A Witch’s Grimoire: Create Your Own Book of Shadows by Judy Ann Nock, Adams Media Corporation 2005
This is the perfect book for a beginner to the Craft. Most Wicca 101 books are more theory than practical application. A Witch’s Grimoire breaks out of that mold with room to spare. Judy Ann Nock takes a novice Wiccan through the steps necessary to create a truly marvelous Book of Shadows from the paper to the entries.
Not only is the book written from a unique perspective, it is beautifully designed. A plain forest green cover with golden type and no picture wraps a rough cut edged book. The book’s almost square shape makes it easy to hold and carry along with you.
Ms. Nock starts us out in the first chapter with an explanation and the reasoning behind creating your own Book of Shadows. With the popularity of some TV shows, what a Book of Shadows really is has been glamorized to mythical proportions. Unfortunately, the success of these popular shows has given rise to confusion as to how one gets a Book of Shadows. Once the reader picks up this book, not only is the confusion alleviated but also the reader is given a practical step-by-step guide with lessons, meditations and thought provoking questions. Some of the meditations are so lovely and peaceful that even a more experienced witch will find something useful in the book’s pages.
Chapters are divided into “books” that are themed to the lessons and exercises they contain. There are sections devoted to the days of the week, the Sabbats and Esbats, charkas, candle magic and more.
The visual interruption caused by the question and answer sections with a place to write your answer bothered me. I think the book could have been successful without the few lines after each exercise. The areas provided weren’t long enough to do more than jot down a few notes. Perhaps if the book were in a larger, workbook type format, the rules would have made better sense. Another area that I disagreed with was the author’s use of the words “must” and “should” in describing rituals. That is a personal pet peeve and really doesn’t detract from what I feel is a very good book for a new seeker.
Exploring the Pagan Path: Wisdom from the Elders (Exploring Series)
By Kristin Madden et al, New Page Books (Career Press)
Kristin Madden herds Pagans. Or something like that. In this delightful new book of essays from many well-known and respected Pagan Elders, Ms. Madden collects the accumulated wisdom and experience from many different Paths and Traditions.
The book brings together the accumulated experience of such authors as StarHawk, Dorothy Morrison and Grey Cat. Each one is an expert in his or her own field. The book is divided into three sections, Explore, Learn and Live. The reader learns what Paganism is, how to make a personal connection with Divinity and the basics of Magic. With that foundation the reader moves on to magical living, ritual design and tool creation. In the final section covens groups, activism and becoming public with your Path are discussed in depth. The book concludes with several appendices, all of which are very useful in either obtaining more information or expanding your knowledge of things Pagan.
I enjoyed most of the essays. There are a few that stuck out in my mind as not being quite up to par with the others in the book, but they were in the minority and didn’t subtract from the book’s focus or purpose enough to warrant removal. There was one essay I did find to be just shy of Christian bashing, which I found personally distressing.
This book reminds me of the workshops one might encounter at a big Pagan Gather. Lots of different voices collected together to teach and explain the many aspects of what being a Pagan can be. This book is a welcome addition to the Pagan library. It is more useful for those new to the Path, but the more experienced practitioner will enjoy reading the essays from authors they have not yet explored. If you ever wished you could have a mentor to guide you while learning, this book is the next best thing.
The Science Of The Craft: Modern Realities in the Ancient Art of Witchcraft
By William H. Keith, Citadel Press (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
Go dust off your thinking caps boys and girls, Mr. Keith has a science lesson in store for us!
In this 300-page volume we learn everything we ever wanted to know about quantum physics, and then some. Modern day theories on just exactly how the world works and why are what makes up a major portion of this book. We are treated to an explanation of why Sir Isaac Newton’s theory is incomplete and how the world really works. Schrödinger’s cat, the Quantum Sea and working magic! They all just go to show you that what we witches knew all along is actually real.
But if we knew it was real why do we need this book? The author uses his lessons in quantum physics to show that magic works in a scientifically proven way. Me, I prefer my magic to be, well, magical. But Mr. Keith comes from a scientific background where all this stuff about casting spells and sending healing energy to distant friends is just shy of mumbo jumbo. So he uses the most current scientific premises to prove that magic works.
He includes copious footnotes throughout the text. I found them to be a distracting at best, and inane at their worst. Most footnotes didn’t cite scholarly references (isn’t that what footnotes do?) but were silly one-liners aimed at a cheap laugh. Granted on occasion they were funny, but they detracted from the text most of the time.
I spent the first half of the book wondering when we were going to get to the modern realities of witchcraft. I learned a bunch of stuff about quantum sciences that I didn’t know, plus I had a couple of light-bulb moments with regard to things I learned years ago that the author presented in a very understandable format for the non-scientist types like me.
The book relies heavily on Isaac Bonewits’ Laws of Magic, which are repeated within the text several times. The author then takes what he has taught us about quantum theory and creates the Laws of Quantum Magic. By Chapter 15, we know all we can about the theories and we start in with the Magic Lessons. If you manage to make it this far in the book, this is where the going gets good.
I have read meditations and rituals by the dozens. Rarely do I see anything new and different. This book contains some very bright pearls. After all the science guru stuff is out of the way, some very real world usable advice on working magic and connecting to the Divine is found in the final chapters of this book. I’d get it for these chapters alone. Excellent lessons for a beginner, the ideas put forth will also reawaken the wonder that fades with wisdom and experience in a more seasoned witch.
Magic of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses
A Guide to Their Spiritual Power, Healing Energies, and Mystical Joy
By Carl McColman and Kathryn Hinds
New Page Books (The Career Press, Inc.) © 2005
Magic of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses is a well-written resource for anyone looking for a basic understanding of the Celtic pantheon. The reader will find many well known and some not so well know Celtic deities discussed in this books pages.
While this relatively short book (203 pages) only touches briefly on each deity, the information is presented in a scholarly manner. Myth and legend pertaining to each God or Goddess is written down. Even though some of the stories conflict with each other the reader is presented with an honest assessment of available knowledge regarding each major Celtic deity.
Each section of the book is divided into chapters devoted to a specific deity or group of deities. The stories and history pertaining to each chapter’s subject are presented first. Then the traditions associated with the Holy Day special to the God or Goddess is presented, followed by suggestions on how to honor the deity in daily life throughout the year. In cases where there are many incarnations of a particular God or Goddess that cross cultural or geographical boundaries, all names and stories are outlined, even when there are conflicting details.
This book is a good jumping off place for any person wanting to delve deeply into the Celtic Mysteries. The authors offer practical advice on visualizations, rituals and meditation exercises designed to bring the seeker closer to the Celtic Higher Powers. It is a thoughtful look at one of the most elusive of all the popular pantheons studied today.
By Carl McColman, Elements (Thorsons) 2005
In a small volume just slightly larger than pocket size, Mr. McColman
gives us all we ever wanted to know about Celtic wisdom and lore, past
and present. Bite sized pearls of wisdom grace the pages of this book.
Each of the 366 essays of the book is only a page long.
Mr. McColman packs a wallop into each paragraph. The book is divided
into sections with such headings as “The Path of the Fairies”,
“The Path of the Night” or The Path of Sacred Days”
with each section focusing on information reflective of the heading title.
Although the information does overlap in numerous places, the author does
such a good job in his collection of daily meditations that the book never
Mr. McColman also avoids the all too familiar format of daily meditation
books by not placing a date on each page. In his brief but very informative
introduction, he explains that he wants the reader to enjoy the bits of
wisdom on whatever day they may choose to read them instead of being forced
to read certain passages in a prearranged progression. Spend a year and
a day in any order you like, but make sure to not miss a single page.
And for the avid reader who wants more there is a bibliography in the
end matter as well.
The author takes us through all forms of Celtic wisdom and lore. This
book crosses religious boundaries and historic ages. This book is an excellent
introduction to the many facets of the Celtic mythology and culture. Even
experienced students will find tidbits of interesting facts and wisdom
to sink their teeth into. The past is explained in relationship to the
present. Saints are given passages alongside mythic heroes and Gods and
Goddesses. While it’s main audience may well be a Pagan one, a person
of any religion will find much wisdom in its pages. Another winner from
Buy 366 Celt at Amazon.com
The Wiccan Book of Rites and Rituals: A collection of spells for every magickal day of the year
By Sister Moon, Citadel Press (Kensington)
Oh puhlease!!! Who are these people? Even before I had reached numbered pages in this book, the word warlock had been used twice in connection with the witches who might happen to be reading the preface and acknowledgments. I guess no one bothered to tell the writer that a warlock is not synonymous with a male witch.
I attempted to put that aside and moved onto the main portion of the book. The reader is given two tables with the magickal hours of the day and night. Pay attention, you will need these tables to know the exact right time to cast each spell. There are even spells specifically for Friday the 13th, a chapter each for either a waning or waxing moon.
This book is so steeped in dogma; it’s hard to swallow. It reads like a private coven’s Book of Shadows. This outsider, for one, is not interested in becoming a member of their group. I prefer rituals that I can use when I have need of them, rather than waiting for the exact right time for the casting of a spell. I also have a problem with spell work that requires items and potions so specific that the author found it necessary to list the shop where the products are carried.
I am assuming a book of spells such as these were written with a beginner in mind. Unfortunately for that beginner, there is no glossary to explain the terms such as “deosil” and “Call of Order.” I also believe that someone who has enough knowledge to know these terms has begun writing his or her own spells for their immediate needs.
The rituals and spells cover the usual prosperity, negativity and true love genres and then there are the mostly useless like the one for a pregnant mare about to foal. How many witches do you know who have breeding horses? One spell, called Healing Brew, is a recipe for chicken soup. It might actually be tasty but the author instructs the reader to turn off the crock-pot and let the soup sit on the counter for three hours. Could this also a recipe for food poisoning?
If you can sift through all the nonsense, the ritual poems and spell ideas have some redeeming value. Many are quite lyrical in their rhyme and meter. There are a few for the greater good that might actually be worth casting if you can wait for the right month, day and hour to do the spell.
Irish Witchcraft From An Irish Witch
by Lora O’Brien, New Page Books (Career Press) 2005
I groaned when I opened the package and read the title of this book. I thought it was yet another in those series of inane “this is the True Way of witchcraft” books that glut the shelves on the big bookstore chains. You know the ones…real magick books, faery lore books and the White Witch spell books.
I decided to read it with an open mind, however. I was surprised by the second page of the introduction to find that Ms. O’Brien echoes many of my sentiments of walking one’s talk. She suggests that witchcraft is one of many paths to Divine enlightenment and if you choose to follow the Irish Witchcraft Path, to do so in earnest and in all seriousness. In this chapter, she discusses the various definitions of Wicca, The Rede, witchcraft, Pagan, magic and what they mean in terms of Irish witchcraft. She is very clear to explain that this is the path she is following and that it may not be for everyone. She also makes the distinction that Irish witchcraft has to do with Ireland and a strong connection to that land, and that part of the world.
Part I of the book was the most difficult for me to follow. Ms. O’Brien has a strong belief that if one is to follow a path strongly connected to a certain area/culture that you learn the language. Failing that she advises learning the proper pronunciations of the various tribes, Gods, Goddesses and holidays. I must admit my head was swimming before I was halfway through this section. I was never much good at names, and the transliterations are not quite the same as having a real Gaelic speaker sitting next to you correcting your woeful mispronunciations.
My favorite part of the book was the second section, entitled “How it Is”. In this portion of the book, which the author herself calls the most personal of the book, we follow her journey while she meets the land and its magical and supernatural inhabitants. She goes into her meeting of her chosen Goddess (or rather the Goddess who chose her). Although she maintained a rather general accounting of the actual ceremony, it was intriguing enough in the telling to hold the readers attention. The real meat and potatoes of the book are in this chapter of the book.
The final division of the book was about general Irish community, both Pagan and non-Pagan peoples. There are also numerous listings of resources and an index.
This is an excellent book, but by its very nature, it is not for everyone. However, if you are serious about following an Irish witchcraft path, this is a must for your Pagan library.
Celebrating the Seasons of Life: Beltane to Mabon – Lore, Rituals, Activities and Symbols
By Ashleen O’Gaea
New Page Books ((The Career Press, Inc.)
This book is the second of the series. The second half of the Wiccan year, Beltane to Mabon, follows the same format as the fist book.
The book gives the reader the history of each holiday and discusses modern day practices of the holidays. Rituals for the coven, family or solitary are thoughtfully explained. Activities and symbols pertinent to each holiday are also included.
The author has even thoughtfully included advice on celebrating one of the major holidays with non-Pagans in a non-confrontational way.
Surprisingly the chapters I found most useful in this book were the appendices. One discussed indoor celebrations. Many people cast their circles indoors even though Wicca is a nature religion. This section acknowledges that truth in a practical and non-judgmental way. Another appendix clearly states age appropriate activities for including your children in holiday celebrations.
This book is the perfect conclusion to its earlier companion book, Celebrating the Seasons of Life: Samhain to Ostara.
A Course in Astral Travel and Dreams by Belzebuub
aka Mark Pritchard (Absolute Publishing Group);(Reviewed by Windweaver)This nine-chapter book is the companion material to a free online course, purporting to teach astral projection to beginners in only nine weeks. It also covers “negative entities” and “conjurations” to counter these boogey-men. Hmmm…
Each chapter is focused on a certain aspect of the subject, and then concludes with a set of exercises meant to develop the student’s ability to have out-of-body experiences. What was never explained to my personal satisfaction was why I would want to have one. In fact, I did want to learn astral projection until I read the book, after which point I no longer feel a desire.
The subject of astral projection is in and of itself, complex, mystical, and at times downright unbelievable. The author purports Mastery and claims spiritual enlightenment of a quality and quantity that I really have no way to confirm or deny. What is apparent, though, is that the website IS available and well-organized like the book. It’s just that there is so much to swallow that seems, I hate to say it, outlandish. Perhaps even a tad absurd. Of course I could be completely wrong.
Perhaps someday I’ll discover a desire to try to astral project, at which point I’ll start to try all those exercises. Meanwhile I’ll just stick to simple meditation and prayer.
Celebrating the Seasons of Life: Samhain to Ostara
By Ashleen O’Gaea, New Page Books (Career Press, Inc.)
Ashleen O’Gaea has written another original book here. Once again this author has broken out of the tried and true formats of Wicca 101 books to deliver a unique and useful book.
The book, subtitled Lore, Rituals, Activities and Symbols, delivers exactly what it promises on its cover. In its few hundred pages we are treated to an in-depth look at the holiday, its origins from a historical viewpoint and the customs as they pertain to today’s practices. This book focuses on the first half of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. (This fall will see the publication of the sister book for the final four Sabbats.)
I have found many other books that contain Holy Day celebrations to be less than useful for my particular situation. Since I have a family, solitary solutions for ritual don’t always work, and as we are too small to be a coven, neither does group ritual. However, contained in this book’s pages are rituals that are directed toward the solitary, the family or the coven practice. Even if none of the rest of this book is used, the cost of purchase is well covered just by this feature alone.
But the rituals themselves are just a small part of the wealth of information contained between the covers. There are ideas for crafts and a few yummy looking recipes. There are also suggestions for holiday related activities that can be used no matter what your age or coven affiliations. Plus, the book is written in such a way that the reader is truly inspired in the understanding of how each Sabbat ties into the one before and after.
I found the book well written and easy to read. Even an old Pagan like myself found a few tidbits among the pages that added to my knowledge and deepened my understanding of the Holy Days. I would recommend this book for any Wiccan’s library, beginner or long-term practioner.
The Second Circle: Tools for the Advancing Pagan
By Venecia C. Rauls, Citadel Press (Kensington Publishing)
You’ve read a lot of books. You have all the basics down. You pick up more books because you are thirsting for more knowledge only to be disappointed by repetition of more basics on how to be a witch. Never fear, there is a book out there that picks up where the ‘Wicca 101’ books stop.
With a gentle yet firm touch, Ms. Rauls takes the beginner beyond the basics into real sufficiency. She shows the novice witch, the one with a basic understanding of the Pagan Path, how to become more proficient at their spirituality. Through her knowledgeable tutorage, a seeker learns that there is more to being a Pagan than owning a few spell books and candles. In fact, the student moves beyond the need for spell books and becomes, in the author’s words, a journeyman or apprentice moving toward mastery.
This book moves the reader past basic principles, building on what you have already learned. It guides the reader into expanding knowledge of the worlds within, without and even beyond. Through a simple four-step process laid out in each chapter, the beginner moves forward by reading, thinking, questioning and finally doing.
There are more places to find spiritual knowledge than the metaphysical section at your local bookstore. Ms. Rauls encourages exploration beyond what you already know into new avenues of study. She states that the occult knowledge really isn’t as hidden as we are lead to believe we just have to learn how to see beyond our assumptions and ingrained behaviors to achieve mastery of our chosen Paths.
I enjoyed this book, but found little of it useful for me personally. I do recommend it for the person who has moved beyond their newbie status and wants more than the basics so many books seem to be reiterating over and over again. This book is a fresh look and really is what it claims to be – tools for the advancing Pagan.
The Real Witches’ Garden
By Kate West, Element (Harper Collins Publishers)
Real Witches. Real power. That is the premise of Kate West’s new book, The Real Witches’ Garden. In this book, like the others in the Real Witches’ series Ms. West delves deeply into all the ways to bring your practice into focus using a garden. She states that since we are following a nature-based religion, we might as well do our rituals in nature. Makes sense to me.
Now, you apartment dwellers don’t go skipping over this book. There are gardens for the very large area as well as for the non-existent outdoor space. Something for everyone, no matter the size of your space or property. And you might even grow that green thumb you never knew you had.
In 12 easy to digest chapters, we learn how to make and celebrate gardens of all sorts. We are taught about planning for things like pets and children. There are gardens with a focus on the Lady and Lord, the Elements, the Seasons, magic or healing.
Each chapter contains numerous rituals to plant and celebrate in the garden’s focus. Gizmos and doodads are kept to a minimum, so costs are not a big deterrent in achieving one with the great outdoors.
While I enjoyed this book and found it interesting, the writing style took some getting used to, probably because the author is from the UK. This is an excellent book for a beginner either to the Craft or to gardening. Especially useful are the lists of correspondences in the book, as well as the chapter entitled “Take it from here” that lists further reading and resources.
I was also pleased with the appendix explaining what witchcraft really is. It included brief paragraphs on our beliefs, something that is usually overlooked in many witchcraft books. All in all this is nice, handy book to add to your spiritual library.