Walking an Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth by Karen Tate

reviewed by Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review

Books which describe a person’s spiritual journey range from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Happily this book does not come across as the latter, being full of information which makes it more useful and acceptable than the unbelievable saccharine of certain books by well known angel authoresses.  As someone who has experienced Fellowship of Isis rituals firsthand, I found her descriptions of the rituals led by Lady Olivia brought a big grin to my face, as I saw the mental images they conjured up floating past my eyes.

For a book which might seem a light read, this is not a light read!  As you read through the experiences, places, cultures and goddesses, you are offered a perspective which encourages you to go outside your comfort zone and look further.  In this the author demonstrates a real skill in bringing to life her experiences in a way that people can relate to, making them move beyond personal and more into universal.  For this I commend her as a true priestess, whose service above ego approach is quite frankly a relief after some of the genre books I have read!

This is a book which is from the heart, and reaches to the heart, whilst contributing to the feeding of the soul.  Read and enjoy!

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Visions of the Cailleach by Sorita d\'Este and David RankineVisions of the Cailleach
By Sorita d’Este and David Rankine

Published by Avalonia

Standing astride the British landscape, looms the giant blue form of the Cailleach. Whether she is seen as a benevolent earth-shaping giantess, harsh winter hag goddess, shape-shifting crone, guardian of sacred wells and animals, or ancient bestower of sovereignty; the Cailleach appears in many roles and manifestations in myths and legends across the British Isles.

Tracking the Cailleach across thousands of years through folklore, literature and place names, the authors have uncovered startling references which hint at a hidden priestess cult worshipping the Cailleach from ancient times through into the twentieth century. By exploring her myths and legends, they demonstrate the hugely significant role of the Cailleach in the early history of the British Isles.

The demonization of the Cailleach through the Middle Ages by the Christian Church paralleled that of women and witches, and is reflected in various other supernatural hag figures possibly derived from her and discussed in detail, such as Black Annis, Gyre Carling, Mia Lia, Nicneven and the Old Woman of the Mountain.

Looking beyond the veil of the sacred landscape, the vision of the Cailleach confronts the seeker, in hills and rocks, lakes and wells, burial chambers and stormy skies. Now finally the primal elemental power of the Cailleach is revealed in her full glory, in the tales and places of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man; as well as in traces of her presence in England, Wales, Jersey, Brittany, Spain and Norway.

This unique and ground-breaking work brings together for the first time the wealth of folklore, stories and legends regarding this most significant of British supernatural figures, whose myths and wisdom are as relevant today as they have ever been.

Visions of the Cailleach is now available for order from Avalonia Books

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.

Divine Comedy of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan  by  Payam Nabarz  © 2008,  Web of Wyrd,   ISBN:  978-09556858-0-4  64 pages  Paperback Printed   £8.88 or £6.66 download.

Here are four reviews of this book:

1.  A Raven Review!4
A review from Amazon.com and Silver Star magazine By Robert C. Carey:

A very deep, funny and clever play involving the complicated relationship between the goddess and her reincarnating raven, and cheerfully exploring all the mythologies which have played through the history of the British Isles: Mithraic and Druidic and Christian, Norse and Shamanic and Qabalistic, Thelemic and Vodou and Tantric. Mystery plays once edified the illiterate populace, today we have bad movies… perhaps it is time for a change. Wit can actually make people think! Illustrated with a series of lovely photos by the author.

2. Review by Mike Gleason:

This is a strange little play, or series of plays, with a unique view of the Wheel of the year.  In a truly ecumenical spirit the protagonist is a Mithraic neophyte, the Goddess is Celtic, and the supporting cast is drawn from the animal world and the worlds of mythology in all its varied aspects. 

I have attended a number of mystery plays (in the religious sense) over the years.  I have read others.  This comedic offering, by a Persian-born member of the OBOD and the Pagan Federation is, without doubt, the most entertaining.  It does not skimp on symbolism, nor on knowledge revealed.

 It is easy to read, and thoroughly enjoyable on multiple levels.  You don’t need extensive knowledge of the associated mythologies (a sign of an effective mystery play).  Whatever you are looking for, you are sure to find it (and more), much as Corax discovers during his journey through the year.

This is profundity disguised as absurdity.  It is funny and enjoyable.  It is lightweight with serious underpinnings.  In other words, it is a good value.  Pick up a copy and enjoy it.

 

3. Review by Merry Meet Magazine issue 34, Autumn 2008:

This is an enjoyable and amusing comedic romp through the many facets of eclectic paganism in the form of “dialectic plays”, using the Greek method of “Socratic Dialogue” or the Irish “Druidic Colloquy”, according to the blurb.

The reader follows the metaphysical adventuring of Corax, who has the, shall we say, somewhat mixed blessings of being initiated by the Goddess Morrigan in the form of a raven (perhaps not for nothing is
the collective noun for an assemblage of the genus corvus referred to as `an unkindness’!

There is much hilarity in this satirical look at contemporary alternative spiritualities, which nevertheless is impressive in its grasp of the importance of exploring metaphysical approaches to life in an age when our planet is beleaguered with a mainstream orthodoxy so deeply routed in the `here-and-now culture of short term physical gain at the expense of future generations. I quote from a passage in which Corax is unwilling to be reborn innocently into another stage of earthly existence:

“What if this time, I forget your signs and do not recognise you goddess? What if I walked the earth without recognising the sounds of birds as the music of the heavens. What if I forget I ever had wings! What if I swim in the sea and forget it’s where all life on earth comes from or breathe the air and forget that every breath is god sent. What if I only saw a lifeless rock instead of the goddess Luna or a just nuclear reaction when I look at the sun? Instead of proclaiming your beauty, and remembering circular time, I might be
caught in the linear time, filled with greed to consume time. Take each grain of the sand of time and squeeze every atom out of it, consume everything in my path, dig mines deep into your body, and suck the black blood of our dinosaur ancestors to move my metal coffin, and pay for it in red blood of our distant brothers or sisters. What if I become a destroyer and enslave life, and follow a `one true way’ and slay anything that doesn’t conform to my `one way’ …The stakes are too high…”

An excellent book, though it would have benefited greatly from a far more rigorous regime of proof reading.

Recommended.    -Merry Meet Magazine issue 34, Autumn 2008.

4. Review by Bish, Druid Network:

I was tempted to keep the review short in order to match the book, which only runs to some fifty pages. But the quality of a work is not reflected only in its page numbers. The Divine Comedy (I shall, um, cut short the full title) is a play, generally between two protagonists, Corax and Morrigan – Corax being a seeker after the wisdom of the gods and Morrigan, of course, being such a one. The story runs through the traditional year, poking fun at Corax with some ‘in jokes’ and pagan related situation comedy as he attempts to gain knowledge from the goddess of war, death, change and justice.

The advertising for this work suggested a similarity with that of Terry Pratchett, but I suspect there’s more of a bond between it and the late great Douglas Adams (who of course was a playwright and radio scripter as well as an author). The lines work best when read out aloud than simply read, and it would indeed make an interesting play for BBC Radio’s 4 or 7. The layout is that of a traditional play, with scene descriptions and narration, and paragraphs for each actor’s lines………Some of the descriptions are very contemporary (does anyone still use Lynx body spray?) and the language is often that of the street, which will appeal to the younger reader – and this is where I think the play is aimed. Elements of many pagan traditions are brought into play (ouch, pun alert, sorry) and although a deeper understanding of some of the traditions will only help the reader, nearly everyone will be sufficiently familiar with the situations and players to get by.

It would not be fair to reveal much of the plotline in such a tale, but I did enjoy a scene entitled ‘an eclectic pagan’s near death experience’ which asked the question as to just where an eclectic ends up, and in the company of which gods?

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)

Sekhem Heka
By Storm Constantine
A Natural Healing and Self-Development System

Published by Megalithica Books
RRP £12.99, p236

Reviewed for The Esoteric Book Review

The author of this book is better known for her fictional work, in particular The Wraeththu Chronicles and Grigori books. When I was offered the chance to review this book I was excited at the thought that someone who is such a well known author in a different genre was also writing on the subject of magick and paganism, without hiding behind a pseudonymn or doing so in a super plastic way. This book is nothing of the kind, throughout it shows deep understanding and plenty of experience of ritual and magick which the author obviously holds.

I found the book a good and interesting read. For me personally Reiki and Sekhem holds very little appeal, however the way in which the author combines her knowledge of this system with that of Egyptian ritual, Goddess mysteries and Egyptian magick (Heka) combines into a surprisingly usuable and workable system. The workings are all aimed at self development and healing, which would therefore also appeal to a larger audience of people who are interested in using ceremony and healing energies for such ends. This is by no means a historical representation of Egyptian ceremonies (if that is what you want, check out “Heka” by Rankine, Avalonia, 2006) – but the rituals given do certainly draw from historical sources.

Sekhem Heka provides an interesting seven tiered degree system based on Egyptian symbols and hieroglypics, it is aimed at energy healers and workers as well as those who are practising magick in different systems. I can see this system benefiting those who are looking for an alternative to the various pagan traditions which often don’t fulfil the need for spiritual growth and development in the same way as a mystery school. Recommended, without a doubt.

“Drawing upon her experiences in Egyptian Magic and the energy healing systems of Reiki and Seichim, Storm Constantine has developed this new system to appeal to practitioners of both magic and energy healing alike. Incorporating ritual and visualation into a progressive journey through the seven energy centres of the body, Sekhem Heka can be practiced by those who are already attuned to an energy healing modality, as well as those who are simply interested in the magical aspects of the system”

The Magickal Beginnings of the Practices – an introduction to the book Wicca, Magickal Beginnings

By Sorita d’Este and David Rankine

More information available from www.avaloniabooks.co.uk

Over the last few months, many people – some of whom have not yet read our book Wicca Magickal Beginnings have written to us, or asked us in passing why we wrote it. This is a complex question and one which can probably in part at least, be answered by this extract from the introduction we wrote for the book.

All books have a moment of conception, and this book was born out of a discussion on the origins of the Wiccan Tradition as known today, with some of our students in late 2001. Whilst debating the possible starting point of this magickal tradition, we realised that all the evidence being presented was focused on the people who were the early public face of the tradition and their contemporaries. Yet this is a tradition which is also called a ‘Craft’ and which is an experiential tradition where personal experience is paramount for the understanding of the practices and beliefs. So why were we debating the origins of the tradition in terms of who said or did what?

Has Wiccan history tied itself into knots of personalities in an effort to conceal its true origins? Was there something we were missing? Why was it that whilst some people claimed that the tradition was the continuation of a very ancient Pagan religion, others stated that it was created (or compiled) in the 1950’s or 1940’s in England? Why was it that Gerald Gardner was greatly respected as the ‘Father’ of the modern movement and simultaneously viewed as a charlatan? Could it be that in an effort to cover up the ludicrous and unsubstantiated claims that the tradition originated in the Stone Age (or thereabouts) the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction and got stuck? We agree that an academically sound historical foundation will provide more credibility to a tradition and its practitioners, but did that come at a price? What was being sacrificed in order to lend credibility to the tradition? What really made Wicca, Wicca?

Having asked ourselves all these questions again and again over the years, sometimes obtaining different answers to the same questions based on changes in our perspective, we found that ultimately Wicca remained a mystery tradition at its heart. The practices and beliefs could only be fully understood through direct experience thereof and it was through this that the tradition could be best defined, not through the endless debates about lineages, initiations and personalities!

We set about systematically researching the origins of the practices and beliefs which were passed to us through our initiators and colleagues. Our preconceptions were constantly challenged as we explored the origins of the practices and beliefs from different angles in an effort to find possible solutions to the question of when and where the tradition may have originated. We separated the rituals into their component parts, then looked at each individually and even divided them up into smaller parts, before finally putting it all back together creating a colourful mosaic with our findings.

Faced with several possible interpretations based on the evidence we correlated, it became clear that although it remained possible that Gerald Gardner may have created the tradition, it was certainly not that plausible in comparison to some of the other conclusions that we reached. In fact, at this stage of our research we feel that it is most likely that Gardner was not that much of a charlatan after all, but that his accounts of initiation into an existing tradition, upon which he later expanded, were truthful. When stripped right back, without the many additions and evolutions it has undergone since the 1950’s, Gerald Gardner’s ‘Witch Cult’ appears to predate him by at least some years.

We did of course realise from the outset that this would be a controversial conclusion for some readers and as such we present the practice-based evidence in this volume in a way which allows for individual interpretation. We also focused on the component parts which were common to all the traditions, both esoteric and exoteric, that we have personal knowledge of. This means that whilst we touch on the subject of deity, it is important for the reader to understand that theological debate is not within the scope of the work presented here. The individual beliefs in the Goddess and God vary, in some instances significantly so, between traditions in existence today. Additionally, we have not included evidence or debate on the inclusion of many of the folk practices which are found in some Wiccan groups today, such as May pole dancing at Beltane or making Brighid crosses for Imbolc. These practices were well known throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the countless books and magazine articles published in those eras attest to. As such their inclusion might be incidental. Moreover, they are not considered relevant by all of the traditions and as such, though of extreme importance to some, are not even considered by others.

The bulk of the material presented in the book is aimed at practitioners, be that of the esoteric (ie. initiatory) or exoteric traditions of Wicca. The book does not aim to cover in detail all aspects of Wiccan history, in fact we have for the most ignored the modern developments. The material presented can be used in a variety of ways, but will benefit those who are seeking to deepen their understanding of the practices the most as knowing more about their original context can of course help deepen the symbolic understanding of their place in our ceremonies today. It is possible that practitioners of other related pagan traditions who draw their inspiration for rituals by incorporating circle casting, the invocation of the elemental guardians at the four cardinal point and drawing down the moon, might also find this book of interest.
For more information, as well as for examples of some of the reviews this book has already received, visit www.avaloniabooks.co.uk