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Embracing Heathenry
Embracing Heathenry
by Larisa Hunter
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living Heathenry intentionally, 8 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Embracing Heathenry (Paperback)
Embracing Heathenry is an enlightening and enjoyable book about living Heathenry intentionally. It provides a window into the lives of the author and several other Heathens, with plenty of beautiful illustrations which bring it to life.

Embracing Heathenry covers the practical aspects of living the faith on a daily basis. It is not a book about Norse mythology per se although it touches on it and made me want to read more about it. I took up a recommendation of one of the "other voices" in the book and ordered The Children of Odin (also published as Nordic Gods and Heroes) by Padraic Colum.

Embracing Heathenry is easy to read and digest. I am a slow reader and I read it from cover to cover in two days. The poems, stories, prayers and craftwork interspersed in the book highlight how powerful such art forms are in religious teachings and practice.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
"The power of poetry and stories can articulate an expression of devotion that brings the gods to life." (p97)
"The reading material does not give the person a spiritual path to walk. It keeps them in the state of a student. At some point we must put down the books and see the gods for ourselves." (p187)
"What you do isn't important, but doing something is." (p199)
"Day by day, I am evolving a life that anchors the mundane in the sacred so that everything I do becomes a part of my relationship with the gods." (p242)
"I hope that by our struggles and triumphs she learns that heathenry is not an easy path but it is one rich with rewards." (p256)

I have posted the table of contents below to give a better idea of everything covered in the book:

Table of Contents
Introduction 8
Chapter One: The Diversity of Heathens 17
Chapter Two: Honour and Worship 36
Chapter Three: Words of Power 82
Chapter Four: Artistic Devotional Expressions 114
Chapter Five: Entering the Priesthood 133
Chapter Six: Bonds 145
Chapter Seven: Oaths and Oath-Taking 155
Chapter Eight: Taking Off the Mead Goggles 177
Chapter Nine: Daily Heathen Life 189
Chapter Ten: From the Voices of Others 204
Chapter Eleven: Prayers and Hymns 246
Afterword 255
Glossary 257
Resources 259
Bibliography 261

Kindling the Celtic Spirit: Ancient Traditions to Illumine Your Life Through the Seasons
Kindling the Celtic Spirit: Ancient Traditions to Illumine Your Life Through the Seasons
by Mara Freeman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Selected index, 24 Nov. 2011
There is one chapter for each month of the year incorporating among other things history, customs, recipes and poetry.

Each chapter also includes the following sections:

The Sacred Grove:

Birch 20
Willow 59
Ash 84
Hazel 123
Hawthorn 152
Apple 197
Blackthorn 227
Oak 248
Rowan 264
Elder 309
Yew 330
Holly 360

A Celtic Bestiary:

Dog 20
Cow 54
Salmon 97
Stag 111
Eagle 140
Swan 193
Seal 214
Horse 240
Cat 279
Raven 308
Boar 334
Wren 366

Holy Ground:

Tara 22
Kildare 67
Bath 85
Loch Maree 124
The Tristan Stone 163
Callanish 172
Four Island Pilgrimages (Iona, Bardsey Island, The Skelligs, Glastonbury) 224
Croagh Patrick 247
Bala Lake 272
The Hag of Beara 307
Alderley Edge 331
Newgrange 376

Gods of the Celts:

The Dagda 26
Brigantia 53
Danu 82
Cernunnos 113
Belenos 136
Aine 171
Manannan 213
Crom Dubh 247
Goibniu 278
Morrigan 307
Donn 328
Angus 377

The Inner Cauldron:

Visioning 43
Inspiration 68
Reflection 99
Centering 132
Communion 164
Healing 197
Sacrifice 228
Fruition 255
Transformation 293
Reclaiming 321
Remembering 347
Renewal 377

Sinking Atlantis: Spirituality Meets the Real World
Sinking Atlantis: Spirituality Meets the Real World
by Julia Day
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Sorbet, 14 Sept. 2011
A peek into the life of a busy Pagan living in the English countryside, following the seasons from Lughnasadh to Imbolc.

It is a very short and light read, easily completed in one sitting. The illustrations are lovely.
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Dancing Under an African Moon: Paganism and Wicca in South Africa
Dancing Under an African Moon: Paganism and Wicca in South Africa
by Donna Vos
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Paganism in South Africa, 20 Aug. 2011
The ultimate power supply:

I read about aligning with and plugging into the universal power source that we are all part of in Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein. This clever imagery appeared again several times in Dancing Under an African Moon: Paganism and Wicca in South Africa by Donna Vos, that I have just finished reading. While this book published in 2002 is a bit out of date already, it is the only book I am aware of about Paganism in a South African context and for that reason alone it is worth reading by anyone interested in Paganism in South Africa.

In the chapter "Magick and Ritual - The South African Scene", Donna Vos states:

"Practitioners would argue that there is no such thing as white or black magick, because the results are dependent on the 'intent' of the magician. So, they see magick as a neutral force, much like electricity. Put your finger in the socket and you'll get singed; switch on the light and all's fine."

My favourite chapter in the book "Let the Witches Speak!" contains sincere, personal accounts by local individuals from various Pagans paths relating details of their experiences, their beliefs and their practices.

One of these individuals explains her daily morning ritual as follows:

"Every morning I do a ritual outside and draw in the positive components of each element that I will need for the day, including worship of the Divine. This keeps me constantly in tune with the energies - like constantly charging a battery."

The chapter titled "Little Book of Shadows", a collection of spells, recipes and rituals contributed by these individuals, contains among many other things a detailed ritual for recharging personal energy with the energy from the sun.

Why Paganism?:

As I was reading I made a note of reasons people gave for choosing a Pagan path, here are some of them (not necessarily verbatim):

greater personal empowerment and responsibility
personal transformation and self-improvement
greater empowerment to achieve goals
greater self-confidence
spiritual enlightenment
stimulation of personal energies, the psyche and the Divine within
nurturing from Mother Earth
healing with natural energies
balanced, holistic lifestyle
philosophy of interconnectedness
balance of energies (e.g. male/female, light/dark)
greater freedom and tolerance
like-minded community
remembering (practices from past lives)

The broom closet:

Not all of the individuals are openly Pagan, some who are gave the following explanations:

"I love the term 'witch'. I like the drama in the term; it gives me a platform to explain what I believe and what I practise."

"One of the main reasons I went public was because I was sick of the ignorance of the public in South Africa. Magazines like You published articles where they classified symbols like the ankh and yin-yang as Satanic! Of course the pentagram was on the top of the list. Going public has helped a lot, as far as mainstream white people go. However, I feel that we have simply skimmed the surface of the public in South Africa, as the wide majority of people are black and still believe that a witch is someone who is evil.

I feel that people mostly fear only what is unknown to them, and if light is shed upon what witches actually do, we might be able to resume our intended role as the healers and helpers within our communities."

"I will use the term (witch) more as an explanation, in order to bring across the information I am sharing in a clear-cut, concise manner, giving facts rather than embroidering an issue... It gives me a chance to explain things, and to correct some of the misconceptions some people may have."

The circle:

My main quibble with the book relates to its description of Wiccan circle casting.

In the chapter "Southern Hemisphere Musings", Vos explains the differences in traditional Wiccan circle casting in the Southern hemisphere versus that in the Northern hemisphere:

"So, simply put, deosil is sunwise. Therefore, in both the southern and northern hemispheres, the circle is cast deosil, even though in the southern hemisphere the circle is cast in an anti-clockwise direction."

However, the wording of this section is confusing as Vos regularly equates the term "deosil" with clockwise and the term "widdershins" with anti-clockwise. For example, Vos describes how to call the quarters as follows:

"In other words, we call in the same way that the circle is cast, deosil in the northern hemisphere, and widdershins in the southern hemisphere. But remember, in the southern hemisphere we also call the casting deosil!"

I also found it confusing that the phrases "closing the circle" and "opening the circle" were both used in the book to refer to dismantling the circle.
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Between Earth and Sky
Between Earth and Sky
by Julia Day
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A personal collection for inspiration, 9 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Between Earth and Sky (Paperback)
Note: The amazon product description above is incorrect and relates to a different book by the same author (Sinking Atlantis: Spirituality Meets the Real World).

Between Earth and Sky by Julia Day, published in 1999, is a collection of articles, environmental reports, thoughts, visualisations, poems and stories, together with inspired writings which may help the reader to explore their own thoughts and feelings in many areas of magical, Pagan life." (from the Foreword by Julia Day)

I have finished reading the book and decided to share the below extract from the chapter titled The Way of a Warrior:

"The greatest shield that there is, the best breastplate, is that of love. For though a warrior may show strength, a true warrior will also know and come to possess gentleness... the way of the warrior is not one of chaos and disharmony, but of control... of themselves... The warrior of the spirit does not need a physical sword and their adversaries are often those far more difficult adversaries, which are aspects of themselves and yet a battle is waged none the less. Their 'weapons' may be their own talents, the ability to write, to draw, to sing, to dance, to organize, to make others laugh, or to express their innermost thoughts clearly to others, gently and yet as pure and bright as a drawn blade. They must combat their own fears and limitations, real and imagined and also those obstacles that life places in their way to strengthen and test them... a warrior does not need to seek or create discord... a true warrior, may draw a line and defend their home, their family, their environment, their spiritual beliefs or their right to uninterrupted, peaceful worship and rites of passage, whatever tools or weapons they choose, whether they be words, song, silence, truth, simply moving away, or, for the very brave, love... Think of a warrior as someone who faces up to challenges with strength and gentleness and we may have travelled some way towards reclaiming the word."
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Positive Magic, Revised Edition: Ancient Metaphysical Techniques for Modern Lives
Positive Magic, Revised Edition: Ancient Metaphysical Techniques for Modern Lives
by Marion Weinstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Positive Magic and Words of Power, 30 July 2011
Positive Magic: Ancient Metaphysical Techniques for Modern Lives (Revised Edition), published in 2002, is a classic primer on magic written by American Witch Marion Weinstein, known as "The Ethics Witch", who passed away in 2009 at the age of 70. The first edition of the book was published in 1978.

Raised in a Jewish family in New York, "Weinstein became interested in Jewish mysticism, but was disappointed to find the Kaballah closed to women" (quote from The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft & Wicca by Rosemary Ellen Guiley).

Weinstein describes Witchcraft as "an ancient Celtic magic-religion", with origins "similar to many early fertility-oriented nature religions, dating back to a time when harmony with nature and healthy crops were the basis of all life and survival". In an interview with The Wiccan/Pagan Times, Marion Weinstein acknowledges the influence on her beliefs of the late English Wiccan priestess Doreen Valiente, known as "the mother of modern witchcraft".

A granite marker in remembrance of Marion Weinstein in the Circle Sanctuary nature preserve in Wisconsin is inscribed with the words "Positive Magic" and "Words of Power". These are the contributions that Marion Weinstein is fondly remembered for, and the cornerstones of her first book Positive Magic.

The first half of the book covers history and theory, including some theory relating to metaphysics and psychology. The second half of the book covers practical techniques. There is a lot of information to process in the book. As I was reading, I cross-referenced other sources on topics that I needed clarification on. I made notes of key concepts as I read, to enable me to easily recap what I have learnt and for future reference.

Weinstein defines magic as transformation, and writes that "the ultimate purpose of the work" is to "transform, uplift, and so fully develop the self that the whole Universe may benefit thereby". The focus of the book is about working directly on the self, not on others. An earlier edition of the book was subtitled Occult Self-Help. I felt like I was getting a much-needed kick in the butt to get my life in order, and felt more empowered to do so via a greater sense of personal responsibility.

Weinstein recommends only working positive, life-affirming magic, which is "unequivocally for the good of all and helps everyone" while "any form of magic - ritual, ceremonial or otherwise - which manipulates or harms any being, including an invisible being, is unequivocally negative work". The book includes a whole section on negative magic (to be avoided at all costs), including how to recognize it and the inherent dangers including inevitable self-harm.

The most valuable part of the book is the section on Words of Power, Weinstein's name for a positive affirmation statement or blessing that acts as a positive transformation technique. In magical terms, this is essentially about spellwork. Weinstein also emphasizes the power of words in our lives in general and I am finding myself much more aware of the words that I and others use every day, especially the amount of power we give to faithless doubt and negativity without a second thought.

Weinstein's Words of Power statements always include phrases along the lines of "for the good of all" and "according to the free will of all", to ensure that one is only performing helpful and non-manipulative magic. Weinstein cautions against ever mentioning another person's name. Weinstein advises being open to the flexibility of form (versus essence) and timing in a desired outcome and that we need to "act in accordance" in order for magic to work as it is not a passive process.

I enjoyed the imagery in the book of our "Inner Bell" (discernment) and "plugging in" to the universal power source that we are all part of (but need to align ourselves with).

Incidentally, the phrase "for the good of all", without any losers, ties up nicely with the key phrase that I have allocated to the rune Ingwaz: Win-win situation that I associate with, among other things, nature-based religion which is how Weinstein describes Witchcraft in the book.

Weinstein highlights the differences between her transformation techniques and popular New Age concepts such as Positive Thinking and The Law of Attraction:

"Witches do not ignore the dark side of the human psyche. They ritually acknowledge it, and release its negative power to make way for the Light." "Positive Magic acknowledges pain as a step toward transforming it." It acknowledges both light and dark aspects of the self, and Nature, as natural.

Weinstein explains the concept of Creation Manifestation as opposed to The Law of Attraction, which implies distance between ourselves and our goals: "We create and we manifest our goals", instead of drawing them to ourselves.

For the most part, the book's technical explanation of how to read Tarot cards does not work for me personally (not specifying a question, using yet another version of the "popular" Celtic Cross spread that is usually overkill in my opinion and not very popular these days, reading the cards "by pictures" ignoring traditional meanings). I agree with Weinstein that rigid, simplistic interpretations of cards are limiting and result in a hit or miss reading, and that our interpretations should be flexible.

The most interesting part of the book's divination section is about performing magic with Tarot cards. The author takes the meaning of "your future is not set in stone" to a whole new level by explaining how to change one's future by changing the cards representing an underlying reality during a reading. This "intercession" ritual involves removing cards that represent a future that you don't want and randomly selecting new cards until the cards represent a future that you do want. I find the concept somewhat unnerving. What if I don't know what is best for me? Do I really know want I want, or need, in every aspect of my future? This dilemma is addressed to some extent in the book via an appropriate Words of Power statement that is part of the ritual. I do not have a problem choosing specific Tarot cards to represent a desired outcome when dealing with a personal challenge. However, I personally do not believe that *everything* in our futures can, or should be, changed and I am not comfortable meddling with my future in the way described in the book.

It is unfortunate that a number of facts were not corrected in the latest edition of the book:

The author's explanation of the deosil direction as clockwise instead of sunwise, and widdershins as anti-clockwise, is only correct in the Northern hemisphere.

The book's description of Tarot history is flawed, containing false myths such as:
- The first Tarot decks seen in Europe were carried by Gypsies.
- Tarot is the ancestor of modern playing cards.
- The joker card is the only Major Arcana Tarot card (The Fool) left in the modern playing card deck.

Although Positive Magic was first published in 1978, Tarot scholars compiled and issued The TarotL History Information Sheet to address such false myths before the Revised Edition was published in 2002.

I understand that some of the facts relating to the history of Witchcraft, based on the discredited work of Margaret Murray, are also incorrect.

I have another more advanced book on magic by Marion Weinstein, Earth Magic: A Book of Shadows for Positive Witches (Revised Edition), that I will be reading in due course.

Patchwork of Magic: Living in a Pagan World
Patchwork of Magic: Living in a Pagan World
by Julia Day
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pagan Sense and Sensibility, 3 July 2011
At first glance the book is a humorous take on the veritable patchwork of Pagan types from the author's personal perspective, but there is a great deal of wisdom hidden between the humorous bits. While covering various stereotypes, the author concedes that "there are as many types of Pagan as there are Pagans, in fact, more, because people change their minds".

A theme of personal choice and change is maintained throughout. Early on the book states "You have to decide what is right for you and know it changes" and towards the end the book states "A Pagan life suggests movement, development and change" and equates life to a "continual quest".

Julia Day is a member of a Celtic Tradition (which happens to be one of the traditions that I am naturally drawn to), and also seems to identify with what she calls "Progressive Wicca" which as I understand it from her description incorporates less dogma and greater personal customisation of one's path and practices.

I found the simple way that the book describes possible beliefs about deity extremely helpful: "The Divine is expressed through Nature" and "Divinity is expressed in both female and male forms". Some things clicked into place while I was reading the book and I have a much better understanding of Pagan theistic beliefs now.

The book does discuss and provide some personal tips about Pagan practices, but its strength lies in its emphasis throughout on simplicity, common sense and maintaining a healthy skepticism regarding Pagan living. Pagan Sense and Sensibility would make a good alternative title.

I wanted to share one gem of wisdom here and settled on this one (from the section Thirteen things to help your development, Give and Take):

"There are Earth healing rites and all sorts of magical rites which can be held, but you are in a physical body. You can do something physical too! If you pick up a piece of litter, you are changing the world just as much as if you enacted a ritual to bring about change. Magic, remember is about change!...Give love. You will gain far more. Learn about exchange. You do not take, you exchange."

I would definitely recommend this book to beginner Pagans or anyone curious about Paganism. Veteran Pagans might not find the book meaty enough and might be offended if they are sensitive and their stereotype is mentioned in the book. I liked the book so much that I ordered Julia Day's next book Between Earth and Sky published in 1999.

If you want to learn more about the author, there is a comprehensive interview with her in The Author's Corner of The Wiccan/Pagan Times.
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