Book Review of the first book by VIKKI BRAMSHAW, entitled “Craft of the Wise” ~ ‘A practical guide to Paganism and Witchcraft’.

By Agrotera, Mistress of the Wild Animals and Beasts

I wasn’t really in the mood for reading yet another book on Pagan Witchcraft and ‘spirituality’ so when I was given this book for review it remained at the bottom of my pile of ‘to do’ for some time!  It is endorsed by all the big names in Wicca, including the Queen of the Witches Maxine Sanders and teachers Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone.  Of course Janet Farrar was one half of a very dynamic author partnership with her late husband Stewart Farrar too, so she would know what works and what doesn’t.  Janet and Gavin said “There are very few good primers on Wicca out there.  We are pleased to say this one of the best ones we read”.   So a good endorsement and a good start then!

The book itself contains 16 chapters, these include chapters introducing The Craft of the Wise, Ritual and Magic in history, the Revival and the Tools.  Then there are all the usual things one would expect in a book on Wicca, and this is where I wished the author wrote about what she was actually passionate about, which seems to be a more natural and intuitive approach, rather than rehasing the same old, same old Gardnerian and Alexandrian material from the Book of Shadows for use in a different format with different words.  Likewise all the material before we get to Chapter 5 “Giving the Gods a name” might as well have been skipped, its nothing too exciting, a basic overview of magical and wiccan history, important for a newcomer, but not something I would want in a practical book either.  My other critisism is the authors mixed use of terminology, the cover says its the Craft of the Wise, practical paganism and witchcraft and then when you get down to it most of what she writes about is Wicca.  Something which is highlighted by the endorsements given to this book by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone.  “Primers on Wicca”.  This is a primer on ecletic pagan Wicca, for those who want to go it on their own without a teacher or coven.

What is clear is that the author has a better grip on the concepts than what she herself is aware of at times, from which perspective I hope that she finds a good middle ground in her magical writing and steps her research and experimentation up.  I was very impressed by the grip she had on the concepts which are often times totally overlooked or ignored by other authors on the subject.

A better title for the book would have been “Crafting Wicca for Solitaries” or something like that.  Craft of the Wise yes, but I expected less of the Neo-Pagan.  A good introduction all the same and one I will, despite my reservations, recommend if I felt someone wanted something very general to introduce them to the key concepts of Wicca and Pagan Witchcraft.

Craft of the Wise, published by www.o-books.net and RRP of £14.99

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

Dedicant: A Witch’s Circle of Fire
Thuri Calafia
published by Llewellyn
PB, 342pp, US$19.95
reviewed by John Canard

This book joins the ever-growing collection of books for newcomers, the first in a series to work through the four stages of initiation up to third degree (the fourth book). I started working through the book with an open mind, not wishing to be prejudiced as there are some very good introductory books on the market, and I wanted to determine if this was one of them. It quickly became clear that this is a book of what I would call neo-Wicca, i.e. the religious version of Wicca that has moved away from its ceremonial magickal roots and embraced the accreted material of Robert Graves and others. This was demonstrated by the reference in the first chapter to the Greek goddess Hecate as being the archetype of the crone. Moving straight into the beginning of the second chapter, we find that wicca comes from the root “to bend or shape”, another inaccuracy found in books by people who haven’t done their research. And Gerald Gardner did not bring the word Wicca to light as the author claimed, it was widely used for many centuries prior to Gardner. I had hoped that anyone setting themselves up as a teacher would have got past this sort of rehashed mistake by now, but it seems there is still a lot of education needed in the pagan world.
The author also makes one of the most outrageous and offensive heterophobic remarks I have seen in a book for a while, though it may appeal to some politically correct types. The author claims that many or indeed most homosexuals and bisexuals are naturally more balanced in terms of male/female energy because being with people of the same gender can bring out a strong sense of the opposite within. She notes here that she is a lesbian/bisexual – which is nonsense, if you are bisexual and have a relationship with a person of the same sex, it doesn’t suddenly make you homosexual, it just means you are bisexual!
Moving on to the section ongetting started we are told “In the Burning Times, it was customary to keep the grimoire in your own hand of write”. Please! The Burning Times is a bit of nonsense propaganda which has been disproved numerous times by proper research, and the people usually espoused as being the poor persecuted witches were usually illiterate! This is followed by the chakras, an Eastern accretion that has now seemingly become standard Wicca. Likewise the appendix which reproduces the Rede of the Wicca with the statement that there are many forms of the Wiccan Rede is perpetuating more nonsense – there is one Wiccan Rede, and only one – An it harm none, do as ye will.
As a general introductory book, this book does cover all the basics, and would be suitable for somebody new to paganism who wants to follow the religious polyglot that Wicca seems to have become for many. It is a shame that there are some glaring errors based on the reproduction of old mistakes amongst the text, requiring a discrimination that newcomers will not commonly have. Hopefully such errors will not occur in the subsequent books in the series.

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

—————————-

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.

 

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.

Devoted
Various
Edited by Alkistis Dimech
Introduction by Peter Grey
devoted devoted_pages

Devoted is an octavo book of 173pp, bound in saffron book cloth, black chalice stamped and finished with night black endpapers.

It is being prepared in a strictly limited and hand-numbered edition of 814 copies.

A copy can be yours for thirty-one English pounds plus postage.

Devoted comprises fifteen essays by fourteen writers on their devotional practice.
It is a bloody and passionate blend of primal gnosis and poetic expression.
These essays reveal and revel in powerful applicable magickal practice.
They are suffused with the living experience of the Spirit world.

Devoted
will enrich your own work, whether you are witch, magician, heathen, thelemite, or sorceror.
From possession work, to blood letting and fetishes, to sabbatic dance, there is a wealth of experience to explore within these pages.

Devoted
provides indepth essays on working with:

Babalon
Ishtar

Hecate
Lilith
Loki
Tiamat
Dionysus
The Yoginis
The Lwa
The Spirits of goetia

Our writers are a chorus of powerful new voices and established practitioners whose Work has often been overlooked:

Stephen Grasso, Peter Grey, Mogg Morgan, Jake Stratton-Kent, Richard Ward, Levannah Morgan, Ruby Sara, David Blank, Mark Smith,Charlotte Rodgers, Mordant Carnival, Tony Elliott, Alkistis Dimech,George Sieg.

Full details can be found here:
www.scarletimprint.com

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.

Wiccan Mysteries

Ancient Origins & Teachings

By Raven Grimassi

Published by Llewellyn, 2008

Review by Herb Woman for the Esoteric Book Review.

This book claims to contain “initiate-level” teachings of Wicca and also claims to provide in depth insights into its pre-Christian historical and theological roots from Old Europe through to Modern America.   So how does it measure up?

I recently finished the excellent Wicca Magickal Beginnings by David Rankine and Sorita d’Este and I approached this book with the view that it might provide similar types of insights into the practices.  I have been a practising solitary practioner for many years and have a fair advantage in that I have been able to study with some of the best teachers in the UK over the last twenty or so years.

My first concerns for the historical value of the material started with the line “The vast majority of Wiccan Traditions have their foundation in the religion of the Celts”.  It made me squirm as in actual fact there is very little of anything that can be considered “Celtic” in traditional Wicca.  This was the first paragraph, but the author does go on to tell us that there is little of what the Celts believed or did that can be proven historically and that this may have lead to a lack of credibility amongst academia for the practices of Wicca.  This is certainly true.  But how does the rest of the book measure up to the promises?

The bulk of the material in the book is drawn from the published material from the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, including plenty of material which is usually considered oathbound.  Including the texts from the Great Rite and The Descend of the Goddess.  This is nothing new, as it has been published by various authors before which is acknowledged in part by the author.  I would have expected to have more of a historical insight to the actual texts, as I felt that the book somehow promised this.  However, although the book lacks a proper historical look at the texts, it does provide some insights to the authors understanding of the texts and their context in his practices.  This is very useful and something which is rarely done in books which reproduce these texts wholesale for the sake of it – it is here that this book comes into its own.  Though his explanations are in places very different from that which I was taught in the Wiccan Traditions I have worked in, I found them insightful and useful as it is sometimes in the differences between traditions and ideas that we learn the most.   Sometimes it feels as if the author is deliberately not revealing absolutely everything, or maybe that he is trying to simplify his explanations in order to appeal to a wider audience.  An example of this can be found when he discusses the “erected the holy twin pillars” are obviously the black and white pillars of the Tree of Life, Boaz and Jachim.

Though this is a book about “Wiccan Mysteries” the author repeatedly quotes from non-Wiccan authors throughout the book.  For me this shows that he is obviously well read and educated in more than just Wicca, and that he obviously takes his inspiration as much from the Western Esoteric Traditions in general as from that of Wicca.  This is refeshing to see, as too often magickal traditions can become stale through the lack of acknowledgement for the interwoven nature of magick as a whole.

I am not sure of the historical basis for the idea of the Watchers (Grigori) in the Wiccan Tradition, but I am familiar with the fact that Grimassi incorporates it into his Italian Witchcraft practices which is explained in his earlier book ITALIAN WITCHCRAFT.  Again this is not generally something which is found in all traditions of Wicca, though he does go on to explain that sometimes they are called “The Old Ones” a concept I am more familiar with in Wicca, though not as “Watchers” rather as ancestral spirits.  So this is interesting ideed.

The book goes on to explore a number of other modern Pagan ideas, practices and beliefs.  On the whole, this book provides valuable insights into the authors’ practices, as well as plenty ideas which could be adapted and incorporated into personal practice.  All and all, an interesting book for those looking for something different.  Recommended.