Posted on

Tarot Art Nouveau Deluxe

LS Tarot Art Nouveau Deluxe by Antonello Castelli Tarot Deck – 78 cards, instruction booklet and embroidered velvet bag, Llewellyn Worldwide

I love this deck. I hate this deck.

Let me explain. I love this deck because the artwork is absolutely breathtaking. Highly detailed color plates grace the face side of each card. True to the Art Nouveau style, there are patterns of swirls, flowing garments and luxurious hair. The artist used a palette of jewel tones and pastels throughout the deck. Flowers and leaves adorn many of the cards in an abundance of nature images that also include animals as well as geometric shapes. The title of each card is written at the top in four different languages, one of which is English. There is also a card title on the bottom of each in another language. The back of each card is done in a tasteful lilac colored monotone that can be viewed in either direction. All the art is highly detailed and intricate. I could look at each individual card for an extended period of time to soak in all the nuances.

I hate this deck because the artwork is absolutely breathtaking. When I tried to use this deck for a simple reading I discovered that it was extremely difficult to tell the suits apart from each other. The Major Arcana is so similar to the minor ones that they also are easily confused during a reading. Minor Arcana cards two through ten have a column of a symbol for that suit on each card, but the columns look as if they were an afterthought because they are not integrated into the art in the same style as each card. The Knave, Knight Queen and King cards do have the symbol of their suit integrated into the art but the symbol isn’t always consistent throughout the suit making the reader spend time deciphering the card itself before being able to concentrate on the meaning behind the card’s reading.

The instructional booklet did have a nice brief history lesson on the appearance of Art Nouveau as an art form. The meanings of the cards are simple and brief. Reverse meanings are not included. Of the 63-page booklet only 14 pages were in English. The meanings given are those typical to many other decks. There is a sample layout on the first page of the booklet, but it was not one I was familiar with, so I didn’t attempt to use it.

If you are looking at this deck as a first foray into tarot use, look elsewhere. However, if you are a collector of the beautiful and unusual in tarot decks, this one makes a worthy addition to an established collection.

Posted on

The Red Book: A Deliciously Unorthodox Approach to Igniting Your Divine Spark

The Red BookThe Red Book: A Deliciously Unorthodox Approach to Igniting Your Divine Spark by Sera J. Beak; Jossey-Bass (Wiley)

Ms. Beak has an unusual take on finding your spiritual path. She takes bits and pieces from all the big religions as well as from some lesser-known ones. She throws all this together into a most original but deeply held belief system. She claims her approach is not new but echoes the experiences and insights from those who came before her on many different spiritual paths. Her voice is light hearted and serious at the same time. The reader will find the light bulb going off in their head while at the same time engaged in a belly laugh at Ms. Beak turn of phrase. She is seriously irreverent but makes her point in a lasting manner.

The book is broken down into sections that have such humorous names as “Are you really gonna eat that?” and “Catapulting your inner waitress.” Each chapter focuses on one aspect of figuring out and maintaining a spiritual path. The seeker (or reader) is guided to fix her intent and in finding a Divine Power that resonates personally, to deepening her connection with the Divine Aspect in her life through meditation and gratitude. Delicious tidbits from all kinds of world belief systems are used to illustrate the author’s points. Jesus and Kali are mentioned with equal reverence and respect. Ancient text and modern interpretation are both offered up to the reader to use or discard as needed.

At the very end of the book is a resources guide. Divide by the book’s chapters it lists recommended books to further investigate the points covered in that chapter.

The book is very tongue-in-cheek, but especially accessible to those who are just starting to search for their own spiritual pathway. Since the author doesn’t focus on any one religion but talks about many the reader is left to choose which way resonates best for her self. The book is written for a female audience, but an open-minded male would get just as much out of it. This book is definitely for the brand new seeker who is unsure what she believes and wants the freedom to decide for her self what to do.

I found the filigree design elements on the pages distracting and in some places they were too dark, making the text difficult to read. But I have old lady eyes and I think I need to get my eyeglasses updated again. The book is aimed at a younger audience, so perhaps they wouldn’t have as much trouble with the legibility as I did.

Posted on

The Pocket Guide to Rituals

The Pocket Guide to RitualsThe Pocket Guide to Rituals: Magickal References at Your Fingertips by Kerri Connor; New Page Books (Career Press)
Kerri Connor believes that celebrating life’s little moments are as important as celebrating the 8 Sabbats. In her brief introduction she lists her four distinct reasons to create ritual. 1. Focused attention and energy; 2. Spiritual expression; 3. Show of thankfulness; and 4. Communion with others. Following the explanations for these four reasons, she has a section entitled “How to Use This Book.”

Part One of this short volume is for rituals of life, for such life passages as familiar as birth, handfasting and croning, but also some surprisingly interesting events such as getting a new car, new job or new home. Part Two has rituals of nature featuring such things as sunrise and sunset, the seasons, the elements and astrological occurrences such as a meteor shower or eclipse. Each event has listings of herbs, oils, correspondences, suggested themes and colors that can be used to create a ritual. Also included is a sample ritual for each written by the author.

Appendix A explains how to write the words to your own rituals and appendix B is a simple worksheet template to help focus a beginner on the what, why and how when planning a ritual. There is also a useful index for quick location of specific information listed by event.

This book is a good reference source for someone who is just learning to write rituals. It is very basic volume and would be of little use to someone who has been creating rituals for a while. With any volume claiming correspondences for colors, stones or herbs, it is best to double check against other sources.

I am currently searching for menarche rituals to share with my soon-to-be-a-woman 12 year old, so I was hopeful of finding something of interest here. Personally, I found the sample rituals to be rather bland and generic. I would hope that someone using this book would create something much more personal and meaningful for their own specific needs.

Kerri Connor is also the author of The Pocket Spell Creator, another reference guide for creating your own spells that is similar in structure to this book.

Posted on

Pagan Spirituality

Pagan Spirituality Pagan Spirituality: A Guide to Personal Transformation, by Joyce and River Higginbotham; Llewellyn Worldwide

Did you know that there are different levels of spiritual development? I didn’t until I read this book.

The initial chapters of this book explore the theories of Ken Wilber, a spirituality psychologist. His ideas are related to Pagan spiritual development in a way that the non-scientist can understand. The authors explain how a person progresses from infant to young adult and beyond the young adult stage into stages of more wisdom and self-reflection. The authors liken one’s spiritual growth to the changes one goes through when going from helpless infant to someone who can run marathons.

In all there are nine developmental “spaces” and four different quadrants that readily conform to a Pagan world outlook. Joyce and River take the reader on a tour through each space and each quadrant with exercises, meditations and other activities.

The book is set up as a teaching guide, and would work best for a group situation, although the authors do include notes on how to make the contents work if you happen to be solitary, which a great many Pagans are.

Each chapter of the book is beautifully designed to make navigating through the book as easy as possible. Each chapter has section headings such as Questions to discuss, Exercise, My Journal, or Visualization. At the beginning of the book the reader is encouraged to create a spiritual progress map listing things that he or she wishes to accomplish in the coming year. The following chapters build on this map by returning to it and checking on progress toward the goals set forth in it. Each chapter builds on the lessons learned from the ones previous.

Chapters focus on different aspects of growth, both of the individual self and the way in which that individual interacts with the greater Pagan community, the mundane world and beyond to the spirit world. Chapter titles show what the reader can expect to find with such descriptions as Growth and Magick from the front end of the book to Energy Work from the back end of the book.

This book would be most useful to a shop that gives classes or a coven leader working with beginners that have progressed beyond the basic Wicca 101 level. It would also be a perfect workbook for a group of new seekers that are forming their own study group. Pagan Spirituality builds on the lessons and explanations found in the authors’ first book, Paganism, and the authors suggest reviewing their previous work before tackling the projects of this one. I haven’t read their first book, but on the basis of my reading of this one, I will at some point.

The only down side of the book for me was the repetitiveness of the various visualizations, but since each one builds on the last, I understand the reasoning behind the repetitions. If the reader were using the book as a lesson plan meant to encompass a year’s study, this slight flaw most likely would become an attribute instead. This is a book I definitely recommend to anyone wishing to deepen their connection to the spiritual side of existence.

Posted on

Whispers From The Woods

Whispers From The Woods: The lore and magic of trees
by Sandra Kynes; Llewellyn Worldwide

This book is subtitled “The lore and magic of trees.” When I opened the package it came in and saw that I became very excited. I have always felt that trees had a great deal to teach me and looked forward to learning what I could about their magic. You might call me a natural born tree-hugger. Even before I knew about the Pagan Path, I would commune with the trees in the woods behind my childhood house. I was thrilled to be able to read a book with trees as the focus.

Unfortunately for me, the book written by Ms. Kynes seemed to be dedicated to the usage, understanding and creation of Ogham. Ogham is a style of rune system based on lines and crosshatches that symbolize a limited number of letters. According to the author, Ogham’s history, origins and even pronunciation is in dispute. I’ll have to admit that the author was very thorough in including as much material on the many different Ogham as she could, but much of what she presented was very dry. The book consists listing of fact after fact with little to break up the endless listings.

If you are interested in either learning to use Ogham or want a book dedicated to properties and correspondences of many popular varieties of trees, this book is an excellent resource. Part Two of the book has entries in alphabetical order of 50 common trees. Each entry consists of a few paragraphs about the tree’s history, uses and mythology. The entries also include Latin names, seasonal details, various attributes and correspondences as well as what ritual uses the wood is most often associated with.

There is also an appendix entitled “Tools” that I found very insightful. I would have liked to see this section enlarged and moved to the front of the book. The directions for making the various tools (in addition to creating your own personal Ogham) deserve more than the short section in the back.

Someone who is already actively practicing can best use this book. The listings can be useful for someone who is interested in making sure they have the perfect tools for their workings. However, for this old kitchen witch, I found little of interest to me or applicable to my needs.

Buy from Amazon.com Whispers From The Woods

Posted on

Be Blessed: Daily Devotions for Busy Wiccans And Pagans

Be BlessédBe Blesséd: Daily Devotions for Busy Wiccans And Pagans
by Denise Dumars; New Page Books (Carreer Press)

Denise Dumars has brought us a unique perspective to the Pagan lifestyle. In this, her latest book, she shares her humor and years of wisdom with daily devotions for busy Wiccans and Pagans. That covers just about all of us, doesn’t it?

The book is divided into eight chapters covering everything from waking in the morning to retiring at night and all that happens in-between in the modern Pagan’s life. The book is written to bring the mundane everyday activities into the sacred. Any of the affirmations, rituals or meditations can be utilized on any day of the year (or any phase of the Moon).

For me the book got off to a rocky start with humor in which the tone was closer to disrespectful than funny. I almost stopped reading when I reached the section in Chapter 4 on how to talk to a God. Maybe someone else would be comfortable calling Thor “dude” and meeting Him for a drink at a roadhouse, but I am definitely not on a number of levels. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I tend to approach the Divine with a bit more honor and respect than if they are my bosom buddies from childhood.

In spite of my discomfort, I kept reading and was rewarded with some very insightful and useful meditations and devotional suggestions in later chapters. There was also less of the joking that fell short of funny. In spite of the flippant tone in many parts of the book, it was a good read, and the author did make her point. I would suggest that before buying this book you flip through it and see if the humorous parts are more to your liking than they were to mine.

Buy from Amazon.com Be Blesséd: Daily Devotions for Busy Wiccans And Pagans

Posted on

Dancing the Goddess Incarnate: living the magic of maiden, mother, and crone

Dancing the GoddessDancing the Goddess Incarnate: living the magic of maiden, mother, and crone
by Dorothy Morrison & Kristin Madden; Llewellyn Worldwide

Goodbye, Dr. Phil! Hello, dance shoes!

Dorothy Morrison and Kristin Madden have brought into being a women’s self-help volume that utilizes the magic of nine Goddesses to bring balance and serenity to our lives. The book is divided into three parts, each one dedicated to the three faces of the Goddess. Part One; the Maiden features the Goddesses Titania, Athena, and Artimis. In Part Two, the Mother is dedicated to the Goddesses Venus, Cybele, and Tara and the final section is for the Crone and holds the wisdom of Hecate, Cerridwen, and The Cailleach.

The Goddesses all focus on one aspect of women’s lives: play, career, personal adventure, romance, creative endeavors, family and nurturing, self-empowerment, magic and ritual, and last but not least, personal and spiritual well-being.

What I like about this book is that the authors don’t assume that the reader’s life is pathetic and in need of desperate repair. We are taken on a lovely adventure with the authors as they experience dancing with each Goddess in their lives. (Yes, we get to dance with each Goddess no matter where we are in our own life path,)

This book is not one to sit down and read with a warm cup of tea on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The book actually invites the reader to become an active participant in its pages. There are poems, spells, questionnaires, meditations and exercises galore. Each chapter focuses on the traits of the profiled Goddess in relation to real life events and concerns. In the chapter dedicated to Cybele, we learn to explore our inner dreams and manifest them into physical reality. How cool is that?

My favorite chapter was the one devoted to Hecate. Called the Dance of Attitude, it teaches the reader to eradicate unwarranted fears based on what the neighbors might think. I especially like The She-Who-Doesn’t-Give-A-Hoot Ritual. As a person who hates to make waves and a people-pleaser, I really needed to read the words there. Plus, lately I have been hearing a whisper that it may be time to accept Hecate as my Patron Goddess. The only problem I have with the entire chapter is the advice to use a lotion with lanolin. Too bad for me, I am allergic to the stuff and if I slather it all over my body, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight!

I did find myself trying to figure out which author wrote which portions of the book. I must say that there are some typical “Dorothy” phrases, but if she wrote those chapters wholly on her own is anybody’s guess. The authors’ styles meshed well, nor does the book doesn’t leave you with unanswered questions. There is a bibliography in the back if the reader wants to explore further reading material. I’d like to see another volume dancing with additional Goddesses or even one that has us dancing with the Gods.

Buy from amazon.com Dancing the Goddess Incarnate: living the magic of maiden, mother, and crone

Posted on

Working With Fairies: Magick, Spells, Potions & Recipes to Attract & See Them

Working With FairiesWorking With Fairies: Magick, Spells, Potions & Recipes to Attract & See Them
By Anna Franklin; New Page Books (Career Press)

I enjoyed this book, though I found the sub title a bit misleading about the book’s contents. I was expecting to see page upon page of spells and charms but was pleasantly surprised by very thorough history lessons on many of The Wild Folk.

The eight chapters in the book contained a wealth of information of historical accounts of fairies from around the world. Where they live, what they do and how to obtain their help as well as avoid their ire comprised major portions of each chapter.

Chapters were divided into sections like The Other World, Devas and Dryads and Elementals. The last one was the most extensive filling about a third of the book with informational tidbits, poems, meditations, correspondences, and suggested rituals for each of the four Elemental Fae.

I have never been a big “fairy” person per se, but I found the historical accounts fascinating and well worth the read. The glossary in the back was a helpful addition to the book. Keeping track of who’s who and what is often difficult in books like these. Having a well-formatted index with easy to read bold headings in the back made it easier to keep track of that.

In the chapter called Fairy Families, I especially liked the listing of the Muses and what their ‘specialty’ was. This is something that I often wanted to know in the past but was unable to find the information as accessible as it is presented in this book. Information such as this is presented in a factual, straightforward manner. The author includes dates, places and names when possible as much of her source material came from historical accounts of ‘witch’ trails.

The recipes included in the book are made with common ingredients for the most part, making it possible for those interested in deepening their relationships with fairies to try their hand at making them.

If you are interested in fairy lore, or want to include fairies as part of your practice, this is a good book with plenty to hold your interest.

Buy from amazon.com Working With Fairies: Magick, Spells, Potions & Recipes to Attract & See Them

Posted on

Instant Magick

Instant MagickInstant Magick
By Christopher Penczak; Llewellyn Worldwide

Are you tired of magick books that require you to buy out an entire store to cast a few dozen spells? This book is all you need to create instant magick. No candles, no incense, no stones or fancy altar statues. You have everything you need right in your own mind.

Mr. Penczak offers a course of study that truly demystifies what magickal practice is all about. The book opens in Chapter One with an easily understood explanation of what instant magick is. Although the author states that he wrote the book for the beginner, I feel that this book is highly useful for all except the most advanced practitioner of magick. His direct writing style is pragmatic and enjoyable.

Chapter Two breaks down spell work into its basic parts: Altering consciousness; focusing will; and directing energy. These three actions are what all spell work is about, something that is often overlooked in the more common spell recipe books. Instead of listing a number of ingredients and laying out a set procedure, the author teaches the reader how and why a spell works. This book for all practical purposes is like the proverbial “teaching a man to fish” lesson.

Each chapter has detailed exercises that are like meditations. Each exercise is meant to build on the ones from previous chapters. The exercises help the reader to become more focused and aware of the intimate connection between the mundane and magickal planes. Exercises include such things as Elemental connection and balance, the inner temple and controlled breathing. The reader is taught how to create a magickal trigger that can be utilized to achieve in a matter of moments, the heightened awareness necessary for spell work for any daily need. The magick in Mr. Penczak’s book is the anywhere, anytime kind of magick that makes a real difference to the individual and the immediate circumstances in that person’s life.

The exercises later in the book are open-ended, leading to the creations of personal spells that are more meaningful to the individual, and in the process much more likely to actually work than any pre-formulated spells one finds in many books on the market. After all, a custom tailored suit will naturally fit better than one off the rack.

The book ends with an appendix containing a number of correspondence charts for Deities, Elements, planets and colors among other things, making the book that much more useful.

I recommend this book as an excellent addition to every magickal studies library.

Buy from amazon.com Instant Magick

Posted on

A Witch’s Grimoire: Create Your Own Book of Shadows

A Witch's Grimoire: Create Your Own Book of ShadowsA 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.

Posted on

Exploring the Pagan Path: Wisdom from the Elders

Wisdom From the EldersExploring 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.