Category Archives: New Age & Pagan Books

Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral – a review by a contributor

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, is one of the newer go-to sources for a plethora of worthwhile reads in the Pagan world. January and February 2016 saw the release of two anthologies that have been long anticipated by certain segments of the Global Pagan Community. My hat is off to both the editors of these anthologies and to the contributors. Not an easy task to read, edit, read again, continue to edit, and work with a large number of authors to create as cohesive a collection of articles as possible within the two anthologies. The first to be released was Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor, the second was Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral edited by Erick DuPree.

book_findingthemasculine_small

Erick set out on a grand adventure when he put out his open call for submissions for this collection of very personal essays from men in Goddess religion and spirituality. The voices vary in  many regards. Cis-gender men, transgender men, gender queer identifying (at least in part) as male. Straight, gay, bi, none-of-the-above. The one thing they all have in common is an undying love of some form of Feminine Divine.

First thing is first. I am one of the contributors to this anthology. With that in mind, I am obviously somewhat biased. My contribution to the anthology is called “One Man, Many Goddesses” and talks about my personal encounters with several Goddesses throughout my life. But that is not what this review is about.

Erick DuPree put together a wonderful collection of essays, prose, and poetry from a number of self-identified men in the Pagan community. From a lovely ode to the Mother by Robert Baggani to a heart wrenching story of Auset by Robert Alvarez, from the birth of life to the death of it. Teachers, mentors, priests, practitioners, parishoners, men (and male-identifying) from all walks within the Pagan world came together to put this collection together. Erick opened the gates, these sons of the Goddess walked through it and present to you, the reader, a plethora of visions and realities of the Goddess.

Whether you believe the Goddess to be an archetype, a single individual with multiple names, a facet of the One, or separate and distinct individual Goddesses, you will get something out this anthology. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, straight, gay, or bi. The Goddess speaks through the pages of this book. You only have to read and listen.

Contributors include:

  • Robert Baggani
  • Daniel Holmes
  • Gwion Raven
  • Roxie Babylon
  • Scott K. Smith
  • David Salisbury
  • Christopher Blackthorn
  • Dylan St. Thomas
  • Taylor Ellwood
  • Duane Danielson
  • Ian Allan
  • Blake Octavian Blair
  • Puck deCoyote
  • Matthew Sawicki
  • Ken Torres
  • Bart Everson
  • Erick DuPree
  • Robert Scott
  • Anthony Rella
  • Robert Alvarez
  • Christopher Penczak
  • Philipp Kessler
  • Devin Hunter
  • “An Elder Apprentice”
  • Storm Faerywolf
  • Sypheara
  • Gede Parma
  • Tim Titus
  • Orion Foxwood
  • David Oliver King
  • Eric Eldritch

With a preface by Yeshe Rabbit Matthews, foreward by Ivo Dominguez Jr and introduction by Erick DuPree himself.

 

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Pagan Leadership Anthology – a review by a contributor

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, is one of the newer go-to sources for a plethora of worthwhile reads in the Pagan world. January and February 2016 saw the release of two anthologies that have been long anticipated by certain segments of the Global Pagan Community. My hat is off to both the editors of these anthologies and to the contributors. Not an easy task to read, edit, read again, continue to edit, and work with a large number of authors to create as cohesive a collection of articles as possible within the two anthologies. The first to be released was Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor, the second was Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral edited by Erick DuPree.

Pagan Leadership coverLet me be perfectly clear from the beginning. I am one of the contributors to this anthology and thus I may be a bit biased in this review. My contribution to the book is called “Take a Break or Burn Out”. I am not writing this review to talk about myself or my contribution. So… On to the review!

Many in the Pagan community have been anticipating the release of this anthology. Shauna and Taylor put a couple of years into the editing process. Some of that time was spent waiting for late contributors, like myself, to send in their final edits. Some of that time was also spent handling their own lives. We often forget that the editors of these anthologies have lives outside the books. The wait was well worth it.

With contributions from some of the movers and shakers of the modern Pagan movement, recognized leaders within the community and up-and-comers, as well as those who never thought of themselves as leaders until they set down to write, the Pagan Leadership Anthology brings you voices from all walks of life and many different flavors of Paganism. You will read articles from Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Pagans of many kinds. What you won’t read is someone telling you that their brand of leadership is the only way.

With contributions from:

  • Rev. Bill Devendack
  • Kenn Day
  • Phoenix
  • Manny Tejeda
  • Sable Aradia
  • Raine Shakti
  • Rev. Judith Laxer
  • Sophia Kelly Shultz
  • Peggy Johnson
  • H. Byron Ballard
  • Rev. Catharine Clarenbach
  • KaliSara
  • Christine Hoff Kraemer (with Selina Rifkin)
  • Selina Rifken
  • Syren Nagakyrie
  • Shauna Aura Knight
  • Jhenah Telyndru
  • Taylor Ellwood
  • Sam Wagar
  • Melanie Howard
  • Jade
  • Diana Rajchel
  • Melissa Hill
  • Cat
  • Lisa Spiral Besnett
  • Annika Mongan
  • Rev. Dr. Karen Tate
  • Romany Rivers
  • Rev. David Oliver King
  • Julia Maupin
  • Lisa McSherry
  • Crystal Blanton
  • Margo Wolfe
  • Philipp Kessler
  • Courtney Weber

If there is one thing you take away from this anthology let it be that all voices are valid. All leadership styles can work, and they can fail. The only really bad way to lead is to ignore your instincts and ignore those who look to you to lead.

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Voices of the Stars by Rowena Whaling

Voices of the Stars, cover.

I’m most familiar with Rowena as a recording artist, having listened to her first album My Mother’s Song for far longer than either her or I would care to admit. Little did I know that she also wrote stories. For most of her life she has been a storyteller and writer. But it wasn’t until Spring 2015 that her first full length novel was published. Voices of the Stars is an epic novel that takes the story of Arthur the Pen Dragon and puts it into the perspective of the key players that we all know and love (or hate).

Somewhat similar in format to The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Voices takes us on a journey through the story – the myth, legend, AND history – of Arthur and his Round Table through the journals and letters of those who were there. A truly riveting story is told through the eyes and memories of Morgan, Arthur himself, Bedwyr, and the Lady Vivienne, to name a few. If you are a fan of the Arthurian legend I suggest you pick this tome up. It’s a great read!

Rowena takes poetic license with the story as we know it. She inserts bits of forgotten lore and history, as well as some of her own poetry and song, into this retelling of the tale. There are some intriguing twists to the story that long time fans of the genre might not like, but I encourage you to read with an open mind. We were not there in the time of Arthur and if we were, our memories may be faded with the passing of the ages.

Wait a minute. Did I just say “if we were” there? Yes. Rowena tells the story not only from the perspective of those who lived it, but with the idea that reincarnation is real and that some who read it might remember bits and pieces, or even whole chapters, of the book. Call it crazy if you want, but the story means so much more if you keep that in mind.

Battle scenes, love scenes, magic, Dragons, and an exploration into how Christianity influenced the politics of ancient Britain. Voices has it all. You won’t be disappointed when you read this novel. The first in a proposed trilogy by Rowena “of the Glen” Whaling.

From a Pagan’s perspective, the story as told by Rowena holds much more import than just the literary work that she has created. It contains much of the myth, the magic, and the reality of the age. Combining the thoughts and deeds of the well-loved (or hated) characters with the reality of the magical life that many of them led, Voices will give you a history of the magic and practices that may have been used during that time.

Ever wonder what it was like to be a practitioner or follower of the old ways back when they weren’t the old ways? In her debut novel, Rowena gives you an idea of what it was like. With explorations of the Divine from the perspective of the Lady of the Lake and her acolytes you will delve into the spirituality of how Rowena remembers things in her own mind. The Prime Mover, the Feminine Divine, even the Masculine Divine are explored in this literary style that will keep you turning the pages.

I’ve got to give Rowena props. She incorporates the “Charm of Making” into the story, just as the classic film does. She does it in such a way that those who know the Charm will know what she is doing and what it means, but without revealing the full charm. For those in the know, the Charm is used in the film, but badly mispronounced. Reading the Charm as she has it in the book will not cause the results of the Charm, however. Unless you finish the Charm out loud or even in your head.  She leaves off before the Charm is completed, switches languages, or otherwise leaves it incomplete in the book. She does the same with the “Charm of Unmaking.”

Simply put, this novel is worthy of five stars. At least in my book.

Hear an interview with Rowena on the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel and an upcoming episode of Green Egg radio with the Maiden, Mother and Crone on January 16, 2016.

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Heretic’s Heart – Margot Adler

Available through Amazon and other online retailers.

Shortly after Margot Adler died I logged into Amazon and ordered both of her memoirs, Heretic’s Heart: A Journey Though Spirit and Revolution and her last published work Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side. I’ll talk about Vampires in later post. I do regret not having read both books while Adler was alive. Would have been a real honor to have interviewed her for my podcast. Alas, she was on my list of must-contact and I didn’t get to her before she died from cancer.

I enjoyed taking a look at the 50’2 and 60’s through the mirror of her memory. The end of one era and the beginning of another. The McCarthy era was winding down when Adler was a child. Her father had been subject to some of the trials and tribulations of being a Communist and nonconformist during that time. Her grandparents had fled to the US to avoid some of the backlash for their political beliefs. Her grandfather was the psychologist Alfred Adler. From the start she was no stranger to controversy and free thinking. Even the elementary school she attended in New York City was off the beaten path – to read her talk about it I felt like I was reading a description of the progressive school from Auntie Mame.

Margot Adler, author and NPR correspondent

Heretic’s Heart, true to the genre of the memoir or autobiography, is full of remembered bits and details as well as letters and journal entries. Adler used those letters and entries to tell her story, sometimes from the perspective of someone else. I really enjoyed the penpal correspondence between the young Margot and the soldier serving in Vietnam. The frankness and openness of both of them was sometimes difficult to read. The raw emotion that went into those letters really made me feel as if I was experiencing what they were describing. Margot’s letters from jail, when she was arrested during a Free Speech Movement rally at UCLA-Berkeley, were very visceral.

In Heretic’s Heart Adler shares some of her deepest joys and fears. From her childhood into her teen years, through college and her exploration of herself and the world. She takes you on her soul journey, spending time in pre-Castro Cuba, supporting the FSM at Berkeley, and moving forward with her spirituality. Born into a non-practicing Jewish family with communist leanings, if any faith system was apparent in her childhood it would have been agnosticism or atheism.  But as she progressed into adulthood Adler felt a calling to something more spiritual. She discovered Paganism, as many know from her first book Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America.

I don’t want to give to much away, but I do want you to understand that this is a story well worth your time to read. I devoured the book in a matter of a few days. For some reason, right after the first of the year, I felt compelled to dive into the world of nonfiction and personal memoirs. This was one of the first in that adventure that I read. I am definitely glad that I did. Perhaps it had something to do with her being a broadcaster, but more likely it was because of the recent loss of her to this world. As the saying goes, those who are remembered never die.

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High Magic’s Aid – Gerald Gardner

Available through Amazon and other online retailers.

This is one of those books that I am asking myself why I waited so long to read it. Gerald Gardner published this work of fiction before the anti-witchcraft laws were abolished in England. He had to couch his beliefs and his rituals in a work of fiction to avoid the microscope of suspicion. After those laws were abolished he was able to openly discuss the contents of the book and how each of the rituals and other practices detailed in the novel were based on actual magical practices.

Published in 1949 and attributed to a mysterious fellow simply called Scribe, High Magic’s Aid is the story of a young man, his brother, a witch, and the ceremonialist who has befriended them. This young man knows that he is meant to be something more than he is, that he is meant to live in the castle and rule over the land, not hoe the field and feed the cattle. He has his heart set on regaining that which was taken from his family. His brother, knowing the truth of their family, stands beside him in all things. Even putting his life and soul in peril by becoming the vessel for a demonic spirit to communicate to his brother.

The demon that takes over his brother’s body direct them to seek the Witch of Wanda, and this they do. At this point the novel explores the horror of the witch craze in England and elsewhere in Europe. Taking the three intrepid friends through the country side to a far off village that is in total squalor and finding this witch they were told to find. She is to provide them with the tools necessary for the ceremonial magician in their midst to create the magical tools necessary to draw the demon back into their circle without the necessity of possession. Those tools are the athame and the white handled knife, or boline. The bladed tools of most Wiccan’s practice.

Gardner certainly draws on what would later be published has his book of shadows, in several forms, and become the text used by Gardnarians and Alexandrians alike – in deed by most practitioners of Wicca in the modern age. He also draws heavily on his background and experiences with secret societies such as the Rosicrucians.

Gerald Gardner

This edition, pictured and linked above, is full of typographical errors. I wrote it off to the efforts of non-professionals converting the text to digital format. That may be. I believe that some, if not all, of the errors were intentional. Most of them appear in the text of the rituals, changing the spelling of an angel or demon’s name, making the pronunciation of one of the names of God different from the Hebrew. For Gardner’s text includes detailed rituals and incantations that have been used for a very long time by various societies, including the Masons.

The story gripped me.  It told a story that made sense to me. One that rang true for the time setting and for the content of the author’s intentions. What Gardner had set out to do was to share the rituals and spells of his own practice with those who would recognize them for what they were. Those that did not see them as true rites would read them as plot points. But if you read carefully, those scenes read as instructions. Telling the ritualist what he or she would need to do to summon up angels and demons.

Interspersed with these high magical rites are the more simple rites of a hedge witch, a practitioner of the Old Ways. A witch and priestess. Her simple rites are just as powerful as the ceremonies portrayed as the aid given by the master. The two paralleled show what would later be known of Gardner’s beliefs and practices in his later instructional works on the budding movement that would become modern Wicca.

Throwing references to how the Catholic church operated during the witch hunts, Gardner also makes allusions to how the Church taught the ideas of the high magic to some of her priests, but refused to allow them to practice those ideas. He also makes inference that the same Pope who launched the Inquisition was somehow involved in a quest for a particular kind of “high magical aid.” But that is something that few who do not know the history of the Inquisition would catch until … Well, no. If I tell you that it would dampen your enjoyment of the story.

Whether you are Wiccan or some other kind of Pagan, or just have an interest in good fantasy books, I’d recommend Gardner’s High Magic’s Aid. I think this may be a book that add to my “highly suggested” reading list for students of the arts magical.

 

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Along the Wheel of Time by Judith Laxer

It is not very often that a publisher or an author reaches out to me personally to read a book for review. Sure, there are publishers who send me books all the time, but rarely do I get personal emails prior to receiving the book. The marketing manager for BookTrope‘s Along the Wheel of Time project did contact me in advance of the book going to press on 5 June 2014. It took me a little while to get around to reading the book, though. I have to admit that I neglected reading it until shortly before my opportunity to interview the author, Rev. Judith Laxer.

You can listen to that interview to learn about the author.

Review: Along the Wheel of Time: Sacred Stories for Nature Lovers is a collection of eight short stories that journeys around the wheel of the year starting with Samhain and continuing through Mabon. Laxer hopes that many readers will “read the story for the each Sabbat year after year.” The book can be read straight through or by starting with the story that relates to the Sabbat closest to you on the calendar. There are no dates listed for the Sabbats, just a feel for each time of year. That said, there is a brief description of each of the Sabbats at the beginning of the story’s section for those who may not be of a Paggan or Earth-spiritual path. Written in such a way, it doesn’t matter which side of the Equator you live on, the stories can be read as appropriate to your situation.

We start out with Samhain, where a young woman follows her lover and finds her calling. Yule gives us two stories in one: A young couple having their first child and a local coven celebrating the Winter Solstice. Six more stories, all unique to Laxer’s style and experience follow. Each one will bring the reader a bit closer to Nature and to Spirit. Suitable for Pagans, New Age believers, and even Christians and atheists, this collection of original short stories just might help shed some light on at least one woman’s view of the Wheel of Time.

The writing process of these stories is unique and Laxer explains it in some detail in her interview. Many of these stories take inspiration for Laxer’s own life and from the stories she has been told over the years by friends and family.

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Seeking the Mystery with Christine Hoff Kraemer

Seeking the Mystery - Christine Hoff KraemerI do enjoy probing around on the internet for books, music and information. Late in July I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a post from Christine Hoff Kraemer, the editor of the Pagan Channel on Patheos.com. In the post she was announcing a book giveaway contest for her latest release, Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies. Being the curious reader that I am, I submitted my name for the drawing. I didn’t win, but Ms Kraemer decided to send me a copy of the book anyway. For that I am thankful.

It would have been great to have had this book already in my library in January of this year when KaliSara and I did our show on Theisms for the Pagan-Musings Podcast. Chapter one of the book gives brief but easily understood definitions of many of the theisms that apply to the various Pagan belief systems out there. Not an exhaustive listing, by any stretch, but a decent starting point. With a great listing of reference materials at the end of the chapter, a student of theology, Pagan or otherwise, has months of reading to do.

Kraemer is not just a writer of books and a blog editor, she is an instructor of Theology and Religious history at Cherry Christine Hoff KraemerHill Seminary. This book reads like a primer for one of her classes. Which is just how it should be read. As an introduction, she does not set out to teach you everything there is to know about Pagan theologies. Instead she helps you get acquainted with many ideas related to theology and introduces you to some modes of thought that might not have been apparent in your own studies.

I was visiting with my brother about the book recently and was trying to describe how the book could be used by Pagans and non-Pagans alike. The best thing I could think of was to pull our Kerr Cuhulain’s Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training (the new title for the expanded The Law enforcement Guide to Wicca). Unlike Cuhulain, Kraemer addresses the topics from the view point of an educator. Either way, both books are useful for Pagans and non-Pagans.

Not only does the book address the topics of theisms, spirituality and Pagan religion in general. Kraemer embarks on how Pagans of various flavors look at the issues of sex, sexuality, death, marriage, and many other issues that have become hot button topics for the modern Pagan world. Between the introduction and the final summary, Kraemer takes you through a glimpse into Pagan theologies:

Chapter One covers theisms, feminist theology and related topics.

Chapter Two covers myth, tradition, authenticity and history.

Chapter Three address knowledge, devotion, and experience.

Chapter Four talks about life, death, sex, and other related hot button topics.

Chapter Five delves into the topics of ethics and justice, virtues and values.

I think Kraemer’s book is going to wind up on my suggested reading list along with Margot Adler, Starhawk, Cuhulain, and many others who have tried to break the terminology of Pagan theology down into concepts that just about everyone can understand.

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