Book Review: Lisa Chamberlain’s Wicca for Beginners and Wicca Book of Spells

I had already read a couple of Lisa Chamberlain’s books, (five, actually!) and so was very happy to review the new editions of Wicca for Beginners and Wicca Book of Spells. My favourites to date had been Wicca Finding Your Path: A Beginner’s Guide to Wiccan Traditions, Solitary Practitioners, Eclectic Witches, Covens, and Circles and especially the audio version of Wicca Living a Magical Life: A Guide to Initiation, Self-Dedication and Navigating Your Journey in the Craft. These new editions from The Mystic Library (Sterling Publishing) did not disappoint.

First of all, I LOVE hardcover books. These little introductory books (they stand at around 130 – 160 pages) are beautifully bound in hardcover, with gorgeous artwork throughout. I love a book that also has illustrations and artwork, as I believe it’s important to engage the imagination and appreciate more than just the written word. Good artwork can lift a book, as anyone who has worked with colour correspondences alone can testify. Wicca for Beginners has a lovely blue theme running throughout, and Wicca Book of Spells a purple and pink theme. They are just so nice to hold in your hands, hardcovers. And they last a whole lot longer than paperbacks.

Wicca Beginners GuideWicca for Beginners: A Guide to Wiccan Beliefs, Rituals, Magic and Witchcraft does just what it says on the tin. It’s a great guide for someone new to the path, or for anyone who wants to refresh their learning. In fact, if I were to recommend a beginner’s book to anyone new to the path, this book as well as Scott Cunningham’s works would be my first choice. Chamberlain goes into history of the tradition, which is something that Cunningham’s books are seriously lacking. She uses language that is easy and flowing, friendly and unassuming. I really like that in books that teach about anything, as I am easily put off with pomposity and obscurity.

Indeed, this book covers everything neatly and precisely: how the path evolved, the history, core beliefs, working with the divine, the altar, tools and clothing, ritual components and magic, as well as advice for aspiring Wiccans. It really covers a lot of material in an easy to swallow format. The author has really done her research, and has walked her talk, sharing and expressing her knowledge with skill and clarity, as well as her plain common sense.

Wicca Book of SpellsWicca Book of Spells: A Beginner’s Book of Shadows for Wiccans, Witches and Other Practitioners of Magic again covers a wide range of material. While a couple of paragraphs on what a Book of Shadows is would have been nice, this tome dives straight into spellwork such as love spells (with the usual caveats on manipulation of individuals), prosperity spells, health and well-being spells and an eclectic mix of spellwork in the final chapter that includes kitchen witchery, elemental magic and more. Again, there is common sense and a good framework throughout this book to help the reader on their forays into the realms of spellcrafting. One small critique is that I would like to know if the spells included in the book are traditional, or if the inspiration came from somewhere historically. I have no qualms in new spells vs old spells, and I am a strong believer in working with what you’ve got to hand. This information may have been left out in the editing process, to keep the book to a size that works for beginners, though this is purely conjecture on my part. The spells were easy to follow and understand, and Chamberlain, like myself, is not averse to substitutions to make it work on a more personal level.

All in all, I found both these books really charming, and well written. Lisa Chamberlain was a pleasure to correspond with as well via email, and I look forward to more of her work in the future. I think she is a real asset to the Wiccan community, providing good information delivered in a friendly manner that everyone can understand and work with on any level. If you are just starting out, or know someone who is, or simply want to add to your book hoard of good books, then look up Lisa Chamberlain and her work – I recommend it all.

Book Review: Your Moontime Magic

It may seem strange, after just having a hysterectomy to be writing a review for a book about menstruation, but I had wanted to review this book before I knew I was to have this surgery. Maureen Theresa Smith’s Your Moontime Magic: A Girl’s Guide to Getting Your Period and Loving Your Body is a great little book that I wish I had in my hands when I first began menstruating. Though I’d had all the facts, and had support from my family and doctor, still my periods were a difficult and painful time, every month, since the age of eleven (I’m now 45, going on 46). Perhaps this book could have helped me, at least in a spiritual sense, to come to terms with my monthly periods when I was younger, the pain and the release, the cycles within cycles.

Published by New World Library, this book was previously released as First Moon in 2005. However, the information and advice go far beyond the first moon, and can help you throughout your life in working with your cycle, or helping someone else understand and see the spiritual nature of this women’s journey.

My own journey began early, a couple of months before my twelfth birthday (I had not yet started high school). Very painful, each month they would put me out of commission for a few days until I got some high dosage painkillers from my doctor when I was fourteen, and then later put on the pill when I was fifteen (for medical reasons). But when I went off the pill when I was 21, everything came back just as before. Little did I know that I suffered from endometriosis, as well as fibroids and ovarian cysts later in life (which is why I had to have a hysterectomy this year). Getting my period each month was a lot of work, both mentally and physically, as I prepared myself for the pain and the hassle of trying to deal with this and also with life in general.

Had I set up a spiritual practice around this monthly cycle, perhaps things might have been different. Your Moontime Magic definitely could help with that – it is filled not only with biological facts and information, but also rituals, crafts and imaginative ways of working with your monthly cycle. It discusses the oft taboo subjects of PMS and body changes, as well as going deeper into self-image and how that creates the world that you inhabit in this body. What I especially enjoyed was the fact that Smith included things like how your dreams change when you menstruate, how to work with that and allow them to inspire your own creativity. She also talks about how your friendships will change and grow as you develop into your own power as a woman, connecting to your power as well as connecting to nature. She uses language that is easy to understand, and it’s like having a chat with your cool aunt at the dining table about all these things.

If you have a daughter who is coming to this time in her life, or know someone who is, I highly recommend this book. It is also helpful to have others in the family read it, to understand more about women’s cycles and what they go through in their lives. It teaches us to take care of ourselves, our physical and inner selves, and to shine – “like the moon, there are times when you can be hidden from the world, and times when you can shine full and bright”.

Blessings to all women out there, wherever you are in your life’s journey.

Book Review: Seasons of Moon and Flame

Seasons of Moon and FlameI’ve just been introduced to Danielle Dulsky’s work, and I have to say, it’s been a pure joy to read Seasons of Moon and Flame: The Wild Dreamer’s Epic Journey of Becoming. Dulsky is the author of The Holy Wild, which I shall have to put on my list as well!

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that is so poetic. Her style of writing is just pure poetry – there is no other way to describe it. It took me a while to get into that headspace, but after the first chapter I was there, riding the currents of imagery and information, of inspiration and imagination. It’s encouraged me to be more poetic in my own work, for sure!

Seasons of Moon and Flame is a journey that takes you throughout the moons of the year, connecting with the energies of that enigmatic, wild and wisdom-filled Hag. The elder who tells us what we need to hear, but doesn’t couch her words. The one who teaches us without molly-coddling. The one whose lessons can be grasped as easily as plucking dandelion seeds floating on the breeze, or has hard won as climbing a steep and lonely mountain.

The key word is “wild”. Using the archetype of the Hag, the grandmother, the sacred Elder, this is a book for the mystic, the nature mystic whose heart beats alongside the earth’s heartbeat, whose soulsong is as enchanted and free as the hawk that soars on the thermals. Seasons of Moon and Flame teaches us to live in balance and harmony, with our selves and with the natural world around us, allowing the inspiration of nature to show us how to live our lives accordingly, in tune to the cycles of life. Our own stories are epic myths that must be lived. We hear the grandmothers calling, calling out their pain, their triumphs, and we know that we share in their stories. The Hag tells us to stop, to listen, to really be in the moment, to experience this for all it’s worth, because we are the living generation, now, today, that foretells the future of generations to come. We are Her children, and we will become Her in time, wiser and wrinkled, with a mischievous smile behind our eyes and the knowledge of the world in our bones.

This book is full of practical knowledge, rituals that you can perform, stories from our ancestral past and the poetry of today. Each moon we follow what is happening in the wild around us, exploring the nature of nature in our souls and in our environment. The final lesson of the Hag is as follows:

“Our Bones Want Belonging.

In the end, we all want to belong. We will go to all lengths to feel we belong to something, to some tradition or group. We will overidenifty with flawed organizations, let ourselves be hazed, shun the whole parts of ourselves, leaving them forgotten in shadow, while we put others in the spotlight in order to appear special or good. All the while, we do belong to great and immense collectives. We all have rich Earth-based ancestries if we go back far enough, We all have immense ancestral stores we can use to bolster our resilience and work for a broader, more just, more whole world. Our bones want belonging in a postcolonial world, and our grand story is not about questing and running, not about journeying so far from who we are or what we have become; it is a story of coming home to the house of the hag, returning to a place that part of us – the better part, maybe – never ever left.”

This book is a great guide post to walking in our own true nature. We walk with the hags of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, and they teach us to come home to ourselves. Their lessons help us to remember our selves, to remember who we are in a world that tries to tell us differently. With this book, we  definitely come home.

Of Chalk and Flint – A book review

Of Chalk & Flint - Paperback Edition cover gallery imageVal Thomas’ Of Chalk and Flint: A Way of Norfolk Magic was the first book I bought this year. And I have a feeling that it will be the best book I’ve read all year, or for many years!

Of Chalk and Flint is a large tome of magical information rooted in the chalk and flint of Norfolk, in East Anglia, UK. Though it is a sizeable book, the material presented within is honest, without pretention and still hugely informative without being academically dry. We get an insight into how those of the Nameless Tradition within Norfolk work, their vision of deity, of the powers of nature that surround them, of the times and tides, the history and the lore of this eastern county. Though I’m a Suffolk girl now, I used to live in Norwich, and then in Loddon, and I can relate to many of the places and the history presented in this book. It’s a wonderful and inspiring book, to get you deeper into your own tradition, wherever you live.

It begins by looking at the Lord and Lady of Norfolk, the deities represented in local form, the goddess and the god. Here in my part of Suffolk, the Lord of Flint is all around, on the heath and in the fields, on the shoreline and in the forests. The Lady of Chalk resides on the other side of the A12 from where I live, and so The Lady for me here is the Birch Lady, whose trees are everywhere, or otherwise the Lady of Sand, as the arid soil where I live is abundant, both on the heath, in the forest and beneath the shingle of the beaches. Thomas’ view of deity inspired me to deepen my own connection to the land where I live, to open my heart to the deities even more, and to know them by naming them.

The second chapter looks at sacred places, and consists of local lore combined with accounts of energies and magical workings that the author and others have enjoyed at various sites around Norfolk. We then move to Spiritual Beings in chapter three, where we are given the lore of such creatures as the merfolk and the ferishers (fairies), again which sing to my heart as near to where I live we have the tale of the Merman of Orford, as well as a host of ferishers, frairies, pharisees, faeries and more.

We then move onto the Quest of the Year, where the author in great and exquisite detail gives us an account of the seasonal celebrations, the flora and fauna that abounds, rites and ritual ideas from the Nameless Tradition of witchcraft. It makes you want to take up spinning, or whip up some homemade marmalade, or visit certain places at midsummer. Following chapters include materia magica, items that can be used in the Nameless Tradition, such as holey stones and the like as well as magical tools, working magic effectively, information on coven working and public gatherings and moots, and famous practitioners from Norfolk.

The way that Thomas writes makes you feel at home. It’s as if you’re sitting down to have a cup of tea with your favourite aunt, while she spins stories or thread on a spinning wheel. You can almost smell the herbs drying from the rafters, and feel the sun beating down on your head out in the Brecklands as you traverse the landscape. This book takes you through the wonder of this county like a friend would, and this is a friend I would trust wholly, for it is clear that she walks her talk, without arrogance or humility, but with a sense of pride in the natural lore, and an honest presentation that comes from the true wisdom gleaned from marrying intelligence and experience.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is available from Troy Books. I may save up my pennies to buy a hard-cover copy, to treasure for the rest of my life.

Reviews: The Witches’ Oracle and A Spellbook for the Seasons

When I received The Witches’ Oracle, I thought that the cover looked familiar. When I opened it up, I knew why: I had this very deck that was released around twenty years ago! Originally called The Wicca Pack, this wonderful deck has been re-released by Eddison Books as The Witches’ Oracle.

In actual fact, this was the first deck that I had ever bought about a decade into my Pagan journeys. And it was so easy to work with, and so accurate for my readings, that I’ve kept it all these years. This new version comes in a beautiful box with a picture of the Witches’ goddess, Aradia on the cover. They have streamlined the book now to correlate only to the deck, and have taken out the Wiccan practices that was in the original book. This makes sense, as now there are so many good books available on Wicca that you don’t need to combine the two.

I love these cards. The artwork is by Danuta Mayer, and it was written by Sally Morningstar. The new deck has cards the same size as the old deck, but these have a nice border which means that the artwork won’t get affected as much through decades of use. It contains cards that relate to Wicca and Witchcraft, such as the ritual tools used, animals and deities. It is certainly a very “witchy” deck, and I love it.

The book does contain a little more information than just the cards and their interpretation, such as a short history and tradition section, before diving right into the card meanings. There’s a final section on how to use different spreads. All in all, this is a wonderful deck, and I love both versions that I now have J

I also received A Spellbook for the Seasons, by Tudorbeth (aka Sarah Coyne). I have to say, I LOVE what they are doing with books these days. They are making books so beautiful again! This lovely hardcover comes filled with gorgeous artwork inside, and it truly is a pretty thing to have and to hold.

The layout of this book is quite different from other compendiums I have come across. It contains the usual material, such as the Wheel of the Year and the festivals, along with spellwork. What is different is that the author has chosen a different pantheon of deities for each section, such as Norse for winter, Celtic for spring, Greek for summer and Roman for autumn. This is a good introduction to different deities and allows the opportunity to work with different pantheons each season, and may bring new gods and goddesses into your work that you have never come across.

This book contains ceremonies that are coven-based, but which can be adapted for solitaries. Other ideas you might find in this book are things like a Sage Water House Cleanse for autumn, or a Sun Day Love Spell for summer. There’s an Ostara Magic Salt, and a Winter’s Morn strength spell. There’s a seasonal garden section, and a crystal section. All in all, this is a very attractive book, which may inspire you on your own magical journeys through the seasons, and is just a delight to flip through on a rainy day to cheer up the heart as well.

Book Review: The Mythic Moons of Avalon by Jhenah Telyndru

mythic moonsJhenah Telyndru, founder of the Sisterhood of Avalon with an MA in Celtic studies, has just released the follow-up to her wonderful and empowering book, Avalon Within. Avalon Within frames a system of healing and empowerment for women everywhere, who feel called to the wisdom and lore of the mythical isle. With this new release, The Mythic Moons of Avalon, we go even deeper, forging a path of personal sovereignty through the tides of the moon, working with herbs and the goddesses of the Avalonian tradition.

Telyndru weaves a tapestry of incredible beauty, full of lore and history, tradition and inspiration. Whereas in Avalon Within, we find the Cycle of Healing, here we find the Cycle of Revealing, the next step on the path towards sovereignty of the self. Here is the path that no one can walk for you; instead, Telyndru provides signposts along the way to help us remember and reclaim the old lore of the Celtic Britons to weave into our lives for the modern day. She has created an entire system that one can follow that is whole and complete in and of itself, and which can be richly rewarding for anyone who feels the call to Avalon. Here is the knowledge, and it is what you do with it that matters more than anything.

Here we can build bridges to connect with the divine, learn from plant allies and explore herbal energies, and also connect through journeying and pathworking to a realm where real transformation can occur, both on the inner and outer levels. This book is a real treasure, and has been long-awaited by many. Thank you, Jhenah, for your words and wisdom!

Review of The Spirit of Nature Oracle

spirit of natureThe Spirit of Nature Oracle cards by John Matthews and Will Worthington have been re-released by Eddison Books, much to my delight. This deck of 25 cards brings together the wisdom of the Druid Ogam, and the history and magical influence the Green Man has over humanity’s lives still, even in our modern day and age.

The Ogam is a Celtic “alphabet”, a series of lines drawn over a vertical axis that have many various meanings, depending upon the type of Ogam being used. There were over 250 types of Ogam, such as the famous Tree Ogam, Pool Ogam, King Ogam, Bird Ogam, Dog Ogam, even a Food Ogam! These provided the mnemonics necessary to retain and also express a vast wealth of information in as small a form as possible, not unlike poetry and its distillation of meaning to some carefully chosen words. The Green Man is a figure from out of the mists of time, one that has watched over humanity since its inception and throughout its evolution. Trees have been a very important part of humanity’s existence and success, for within their shaded boughs we found safety and security, as well as food and healing.

Bringing the Ogam and the Green Man together is a wonderful way to provide a holistic tree-based divination system. In our modern society, we are a very visual bunch, and so I believe the popularity of oracle cards has gained because of this in our lives. Our memories are filled with such an abundance of other “stuff” than our ancient ancestors held, and so the training to interpret the various meanings of each Ogam would take more time than most have in order to be successful. By bringing the format into something very visual, we can meditate upon the image and see the meanings held there, both historically and in our own personal gnosis, brought to life in an easy form and media that anyone can use.

We have the brilliant artwork by Will Worthington, who used ancient, traditional methods such as painting with egg tempura-based paints upon wooden panels. Matthews’ knowledge and wisdom shines through the text, providing historical background to the Ogam and the Green Man, both simply and eloquently, as anyone who is familiar with his works can attest to (and I’m a big fan). The divinatory meanings are clear and inspired, and yet personal gnosis is recommended first and foremost by Matthews when drawing a card, for to gaze upon the card before outside influence can reveal some truths about the self that others’ interpretations could not touch upon.

There are some suggestions for drawing the cards, based on one, three or five-card spreads. Using the Tree of Life spread, by placing three cards in reference to the Lower, Middle and Upperworld is truly inspired. It’s an approachable deck, for anyone to use, regardless of religious or spiritual background or preference. The cards can simply be used to meditate upon the season and the cycle that we are currently in, as well as being used for divinatory purposes. I would highly recommend using them both ways!

I am so very pleased that this deck has been re-released, and in such a beautiful format. It comes in a sturdy box, to protect both book and cards from being banged around and makes it useful when travelling. My only criticism would be that it would have been nice for the book to have been in colour as well, to match the cards, but being an author myself I am fully aware of the limitations both in print and in financial terms that this would be subject to, and so would say that the beauty of the cards themselves more than makes up for it. The book is great reference and resource material, and the cards are wonderful pieces of artwork. I highly recommend this deck to anyone who loves trees, nature, Celtic lore and spirituality or who just loves and collects oracle cards!

Recent media highlights

My Pagan Portals introductory book, The Crane Bag: A Druid’s Guide to Ritual Tools and Practices was recently reviewed on Estoeric Moment: you can watch the video review here:

 

Robin Herne and I were approached by The Wild Hunt for our thoughts regarding the new television series, Britannia. While I have not watched the show, I gave some thoughts regarding storytelling at the end of the article, while Robin, who has watched the show, gave his point of view. You can read the article HERE.

Things are really busy here, so no new and thoughtful blog post this week – I hope to have more time next week! x

 

A lovely milestone achieved!

cover high resMy Pagan Portals book, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid has sold over 10,000 copies! Thank you to everyone who has read this book, left a review, emailed me and more; thank you so much for your support! (And it’s still a No.1 Bestseller on Amazon!)

I never thought writing a book would have changed my life so much, but this one certainly has. I’ve had so many people share their experiences with me after reading this book, sharing the awen and the inspiration, and it has been a beautiful cycle of being inspired and inspiring others in return. I’m lost for words today, and wish I could express the gratitude that is in my heart, but for once I am utterly at a loss 🙂

Follow your dream, be true to yourself, and may we be the awen. xoxo