serve as the basis for much symbolism found in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and various contemporary mystery schools. While lacking in historical accuracy, and allowing for many liberties taken with its symbolic integrity, Dogma et rituel remains an important historical work for this reason. Continue reading
Teachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu, by Ocha’ni Lele
Destiny Books, 9781594773327, 270 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 2010
Teachings of the Santeria Gods centres on the diloggun, a method of divination involving cowrie shells cast on a mat. The backs of the shells are filed down, but the important thing is the “mouths” of the shells—how many are facing upward gives the diviner the number of an “odu.” Each odu comprises an almost-endless array of stories (the pataki) about particular orisha, or cautionary folk tales. This is what makes this style of divination so interesting; the choice of the story to be told to the querent, and the ebo (sacrifice to be made in order to banish the querent’s ill-luck, avert disaster, or appease angry spirits, among other things) to be made gives a diviner near-infinite possibilities. Continue reading
The Language of Birds, by Dale Pendell
Three Hands Press, 71 pp., 2010
Pendell views divination as being directed by spirits or gods, likened to possession or seduction, weaving poetry and meditation through myth and history. Etymologies offer shifting meanings, and we learn “Cicero thought fish too dumb to speak for the gods”.
Interspersed throughout are lists of divination methods, including some rather obscure ones, such as alectryomancy – divination by roosters pecking grain, gelomancy – divination from laughter, myomancy – divination by squeaks of mice, or (my favourite) tiromancy – divination by milk curds or the holes on cheese. Continue reading
Afro-Brazilian Tarot, by Alice Santana and Guiseppe Palumbo
Kit: Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738709603, 78 cards plus instruction booklet, 2006
I’m not sure what I expected when I requested this deck for review (although I was sure that the artwork would be impressive, based on other decks from Lo Scarabeo). Oh, I’m familiar with both the Tarot and with Candomble (the Afro-Brazilian equivalent of the Afro-Cuban Santeria), and I do understand the desire to provide divination decks which go outside the commonly accepted parameters which are associated with the Tarot.
The deck, which is a standard deck as far as number of cards and divisions, is accompanied by a multilingual instruction booklet (English, Italian, Spanish, French, and German, I believe) which gives very basic meanings for each of the cards, as well as an extremely simplified layout (in keeping with the traditional divination method of the Yoruban people, which the Tarot is definitely not).
Although the suits carry the traditional names – chalices, pentacles, wands and swords – some of the images are slightly unconventional. The chalice suit is represented by soperas, which are traditionally used as containers of the physical representation of the orixas; the pentacles are represented by opon, the plates used in traditional divination by cowry shells and the shells themselves; while the wands and swords are more conventional. Continue reading