Neolithic Shamanism: Spirit Work in the Norse Tradition, by Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova
Destiny Books, 9781594774904, 342 pp. (incl. index, plus 8 pages of colour plates), 2012
The title, Neolithic Shamanism, may be a bit misleading as there is not a lot careful exploration of the stone age, but the sub-title, “Spirit Work in the Norse Tradition” seems closer to the subject of the book. The book instead serves as an introduction to the Northern Tradition – which the authors use to refer to a specific modern tradition, not simply the hearth cultures of Northern Europe and the modern practices derived from them. However, by looking at the natural rather than cultural aspects, they seem to be trying to go back to the bare bones of the matter. Regardless, much of the information is generalizable and the book can be read in this broader light, so long as the reader understands that this is not its primary purpose or intention. Continue reading
The Shamanic Witch, by Gail Wood
Red Wheel/Weiser, 978-1-57863-430-9, 244 pp. (incl. Glossary, Notes, and Bibliography), 2008
The Shamanic Witch is targeted at introducing practicing witches to neo-Shamanism. As such, the first two thirds of the book introduce and instruct one in beginning a neo-Shamanic practice, and the last third is directed at incorporating Shamanic elements into a pre-existing Witchcraft practice. Even if one is not a witch, the introduction to neo-Shamanism is well written, accessible, and assumes no prior knowledge. It would be unwise to pick up this book with the intention of beginning witchcraft, although a reading list is provided at the end of the book.
The first two chapters introduce the concept and context of Shamanism and provide the reader with some expectations as to what the experience of journeying will be like. Wood includes a number of exercises to prepare the reader: becoming comfortable with their own style of visualization, connecting with drumming and non-ordinary states of consciousness. The third chapter is dedicated to introductory journeys, following what seems to have become standard practice for neo-Shamanism: journeying to the lower world to meet a power animal and then journeying to the upper world to meet a guide or teacher. Wood writing is casual and approachable. She draws directly from her own experiences both as teacher and student, presenting components of her own personal journeys but also alerting the reader that their own may take very different forms. Continue reading
Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening ot the Divinity of Trauma, by S. Kelley Harrell
Spilled Candy Books, 9781892718501, 146 pp., 2004
Gift of the Dreamtime is author S. Kelly Harrell’s account of her personal visionary experiences. Or at least we assume it is: we’re not given any context; there are no disclaimers or introductions. Harrell drops us right into the thick of it, beginning with her first visionary experiences, initiated by the drumming of a shaman (one whom we are never actually introduced to). After the initial exploration of her lower and upper dreamworld and an introduction to both animal and spirit guides, the shaman recedes from view; presumably Harrell undertakes the remaining journeys by herself.
This is an unusual book. It’s not a theoretical book. It’s not a how-to manual. It’s not a biography either. It’s a diary more than anything else. Harrell opens up to the reader; if she holds anything back it’s not obvious. This is the story of her pathway, the road she took to disentangle the complex ball of emotions generated by her incestuous childhood sexual abuse. Continue reading
Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plantsby, Claudia Muller-Ebeling, Christian Ratsch and Wolf-Dieter Storl
Inner Traditions, 0892819715, 240 pp. (incl. appendix, bibliography and index), 1998, 2003
What image comes to mind when you read the phrase “Witchcraft Medicine”? Do you see a crone bent over a cauldron, muttering under her breath? Do you imagine a dark peasant hovel in the Middle Ages? Me, too! The subtitle of this volume, translated from a German edition of 1998, helps to clear away some of the misconceptions before the cover is even opened however. “Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants” lets the reader know that the topic will range far beyond narrow preconceptions.
The book is profusely illustrated with old woodcuts, drawings and full-colour photographs. Quotations from numerous sources, ancient , medieval, and modern appear frequently in sidebars. There are charts listing various plants and their associations with planets, deities, and symbolism. Continue reading
Healing with Form, Energy, and Light: The Five Elements in Tibetan Shamanism, Tantra, and Dzogchen, by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Snow Lion Publications, 1559391766, 159 pp (incl. glossary), 2002
Bön is the indigenous Tibetan religion that predates Buddhism, often called Tibetan Shamanism. As a religious belief it had historically suffered a social oppression under the Lama culture of Buddhist Tibet, but His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has recognized Bön as one of the five major spiritual traditions in Tibet, which has led to a resurgence of information and interest in this traditions. Tenzin Wangyal is a Bön-po (practitioner), considered a Bön master and has spent his life studying Vajrayana and Bön. Due to this upbringing (and perhaps the modern state of the religion), the Bön in this book is heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, as opposed to being “pure” Bön, which may not have existed for centuries and as a religion that mythologically dates its origin 17,000 years ago, one must expect some drift in beliefs and practices. Continue reading
The Book of Seidr: The Native English And Northern European Shamanic Tradition, by Runic John
With the popularity of Runes information on Seidr, the Germanic form of shamanism, is sometimes difficult to come across. Well-researched information that tries to reconstruct the practices as well as possible is even more rare. Runic John’s book is one source of just such information.
The opening chapter of the book serves to ground the reader firmly in the lore with regard to Seidr practice. Using the Eddas, sagas, and even analysis of practices banned by early Christianity, we begin to build a picture of the Seidr men and women of ancient times.
Chapter 2 is the first chapter of practical exercises. It aims to develop the basic skills required, such visualization, that will be required throughout one’s development. The creation of a harrow is also described as an aid to magical and religious focus.
The rest of the chapters continue the mix of practical exercises and explanation of relevant lore and traditions. Where there are gaps in the historical accounts of Seidr Runic John analyzes the neighbouring traditions of the Sammi and Siberian shamans. This will no doubt disturb the more ‘folkish’ members of the heathen community but it is done in a measured and well thought out way.
The practical techniques taught by this book include shamanic journeying through the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, shapeshifting, healing, and Spae (oracular Seidr). Each technique is taught in a way that progresses gradually so that even the most inexperienced reader can develop his or her own Seidr practice.
All in all I think this book is an excellent guide for anyone wishing to undertake a study of Seidr in as authentic and traditional a manner as possible. Runic John has done a great service to both Seidr and heathen reconstructionism with this book. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming Book of Advanced Seidr.