The Red Church

By C.R. Bilardi

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~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.

Dear Readers,

We would like to welcome you to our new home here at https://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 “UnicursalStar” 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.

This is a review from The HedgeWytch Magazine – http://www.sothisstar.co.uk of Hekate: Liminal Rites 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

This is an exciting new release due out from Avalonia and David Rankine:

treasurespirites

THE BOOK OF TREASURE SPIRITS
With Introduction & Commentary by David Rankine

Conjurations of Goetic spirits, old gods, demons and fairies are all part of a rich heritage of the magical search for treasure trove.  During the Middle Ages and Renaissance the British Monarchy gave out licenses to people seeking treasure in an effort to control such practices, and this is one reason why so many grimoires are full of conjurations and charms to help the magician find treasure.

Published here for the first time, from a long-ignored mid-seventeenth century manuscript in the British Library (Sloane MS 3824), is the conjuration said to have been performed at the request of King Edward IV, with other rites to reveal treasure, to have treasure brought from the sea, and to cause thieves to bring back stolen goods.  Conjurations to call any type of spirit are also included, recorded by the noted alchemist and collector Elias Ashmole, as is an extract on conjuration practices from the Heptameron, transcribed into English for practical use by a working group of magicians, before its first English publication by Robert Turner in 1655.

These conjurations demonstrate the influence of earlier classic grimoires and sources, with components drawn from the Goetia, the Heptameron, and Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft. The material includes spirit contracts for the fallen angels Agares and Vassago, and the demon Padiel, as well as techniques like lead plates for binding, and summoning into a glass of water, which hark back to the defixiones of Hellenistic Greece and the demonic magic of the Biblical world.

This material forms part of a corpus of conjurations all written in the same hand and style of evocation, linking Goetic spirits and treasure spirits with the archangels and planetary intelligences (Sloane MS 3825), and demon kings and Enochian hierarchies (Sloane MS 3821), making it a unique bridge of style and content between what are often falsely seen as diverse threads of Renaissance magic.

Soon available from www.avaloniabooks.com

The Pop Culture Grimoire: An Anthology of Pop Culture Magic

Taylor Ellwood (ed)

Megalithica Books Publication

PB, £10.99, 160pp

 Reviewed by Nina Lazarus for the Esoteric Book Review

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I admit to being something of a purist, and pop culture magic is not a topic I am drawn to, as the term pop culture is one I associate with shallow and trivial superficialities.  From what I have seen, most of the time it just seems to be reinventing the wheel or getting excited about doing something many of us have known about for a long time. Rather than reinventing the wheel time could be better spent on looking at the sources and seeing where techniques and ideas came from.  Working through the eighteen essays contained in this work largely confirmed my views.  However it did also add another level of understanding, which is that much of the material within was just Chaos Magick by another name.  A ritual based on Narnia or worship of Marilyn Monroe or drawing down Elvis is not new, as such ideas were being bandied around in the 1980s on the Chaos scene.

I did consider going through the essays one by one, but a couple of them illustrate my points.  Break on Through to the Other Side is an entertaining short piece on the author’s decision to create what she terms a vampire godform based on the roleplaying game she was involved in that went bad, though to you and me this would be called creation of a thoughtform.  Popular Music as Ritual is essentially the author’s realisation that compilation CDs or tapes can be used to celebrate magickal occasions and states, something that many of us have been doing for decades anyway without calling it pop culture magic. For me the only really enjoyable piece in the collection was Nick Farrell’s The Alchemy of Bollocks: Turning Pop Culture into Something Useful, which was amusing and informative.  If ideas like using Pokemon characters or the addictive computer game World of Warcraft to develop your magick appeal to you, then you should buy and read this book.

 

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?

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.