Tag: witchcraft

The Witches’ Almanac, Issue 33

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The Witches' Almanac, Issue 33The Witches' Almanac, issue 33The Witches' Almanac, Issue 33 Spring 2014-2015: The Mystic Earth, edited by Andrew Theitic The Witches' Almanac Ltd., 9780982432396, 208 pp. (Incl. letters, ads), 2013Reading 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: 9x6-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." Read More

Genuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of Monmouth

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Genuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of MonmouthGenuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of MonmouthGenuine Witchcraft is Explained, by John of Monmouth Capall Bann Publishing, 9781861633347, 486 pp., 2012If 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. Read More

The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes

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The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika IllesThe Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes Weiser Books, 9781578634798, 272 pp., 2010When a field guide is well done, it gives the reader the means to distinguish between species and can be an incredible aid to study, classification, and practical knowledge. When a field guide is not so well done, it can very quickly become a mess.I really wanted to like The Weiser Field Guide to Witches. For one thing, I like and admire Judika Illes, whose Element Encyclopedias I consider useful as well as beautiful, well-researched, and wonderfully organized. I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy spending more time with her blend of wit and erudition. The subtitle, "From Hexes to Hermione Granger, from Salem to the Land of Oz", is marvellously enticing, as well as the idea given in the back cover copy that the field guide could help you, the reader, discern if you are a witch. Read More

100 Years of Fringe Religion: Thelema, Discordianism, Wicca, Satanism and…Atheism?

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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.  Read More

Aradia, by Charles Godfrey Leland

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Aradia, by Charles LelandAradia, Gospel of the Witches, by Charles Godfrey Leland The Witches' Almanac, 9780982432358, 178 pp., 1899, 2010Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903) was an American folklorist who published some twenty books on American and European folklore, Romani traditions, witchcraft, and other subjects. He is chiefly remembered today for his influence on the development of modern Paganism, primarily through the publication of Aradia. Read More

The Shamanic Witch, by Gail Wood

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The Shamanic Witch, by Gail WoodThe Shamanic Witch, by Gail Wood Red Wheel/Weiser, 978-1-57863-430-9, 244 pp. (incl. Glossary, Notes, and Bibliography), 2008The 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. Read More

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