Dear Readers,

We would like to welcome you to our new home here at http://esotericbookreview.wordpress.com – you may have found us by following a link to our old website, or maybe your browser redirected you here.

The Esoteric Book Review was created by the occult author Sorita d’Este as part of her Avalonia website which was founded in 1997.  It moved to its own seperate website about two years ago during some reorganisations of Avalonia by Sorita.  At that time she appointed me as the Reviews Editor and with her help I have been able to learn more about internet technology and gain the confidence to be able to now take on the massive task of administering this website by myself.

The Esoteric Book Review is a peer review.  The reviews you will find here have been written by people who have many years worth of experience as practitioners of magick, devotees of the old gods, readers of tarot and weavers of the webs of sorcery.   They include amongst them esoteric scholars and academics, authors, writers, teachers of wicca and members of large and prestigious magical organisations and traditions.   They share their genuine opinion on the books they review, good or bad.  They are volunteers who share a passion for the occult, for magick, paganism and spirituality, for witchcraft, voodoo, root magic and the old gods.

So if you are with us now, in the words of Aleister Crowley:

“Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.”

156, 93, BB, LVX and all the fraternal and sororal blessings

Nina Lazarus

 

PS. Please note, the reviews previous to the this message have all been imported from the original reviews website.  They are all posted as “Avalonia LuxNox” though they were written by a variety of authors over the last few years.  In most instances the name of the author is contained within the message body itself.

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

Dedicant: A Witch’s Circle of Fire
Thuri Calafia
published by Llewellyn
PB, 342pp, US$19.95
reviewed by John Canard

This book joins the ever-growing collection of books for newcomers, the first in a series to work through the four stages of initiation up to third degree (the fourth book). I started working through the book with an open mind, not wishing to be prejudiced as there are some very good introductory books on the market, and I wanted to determine if this was one of them. It quickly became clear that this is a book of what I would call neo-Wicca, i.e. the religious version of Wicca that has moved away from its ceremonial magickal roots and embraced the accreted material of Robert Graves and others. This was demonstrated by the reference in the first chapter to the Greek goddess Hecate as being the archetype of the crone. Moving straight into the beginning of the second chapter, we find that wicca comes from the root “to bend or shape”, another inaccuracy found in books by people who haven’t done their research. And Gerald Gardner did not bring the word Wicca to light as the author claimed, it was widely used for many centuries prior to Gardner. I had hoped that anyone setting themselves up as a teacher would have got past this sort of rehashed mistake by now, but it seems there is still a lot of education needed in the pagan world.
The author also makes one of the most outrageous and offensive heterophobic remarks I have seen in a book for a while, though it may appeal to some politically correct types. The author claims that many or indeed most homosexuals and bisexuals are naturally more balanced in terms of male/female energy because being with people of the same gender can bring out a strong sense of the opposite within. She notes here that she is a lesbian/bisexual – which is nonsense, if you are bisexual and have a relationship with a person of the same sex, it doesn’t suddenly make you homosexual, it just means you are bisexual!
Moving on to the section ongetting started we are told “In the Burning Times, it was customary to keep the grimoire in your own hand of write”. Please! The Burning Times is a bit of nonsense propaganda which has been disproved numerous times by proper research, and the people usually espoused as being the poor persecuted witches were usually illiterate! This is followed by the chakras, an Eastern accretion that has now seemingly become standard Wicca. Likewise the appendix which reproduces the Rede of the Wicca with the statement that there are many forms of the Wiccan Rede is perpetuating more nonsense – there is one Wiccan Rede, and only one – An it harm none, do as ye will.
As a general introductory book, this book does cover all the basics, and would be suitable for somebody new to paganism who wants to follow the religious polyglot that Wicca seems to have become for many. It is a shame that there are some glaring errors based on the reproduction of old mistakes amongst the text, requiring a discrimination that newcomers will not commonly have. Hopefully such errors will not occur in the subsequent books in the series.

Dear All,

We hope you are having a fantastic Walpurgis Night!

Of course this is one of the oldest festivals in the British Isles, which was originally one of the great Druidic feast days. An idea we touched upon in our book “Wicca Magickal Beginnings” when we were looking into the origins for the eight festivals which are now usually referred to as “The Wheel of the Year”:-

“Although Murray attributed these Sabbaths to witches’ celebrations, in fact they were originally linked to druids. Robert and William Chambers recorded an early occurrence of the celebration of the four great festivals in their 1842 work, Chambers Information for the People:

“Cormac, bishop of Cashel in the tenth century, records that in his time four great fires were lighted up on the four great festivals of the druids – namely in February, May, August, and November: probably Beltane and Lammas were two of these.”

This is an extremely significant reference which seems to have been largely overlooked. The text the Chambers are referring to is in fact the late ninth century Irish Psalter of Cashel, which contained reference to the four great Sabbats being celebrated by the druids as a cycle. This then gives us a clear precedent for celebration of the cycle of the four great Sabbats more than one thousand years ago by the Irish druids.”

[ Wicca Magickal Beginnings, Sorita d’Este & David Rankine, Avalonia, www.avaloniabooks.co.uk ]

So if you are doing something to mark this festival you are treading a path of celebration which is truly ancient. Many of the folk traditions were preserved through folk customs, such as beating the bounds, dancing the maypole, divinations for love, many stories of phantoms and faeries (hinting at the thinning of the veils at Beltane, as it does at Samhain. Many customs celebrate using greenery and flowers – such as the many Jack in the Green and Green Man festivals. This year (weather permitting as we have a toddler!) we will be making our way to the Green Man of Clun Festival – http://www.clungreenman.org.uk/ for details. It looks like it will be great fun and certainly we have heard great things about it from friends who have been.

I will also be going out in the morning to gather herbs and dew to use in magical workings during the coming year. Fingers crossed for a sunny morning as the fields around here are all very muddy with all this rain already!

This year the Ludlow Esoteric Conference is also taking place in May, albeit later in the month, it is essential for those of you haven’t yet booked tickets to do so now as it is all done the old fashioned way – ie. Sending in a letter and cheque. Details can be found at http://esotericconference.wordpress.com/ – This will be first year that I will be speaking at this great event – other speakers include both David Rankine and Stephen Skinner – so this is an event which is a must for those of you who are seriously interested in the grimoire traditions. Details of other speakers and the topics can be found on their site.

Speaking of websites, we have been very busy this month at Avalonia. Our latest title “Visions of the Cailleach” has been received with great excitement all around the world by lovers of Celtic Mythology and spirituality, as well as those who are wise to the wisdom and magic to be found in the stories of the Crone Goddess of the British Isles. Details of this book can be found at http://cailleach.avalonia.co.uk – including a couple of extracts from the book.

Some of you may remember us announcing the release of “Priestesses Pythonesses & Sibyls” back in December. This book which contains essays by more than twenty modern day priestesses of a variety of traditions is already being adopted as a standard text by many covens and groups who practice trance and mediumship. Someone made a comment to me earlier this week about the sheer quantity and quality of the experience contained in the book and inspired me to work out an estimate of the combined number of years the ladies who wrote for the book had between them. Its only an estimate as you never ask a lady her age of course (if you read Visions of the Cailleach you will know why!) …. but the total is an estimated 500 years! (YES FIVE HUNDRED YEARS!!! HALF A MILLENIUM, FIVE CENTURIES!) Maybe that is one way of expressing the sheer level of knowledge contained in this incredible anthology? Details of the contributors, with biographies can be found at http://pythoness.avalonia.co.uk

Of course we continue working hard at fulfilling our aims of “Expanding the Esoteric Horizons”. In the coming months we are releasing several exciting titles. This includes a very exciting book on the Goddess Hekate, entitled “HEKATE LIMINAL RITES”. This book brings together evidence for historical rituals, ceremonies, spells and devotional workings which were performed in Hekate’s name. As such it is unique amongst the books published to date about this popular Goddess of Crossroads and Sorcery. Details will soon be available.

We all love bargains – and just until the end of this weekend we are offering three of our titles at huge discounts in celebration of both Beltane and our fourth year of publishing – see http://www.avaloniabooks.co.uk/beltane09.htm for details. Its a good excuse to try something new that you may otherwise not have done – and Beltane is a great time for trying new things.

Well, its getting late and I have to get up early in the morning!

Enjoy yourselves in the coming days, and remember to honour the union of opposites in yourself, as well as in the world around you – through doing that you can manifest wisdom, harmony and love for yourself and your loved ones in the coming year!

Blessings,
Sorita d’Este

http://www.avaloniabooks.co.uk

Wiccan Mysteries: Ancient Origins & Teachings

Raven Grimassi

published by Llewellyn

PB, 294pp, $16.95

reviewed by John Canard

When I started to read this book I resolved to keep an open mind, even though the author quoted some expert sources like Robert Graves and Marija Gimbutas, the former being a notorious revisionist, and the latter also known for her agendas and tendency to rewrite the evidence to suit her theories.  He then begins by explaining that Wicca was essentially a mystery tradition derived from the Celtic religions, though often this passed down as oral (and thus conveniently unprovable) teachings.

Sadly in his eagerness to prove his point Grimassi makes statements which are quite frankly wrong and can be easily disproved with a minimum of research.  E.g.  he informs us that the ancients called the elementals by the names now commonly used, i.e. gnomes of earth, sylphs of air, salamanders of fire and undines of water.  In fact most modern concepts of elementals, including the ones he expresses, are derived from the classic work by Paracelsus, The Book of Nymphs, Sylphs, Pygmies and Salamanders and Kindred Beings, published in 1616.  The words Undine and Sylph were certainly not used in the ‘ancient world’, where there was no concept of the elementals beyond the elemental daimons suggested by Proclus.

The book does have some interesting ideas, and Grimassi clearly wants to expound on the theology and philosophy of Wicca as a mystery tradition, which is to be applauded.  However his tendency to rely on unreliable sources, and then start bringing in ideas like chakras and ley lines as being relevant due to their presence in mystery traditions, means this becomes a case of sorting out the wheat from the chaff, of which sadly there is quite a bit.

The chapter on the Magickal Arts has some interesting snippets, discussing ideas like odic force and informing, though his attribution of reduction sigils to the twentieth century magickal artist Austin Spare is a few centuries out, as they can be found in Agrippa’s sixteenth century Three Books of Occult Philosophy.  It is a shame that this tenth edition, published in 2008, did not take advantage of work that has been published since the book was first released in 1997, such as Triumph of the Moon by Hutton, Wicca Magickal Beginnings by d’Este and Rankine and Hidden Children of the Goddes by Clifton.  The research contained in such volumes does invalidate much of the material in this book, which is a shame because I wanted to like it, and could see that there are some good ideas in amongst the misinformation presented within.  The reason to read this book would be to test your ideas and knowledge, and provide a sounding board as to where you are at, with a few ideas that might be helpful thrown in, but for the beginner the level of faulty information means it should be avoided.

Priestesses, Pythonesses & Sibyls is the latest anthology to be released by Avalonia Books.  It is already causing a lot of excitement, so we are pleased to be able to include this announcement here on the Esoteric Book Review.

Priestesses, Pythonesses & Sibyls
Edited by Sorita d’Este, with 20 Phenomenal Women and modern day Priestesses

Available for order now at Avalonia Books (free P&P worldwide)

Priestesses Pythonesses Sibyls lifts a veil to reveal the mystery of trance as experienced by female magickal practitioners today. Through happiness and sorrow, myth and legend, art and poetry, through ritual and dance each woman expresses her own unique and personal transformative experiences of trance. Whether through trance possession, mediumship, Drawing Down the Moon, oracular or mantic states, dance, dreams or formal ceremony the experiences and knowledge gained during trance states can bring dramatic changes to one’s life. The practices represented in this volume are drawn from the experiences and research of more than twenty women from around the world, each providing a unique vision of their own experiences of the Divine.

The book begins with “Ecstatic Histories” a section of three scholarly essays. The first, Mantic Voices by Sorita d’Este provides an overview of the role of mantic priestesses in the major oracles of the ancient world, with a consideration of the resurgence of the role of the priestess in the modern Western magickal traditions. This is followed by Caroline Tully’s The Pythia exploring the history and role of the Oracle at Delphi and Kim Huggens’ Silent Priestesses which looks at female priests and prophetesses in early Christianity.

Then in “Sacred Utterances”, the second part of this anthology, eighteen modern day Priestesses, Pythonesses and Sibyls share their own personal experiences, wisdom and research on the practice of trance. These women come from a wide spectrum of magickal and pagan traditions, including Goddess Spirituality, the Western Mystery Tradition, Thelema, Wicca, Candomble, Voudou and Seidr. Sharing, sometimes for the first time, deep spiritual experiences and insights gained through the work they have performed as Priestesses serving in their own unique way, they provide the reader with insights into their practices which could not be found anywhere else.

This section includes essays by authors such as Janet Farrar, Naomi Ozaniec and Vivienne O’Regan, Wiccan Priestesses Galatea, Diane Champigny, Yvonne Aburrow, Emily Ounsted and Sorrell Cochrane, and Priestess of Avalon Jacqui Woodward-Smith. It also includes Seidr practitioner Katie Gerrard, Priestess of Apollo Bolina Oceanus, Cathryn Orchard a Priestess of the Gnostic Catholic Church, Voudou hounsi bossal Sophia Fisher, Healer and Psychic Medium Kay Gillard, Orixa devotee Andrea Salgado-Reyes, Teacher and Priestess Connia Silver, and dancers Mariëlle Holman and Nina Falaise.

Unique, powerful and insightful, this book expresses the liminal world of trance in an accessible way for the first time.

Available now from Avalonia Books

Beyond the Broomstick
Thoughts on the philosophy of Wicca
By Morgana

Introducing major concepts such as Polarity, the Triple Goddess, the God and the Elements; Morgana has presented Wicca in a friendly, easy-to-read manner.

This is an excellent primer for beginners but is also a handy source of information for the already interested, to learn more about what Wicca is rather than what it isn’t.

‘I remember writing the series with great enthusiasm, and I hope this enthusiasm continues to inspire newcomers to see the truly life-changing possibilities Wicca can offer. As a ‘religion of self expression’ I wish everyone an inspiring quest on this path called Wicca. I can only say – it is worth it!
Blessed be, Morgana.’

Morgana: Beyond the Broomstick * 100p. softcover
To order visit: Saga Whyte Press

Morgana is a Gardnerian Wiccan High Priestess and the International Coordinator of the Pagan Federation International, an international Pagan organisation. She is British and has lived in the Netherlands since 1974.

Over the years, she has facilitated a variety of Gardnerian Wiccan groups. She is co-editor of the international and bilingual magazine Wiccan Rede, which was launched in 1979, and together with Merlin, runs Silver Circle, a Wiccan network in the Netherlands.

Morgana travels extensively giving workshops. She represented the PFI at the World Parliament of Religions in July 2004 in Barcelona, Spain. In cooperation with the National Coordinator for PFI Turkey, she lead a PFI delegation in a cultural visit to Turkey in September 2005. She also gave workshops in Uppsala, Sweden, and Milan, Italy. In 2006 she visited Hungary and Bulgaria and represented PFI at the EU conference Intercultural Dialogue, Best Practices in Brussels, Belgium. In 2007 she presented Wicca Intensives in Turkey and Hungary, and lectured in France & Germany.

Hekate Keys to the Crossroads

Edited by Sorita d’Este, published by Avalonia

Available directly from Avalonia Books or from outlets such as Amazon, B&N and good bookshops.

———–

A collection of personal essays, invocations, rituals, recipes, artwork from modern Witches, Priestesses, Priests who work with Hekate, the Ancient Greek Goddess of Witchcraft, Magick and Sorcery.

This review is from WICCAN REDE magazine, reproduced here with permission.  For information on The Wiccan Rede see www.silvercircle.org - it is a bi-lingual magazine, produced quarterly in Dutch and English and focussed on Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism.  This from the Samhain 2008 edition.

“As the title suggests this is a collection fo essays covering a wide range of subjects concerning the worship of Hekate.  In Part 1 “Her History, Myths and Powers” Sorita writes a foreword and includes her own encounter with Hekate and the formation of the magical group VITRIOL Grove (VG) which is now a network.

In Part 2 in “Hekate’s Witches” various people offer their experiences and a number of personal altars and other photos are included.  It is interesting to read how everyone works with Hekate in her different aspects.  Most people seem to work with the Greek Hekate but the one thing this books illustrates iseh vast differences that exists even within the Hellenistic setting. And most if not all refer to blood sacrifices in one way or another.  In any event working with Hekate is a life-changing experience.

I can certainly attest to that, thinking of the changes in my life after the Hekate experience in Caria, Turkey at Lagina, the oldest sanctuary to Hekate in the world.  The essays are a source of inspiration and as I read them, I could feel myself wanting to get out and do something!

As key-bearer or matron of childbrith Hekate is the guide to our own underworld, the “dark side of ourselves” (Ouch, how I hate that term..) in any event the place where we take charge of our life.

In the last part there are practical tips, making preparations for the rituaps, recipes for incense and food… and including a “modern mystery play” written for Lapis Companions – David & Sorita’s outer court group or “open learning circle”.

An excellent book for anyone who is interested in strengthening his or her connection with Hekate!”

———–

* Esoteric Review Note: Lapis Companions was dissolved in 2006 , after many years of facilitating training and ritual in London, as Sorita and David moved to Wales and was unable to continue running the group.

The Wiccan Rede is a great magazine, and there is plenty in there for anyone interested in a different and less mainstream read, with plenty of interesting topics covered.  Details can be found at www.silvercircle.org (check out their forums too, for some excellent discussions)

Wiccan Mysteries

Ancient Origins & Teachings

By Raven Grimassi

Published by Llewellyn, 2008

Review by Herb Woman for the Esoteric Book Review.

This book claims to contain “initiate-level” teachings of Wicca and also claims to provide in depth insights into its pre-Christian historical and theological roots from Old Europe through to Modern America.   So how does it measure up?

I recently finished the excellent Wicca Magickal Beginnings by David Rankine and Sorita d’Este and I approached this book with the view that it might provide similar types of insights into the practices.  I have been a practising solitary practioner for many years and have a fair advantage in that I have been able to study with some of the best teachers in the UK over the last twenty or so years.

My first concerns for the historical value of the material started with the line “The vast majority of Wiccan Traditions have their foundation in the religion of the Celts”.  It made me squirm as in actual fact there is very little of anything that can be considered “Celtic” in traditional Wicca.  This was the first paragraph, but the author does go on to tell us that there is little of what the Celts believed or did that can be proven historically and that this may have lead to a lack of credibility amongst academia for the practices of Wicca.  This is certainly true.  But how does the rest of the book measure up to the promises?

The bulk of the material in the book is drawn from the published material from the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, including plenty of material which is usually considered oathbound.  Including the texts from the Great Rite and The Descend of the Goddess.  This is nothing new, as it has been published by various authors before which is acknowledged in part by the author.  I would have expected to have more of a historical insight to the actual texts, as I felt that the book somehow promised this.  However, although the book lacks a proper historical look at the texts, it does provide some insights to the authors understanding of the texts and their context in his practices.  This is very useful and something which is rarely done in books which reproduce these texts wholesale for the sake of it – it is here that this book comes into its own.  Though his explanations are in places very different from that which I was taught in the Wiccan Traditions I have worked in, I found them insightful and useful as it is sometimes in the differences between traditions and ideas that we learn the most.   Sometimes it feels as if the author is deliberately not revealing absolutely everything, or maybe that he is trying to simplify his explanations in order to appeal to a wider audience.  An example of this can be found when he discusses the “erected the holy twin pillars” are obviously the black and white pillars of the Tree of Life, Boaz and Jachim.

Though this is a book about “Wiccan Mysteries” the author repeatedly quotes from non-Wiccan authors throughout the book.  For me this shows that he is obviously well read and educated in more than just Wicca, and that he obviously takes his inspiration as much from the Western Esoteric Traditions in general as from that of Wicca.  This is refeshing to see, as too often magickal traditions can become stale through the lack of acknowledgement for the interwoven nature of magick as a whole.

I am not sure of the historical basis for the idea of the Watchers (Grigori) in the Wiccan Tradition, but I am familiar with the fact that Grimassi incorporates it into his Italian Witchcraft practices which is explained in his earlier book ITALIAN WITCHCRAFT.  Again this is not generally something which is found in all traditions of Wicca, though he does go on to explain that sometimes they are called “The Old Ones” a concept I am more familiar with in Wicca, though not as “Watchers” rather as ancestral spirits.  So this is interesting ideed.

The book goes on to explore a number of other modern Pagan ideas, practices and beliefs.  On the whole, this book provides valuable insights into the authors’ practices, as well as plenty ideas which could be adapted and incorporated into personal practice.  All and all, an interesting book for those looking for something different.  Recommended.

Defences Against the Witches’ Craft

By John Canard

(An english root magician)

Published by Avalonia, 2008

Review by Herb Woman for The Esoteric Book Review

As a regular reader of the Esoteric Book Review I have found myself reading reviews by John Canard on this site many times and have learned a great deal from his wit and dry sense of humour.  When I found out that he had his first book published by a friend of mine who runs Avalonia Books, I decided that I should review the book.  It was difficult to try and remain neutral and impartial, I am a herb worker of many years experience.  Not a herbalist, just someone who performs magick with herbs and plants, so when I found out the author was an English Root Magician my ears pricked and I sat up to listen and find out more.

This, his first published book, is focussed on curses.  He provides down to earth and practical advice on how to find out if you have been cursed, how to detect the perpetrator and how to destroy magickal links.  He explains traditional methods for nailing footprints and how to work with Church Grimms, construct charms and how to grow herbs and other plants to protect your home.  His work draws both from his own research into the subject, as well as his training and experience.  As one of only a small group of practicing English Root Magicians today John provides an insight into a world otherwise unknown to the thousands of people who have an interest in the magick and spiritual beliefs of our ancestors.

So is it worth the £9.99 cover price?

Absolutely.  I found some of the charms and practical advice invaluable and most of all unique.  The book covers the subject of curses in a way that does not induce paranoia, he is throroughly practical and honest.  He gives a “check list” against which one could check for “too many coincidences” – as a sign for a curse.  This is not something I have seen anywhere else.

Cursing might be rare, but many of the techniques provided by Canard in this book would be very effective to defend against general negativity too.  Some of it is preventative in its nature.

Defences Against the Witches’ Craft is a book which I think all people who practice magick should be open to reading and it is likely to become a “cult classic” like many of the books published by Avalonia as it covers a subject that is simply not written about in this way.

So if you think you have been cursed?  Want to make sure that you are protected against curses and negativity; if you want to find out who cursed you or even how to curse and do it well, then this book has something to offer you.  I am recommending it to all my friends.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.