Genuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of Monmouth
Capall Bann Publishing, 9781861633347, 486 pp., 2012
If your concept of witchcraft is composed exclusively by the modern Pagan movement and Wicca, this book is going to be a real eye-opener. For the majority of Wiccans and witches in the US, where I reside and write my reviews, there have been few choices – one either “trained” as an eclectic (usually by means of reading one or more books) or one looked for a “tradition” to follow (many of which touted themselves as having a long, distinguished linage, but failed to provide any substantiation of those claims). Within the past couple of decades the concept of initiation by another has fallen into disrepute and “self-initiation” has become the norm.
This is a massive book, but fully one half of it is composed of data which supplements the first half. The supplemental section includes photos of original documents from the Royal Windsor Coven (no connection to British royalty – just a heads-up to American readers). A large number of the documents which appear in the photos are almost indecipherable, since they were either hand-written, heavily amended, or carbon copies of originals. This is, in my opinion, not a shortcoming. The fact that these documents still exist at all is nearly miraculous, and the fact that they are being preserved and made available is a real benefit for those who wish to explore the development of Witchcraft in the 20th Century. Following these reproductions are transcripts of the documents which make it possible to read and understand the preceding illustrations. Continue reading
A Book of Pagan Prayer, by Ceisiwr Serith
Weiser Books, 1-57863-255-2, 245 pp. (plus Appendices, Bibliography and Notes), 2002
This is a book I never thought I would see. Most of the Pagans I know aren’t big on formalized, scripted prayer. There are going to be those out there who will swear by this book, and those who will swear at the author. Many neo-Pagans feel that prayer should be completely spontaneous and will find the idea of A Book of Pagan Prayer (akin to the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer) to be incomprehensible, if not incompatible with Pagan religion. Continue reading
A spiritual path is, among other things, a way of seeing the world. That is to say, a spiritual path is a way of understanding or interpreting our relationships with the many things, events, people, and places in the world. In most cases, the path will be expressed or configured by a logic of correspondences. In accord with this logic, the appearance of a certain animal, or plant, or weather event, or whatever, signifies realities beyond itself. Similarly, every spiritual path will have meditations, rituals, techniques, practices, and so on, designed to help the practitioner recognise those signs and read the messages they convey.
The co-ordinates of the correspondences will vary in accord with language, culture, climate, geography, and other factors. They can grow ever more complicated and intricate, in order to accommodate an ever growing range of things and events in an ever-changing world. The associations of the four classical elements to cardinal directions, colours, ritual objects, seasons of the year, times of day, and so on, are well known examples. Yet the logic of correspondence can appear in things as simple as children’s rhymes. The game of counting crows: “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy,” and so on, is also a logic of magical correspondences. Continue reading
I was putting together a time-line for another essay when something occurred to me. Various religions that started as fringe have grown and expanded over the years, many becoming legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream (or at least, approaching legitimacy), but somewhere along the line we seem to have run out of steam.
Early into the twentieth century Aleister Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis or The Book of the Law, the central text of Thelema, a new religion or spiritual technology (I’ll leave it to those more invested to argue which description suits it best). Crowley joined the OTO and shortly afterwards assumed the role of the OHO, subsequently reworking its rites and rituals to integrate the principles of Thelema, effectively setting it up as a Thelemic organization, which it remains today.
In the late 1950s Malaclypse the Younger and Omar K. Ravenhurst received a divine revelation from a chimpanzee in a bowling alley. There they learned of Our Lady of Chaos, Eris. The Goddess of Discord was alive and well and continues to merrily wreak havoc on mortals, who don’t always seem to get the joke. Indeed, Kerry Thornley (Omar K. Ravenhurst) described it as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion… Even so, Discordianism’s still around and stronger than ever, even if it’s not always taken as seriously as some of its more greyfaced adherents would like. Continue reading
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide, by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling
Inner Traditions, 9781594770920, 213 pp, 2006
The subtitle of this book, “The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide,” helps to explain why I wanted to review it. Far too often people focus of the most visible of Yuletide symbols (the tree, the presents, the mistletoe and the decorations) and ignore the myriad of other details which surround this time of year. So I felt drawn to investigate these background items.
The authors focus on the ethnobotany (the study of plants) associated with the season. I had read and reviewed an earlier book by them and knew that the research and writing of this book would be first rate as well. I was not disappointed in that respect, nor in any other. The book is profusely illustrated with beautiful drawings and photographs. Continue reading