Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism: A Beginner’s Map Charting an Ancient Path, by S. Kelley Harrell
Soul Rocks Books, 1782794336, 148 pp. (incl. resources and references), 2014
S. Kelley Harrell, a veteran shamanic teacher and practitioner, has written a fine book on shamanism – but not necessarily for teens. I was excited to come across this title for review, because, to my knowledge, no other book on shamanism exists aimed specifically at teens. Although Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism contains much useful information I feel it lacks the “grab” factor needed to draw today’s teenager in.
I believe the problem may simply be one of organization and voice. “Our Wise Young,” the first chapter, describes Harrell’s early years and how she came to shamanism, along with a discussion of animism. The first chapter of part one is a rather pedantic discussion of its history – a necessary topic at some point, but not one that teens might be dying to read first if they don’t have a clue what shamanism is. I love Harrell’s voice in her preface, where she speaks directly and simply to the reader, without jargon or academic-sounding prose. I sincerely wish she had kept it up throughout the book. Continue reading
Wiccecraeft: Shamanic Magic from the Dark Ages, by Sinead Spearing
Green Magic, 978-0-956188625, 184 pp. (incl. appendix), 2011
Over years of discussion with family members and other initiates, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the biggest problems faced by members of non-Abrahamic faiths is not opposition (both from within their own movements and from without), but the language we use to express ourselves. That is apparent twice within the title of this book. “Wiccecraeft” is bound to both confuse people (did the author mean Wicca craft or witchcraft?) and turn people away (if it is about Wicca, then witches won’t look at it, and if it is about witchcraft, then Wiccans might spurn it). Looked at another way, however, it is obviously intended to make people stop and think about the subject.
The second sticking point is the “shamanic magic” referenced in the subtitle. Purists will insist that shamans only exist with the extreme northern reaches of the inhabited work. There are other words to describe indigenous religious practitioners from other regions. “Shaman,” however, has been used within the academic community in such a non-specific way for decades, so its use is probably guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
The introduction serves to clear up any misunderstandings concerning the use of the word shaman, although the perceived differences between Wicca and witchcraft are not really addressed. Spearing makes it clear that she is aware of the fact that our perception of the world is very different from that experienced by our ancestors. While we may acknowledge this on some levels, it does not make it easy to shift to a more primitive perception. Continue reading
The Columbine Effect: How Five Teen Passtimes Got Caught in the Crossfire and Why Teens are Taking Them Back, by Beth Winegarner
Lulu, 9781304431219, 249 pp. (incl. appendix, notes, and bibliography), 2013
Every generation of teenagers has grown a little wilder and a little more transgressive as society becomes increasingly complex. Teenagers are attempting to find themselves and a supportive peer group while navigating a society that is more socially active and integrated on levels we have never experienced before. Beth Winegarner writes a thought-provoking and well-researched piece highlighting teenage angst and shedding light on some of the occult practices that have been tarnished by bad media coverage on the heels of incidents like the Columbine shooting.
When the Columbine shootings occurred there was a competitive media frenzy that led to significant misinformation about the culprits, citing heavy metal music and musicians like Marilyn Manson as influences. There has been an element of this blame-shifting present in each school shooting and social tragedy since Colombine. If a pentagram was found in a culprit’s bedroom or adorning their school binder, then ideas of Satan worship and dark powers have been brought to the forefront as causation, often overshadowing the more realistic factors of personal loss, loneliness and depression. Because of media coverage like this occult practices have become synonymous with dark practices, and are surrounded by fear. Continue reading
A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools: How to Make and Use Drums, Masks, Rattles, and Other Sacred Implements, by Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Weiser Books, 9781578635573, 258 pp. (incl. glossary, resource list, and bibliography), 2014
Forming your own relationship with your helping spirits, teachers and power animals is essential in shamanic work. Shamanism is a highly individualistic practice in which your skill and effectiveness largely depends on your ability to communicate and work well with them. Anything you can do to make your connection stronger is welcome — especially by the spirits, and author Evelyn C. Rysdyk believes there’s no better way than by crafting your own “power tools.”
Rysdyk assumes you are already an experienced shamanic journeyer and you know your spirit community. Continue reading
It’s not necessarily the tradition that makes the magician.
Feel like your magick runs in cycles? Here are some suggestions for how best manage your time.
Do you have to make your own ritual tools? (Bonus: Read our review of Aaron Leitch’s latest book, The Essential Enochian Grimoire.)
The ins and outs of word magick.
On community and mentoring Pagan youth. Continue reading
Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion, by Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera
Destiny Books, 9781620550830, 320 pp., 2013
This book is an excellent exploration of communication with the spirit world with material of interest to the curious, the absolute beginner, and the experience spirit- worker. While it is primarily informed by Northern Tradition Paganism, it draws first hand examples from a wide array of spirit-workers from a variety of paganisms, including Asatru, Heathens, Druids, Celtic Reconstructionists, Hellenics, Kemetics, modern Shamans, and more. It also does an excellent job reminding us that these communications take place in cultural contexts and in the broader context of the natural world itself.
The book begins with an exploration of what personal gnosis is and what it feels like; and since much of the information we receive from the spirits can not be verified and may not be for everyone, how we can respond to what the gods, ancestors, and spirits are telling us. It explores why we want to cultivate more direct communication, what that communication might look like, and some of the risks and dangers along the way.
The book frankly addresses delusion, scepticism, lies, and inflated egos in a way which is constructive – discerning without being overly judgemental. It also has an entire chapter addressing the relationship between spirit contact and mental health concerns, do so in a way which is supportive, sensitive and informed. Too many books on magical practices simply say that anyone with any mental health issues should simply avoid esoteric work; but that ignores the fact that much healing can be found in these practices and that some of the sensitivities that leave certain people vulnerable to mental illness can be the same sensitivities that leave some of the same people open to spiritual awareness. Managing these gifts and burdens together seems to me to be a far cry better than shutting everything down because some ‘spiritual leaders’ don’t have the skills to mentor such individuals. Given that I work in the intersection of spirituality and mental health, I was delighted to see it introduced so well here. Continue reading