It’s an interesting time for popular culture and the occult. Although the weird and the supernatural have always played a part in pop fiction from as far back as the first novels, the wide dissemination of mass media in the last century or so has grown and mutated such tales drastically. Magically-tinged fantasies of all kinds have been enjoyed by literally billions of people. Occulture is now part of the mainstream, and this has had a feedback effect. Continue reading
Avalon, by Heather Dale
CD Baby, 19 tracks, 2010
It’s clear that the musical and mythological world invoked by Heather Dale’s new album Avalon is the world where the artist feels most at home. Arthurian mythology provides a rich field of inspirational stories, and so they have been rendered into music many times before; in that respect Dale’s musical project is ambitious and challenging. Can she do something with the mythology that has never been done before? My answer is Yes. Dale’s album accords to the stories the space to reveal themselves in their own way, as if she is working in true partnership with all the various writers who contributed to the literary sources. At the same time one also hears the unique and unveiled sound of her heart. 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 One can present a scholarly look at the few remaining historical references to the Druids and the speculation which has raged around them, one can present romanticized imaginings and call them “ancient secrets passed down in an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
The 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), 2013
Ever 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. Continue reading
The Witches’ Almanac, Issue 33 Spring 2014-2015: The Mystic Earth, edited by Andrew Theitic
The Witches’ Almanac Ltd., 9780982432396, 208 pp. (Incl. letters, ads), 2013
Reading The Witches’ Almanac is like going to a favourite restaurant and ordering all of the appetizers and two desserts for dinner: you get a dazzling array of different tastes, but with no single dish too filling.
The Almanac has been steadily growing over the years. Early issues were 90 or so pages, stapled in soft card covers like the typical Farmer’s Almanac; recently it has graduated to a typical trade paperback: 9×6-inch, 208 pages, perfect-bound, glossy cover. This helps make their front-cover motto, “Ever a Keepsake,” realizable.
This year’s theme is “Mystic Earth,” returning to the theme of no. 30, though this time from a different angle. Unfortunately the cover art, with the Earth seen from space in a palette of greens, blues, deep-space black, and incongruous cream text-box backgrounds, ranks as the least-appealing in a long time, although I like the idea of doing something modern occasionally.
Inside you’ll find 65 articles with a good mix of folklore, practical advice, and esoterica. “A Witch’s Garden” looks at planning and planting an herb garden in a reverent and inspiring way. Several short features on herb lore and other earthy topics from respected Druid Ellen Everett Hopman carry the theme into the rest of the book. The closest thing to a single article that matches the theme, though, is Jimahl di Fiosa’s “The Magic of Camping,” which, like the one above, is full of hints for doing this common activity mindfully and reverently, as well as in a safe and organized manner. He’s not Pollyanna about his topic though, in the last paragraph he advises, “If it all goes terribly wrong, then at least you can say you’ve tried it.” Continue reading