The following review of the 2008 anthology edited by Sorita d’Este appeared in “The Equinox” (British Journal of Thelema, VII 9) recently:

Priestesses Pythonesses Sibyls

Reviewed by Sophie Zumm, The Equinox: British Journal of Thelema

An exploration of trance work, both historically and practically. Written by twenty-one women involved in magic and neo-paganism; this is an intriguing collection of essays and articles. There are many highpoints, and every reader will have their own favourites; mine include the history of the Delphic Oracle by Caroline Tully, and Janet Farrar’s account of her work with oracular trance techniques. Looking at visionary experience through many different eyes, I was at times reminded of Scarlet Imprint’s collection Devoted. Although a gentler collection, mental and physical challenges are confronted in this book. All in all a fascinating and inspiring insight into the interior world of modern magic through the eyes of experienced and capable female practitioners.

For more information on this very thought provoking and provocative work please see – for details of the contributors and an extract from the foreword please visit



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

Wiccan Mysteries

Raven Grimassi

Published by Llewellyn (

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.

Kala Trobe

Avalonia Author Interviews

Mysterious and soft-spoken, Kala Trobe is a very magickal lady, and her books reflect her spirituality and magickal experiences. Kala also often gives lectures and workshops at many Pagan events. We asked her about her books, experiences, influences and her own path.

The Interview
by Sorita
( December 2004 : KT indicates answers by Kala Trobe, Q indicates question posed by Sorita)


Q : Your books “Invoke the Goddess” and “Invoke the Gods” contain many creative and interesting rituals that can be done with the various Deities. What inspired you to write these books?

KT: It really began when I was travelling in India in 1997. I knew I wanted to write a book on working with various deities, as I’d been very much involved with the Greek and Egyptian pantheons before I left (particularly Artemis, Hecate and Isis) – then I got to the Hindu temples, and was introduced in style to Durga, Laxmi and Kali particularly. That made me focus on Hindu deities. I worked with some Godforms too, such as Ganesha and Siva, but ‘Invoke the Gods’ came later, pretty much on demand from my male friends who regretted that there were so few books and references on the subject of invoking specifically male godforms.

Q: In many books on paganism the emphasis is placed on working with the Goddess(es). How important do you feel it is to work with both male and female Deities?

KT: Well, it’s up to the practitioner(s) really. I know some female witches who never work with male Godforms, though personally it’s always been natural to me to focus on the energy rather than the ‘gender’ of the deity.

Q: You seem to have an interest in a wide range of pantheons and cultures. Do you have a favourite?

KT: Hindu, and of course Egyptian. I also love the Greeks as they epitomise certain philosophies and intellectual wavelenths (like Apollo and Athene) – they’re also historically and politically interesting. A different wavelength altogether to the more ‘primal’ deities.

Q: I very much enjoyed reading your book “The Magick Bookshop” and I know from speaking to you about this that much of the material in the book is based on events which really did take place in your own life. Is there anything that you would change about the events you recount in this book, if you could have it all over again?

KT: Well, there’s a big question! Obviously if I could live my whole life again from a more advanced angle, I’d act differently in some scenarios, but then, these experiences, even if seemingly ‘negative’, are part of what’s informed me and made me who I am today. As I recount in the story ‘Thus Spake Ron’, and the follow-up story, ‘Witch in the City’, I had some pretty dodgy experiences during my early magickal training – to say the least – but it certainly banged any naivety out of me. As I see it, Magick isn’t an easy path – I talk about this in ‘The Witch’s Guide to Life’ too – it challenges every aspect of one’s preconceptions, and is a path of dissolution, resurrection and epiphany. As such, it follows that some of the experiences and initiations one undergoes will be deeply unpleasant. Others, of course, are joyful, and I do think the ‘Suffer to Learn’ clause, though valuable in that it encourages us to transmute adversity into power, can be deeply misinterpreted. As I see it now, Magick is like a psychological growth hormone, but it’s possible to take it as an ‘upper’ rather than a ‘downer’, and to receive the same end results. I see my own early training as ‘old school’. But it did the trick at the time.

Q: The style in which you wrote The Magick Bookshop very much reminded me of Dion Fortune’s fictional works, was she someone who inspired you?

KT: Actually, stylistically I don’t think we have much in common although we’re both preoccupied by very British scenarios, antiquarian bookshops, and of course the occult. The great DF’s descriptions (sometimes very lengthy – see ‘The Sea Priestess’) and syntax are much more ‘classical’ than my own. I experiment with words a lot – my main literary influences include Jeanette Winterson, Angela Carter and a whole raft of poetry, particularly French Symbolist.

Content-wise, ‘The Secrets of Doctor Taverner’ did indeed influence me – the idea of a young female working with a bastion of the occult arts – though the scenarios are greatly updated and, as you point out, orientated around real experiences I’ve had. I would say that Dion Fortune was the biggest magickal authorial influence on my early years, and I consider her works to be of immense value – the fiction and ‘Mystical Qabalah’ especially.

Q: You regulary do Tarot readings at Watkins Bookshop in London, which Tarot deck do you use and why?

KT: I have about 60 Tarot decks, but by far my favourite for reading for the general public is my trusty old Rider-Waite. I’ve been using that pack since I was 17, and absolutely love them. The designs, by Pamela Coleman-Smith, have so much depth to them, and they ‘shift’ according to their position in the reading. The artist herself was ‘synaesthetic’, i.e. was able to ‘see’ music and ‘hear’ colour. This makes them brilliant material for psychic comprehension – each card has so many nuances when viewed in conjunction with its neighbours and the client’s energies.

I’m not too keen though on the modern reprints of this deck – the colours and even the expressions on the faces of the characters have been changed, and much has been lost I think. The King of Cups looks like a moron, and the woman in the Two of Swords can see under her blindfold!! The deck I favour is much more svelte, though it’s pretty beaten up now.

I also love the Tarot of the Old Path, the Nigel Jackson deck, and the Dion Fortune/Gareth Knight pack. I used to carry all of them to work so that the client could select the deck that felt right, but it got a bit much, lugging 4 decks around with me, so I defaulted to the truly ‘original’ Rider-Waite.

Q: Was there a turning point in your life at which you decided to devote your life to the magickal?

KT: It was always there, but when I was 13, I was confirmed into the Anglican church. I was a very religious child. This process made me think deeply about orthodox religions and their pitfalls. I started to study Buddhism and Qabalah and to practise my first practical magick. I began to spontaneously astrally travel around about the time of my first period – and became extremely aware of ‘lunar’ energies and wavelengths. So I guess I could say that menstruation kicked off my conscious interest in things magickal, and made it into something tenable. It took me years to learn to control it though, and at first the experiences, or my interpretations of them, were often scary. I thought that I was perhaps going mad, or that I was under ‘evil’ influences. The confidence that came with my new knowledge overrode these doubts, however. I found out years later that involement with the esoteric arts runs in certain branches of the family, but I was brought up by a stepfather in the middle of nowhere, and didn’t have a clue about my genetic proclivities at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to get fully involved wih Witchcraft a.s.a.p, and be trained so that I could assimilate it all, which I did.

Q: What, for you, is the best thing about being a writer?

KT: The process of writing. The inspiration. The juxtaposition of two words or more that create a vivid, unique image, or elevate consciousness. I also enjoy getting feed-back from my readers. I get a lot of letters and emails now, and am always fascinated to hear how my patterns of consciousness have affected others, when put into print.

Q: What are you currently working on? and/or/ Any forthcoming books you can tell us about?

KT: A follow-up to ‘The Magick Bookshop’ will emerge in November 2005 (the delay is down to my publishers, not me. I actually completed it in May 2004. But these processes can be slow…)

I’m also writing a book for Hay House, due out in Sept 2005, on women’s spirituality.

Q: London can be a very dreary place at times, do you have somewhere you like to escape to when the weather is wet and the skies are grey?

KT: I run a lot – about 11k a day – so whether it’s grey or sunny, I get my interaction with the nature devas! (There are some wonderful parks near to me). I also love to travel, and have spent much time in Thailand and Asia in general – am also a big fan of the U S of A, and frequently visit there, especially New Orleans. France is a handy get-away spot from here – a friend has a sixteenth century house in the South, so I like to pop over there to write, relax, and visit the Knights Templar burial grounds etc (she says cheerfully). Not exactly sunny, but I’m off to Amsterdam in January, which I’m really looking forward to, and to a friend’s handfasting in Maui in April. Essentially, I travel whenever I can – I love experiencing new places and cultures. There are photos of some of my travels, and details on my books on my website at:

Thank you to Kala Trobe for allowing us to probe into her life for this interview! For permission to reproduce this article please contact us first – (c) Kala Trobe & Avalonia

For those of you wanting to find out more about Kala Trobe and her work and writings, as well as many great photographs, visit her website: