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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

I’ve added a page titled Book List to serve as a repository for books about alternative spiritualities, indigenous traditions, and phytology/herbalism that I’ve read and reviewed. (Click here to view or use the navigation tabs at the top.) I’ll add more as I read new titles and continue to review books I’ve read in the past.

Have you come across any books on these subjects that you’ve really enjoyed? If so please share them by leaving a comment below!

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Inspired by Stuart’s post over at the ramblings, I decided to give this a go.

01. One book that changed your life

Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation by Sanaya Roman

02. One book that you’ve read more than once (I can’t pick just one…)

Love and Awakening: Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship by John Welwood

The Kryon Series by Lee Carroll

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

03. One book you’d want on a desert island

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda

04. Two books that made you laugh

Wicca’s Charm by Catherine Edwards Sanders

I can’t think of a second one…maybe I should start adding a few “lighter” books to my list…

05. One book that made you cry

Reinventing the Family: Lesbian and Gay Parents by Dr. Laura Benkov

06. One book that you wish had been written

Self-Acceptance and Self-Esteem for Dummies 🙂

07. One book that you wish had never been written

The Bible (Sorry for the low blow – but I think it’s done more harm than good. I hope my Christian friends can forgive me…)

08. Two books you’re currently reading

The Triumph of the Moon – A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Dr. Ronald Hutton

Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by Dr. H.R. Ellis Davidson

09. One book you’ve been meaning to read

(Again, hard to list just one…)

In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World by Drs. Philip Clayton and Arthur Peacocke.

Spirit and Resistance by Dr. George E. Tinker

Beyond Fear: A Toltec Guide to Freedom and Joy by Don Miguel Ruiz

10. Now tag five (or so) people: Terri G, Yvonne, Samantha, John, Aletheia, and Lainie.

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Wicca’s Charm by Catherine Edwards Sanders

Catherine Edwards Sanders strikes me as an intelligent, compassionate woman who truly believes that despite its challenges past and present, Christianity remains the one and only way to Divinity. Funded by a Christian source and written to a Christian audience, her book aims to explain what Wicca and Neo-Paganism are, why people continue to leave the Church to pursue them, and what Christians can do to counteract this exodus.

Before I address the difficulties I had with Wicca’s Charm, I’d like to give the author credit for owning up to the hypocrisy of her religion on numerous occasions throughout the book. I was also glad to see her call on fellow Christians to be more environmentally conscious and to recognize women as spiritual equals. And though I’m sure this wasn’t her intent, I’m also grateful for the questions she raised about my faith – questions that have challenged me to look beyond the latest mass-market Wiccan publication and examine the history of Western Paganism from an academic perspective.

Edwards-Sanders garnered still more respect by pointing out how many Wiccans and Neo-Pagans are hypocrites. Many of us shake a disapproving finger at consumer culture with one hand while forking over cash for the latest ritual gear or tarot deck with the other. If Wiccans and Neo-Pagans weren’t spending increasingly large amounts of money on occult books, jewelry, clothing, and ritual tools, we wouldn’t see these things alongside other merchandise at mainstream retailers. How is this consistent with Neo-Paganism’s tenants of simplicity and sustainability?

Positives aside, the biggest problem I had with this book was the author’s attempt to appear balanced and objective when she was actually neither. It was impossible for Sanders to objectively compare and contrast another religion with her own because she came to the keyboard already convinced her way was the “right” way. Because of this, most of her writing came across as a scattered and passive-aggressive attempt to prove why Christianity is true and Wicca is false.

Yet another challenge was Sanders’ hypocrisy when discussing a Pagan creation myth. When she questioned Wiccans and Neo-Pagans about why they chose their current path over Christianity, one of the most frequent answers was “It empowers women, unlike Christianity.” The author then discusses why she feels Wicca isn’t empowering for women, citing the supposed fallacy of the matriarchal myth as well as the womanizing tendencies of a man who influenced early Wicca, Aleister Crowley.

To Neo-Pagans who practice Goddess Worship, the matriarchal myth (the theory that all of society was matrilineal and matriarchal prior to the establishment of Christianity) isn’t a myth at all – it’s a conviction. Though I’m in agreement with the author and prominent Wiccans like NPR correspondent Margot Adler that the theory’s historical accuracy is questionable, Sanders is hypocritical for citing academic references to tear it down while not subjecting Christianity’s creation myth to equal scrutiny. There is far more evidence that suggests why the latter is less plausible than the former. She also went to great lengths to convince her readers that accurate interpretation of the Bible shows how Christianity empowers women. I don’t mean to nay-say, but I have a hard time understanding how this could be the case when Eve is portrayed as the bearer of original sin. Perhaps Sanders was right when she said, “A myth does not have to be true to be meaningful.” 🙂

Every serious Neo-Pagan who reads this book will find opportunities for growth within its pages (though they probably won’t be the opportunities the author intended to present). It is worth reading for this reason alone.

Level: Initiate to Elder

Grades:

Offers practical information that can be used now: B

Approachable and easy to understand: C

Intellectually credible: C

Overall: C

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Have you ever made serious plans about your future perhaps 5 or 10 years hence and then when the time arrives, nothing is the way you imagined? What about anticipation of an activity that turns out to be less fun than you thought? Does the activity ever meet with the anticipation? Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert explains the science behind why what we imagine rarely meets up with reality. This book takes you on a tour of the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of why we humans do such a poor job of making decisions about our future and then when the day arrives, can’t figure out why we are not as happy as we anticipated we would be at that moment in time.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert 

The book is well written with a definite slant to humor, much of it self-deprecating to the author. It explains how reality is different for all of us, in particular that happiness is subjective and what we think will make us happy in the future rarely turns out to be right because we base our happiness on who we are currently as to who we will be in the future.

Special thanks to friend and contributor Terri for submitting this review. 

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The Witch’s Familiar: Spiritual Partnerships For Successful Magic

by Raven Grimassi, 2003

The Witch’s Familiar by Raven Grimassi

Level: Intermediate to Advanced 

Grades:

Offers practical information that can be used now: A 

Approachable & Easy to Understand: B- 

In this informative book the author does a great job of answering the question, “What is a Familiar and how can it help me?” He also cautions the reader about the risks involved in working with Familiar and gives clear and concise directions about how to “reign in” troublesome Familiar spirits.

The book opens with a fascinating story of Grimassi’s personal experience with a pet Familiar. This set a tone of seriousness for the rest of the book, brought to a point by the following quote: 

Summoning familiars is not a party game or something “witchy” to do on a Saturday night. Working with Familiars is a serious business and you can fully expect to encounter occult phenomena along the way.

The author continues with a history of the Familiar – what it is, how it was viewed by the Church and the Royal Court during the Middle Ages, and how it’s viewed by Witches today. I found this chapter very interesting – Grimassi’s extensive knowledge on the topic shines through and makes for an engaging read.

In chapter two, Grimassi instructs the reader on the different types of Familiars (physical and non-physical) and how to choose one. It’s here he also introduces his series of 11 magickal Seals for use in controlling Familiars. These seals are based on Pagan symbology, and have practical uses that extend beyond simply working with Familiars. This chapter alone makes the book a worthy addition to any Witch’s library.

In chapters three and four, information is given on possible uses of the Familiar including aiding in healing, magic, and in serving as guardian of your home.

The final chapter details parting with your Familiar – the circumstances under which this can or should occur and the responsibilities of the Witch when it does.

All in all, this was a great book I’ll refer to time and again. Throughout its pages I found several great exercises which uses extend beyond working with Familiars. One of these was a Wiccan adaptation of the Posture of the Pentagram (which to the best of my knowledge is more commonly used in Ceremonial Magick).

I gave it a B- in the “Approachable & Easy to Understand” category because some sections dealt with magickal concepts I haven’t yet encountered, and these took awhile to assimilate. It’s also for this reason I don’t recommend it to those who are very new to the Craft. There are basic elements of Wicca and general metaphysical principles one needs a firm grasp of before trekking merrily off into the astral plane in search of a Familiar – most notably how to protect yourself from unsavory entities. Like the author indicated, this isn’t something to do simply because it sounds interesting and you’re feeling a little “witchy.” It’s serious stuff.

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