The Flowering Rod: Men and their Role in Paganismby Kenny Klein

reviewed by Herbwoman for the Esoteric Book Review

In recent years it seems men have had some catching up to do.  Confused with their role in Wicca and Paganism, many are working to overcome conditioning and accept the importance of the feminine, be it divine, in women, or in themselves.  Although some writers like Robert Bly with his Iron John story and accompanying tales have sought to define male spirituality positively within nature, it really needs practising pagan and Wiccan men to come forward and express their feelings and insights.  Enter Kenny Klein and this very enjoyable book.

This book clearly defines its aims and then fulfils them – a worthy goal for any book!  The book divides into four sections.   The first is the introduction, where he introduces himself and qualifies his perception of Wicca and paganism, laying the foundations for the book – essential for such a topic as this.  Then he moves into the second section, entitled Living in the Circle, which is a slightly misleading title, as it would have been more appropriate to call it something like Male Myths and Magic in the Cycles of Nature, which is essentially what this section is about, covering the legends and folklore of European paganism. From the oak and holly kings to antlers and barley, this is all good, solid, in the earth paganism.

Section three is entitled ritual, and journeys through the pagan Wheel of the Year with ceremonies for men to hnour the god, themselves and nature.  The ceremonies draw from the same European roots which Wicca grew from, and that is a real plus here, there is no culturally acquires Indian chakras or Native American chants, which may be nice but are simply not relevant.  The final section is called The circle Continues, and provides resources and appendixes as well as looking at the role of the gay movement in devleoping male pagan spirituality.  This information is relevant mainly to an American audience, as this is the perspective of the author.

All in all an enjoyable and very useful read, which I thoroughly recommned to anyone wanting to explore and develop their perceptions of men and the masculine in paganism.

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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.

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.

Wiccan Mysteries

Raven Grimassi

Published by Llewellyn (www.llewellyn.com)
REVIEW BY NINA LAZARUS FOR The Esoteric Book Review

Grimassi states the intent of his book right from the outset. He writes “The purpose of this book is to restore the Wiccan Mysteries to their rightful place in the Community while providing a sense of the great antiquity of the Mystery Tradition within Wicca, the Old Religion…”. He then goes on to say that he will be providing the readers with a historical basis for many beliefs in Wicca.

So how well does he do towards achieving his goals?

The first obstacle he seems to fall at is trying to establish Wicca as a religion within the great community, this in itself when you give it proper thought is a contradiction in terms. A mystery tradition is not public, it might be known to exist to the public and might fulfil an outer function, such as festivals or celebrations, but it in itself must fulfil a private role, an initiatory role, to its initiates. I cringed at his use of terms such as “neo-Wiccans” is this just an Americanism which us Brits are unfamiliar with? I have not encountered it anywhere before, although I am of course very familiar with the term neoPagan coined, I believe, but Isaac Bonewitz to distinguish between modern Pagans and the Pagans of antiquity.

The book on a whole is a mish-mash of different magickal themes and traditions, mixed together to create a unique blend of magick, paganism and Wicca which Grimassi calls Wicca. Once I realised (but unfortunately the newcomer to Wicca will not) that he is simply using the term to describe his blend of paganism, Celtic spirituality and magick, I was ok.

His research is out of date, but then this book is currently in its tenth printing, having originally been published in 1997. As such it might be an idea to supplement the historical material provided in Wiccan Mysteries with that found in books such as “Triumph of the Moon” by Prof. Ronald Hutton, “Wicca Magickal beginnings” by Sorita d’Este and David Rankine and “Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration” by Philip Heselton.

Having reread the entire book ignoring the differences in linguistic use of the terminology, I found that I agreed with many of the points made by the author and many of his practical insights.

“Magick requires mental discipline more than it does anything else.”

The author provides the eager student with many such catch phrases which if pondered will certainly provide help and guidance on the path through the mysteries. This book is recommended by this old Priestess to students wishing to create their own system, as such seeing what others have done and created can be very useful – use this book for such inspiration that grabs you.

There are some gems to be uncovered here, information on subjects and practical insights on practices which are not usually found in books on the subject of Wicca (probably because it is not a traditional part of the tradition). Grimassi writing from a non-initiatory non-traditional point of view has done a great job of providing insights which may not be found in traditional Wicca, which is one of the great strenghts of the material presented herein.

Take what you like, leave what you like. Recommended.

Witch School Third Degree

Lessons in the Correllian Tradition

Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell

Llewellyn, PB, 316pp

Reviewed by John Canard

This book starts well, with some positive advice in chapter 1 on standards and behaviour. However I was disappointed to note subtle distinctions being made which imply Correllians are better than other Wiccans and should not be surprised by the bad behaviour of non-Correllians. This smacks a bit of cultish behaviour. Lesson 2 on appearance and presentation encourages people with advice on how to run effective workshops and ceremonies. I found the remark on not using scripts because it influenced rituals adversely fascinating, considering the number of Correllian videos I have watched on YouTube, where scripts are always heavily evident, and yes Highcorrell is right, they do adversely affect all the rituals!

The chapter on astral projection covers a reasonable amount of ground, though what is being discussed is very basic, it is not too bad. The same is true of the subsequent chapter on remote viewing, though why it needed to go off on the espionage tangent is anybody’s guess.

The chapter on the soul is thought-provoking as it raises a number of issues, such as the idea of parallel lives. Whilst I might disagree with some of the ideas, I like to read things that make me think and assess what informs my perceptions, and for that reason I enjoyed this chapter as a sounding board. I wish I could say the same for the chapter on time travel, but it came across as woooly thinking of a not at all convincing kind, citing the worst sort of examples like “sending healing back in time” which I view as being completely nonsensical and self-delusory.

The chapter on the Enneagram is interesting as it elaborates on the nine Monads which explain the Correllian creationist model. Attention is also paid to Gurdjieff’s Enneagram and how that can be tied in, returning to the eclectic nature of these practices. The next chapter is entitled Drawing Down the Moon and deals with oracular work. Again it is a basic and acceptable introduction, though the return to sniping at Wicca was a little tedious and unnecessary.

The chapter on Conscious Evolution brought a disturbing development with a discussion of humanity’s evolution into Thetans, a familiar theme for anyone who has read any L Ron Hubbard or Scientology. Why this model should have been adopted is a mystery, as I feel it is completely inappropriate to the context of the rest of the book. From here the last part of the book becomes a bit cultish and for me loses the plot, which is a shame as the earlier sections have some interesting material in.