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. Read More
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. Read More
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.
Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, by Lupa Immanion Press, 1905713010, 224 pp. (incl. appendices, bibliography and index), 2006
Cultural appropriation is rampant in totemic work, as Lupa acknowledges, but notes that "[i]n any field of study there will always be those who are neophobic and believe that anyone who deviates from specific patterns is not only disrespecting but also diluting the effectiveness and "truth" of said field". She writes "totemism is something that is essentially universal," arguing that she has practiced totemism for years with no formal background or tradition, and, as she says, "can still boast a decent success rate." As Lupa comes from a contemporary Pagan background, this book tends to focus on a contemporary Pagan approach to the subject.There are a number of sections that won't appeal to everyone, for example, the sections on sacrifice and working with animal parts didn't agree well with me, a vegetarian. Though some of the material may be controversial, Lupa strives to present it in a palatable fashion, and certainly those interested will likely find benefit from their inclusion, especially as these subjects are often skirted in contemporary Paganism. Clearly, Fang and Fur Blood and Bone does not intend to be merely yet another book on animal magick. Read More
is a hot topic among magical folk, in particular Pagans
. This, of course, has spawned a growing number of books about totems which vary in quality from excellent to appalling, as books are wont to do. Many of them attempt to be an improvement on Ted Andrews’ works, which spawned the “totem dictionary with some extra stuff” trend. In addition, there are numerous websites about totems, again of varying quality. It’s laughably easy to find the information you seek. Read More
Vodou Shaman: The Haitian Way of Healing and Power, by Ross Heaven Destiny Books, 270 pp. (+ appendix, notes & index),2003
The author is one of a small, but growing, number of cross-cultural initiates who are willing to take the time, effort and expense to explore the little-understood “primitive” system of religious/magickal thinking known as Vodou
(aka Voodoo, Vodoun, Vodun, etc.). Too many people have gotten their knowledge of this religion from Hollywood “B” movies, novels, and tabloid newspapers. It has been all too easy to dismiss it based on such sources. Read More