The Woman Magician

By Brandy Williams
Reviewed by Katrina Rasbold, Editor

The Magia Femina.  Long has the role of ceremonial mage been male dominated with the role of the female mage often met with a smirking jest.  Ms Williams has yanked this patriarchal art, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, successfully marrying the many judicious complexities of OTO (Ordo Templi Orienis) and Golden Dawn with both the ancient and post-modern feministic power that permeates Witchcraft.  She details traditional rituals of the ceremonial craft into which she was initiated, but then provides a personal experience section after each, owning her own discomfort with certain aspects of the ritual (the use of the Jewish Star of David and Latin, for instance) and specifying how she modifies the practice to fit in with her own beliefs.

Her knowledge of ceremonial craft is tremendous and her explanations of each ritual are understandable and reader-friendly.  Clearly, the author has a broad spectrum knowledge of pertinent aspects of history, philosophy, magic, theology and culture which blends seamlessly together into an explanation of the evolution of ceremonial magic over time and an understanding of the emergence of male and female roles and archetypes.  She then takes that educated understanding and stands it on its ass by integrating it beautifully into a vision of the science of magick through a feminist perspective. She goes backward through time and embraces all that we know, but shifts the lighting so that the power and presence of feminine empowerment becomes of greater focus and equal importance.  Basically, she shows us in exquisite detail all that we do know about the emergence of this form of magick and then flips the exposure and shows us all that we don’t know about it.  Her deft and masterful handling of the integration of magick and feminism is nearly breathtaking.

Ms Williams takes on gender roles in society and integrates that particular construct into a powerful guidebook for women who have felt drawn to the altar of ceremony, but once they arrived, could not adequately embrace their own femininity and personal strength due to the overwhelming masculine claim on the craft.  I highly recommend this book for any woman (or man) who would like to take their own practice and understanding of the gender aspects of magick to the next level.

The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook

By Shawn MacKenzie
Reviewed By Katrina Rasbold, Editor

(Llewellyn Publishers)

What does a dragon sound like?  Does a dragon need water?  Are there gay dragons?  How should you keep an incubating dragon egg at each stage of development?  What terrains are hospitable to dragon life?  What medical supplies should you have on hand for the care of dragons?  What do dragons eat?  What happened to the dragons of old?  What is the separation of fact and myth regarding dragons?

Shawn MacKenzie’s profound respect and love for dragons, their lore and their keeping permeates this exhaustive exploration of all things dragon.  Her labor of love is bound to be the treasure of any true dragon enthusiast as she details the finest point of “the care & feeding, life & lore of these fiercely splendid creatures.”

The author tracks everything from the dragon’s place over time in mythology, their hunting,mating  and sleeping habits and their behaviors through the seasons.  If you want a measure of the fine points of this book, there is even detailed instructions for the legal probate of dragon inheritance and how to properly transfer your dragon to its new legal owner upon your (expected) death (given their longevity).  There is literally no stone unturned in the exploration of the dragon experience.

Ms. MacKenzie’s writing style is extremely favorable and engaging.  Her dedication to and appreciation for dragons as a life form is tremendous and it is clear through every word of her writing that she possesses great reverence for these magnificent creatures and those who honor them.  This book is a must have for all lovers of these “most perfect beings.”

The Emancipation of Giles Corey

The Emancipation of Giles Corey
By Michael Sortomme

Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Singing Lake Press (December 20, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780983051756

 

Reviewed By Katrina Rasbold

While I appreciate the limitations of marketing, to label this beautiful book a novel is nearly as much of an injustice as I have paid to the woman who asked me to review it.

Let me back up and dissect that last sentence.  This book is so much more than a novel.  It is steeped in realism and history and as one gets caught up in the story that is being told, it is impossible to continue viewing it solely as a work of fiction.

As to my own rendered injustice, I was honored to be asked to review this book and prepared (a month ago – *cough*) to give it my gracious, cursory review.  I enjoy reading books and I often complete the review and have a feeling of, “I will come back and read that more completely later.”  Sometimes I do.  Often, I don’t.  I plan to go back and give the book its due, absorbing every word the author labored to include and reading between the lines to find the hidden messages as well.  Too often, I read enough to give a quality review and then it goes onto “the stack.”  The stack is quite tall now.

In this case, I ran into a problem delivering my standard review.  I was absolutely riveted from the acknowledgments on.  This book will suck you in and should come with a warning label letting people know they should not even plan to do another thing until they finish it.  Since I am A) old and B) a full time college student and C) a wife and mom and D) a freelance journalist, a web designer, a telephone psychic and a virtual assistant, my reading for leisure time is limited.  Before I knew what was happening, I had a follow-up letter and I had not even finished the book yet.  I finally did today (sorry, Linda) and could not wait to get this review up.

All of that being said, this book is absolutely amazing.  The interweaving of compelling storytelling with rich history draws you into a world that elicits so many different emotions.  The reader is swept along with the four main characters in an incredible experience, an “American Camino,” that results in the freeing of 164 spirits who were previously bound to the earth.  In emancipating the spirits, the character also free up parts of themselves that are trapped by their own connections to the past.

The writing is exquisite (seriously, read the acknowledgments) and flows beautifully.  The chapters are small, which is nice for people, like myself who are not blessed with a lot of reading time.  You will literally never look at the era surrounding the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in the same way and will feel as though you have experienced the stories of these tortured spirits yourself.  You will participate in their releases along with them and will simultaneously envy and dread the idea of living Sophia’s life and calling.

On a personal level, the rituals used in the book are lovely and respectful.  As a seasoned, multi-decade-invested  practioner of Craft, it is refreshing to read the techniques described and think things like, “Yep, that would work,” rather than cringing that the too often cheesy and careless construction of fictional ritual.  The relatability to the characters was one of the most valuable factors in my absorption into the study and I thank the author for her due diligence in creating a fictional piece that is still magically responsible.

I highly recommend this book to like minds and as I close this review, I will pass the book directly to my 18-year-old daughter who has become a Kindle snob and will cringe at the idea of holding an actual book.  At that point, she will read the acknowledgments and the book will have claimed yet another follower.

A Guide to Pagan Camping by Lori Dake

Lori Dake starts her book on Pagan camping with a quote by Clark Griswold from the “Vacation” movies, “Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half  the fun. You know that.”  So why aren’t you flying?  This book will make you want to hop on your broomstick and get going!

From basic camping manners to food storage to planning to all sorts of other helpful tips, this comprehensive guide will have you well prepared for any Pagan outing, large or small.  I have personally tried some of her camping appropriate recipes and they are fabulous.

Literally, there is no earth stone left unturned and no corner of festivals left unexplored.  I highly recommend this book for those who are novices to Pagan festival touring and particular to those who will be vending at these events.  The common sense wisdom the author provides is priceless and speaks from years of experience.

Whether you are traveling solo, with your family and/or with your Covenmates, you will likely find your every question answered in full in these pages.  This book is certainly a worthwhile addition for any Pagan library and truly, if everyone followed these guidelines, Pagan festivals would be much more fun to attend.

A Love Alchemist’s Notebook by Jessica Shepherd

Dear Jessica,  My deepest apologies for the delay in getting this review written.  I kept getting distracted by having mad hot sex with the guy who is the truest love of my life.  So…thanks!  :)

Oh Jessi, you vivacious minx!  How lucky can we get to have a hot red-headed astrologist who is married and living a (presumably) happy life out on the Bay to tell us how to draw love into our lives?  Usually it’s old women who have never had a lover and live alone with their cat in Nebraska.  Those who cannot do, teach… but not in this case!

This book is such a fun mix of anecdotes and quips that you can easily overlook the fact that it his positively filled with wisdom, both inherent and scientifically based.  I can come at this from many different angles and since A) it’s Friday and B) my alternative to doing this review is to get up and start cleaning my funky house and C) it’s my website and I am the boss and I can do whatever the fugsticks I want to, I am going to do just that.  If you would like to put off cleaning your house or washing your dog or looking at your cat and wishing he was a man or some other depressing project, just hang with me and read about how great this book really is:

Magically  – I have lived and worked in the magical field as a magical person for, wait, have to count, around 25 years.  That’s right.  A quarter of a century.  I’m no Laurie Cabot, mind you, but I’m not slouch either.  The energy that is instilled into this book is tremendous.  It is very positive in nature and extremely empowering.  After you read this book, you will wonder why you aren’t sleeping with you more often.  You will love yourself and thereby become absolutely fascinating and irresistible to everyone around you.  Since you are – if you are reading this book likely – a magnet for situations that cause you to feel “less than” or unworthy, make sure you read this with a stack of bookmarks and a big, fat highlighter because you are going to need to go back to certain parts over and over again, using them for affirmations until they become a natural part of the way you think.  The book in and of itself is kind of a spell.  There are, in fact, spells inside it and I can personally endorse each and every one as being a winner. Stock up on candles of all sorts.  Just do it.

Literarily: Is that a word? I mean “in the literary sense.”  I am a voracious reader. I am a writer.  I worked for many years as a librarian.  I am an editor for several major websites. I am a freelance writer and journalist.  I’m no Dorothy Parker, mind you, but I’m not slouch either.  This book is infinitely readable.  It has a flow and cadence to you that will suck you in within a few paragraphs and honestly, you will find it hard to put down for the read itself.  Ms. Shepherd’s writing style is engaging, fun and tremendously interesting.  She is obviously well versed on many levels and it shows in her writing.

Practical Application:  I am big on advice that works.  I’m no Heloise, but I’m no slouch either.  So often in a book on how to attract a mate, the advice that is given is either so saccharine that you can’t take it seriously or else is not applicable in any way to “real” people living  a “real” life.  Not so with this book.  You can feel the authenticity when she writes about the pitfalls of attracting a true love and how we get in our own way.  You can imagine that she has been through the humbling process of having a worthless guy camping out on her sofa asking for a beer and has come out of the tangled web of dysfunctional relationships and regrettable encounters and lived to tell the tale (and do better).

Scientifically. I don’t know crap all about science and I’m no Carl Sagan, so I guess I am a slouch.  The ideas the author presents in this book are in tandem with recently applauded concepts such as “The Laws of Attraction.”  Even Dr. Phil says things like “What you fear, you create.”  This book tells you how to fall in love with yourself and bring to life a glowing self-confidence that activates those pheromones and sends out all of the right signals to the people you want to attract into your life.

The bottom line is that this book will work.  The back-of-the-book blurb remarks that the author is called the “Carrie Bradshaw of astrology.”  Carrie Bradshaw only wishes she could be as cool as Jessica Shepherd.  In fact, so do I.  (I’m 3 hours from the Bay, Jessica.  Call me.  We’ll hang out.)

This book is published by Llewellyn Publishers can may be purchased on their website or through Amazon.com (it can also be Kindle-ized).

Jessica Shepherd’s lovely website is here.

The Book of English Magic – By Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate

By Katrina Rasbold

Much can be derived from the dedication of this delightful book which reads, “To all the magicians of England, who have allowed us to understand, and sometimes experience, the extraordinary ‘other’ world in which they live.”  Drawing from the magical world of the Motherland that brought us  J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, and J.K.Rowling, the authors take us on an extensive exploration of the many facets of English magic with tremendous honor given to the ancestors and pioneers who brought magic to the recorded world.

As a practitioner of the arts for nearly three decades, I can truthfully say that there is very, very little about magical practice that is not addressed at some point in this book.  Although magic of the past is explored (and quoted) at length, the applicability to today’s Craft is also made very clear and the authors do a fine job of linking the past to the present.

One of my personal favorite sections is a discussion on the distinction between different kinds of Witches in Chapter Five, “Skin-Turning and Spellcraft,” primarily because the writers distinguish themselves as being extremely educated and reliable in their historical accuracy.  Whereas many modern day writers still cling to the clearly (and definitively) disputed and disclaimed notion that Wicca is an ancient, secret religion that survived the dark ages of persecution to flourish, reborn, in modern society, Gomm and Heygate dive right into the factual side of history by labeling Wicca as a new religion Gerald Gardner created.  They go on to herald it as [paraphrasing slightly] an offering to the world of a way of spiritual celebration that was admirably suited to an era dedicated to throwing off the shackles of sexual repression, validating the tremendous value of Gardner’s contribution while deftly sidestepping the inflated mythology that previously surrounded the path he created.

Of course, there is far, far more to English magic beyond Wicca, but the above segment aptly conveys the objectivity and respect with which the entire book is presented.  Too often, a book about magic that is primarily factual in nature lacks personality and warmth as it relays a dictionary-like listing of every line of rhetoric the author can dredge up from the work of others.  I am pleased to say that such is not the case with this beautiful collection of interesting and useful information.  It is extremely readable and one can easily leaf through any of the pages and find a mesmerizing bit of info that will keep you intrigued for much longer than you originally intended.

The Book of English Magic makes a wonderful reference material or personal submersion into the world of magic.  You will learn more than you ever imagined possible and sometimes have to literally put the book down for a few minutes to process what you have just read.

Having spent 3 years of my life living in East Anglia where British magic is as thick as the fog in Autumn, it was extremely enjoyable for me to revisit bits of information I’d forgotten and learn plenty I’d never known.  My children are arguing over who is going to read the book next and to me, that is as high of an endorsement as I can offer.

Many thanks for the opportunity to review this lovely piece and to the authors for their no doubt exhaustive dilligance in creating such a lovely collection of fascinating and intriguing information.

The Goddess Pages by Laurie Sue Brockway

 

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Wow!  What an amazing book!  The tag line is “A Divine Guide to Finding Love and Happiness,” which makes it sound like something along the lines of a quick fix Wiccan spell book.

This book is, instead, a guide to life; specifically, the living of the magickal life every day in every situation.  If more women would read this book, internalize the very wise lessons and embody the Goddesses as they are represented here, we would surely rule the world (and find love and happiness as well).

Thirty-six Goddesses or so are divided up into categories such as “Love and Romance,” “Work and Finance,” “Family Life and Friendships” and such.  The choices of Goddesses represented span many different pantheons and are a perfect mix for imbibing Average Woman with grace, self-respect, compassion, independence and just about every other attribute we should be expressing into the world.  Each section has an entry detailing who the Goddess is, how to invite Her into your life and how to keep Her with you.

This book is a must-read for women and a beautiful copendeum of information about the Female Divine.

The Shamanic Witch – By Gail Wood

Based on the research and experiences I have had with Shamanic Craft, along with basic gut reactions, my impression is that it is a more Earthy, grass-roots, no-frills form of Paganism that is experientially seated in explorations and encounters both in the physical worlds and the worlds beyond.  

It has long had an appeal for me as I tend to operate as a “no frills” Witch.  I brought this optimism and interest into the reviewing of this book and overall, I was not disappointed.

One stumbling block I encountered as I read the book is the feeling that Ms. Wood confuses the paths of Wicca and Witchcraft when it would have been very easy to include a very brief discernment between the two.  Clearly, she herself is a Wiccan and a Witch, but on a very broad level, this is not usually the case.  Many Witches do not indentify themselves with Wicca and the words seem to be used interchangeably in several places in the book, which I feel lends unnecessary confusion and misrepresentation.

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Trance-Portation by Diana L. Paxson

 

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Often, when a work is labeled as “ambitious,” it is a tounge-in-cheek way of saying that the author aimed for a high mark and missed or wandered off in the Land of Verbosity, never to be seen again.

In this case, the author does neither.  Instead, my impression is that she shot high and hit the mark dead on.  To be specific, in almost 30 years of paranormal and magical study, I have never encountered a more complete and fully applicable instruction manual for trancework and astral travel, as well as many other considerations that come into play when we begin exploring words beyond our own physical landscape.

The book is appropriately cautious without being paranoid.  It is instructional without being condescending or lecturing.  It is never dry or overstated.  Thoroughally examaning all aspects of working on the inner plane, the reader will be very well prepared to begin this sort of adventure without fear of unexpected or dangerous experiences.

The Sharman Caselli Tarot Deck

Part of me thinks I should recuse myself from reviewing this deck considering that Juliet Sharman-Burke is one of my favorite Tarot writers and was also one of the first I ever read decades ago when I first began exploring the Tarot.  In my mind, she can do no wrong.

I was eager to review this deck, however and very excited to get it in my hot little hands.  I am less familiar with Giovanni Caselli’s work unless you consider the other Giovanni Caselli – small factoid here – who invented the first fax machine around 1856.  

The deck is reminiscent of the many decks put out by Lo Scarabeo (which this is not) in that the majority of the figures in the cards are fairly expressionless and the color themes are mostly in pastels.   

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