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Before You Cast A Spell

Before You Cast a SpellBefore You Cast A Spell: Understanding the Power of Magic
By Carl McColman, New Page Books (Career Press)

Here is a book for beginners unlike any other. This small, entertaining and easy to read volume has the odd feature of not containing a single spell. Among the sea of Cast-a-Spell variety books that have little or no information in them about the “why” and “why not” of spell casting this book stands out like a diamond surrounded by coal lumps.

Mr. McColman quotes an old proverb that says, “Give a man a fish, and you’ve fed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you’ve helped him feed himself for a lifetime.” In a few short chapters, the author explores the ethics of magic in depth, something that is sadly lacking in other Wicca 101 books. He explodes myths generally assumed by a newcomer and replaces the myth with reality.

In several chapters he talks about what magic can and cannot do for you. He also explains why ethical magicians do not cast certain types of spells. He explains what magic is, where it comes from and how it works. He carefully explains why some spells work and others simply won’t. He talks about spirituality and a path to a magical life. And he talks about ethics, again.

The reader is given a strong foundation on which to base their magical work. Mr. McColman will give the most inexperienced Witch the confidence and skill necessary to apply magic to every area of their lives.

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The Dark Archetype: Exploring the Shadow Side of the Divine

The Dark Archetype: Exploring the Shadow Side of the Divine
By Denise Dumars and Lori Nyx; New Page Books

Who’s afraid of the dark? I’m not after reading this book. The two authors with a somewhat odd sense of humor take the reader on a tour of 9 dark Goddesses and 9 dark Gods. They delve into the Holy Ones’ history and mythology in the first part of the book. In the second part of the book we are treated to a varying array of rituals, meditations and spells. The authors’ unique view of working on the dark side is both enlightening and refreshing. I usually find myself approaching any book that contains actually spells with a bit of dread but the workings in this book are very intriguing to say the least.

I write my own spells and rituals when I have need, but I found the original thoughts laid out in the many spells of this book something that I could use in my own future workings. I particularly was appreciative of the first chapter on how to properly work with these dark Lords and Ladies. Some of the personalities can be quite tricky to work with. Many of the Gods and Goddesses on the dark side have a tendency to bring drastic change and massive upheaval into a petitioner’s life, so the repeated warning of honoring and respecting these strong Beings is well placed throughout the book’s chapters.

If you find yourself in need of more than all sweetness and light, this is the book for you. Spells and rituals range from the standard protection to fertility to astral travel. Meditations and talisman creations are among the many excellent workings as well. An thought provoking and entertaining book, although, I wouldn’t recommend actually using this book to any but the most experienced practitioners. I would also be careful when working with any of these Divine Beings, you just might end up with more than you’re prepared to handle.

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The Pocket Spell Creator

The Pocket Spell Creator: Magickal References at Your Fingertips
By Keri Connor; New Page Books (Career Press)

This book is exactly what it sounds like. It is a small pocket sized edition. Listed inside are a variety of correspondences ranging from the moon phase to oils and herbs. A short two page chapter on ethics states the standard “harm none” code we all should know. There are sample spells and circle casting phraseology. The author includes several pages to record your own spells or rituals and the results of each one for future reference.

There is nothing really new here except a bunch of listings all in one easy to transport book. There are several authors in the bibliography who’s information is sometimes less than accurate but for the particular herbs and colors etc, that I have personal knowledge about the information in Ms. Connor’s book seems accurate. If you are just starting to create your own spells, this book can be helpful. A more experienced witch might like to flip through it if they have 10 minutes or so to spare to refresh failing memories.

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The Magical Crone

Celebrating the Wisdom of Later LifeThe Magical Crone: Celebrating the Wisdom of Later Life
By Jennifer Reif and Marline Haleff; Citadel Press (Kensington Publishing)

Witches on broomsticks? Wizened old ladies with warts? Not in this book. The Magical Crone was written to dispel the ageism that many women find hamper them in older life. In the pages of this book you will find history, rituals, spells and meditations all aimed at the older woman. There are many close looks at the three forms of Goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone.

The authors start by defining what a crone is. They take us on a journey of self-discovery through intimate workings with four Goddesses. Each Goddess is honored and explored for a set period of time. We are instructed in the writing of a “Crone Journal” where we examine our life’s accomplishments and foibles as well as our dreams for the future. Afterwards we are treated to special crafts with blessing rituals to sanctify the results. The last chapter in the book turned out to be my favorite. That chapter was a series of short biographies about elder women who the authors considered exemplary crones.

I was disappointed with the book as a whole. I am approaching my crone-hood. I had expected there to be more ritual and information specific to the Crone. I would have liked to see at least one ritual of Croning. Instead I found that the rituals, meditations, crafts and spells could easily be used by anyone of any age or gender. In fact some were very similar to ceremonies I had attended in my twenties.

The book seems to be trying to be all things to all people. I’m not sure the authors focused on a particular audience as they wrote. Some portions of the chapters are written for the beginner and other areas are written for those with more experience. In my opinion, the book is Wicca 101, Part II. It is not at all what a woman reaching the status of Crone, an elder in the Craft, would want or need.

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Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches

Aradia book review Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches
By Charles G Leland; A Modern Introduction and Commentary by AJ Drew; New Page Books (Career Press) (Original text © 1899)

I’d read this book with a large grain of salt handy. I personally found the commentary to be far removed from my understanding of the text. I don’t know how Mr. Drew believes that his interpretation can really explain the seemingly more violent aspects of the text, but he does say he’s doing just that.

I found the text as hard to read and digest as the original writings of a Shakespeare play. However, I feel that the text of Aradia is just as an important classic to Pagan history as Shakespeare’s writings are to modern literature.

Mr. Leland’s writings, whether he received them as he claimed from a “hereditary witch” named Maddalena (and others) or made them up on his own as suggested by more recent investigators, is in the long run irrelevant. Many of our current Wiccan thoughts and beliefs can be traced back to this text. Most notably among them is the Wiccan Rede.

If we are to grow strong as a community we have to know where we came from. If in fact the beginnings of the current neo-pagan movement lead us back to The Gospel of the Witches, it is important to know what the text actually says.

In the course of my reading this book, it occurred to me that among the stories that Mr. Leland recorded are an assortment of myths that our community longs for. If this book has any value it is the mere fact that it contains the roots of what became Gardnerian Wicca.

I wouldn’t run out to buy the book, but I would recommend that if you have the chance you sit down and read through the text and commentary to gain a better understanding of our Pagan past.

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In the Service of Life

In the Service Of LifeIn the Service of Life: A Wiccan Perspective on Death
By Ashleen O’Gaea; Citadel Press (Kensington Publishing Corp.)

Leave it to Ashleen O’Gaea to go where few have gone before. In this book written with Wiccan clergy in mind, Ms. O’Gaea once again breaks ground. She guides the reader through the book with a gentle but firm hand. Many Pagans avoid issues of faith that we have been taught by our religions of origin are taboo. Death is one of these issues. In the early chapters of the book, the author delves into the intricacies associated with Wiccan beliefs associated with death and rebirth.

Unlike our Judeo-Christian brethren, Wiccan beliefs do not see death as a means to a punishment or reward. I was forced to think about my own reactions to the dying and death of my own loved ones in terms of my Pagan belief system. In doing this I was also led to examine other areas of my faith that I had side-stepped because of previously learned behaviors. Clearly, this book is one of the missing pieces in any guide to the Wiccan belief system.

The book also teaches the reader to see the endings of many other aspects of life as a cause for celebration or reflection. According to the author’s views, which she convincingly portrays, death is like birth. A new aspect of our spiritual journey is achieved from our passage from this plan into the next. As there is pain and effort involved in the birthing process to come into this world, so there is with the process necessary to emerge into the next incarnation.

This book was (and will continue to be) especially relevant in my current life situation. I have many elderly relatives in various states of health. In the past several years I have increasingly aware of the mortality of the human body. On the flip side, the thoughts put forward in this book have enabled me to move my Pagan beliefs forward to a better understanding of death as a natural occurrence. It is a part of being in this world and not the thing to be feared that many of our non-Pagan neighbors have made it out to be.

I do not think this book would be good for a beginner on a Pagan path, but it is definitely a worthy addition to any Wiccan library of a more advanced practitioner and a must have for any person acting as clergy for their community.

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The Veil’s Edge: Exploring the Boundaries of Magic

The Veil's Edge: Exploring the Boundaries of MagicThe Veil’s Edge: Exploring the Boundaries of Magic
By Willow Polson; Citadel Press (Kensington Publishing Corp.)

This book starts out with a brief lesson on science. Quantum physics to be exact. The author makes quite a good argument on the similarities between quantum mechanics and magic. She convinced me, but then again, I have always compared using magic to using electricity. Great when you know how to control it, but it can fry you silly when out of control.

The book goes on from there, getting weirder with every chapter. The author again and again warns those new to the Path to wait before trying the various exercises and the rituals are meant for covens and groups with experience only.

In this book we learn how to mend a tear in the fabric between the worlds. We learn about humans who are really Fea and other mythical creatures. We even learn all about controlling group dynamics when something or someone is “off”. There is a lot of information and quotes from various big name Pagans in the book.

I found the book on the whole a very good and easy read. I, however, am entirely too much a part of THIS world to attempt some of the more outlandish suggestions. Plus, since most of them are for groups and I am Solitary, I doubt it will be any time soon where I am even in a position to attempt the less outlandish rituals. If you are part of an established, (and I mean one that’s been around for years) stable coven, this may be a good book to have in your coven library. I’d buy a good salt shaker to go with it though.

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Circle of Five

Circle of Five Circle of Five
Dolores Stewart Ricco
Kensington Books Fiction ©2003What a surprisingly delightful book! The book begins with a prologue complete with a gruesome child abduction and murder. After that the story focuses on five completely believable women. Despite their varying ages and backgrounds, the women have been drawn together to form a coven. The women were drawn together because of their overlapping beliefs and needs, and like many of us, a witchy lifestyle just fit.

The magic they practice is completely ‘normal’. Their celebration of ritual and use of spell work could have been practiced by any number of real witches. Of course the book is fiction, so the characters and plots do take twists and turns that can hardly be described as everyday happenings. The reader follows the women through the Wheel of the Year as they use their magic and talents to help create a wetland sanctuary and catch the murderer we were introduced to in the first pages of the book.

I couldn’t put the book down. If you like books in the ‘to catch a crook’ brand, you’ll love this novel. Even if you normally don’t read this type of book, I strongly recommend it. I can’t wait for the sequel Charmed Circle due out in November of this year.

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Magickal Arts

Magickal Arts By Sally Morningstar and Laura J. Watts Magickal Arts
By Sally Morningstar and Laura J. Watts; Lorenz Books (Anness Publishing LTD)

This book is absolutely spellbinding in its appearance. The hard cover volume is stocked full with beautiful, full color photography and artwork. If you are looking for a coffee table book, then this is the one for you.

If on the other hand you are looking for a book with a little bit more substance skip over this one. While the pictures are breathtakingly done and the book design is masterful there is little more than your standard spells and charms and other such stuff in the first half of the book. The meditations are a little better than the spells but they all focus on preparation for love charms. The charms themselves are quaint little crafts, and if you have nothing better to do one afternoon, they may prove to be entertaining.

If you choose to use the spells in the book be prepared to open your purse strings. Each spell comes with a list of necessary ingredients. You will also be calling on the gods by their Hebrew names. If you are not calling on the Gods, then you will call out for the angels. There are quotes from the bible and sidebars with interesting bits of old superstitions like horseshoes. There is even a painting of St. Christopher.

The authors repeat some of the otherwise harmful misconceptions of witchcraft, among them the inclusion of the phrase “to the higher good of all” at the end of the spell weavings. I found the somewhat one sided out look of goodness and light to be much sugarcoated silliness.

If you want a book to look at the pictures, this one is perfect. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a book to bring you further along your spiritual path. this one falls very short of the mark. There are many better beginner books available.

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Lillian Too’s 168 Feng Shui Ways To Declutter Your Home

Lillian Too's 168 Feng Shui Ways To Declutter Your HomeLillian Too’s 168 Feng Shui Ways To Declutter Your Home
By Lillian Too; Sterling Publishing Company Inc.

I have read many feng shui books in the last several years. The books are basically the same.They address the layout of your home, the chi and the bagua. They tell you what are bad aspects and give a few brief ideas you can use to ‘fix’ what is obstructing the flow of chi in your life. Then you are left on your own. This book is very different. After a brief introduction where we meet the author and learn about her philosophy toward life in general and feng shui in particular, we are plunged right into a long list of very practical ways to balance our lives and clear up our chi.

There are eight chapters each focusing on a different aspect of home and life. As the reader progresses throughout the book, lessons with very practical and easy to follow exercises are explained in detail. The reader learns what to do, where to do it and, the piece so often missing from other books, why to do it. The book covers clearing clutter from both the physical and spiritual planes.

You can open this book at just about any place to receive the full benefit of one of the 168 feng shui tips. They are clearly written, easy to follow and colorfully illustrated with diagrams and photographs. There are tips that enact rituals and there are tips for your body as well as mind. I think this book would be a welcome addition to any Pagan home, whether you have ever ventured into Feng shui before or not. As an example; Number 158 and Number 159 detail Empowerment from trees and Channeling energy from their roots. What could be more Pagan?

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Devoted to You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan Practice

Honoring Deity in Wiccan PracticeDevoted to You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan Practice
By Judy Harrow, Alexei Kondratiev, Geoffrey W. Miller, Maureen Reddington-Wilde
Citadel Press (Kensington Publishing Corp.)

Get four books for the price of one. That’s what you have here. This book is for the more advanced Wiccan. Divided into four chapters, one written by each of the authors, you get an in-depth overview of one of four deities. Anibus, Brigit, Aphrodite and Gaia are all focused on in the Turning of the Year.

Ms. Harrow wrote the introduction (and conclusion). In which she explains that she hopes the readers will use this book as a template to focus on their own deity of choice.

Chapters each have their own unique feel. The things they have in common are a wealth of knowledge on the God or Goddess they are devoted to exploring. Correspondences, rituals, meditations and stories grace the pages of each chapter. I learned a lot about each deity that I hadn’t known before.

This book is not for the faint of heart or those looking for some light reading. There were many times when I had to reread a passage to get the full meaning out of it. References to other writings are footnoted. Each chapter ends with a list of resources for additional study. There are songs, poetry and maps, as well as photography included in the book’s pages.

If you are ready to bring your connection to God and Goddess to the next level, this book is for you. Expect to do some work, this book is for the serious Wiccan student.

Reprinted with permission. Original printing Elements Magazine

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Wild Witchcraft

Wild Witchcraft book review Wild Witchcraft
By Marion Green, Thorsons (Harper Collins Publishers)

There are a great many Wicca 101 books out on the market. This one is by far the best I have ever read. Most books written with a beginner in mind rarely address the deeper issues of being Wiccan or Pagan. They hardly ever delve into the issues surrounding our past or the reasons many of us become and stay witches in the first place.

Ms. Green continues to write a high caliber book with this newest addition to her repertoire. This book goes beyond the basics of spell work found in nearly all beginner books on the market. In fact, spell work takes its rightful place as a minor part of our religion in this book. This book focuses on the reality of magic.

The author helps the beginner explore his or her connection to the Divine with guided meditations and clear concise suggestions on how to become aware of the existence of the Elementals and Divine in our own everyday lives.

This book is chock full of information and suggestions meant to lead a person new to a Pagan path to a better understanding of this Path. It also teaches in a gentle and straightforward manner such things as ethics and manners. Something that is sorely lacking in most Wicca 101 books, and sadly from our daily lives these days.

Even though I am no longer a beginner myself, I will keep this book on my shelves. There are many interesting tidbits of thought and information that reawakened my mind to new avenues to my own connection with the Divine. I especially liked the chapters focusing on the Elementals with their exercises in forming stronger connections to each one.

I highly recommend this book to the newcomer and the more advanced student looking to renew their understanding of the Divine and a magical lifestyle.

Reprinted with permission. Original printing Elements Magazine