Other Reviews


Dragonswood Calendar 2009-2010
Gillie Whitewolf, 2009
http://www.Gaias-Garden.co.uk

~ A calendar of pagan days celebrating the wheel of the year from Samhain to Samhain.
~ Featuring folklore and customs from across the Northern Hemisphere along with monthly gardening tips, Nature watching and observations on the night sky.
~ Accompanied by artwork inspired by the changing seasons.

I am always on the lookout for a good Pagan calendar, but so far have found that either the content for each month is too prim and airy-fairy, or the festivals marked on the calendar only focus on Wicca, or that the artwork is unattractive. However, the Dragonswood 2009-2010 Calendar has none of these flaws, and is, in my opinion, the best Pagan calendar I’ve seen.

From the very front cover it is an aesthetic joy, with beautiful and detailed artwork that is also simple and symbolic. Running from November 2009 to October 2010, each month is illustrated by images from the same artist. These images are all set in the same place, with a tree on the right-hand side and a field in the background, but each changes throughout the months. So, in November a hole in the tree shelters a skull, candle, and empty spider’s web, a lantern shines in the darkness of the field, and ravens fly in the dark night. In May that hole is decorated by ribbons, surrounding a set of runes; the tree is decorated with clouties, bees and dragonflies abound, and a Bel fire burns under a blazing sun. And in August the tree’s hole carries a corn dolly and a sickle, the field is yellow and the corn is baled, and red ribbons and corn dollies hang from the tree branches in a pink-purple sunset. Not only do these images make reference to the main Wiccan Sabbats, they also highlight the changes in nature at various times of the year, as well as folkloric customs practised during these months.

Each month is also accompanied by a detailed piece discussing the history of the month, festivals and feast days occurring in it both today and in ancient times, the flowers, fruits, and animals that are around at this time, and what can be seen in the nightsky for star-gazers. In fact, there seems to be something for everybody, and I know that I’ll be inspired to go out and look for the Perseids shower described in August and the Orionoids meteor shower in October! A lovely feature of each month is the very bottom of the page – “The Vegetable Patch”. Only a few lines, but very useful information nonetheless, regarding what vegetables and fruits are in season, what can be planted, and what should be harvested at each month.

The month itself is presented as a grid, beginning with Sunday, and a small box for each day. The main Sabbats are highlighted in pale yellow, and festivals from several different religions and traditions are written on the relevant days. I loved this multicultural feature, because it made me very aware of the holiness of each and every day, and gave me food for thought as I went through my daily activities. It would also be useful for parents who (like me, if I had children!) would like to raise their children with an awareness of other cultures’ traditions, and perhaps plan some activities relating to those holy days.

The first page of the calendar is devoted to given a short history of the calendar throughout the ages – very interesting reading! And the last page is given to poetry on the theme of Samhain. The back page informs us that the calendar has been printed on paper which has received certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, and the other eco-friendly steps that have been taken to ensure this calendar is 100% ethically sound! Fantastic!

I really am enamoured with the love and thought that has been put into the making of this calendar, and I know that when next October is over, I’ll be cutting out the beautiful images and using them on my altar as the following year goes by, and purchasing next year’s Dragonswood Calendar.

Alchemists, Mediums & Magicians: Stories of Taoist Mystics
translated and edited by Thomas Cleary
reviewed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review

This is an extraordinary book whose contents range from the humorous to the bizarre to the profound, demonstrating the nature of the material within it – the lives of Taoist sages.  Thomas Cleary is well known as one of the foremost translators of classical Taoist and Buddhist works, and here he once again demonstrates his scholarship and understanding.  His very helpful footnotes elaborate on terminology, and the names of places and individuals mentioned, making the material more easily accessible to the reader.
The book is a translation of a collection of sketches by the fourteenth century Taoist priest, Zhang Tianyu, and portrays more than one hundred characters from a two thousand four hundred year period covering the eleventh century BCE through to the thirteenth century CE.
The poetry and quotes from many of the illuminated Taoists within provide food for the spirit and the mind.  If you are inspired or moved by lines like “Stillness and silence are the house to safeguard virtue; purity and calm are the garden where the spirit may roam” (Yang Xiong), or “Roaming in the void, I escape the high winds; Walking in the miraculous, I have no form or place.  The experience of completeness lights the dawn haze; Nine phoenixes sing in the morning sun.  Spreading their wings, they dwarf the Milky Way” then this is definitely the book for you.
Although it may be viewed superficially as a collection of sketches of lives, ranging from a paragraph to several pages for each of the sages, there is so much more here.  The collection is itself an illustration of the magic and mysticism of Taoism in action.  From this perspective even the shortest life sketch may be read as a doorway to open the horizons of the mind and allow the spirit to soar.  This is a book to dip into with joy, to inspire and even to guide, and the Thomas Cleary is to be congratulated on his excellent work in making it available.

We know that Hekate Liminal Rites is one of the best books on the subject, and we know that it is a book that will continue to spark debate, discussion and exploration of the mysteries of the Goddess Hekate.  It is therefore a great thing to know that others are also enjoying the book, especially when they are such discerning readers such as the editorial team at The HedgeWytch Magazine – www.sothisstar.co.uk, here is an extract of what they said, to read the full magazine which includes articles by Pete Nash, Isobella Faye, Michael Hower, Shani Oates, Bill, G Nottingham, Chattering Magpie and many others see the website for subscription details.  The review is from issue #47:

“For all of you who are drawn to this most fascinating liminal goddess, Hekate, you will not be disappointed.  And for those of you who wish to explore and learn more about Hekate, then this is certainly for you.  Drawn from historical sources, the reader is taken on a journey from Hekate as Phosphorus (light bringer) and liminal goddess of the gate through the exploration of some of her most well known titles from (in alphabetical order) Chthonia (‘earthly one’) to Trioditis (‘of the three ways’).  Just this list of titles will draw the reader in.  ….  ….. ….. …. A highly recommended read for all.”

hekate_liminalrites

Tantra Sadhana: A Practical Introduction to Kaula Magick by Mogg Morgan (Sahajanath)

reviewed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review

Mogg Morgan is one of the great invisible pillars of the modern magical revival.  He has contributed continuously and over a wide range of fields for the last thirty or so years, always producing quality, be it as magazines, events, groups, lectures or books.  This book, Tantra Sadhana, is an excellent example of his work.  It is full of practical, interesting, and more enjoyably, exciting material which you want to try out.

The material is divided into two main sections, with the second building on the first, and then a wealth of rewaring material follows in the appendixes.  The author starts by laying the foundations, explaining the nature of Tantra, and then moves on to explore practice (sadhana), sounds (mantra), images (mandala/yantra), gestures (mudra), consecration (nyasa), meditation (dhyana), ritual (puja), initiation (diksha), magick and liberation and individuality.

The second section goes into the the practices and exercises of the Sadhana, the month long practice which helps the practitioner align themselves with the essence of these techniques and discover the currents they embody.  This is lucidly laid out in a way that makes the practice extremely accessible.  Ganesha the elephant-headed god who removes obstacles also is honoured, with information on practices with him included in this section.

The appendixes are like a treasure box of assorted gems.  It includes such subjects as invocation of kundalini, the grammar of tantra, Ganesha legends, the demon doctrine and the roots of Tantra, the Tantrik knuckle bone oracles, the Hindu lunar calendar and many others.  There is also a poignant supplement entitled When your guru goes gaga, recounting the problems that arose for members of Amookos with their guru prior to his death.

All in all this is an excellent and very enjoyable book, which should appeal to anyone interested in magic, not just tantra, as much of the material is thought-provoking whatever your path may be.

The following review of the 2008 anthology edited by Sorita d’Este appeared in “The Equinox” (British Journal of Thelema, VII 9) recently:

Priestesses Pythonesses Sibyls

Reviewed by Sophie Zumm, The Equinox: British Journal of Thelema

An exploration of trance work, both historically and practically. Written by twenty-one women involved in magic and neo-paganism; this is an intriguing collection of essays and articles. There are many highpoints, and every reader will have their own favourites; mine include the history of the Delphic Oracle by Caroline Tully, and Janet Farrar’s account of her work with oracular trance techniques. Looking at visionary experience through many different eyes, I was at times reminded of Scarlet Imprint’s collection Devoted. Although a gentler collection, mental and physical challenges are confronted in this book. All in all a fascinating and inspiring insight into the interior world of modern magic through the eyes of experienced and capable female practitioners.

For more information on this very thought provoking and provocative work please see http://www.avaloniabooks.co.uk/catalogue/titles/priestesses.htm – for details of the contributors and an extract from the foreword please visit http://pythoness.avalonia.co.uk

9781905297214


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.