The Red Church

By C.R. Bilardi


~review by David Rankine (originally at www.ritualmagick.co.uk )

When most of the books you read are for research, it is always a pleasure to read a good book which increases your knowledge of an associated subject which you have not had time to study.  Chris Bilardi’s The Red Church is an excellent example of this.  Subtitled “The Art of Pennsylvania German Braucherei”, this book is a fascinating study of Pow Wow, the American Christian folk magic which grew from German roots.

The first part of the book provides a detailed analysis of the different European (predominantly German) religious movements which fed into the Braucherei, setting the scene and providing the provenance for the material.  The historical analysis is a vital part of providing the context for magical systems, so it was a pleasure to see such a through treatise which covered all the ground whilst holding the reader’s interest.

As a tradition which draws on the grimoires and Qabalah as well as its Biblical core, the practices are heavily religious, and Bilardi is not afraid to emphasise the importance of being a good member of the local Christian community, something which was key to magical practitioners of the grimoires, cunning-folk and other traditions as well.  It is good to see the debt that the Western Esoteric Traditions owe to Christianity as one of the driving forces of modern magic being acknowledged.  It has become unfortunately trendy in some areas to ‘bash’ Christianity as being anti-pagan, whilst reflecting those same prejudices, and also ignoring the fact that there is an inherent magic in the Bible and Christian practice which continues to be one of the most powerful magical currents in the world.

However this book is not purely about hisotry and philosophy, it is also packed with numerous examples of the charms and practices of Braucherei, drawn from the old texts like The Long Lost Friend and also from practitioners, which show very effectively how quickly practices can evolve and change through personal use and experience.  (As an aside, Dan Harms is working on a definitive volume on The Long Lost Friend which should be a welcome addition to this field).

All in all this is an excellent volume which should be of interest to a wide range of people, from magicians to folklorists, healers to historians, psychologists to pagans.  Chris Bilardi is to be congratulated on producing such a fine work.

Aleister Crowley: A Modern Master
by John Moore
reviewed by Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review

This book is an attempt to place Crowley in the context of modern ideas and older traditions.  That this should be attempted is not surprising when we recall that Crowley was number 73 in the recent poll of the top 100 Britons.  The biographical details given for Crowley are supplied to justify or clarify points of view, and as such this work is not, nor does it claim to be, a biography, providing only such piecemeal references.

Unfortunately this has resulted in sections of the book where you forget it is even about Crowley, as his name disappears for eight or ten pages at a time in places whilst the author discusses philosophy.  Whilst these discussions are interesting and demonstrate the authors breadth of knowledge, they often seem tangential and not directly relevant to Crowley and his context.  From this perspective the absence of Richard Kaczynski’s Perdurabo from the bibliography suggests a worthy source missed, whose treatment could have provided more useful ideas for the author.

This is an interesting work, but more as a background work for someone wishing to expand on their ideas of material that may have influenced Crowley, rather than Crowley the man, the mage or the modern master.

Gateways to Health Series

Butterfly Tai Chi: Health, Energy and Tranquility in Ten Minutes a Day

by Martin Faulks

reviewed by John Canard for the Esoteric Book Review

This little book is the latest offering in the delightful Gateways to Health series from Watkins Publishing.  As with the other title by Martin Faulks (Secrets of Rejuvenation: Zen Warrior Exercises), this book is very concise and manages to explain the exercises in a very simple yet precise way, making them very accessible.  This book is really Tai Chi for the busy twenty-first century person, allowing you to access the benefits of this system of energy circulation for better health and wellbeing in a very practical manner.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in tai chi, healing or subtle energy work – a little gem!

It is rare to encounter a book amongst the many being published today which truly looks at a subject from a new perspective, with eyes wide open and with a passion which goes all the way to the core.  Stellar Magic by Payam Nabarz is one such book and I was honoured to be able to attend the launch party for this book at the Atlantis Bookshop in Museum Street, London and to have my copy signed by the author.  A copy which will be much treasured in years to come. The event was very well attended and I was greeted by the friendly staff and made to feel welcome with a glass of wine to boot!  Payam spoke about the book, giving little insights into each of the chapters and it was really good to be able to get a feel for his passion on the subject, something which is so evident in the book too.

Stellar Magic is a Liber Astrum, a book of the stars.  For those who have not been fortunate enough to encounter this new book by Payam Nabarz, who is well known for his work on Mithras, as yet details can be found at the Avalonia website.   I include it below for convenience and will be writing a review very soon!

The stars have influenced mankind with their magic from time immemorial, as evidenced by Archeoastronomy; instructing astrologers and priests, guiding sailors and inspiring poets. For millennia, cultures all around the world have told their myths and legends through the canvas of the night sky. Yet despite the immense significance of the constellations and stars in the ancient world, stellar magic has been largely ignored in recent centuries.

In this inspirational and practical Liber Astrum, the author draws together material from ancient, classical and medieval sources; spanning East and West, fusing modern poetry with ancient magic, mysticism with myth and ritual with recital to lift our gazes back to the heavens.

The author’s breadth of scholarship is seen in the spectrum of material he weaves together, from sources as diverse as the Hymns of Orpheus and Plato’s Timaeus to the Zoroastrian Yasht hymns and Persian Pahlavi Texts, the Sufi works of the Ibn Arabi and Rumi; from the Chaldean Oracles and the Greek Magical Papyri to the Books of Ezekiel and Enoch, from the Picatrix and the Sefer Yetzirah to the works of John Dee, Rudolf Steiner, Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley. The poetic inspiration of the stars is also expressed through material and ideas by such luminaries as John Milton, Gerald Manly Hopkins, Sylvia Plath, Robert Graves and W.B. Yeats.

Through the enchanting words and ceremonies provided to lead the way, timeless journeys to the stars are woven around the participants. Included amongst the rites are ceremonies with the constellations of Perseus & Andromeda, Cygnus, Orion, the Pleiades, the Great Bear, Draco, the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the star Sirius, the Moon, the seven classical Planets, and the Stellar World Cave: the Mithraeum.

This is a highly accessible, succinct and practical book on a complex subject, which will benefit anyone interested in the magic of the stars, from the casual observer of the night skies to the dedicated magician or mystic.

Available from The Atlantis Bookshop, other esoteric and occult shops and directly from Avalonia.

ps. There are some photographs of the event available at the Avalonia WordPress Blog.

Ecstasia: An Introduction to Transcendental Music and Dance by Julia R. Zay

reviewed by Sr_Chamos for the Esoteric Book Review

This is a book of passion and dance, which does exactly what it says.  However it should be understood that the material, which covers a lot of ground, has been synthesised by the author into a working system of trance dance.  As a result, although someone with experience could cherry pick from her material, if you are new to the idea of trance dance, you are probably better off going with the whole system and following the guidelines she has set, which are the result of extensive experience.

The material is extremely practical, without leaving out reference ot the symbolism and magic, and drawing on good sources.  From Ficino to Orpheus, folk tales to drums, the scope of this book is considerable, and reflects the desire of the author to present a pure experience undiluted by the modern tendency to spoon-feed and make things easy.  This is not about easy – it is about results, which is an entirely different ball game!  I loved this book, now let the dance take you!

What Wise Men Do: The Secret World of Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Jules Verne and the Unseen Hand by Philip Gardiner

reviewed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review

This is a joy of a book to read!  The author has chosen a group of significant magical figures and influential fiction writers and turned a spotlight onto the shadows of their worlds.  The result is a veritable smorgasbord of fascinating facts, interesting speculations and unveiled purposes.  I enjoyed the selection, which at first might seem mismatched, but all demonstrated diverse threads of inquisitive exploration through their work, which is set against the backdrop of the science and magic of their times.

The figures covered are the magician Paracelsus, Grand Master Pinto of the Knights of Malta, and the authors Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker and Bob Kane (creator of Batman).  The final two chapters discuss magic, the mind and god, and then the story of King Canute, and how he showed the wisdom of knowing where power lay and where it did not.

So if you want to find out about the connection between Jules Verne and Rosicrucianism, or H.G. Wells and the New World Order, or Batman and Dracula, this book is for you.  It is extremely entertaining and enjoyable, with each chapter bringing its own insights and revelations, making it a thoroughly worthwhile read.

DIY Totemism

By Lupa

Published by Megalithica Books

Review for the Esoteric Book Review by Nina Lazarus

“Are there totems beyond the Wolf, Bear and Eagle?” asks the author on the info on the back of this book.  Yes of course there is, any animal can be a totem and that is hardly a new idea.  We used to mess around with totems in the 1990’s from an indigenous to England point of view.  This book claims to be groundbreaking and it claims to go beyond the usual boundaries of working with Totems, so how does it measure up?  I like to test things against their claims to see if I can break them, so lets see.

In the foreword “Kelley Harrell” tells us that “lacking the grounding structure of a unified tribal tradition has set up a challing dynamic for the western seeker on an eclectic spiritual path”.  Yes indeed, and I would agree with Kelley here.  Many students seek a teacher, but because that is often a challenging path with difficulties in this modern world, they often end up turning to self-taught teachers who sometimes pass on misinformation and pop culture books, because that is a much easier option. 

The author starts the first chapter “Introduction” by drawing distinctions between “paganism” and “occultism” which are of course very different things and we agree with her.  Lupa goes on to say that it is her aim to reconcile these two philosophies.  Whether or not that is actually possible, I am not entirely sure, but that there is a middle ground to be achieved I would agree.  She is a very strong minded writer and that is clear from this book, and a strong mind and will is going to be necessary to bridge both these worlds, something I have only seen in a small group of magicians in my years.  And usually as they grow in knowledge in experience such people take one road or the other, learning that through specialisation they can gain a greater understanding of the world.

I like the clarity of definition in her writing.  She makes it clear early on in the book that it is a book about neopagan totemism.  This is great as it helps avoid confusion in the reader between the techniques, philosophies and ideas put forth in this book and the cultural totemism of some of the indigenous people of the Americas from which Pagans often draw for their ideas on these practices.

Her approach is similar to a group of Welsh Witches I know who research their animals themselves, rather than using “dictionaries” of animals and their meanings.  Something she advocates against (with the exception of the original book on this subject by Ted Andrews) and this is refreshing to see.

The approach to magic in the book borders onto Chaos Magick which was huge in the 80’s and 90’s making me wonder if Lupa is from that era, or whether she was born too late, or maybe that she is able to take the ideas behind it and run with it into the new millenium?  Certainly her approach is anything goes, try it and see – which I can live with.  She is also responsible in her approach, which is rare amongst some of the modern writers on magic, so for that I also applaud her.

DIY Totemism does what it says on the cover.  It is a new way of approaching the subject and as such I would recommend it to anyone interested in exploring the topic from a practical  perspective.   Likewise it would be a great introduction to the subject of working magic with animals for those new to the idea. 

A great find and a definite “keeper” which I hope to experiment with myself in the Summer.

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