Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wicca Book Reviews / Voodoo Book Reviews

I wanted to discuss one of the sections in my Amazon store today. I will be doing this sort of thing periodically, mainly for the benefit of “newbies” to metaphyics. It helps to have someone sort out some of the topics for you and give you some idea of where and how to begin your studies, and this is one of the biggest reasons I've created this store. There are sooooo many books and metaphysical products on the market that it can be overwhelming to know where to start if you are still not very familiar with some of the magical topics.

As I've mentioned before I created this store and became an Amazon afilliate which means any purchases made through my afilliate store then allows me to receive a modest percentage of sales. But this isn't the reason why I created it. I created this store as a resource, and also as a means to share with you some of my own knowledge and help you sort things out in the world of magic.

Today's review begins with the Wiccan Book section where I will be sharing my own personal book reviews about the titles I've chosen to represent through the store.

Gerald Gardner / Gardnerian Wicca

The Meaning of Witchcraft by Gerald Gardner: This book is written by the founder of Wicca. Gerald Gardner is historically responsible for the initial revival of this practice at a time when it was politically still a bit dangerous to come out into the open. You can't get much more historical then this book.

Janet and Stewart Farrar / Traditional Gardnerian Wicca

The Witches Bible Complete by Janet and Stewart Farrar: This is a classic. You'll see that I have provided many titles by these authors and the reason is that Janet and Stewart were responsible for building these resources as the foundation of the Wiccan Craft shortly after Gerald Gardner revived the movement. I had the pleasure of taking two workshops with Janet Farrar and her new companion Gavin Bone, when they toured here to the states from Ireland. Their knowledge of Wicca is profound and personally feel that they are representative of some of the best education you could possibly get on Wicca. The Witches bible was in Janet's words written as a “guideline” for Gardnerian Wicca. She said it was never intended to be a dogmatic work which is what it actually became for the Gardnerian movement. It is commonly known that Gerald Gardner is the “father” of modern Wicca (Thus “Gardernain Wicca”). When Janet and Stewart began their journey into Wicca they were very frustrated because there wasn't a lot of information about the practice at the time. Since they couldn't find the books to learn from, they had to write many of them themselves. To give you an idea, Janet explained that she was originally initiated by Alex Sanders, who himself was initiated by Gerald Gardner. Frustrated with the lack of training structure within the Alexandrian coven, she broke away from Alex Sanders and she was eventually fortunate enough to make the aquaintance of Doreen Valiente who became Janet and Stewarts primary mentor into the Craft. (I've included many of Doreen's books also).

The Witches bible is a compilation primarily of ceremonial (hermetic) magic “structure”, which is filled in with European folklore for which Doreen Valiente was primarily responsible for contributing. Janet lamented that it was a shame Doreen never really got the credit she deserved because if it wasn't for her contribution Wicca would not have become what it is now, and Gerald got all of the credit.

In this book you'll find very precise wiccan ritual structure, meanings of the traditional holidays, and instruction for using the Wiccan tools. There are also other tidbits on spell working, and esbats and sabbats (new and full moon rituals). It's a must for any Wiccan as a general reference work on basic Wiccan structure.

Other titles that Janet and Stewart wrote during that area include:

Spells and How they Work

The Witches Way

Eight Sabbats For Witches

The Witches God

The Witches Goddess These two volumes are excellent references for looking up specific mythical deities and learning about their stories, sacred symbols and cultural origins.

Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Progressive Wicca

After many years of her journey in Wicca, and after the loss of her husband Steward to cancer, Janet became aquainted with Gavin Bone, (her current partner) and together they have both paved the way for a much more liberal and progressive practice of Wicca that was intended to leave behind some of the outmoded dogma of Gardnerian-”ism”. You'll find a lot of inspiration from this newer approch to Wicca within such titles as:

Progressive Witchcraft

The Healing Craft (Designed especially for healers, bodyworkers and reiki practitioners who practice the Craft) Gavin Bone is a registered nurse by the way. So he writes this book with a great deal of authority. He provides information on the chakra system, it's basic correspondence to the physiology and anatomy of the body and how the systems of the body work. He also includes information on sacred healing sites, and healing practices, including the making and use of healing poppets and healing spell craft.

The Inner Mysteries (discusses trance and oracle work for the more advanced practitioner)

The Pagan Path: (An explanation of the practice of wicca and it's ethics for everyday life, as a way of life)

The Complete Dictionary of European Gods and Goddesses

Doreen Valiente / The “Mother” of Wicca

Doreen began her sojourn into Wicca as one of Gerald Gardners original Priestesses. This is how she came to be considered an authority in her own right on the topic of Wicca. After falling out with Gerald Gardner she mentored Janet and Stewart for many years. Among her book titles here you will find:

Witchcraft for Tomorrow

An ABC of Witchcraft: (This reads like an encyclopedia. It's excellent for looking things up)

The Rebirth of Witchcraft

The Charge of the Goddess (Poetry by Doreen Valiente)

Natural Magic

Where Witchcraft Lives

Ameth The life and Times of Doreen Valiente (A biography)

Witchcraft A tradition renewed

Some of these titles I have not seen before. Either they had never been published, or they have possibly been revived by Janet in the recent years. Doreen is no longer alive. So without knowing for certain, I suspect Janet may have had an influence in bringing some of these titles to light, but I honestly don't know. I could be speaking out of turn on that note. Maybe they were available a long time ago but out of print. I couldn't say. Whatever the case, I imagine they are excellent reading. I have read only the first two on the list, which are in my possession. I do not recall ever seeing any of the other titles for sale anywhere else before until I found them here on Amazon recently.

Mythological foundations

The White Goddess by Robert Graves

The Golden Bough

These are older sources of information which were pivotal in assisting to bring the Wiccan religion to life at the very beginning. Many good books on magic will often quote these two sources wich are well worth the time for anyone to read. They are part of the scholarly “classics” which the Craft has drawn upon heavily over the years.

Charles Leland

If memory serves me correctly Charles Leland was a sociologist (I think), and his books are written more from that perspective. I do not think he was a practitioner, however he did contribute a great deal of excellent material particularly for Italian Witchcraft known as “Strega”. Garnerian lore gets a lot of mileage to support the legitimacy of Wicca as an “ancient” religion, out of the reference to one of his books:

Aradia, Gospel of the Witches by Charles Leland

Other Titles by Charles Leland Include:

The Gypsies

The Mystic Will.....

Etruscan Magic and Occult Remedies


The English Gipsies and their language

Russian Witchcraft

I don't know anything about Russian magic, but I suspect this might have to do with some of the origins of the Romany Gypsies and their folklore and possibly the Strega traditions mentioned above. I have not read these two books and I am not versed or read at all on Strega, Slavic or Romany magic. The most I know about Romany magic is that I know who Dracula is. :) But these titles looked fascinating to me, and I myself would love to get around to reading them one day, so I have included them here.

The Bathhouse at Midnight: An historical survey of magic and divination in Russia by W.F. Ryan

Russian Magic Living Folk traditions..... by Cherry Gilchrist

Fairy Lore

And the last title in this section today is:

The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by Evans Wentz. This is a fantastic book. I've read it. I love it. The first half of the book is a compilation of sightings, beliefs and personal case histories of people living in the British Isles who believe they have contacted, experienced unusual experiences or who have seen the fairy folk. The second half of the book includes a section dedicated to William Butler Yeats the famous poet and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at the turn of the Century. There is also a fascinating segment about the similarity of “fairy sightings” and more modern “UFO sightings” which you can't help but to be intrigued by. There is a lot of “meat” in this book. It's an important book if you really want to understand the daily life and folk belief of the people living on the land in that part of the world. The fairy faith is a “way of life” for these people and a cultural inheritence that is deeply programmed into their very DNA, very much like Native American Indian Beliefs are to the Indians. I highly recommend this book. I have a very sentimental attachment to this book because my original teacher in the Craft loaned me his copy many years ago to read when I was first learning in my early 20's. It was one of several he loaned me.... I'll be sharing more of his recommendations as well in time.

In fact as an aside, when I was learning back then from Ambrose I remember a conversation we had one day. He loaned me his copy of the Witches Bible to read and he asked me if I ever wanted to travel to England and meet Janet and Stewart someday. It was one of those things that I never actually thought would ever be possible, but we had fun at the time fantasizing about it. Imagine my total shock when I found myself sitting in her workshop in Loomis California. I was more then a little heart broken because Ambrose had died by then, and I was not able to share the experience with him or let him know that it actually came to pass, especially since he had put the bug in me to consider meeting with her as a possiblity in the first place some 15 years earlier. Anyway.... a moment of nostalgia.

Evens Wentz's books are very scholarly. While we are on the topic of Evans Wentz I'm also including his other fantastic book which really has nothing to do with Wicca per se... but I'm including it anyway.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This is for anyone interested in the mysticism and lore of the Tibetan magical tradition. I tried to read this book in high school as I recall but it was a bit over my head at that time, and I never got through it. I'll get around to it again one of these days and give it another try. I vaguely recall something about the whirling dirvishes in one of the chapters... but I can't remember anything else about it other then it's good. What I do remember is that this book is just as “meaty” and scholarly as the Fairy Faith book is. It's been around a very long time. Worth the read.
African Voodoo

I'm going to switch gears and book sections now and include some titles from my Voodoo section. There are not many titles there so it should fit into this post without too much trouble. First off, I know NOTHING about voodoo personally. And I really haven't read much about it, but I've come across a couple of impressive sources that I have read and some others that look equally as interesting.

Wade Davis

The Serpent And the Rainbow

Passage Of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie

Some of you might already be familiar with the Serpent and the Rainbow. There was a movie made about it. It's a true story. (I've included the DVD in the store as well) Wade Davis is a medical doctor and he travelled to Haiti in order to do some research on the “zombie potion”, a powerful paralytic and neuro-toxin. There was initial speculation that this toxin might be a useful for the purpose of medical anathesea which is how Wade Davis became involved in looking for it in the first place. His quest to find find this voodoo potion led him straight into the heart of the Hiatian black magic and political underground.

The second book, Passage of Darkness is really interesting. Wade Davis actually had to live among some of the African tribes to gain access to the information he wanted. This book discusses his quest, as well the methods and pharmacology of the zombie potion, and various possible sources from which it “might” be made including Datura and the more likely suspect, puffer fish toxin. The other segment of the book discusses in great depth the dangers of the political underground and how Hiatian politics is tied in with a very dangerous black magic voudoun subculture. He discusses the history of the slave trade as it relates to the use of the Zombie potion as well as some of the historical and political turmoil of Haiti. The back of the books provides a very interesting glossary describing the differences between various voudoun traditions (white and black), as well as myth, lore, medical and herbal definitions for your reference. From what I've heard Haiti is an incredibly dangerous place to be even as a tourist. Super duper, hard core, scary, voudoun shiz-nit. This is the real thing.

Moving right along:

Catheryn Yronewood

Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic

The art of hoodoo candle magic

The Black Folder

Catheryn lives in Forestville, California. She grew up in Oakland and she learned Hoodoo as a child from the African Americans living in the city. She is, from what I understand, a pretty good authority on this subject and her research appears to me to be pretty impeccable. She has taught classes for years and she may or may not still own a metaphysical store in Sonoma County. She probably leans a little “left” and thats ok, in my opinion, that is probably what you want when you are learning a topic like this. (refer to scary shiz-nit above). If I were to learn about something like this after all of these years in my magical journey, I'd want a trustworthy left leaning guide, but that's just me.

I have the first title mentioned on this list and it is very interesting. It reads a bit like an encyclopedia. You can look up various herbs in alphabetical order and learn about their lore and use in root work and spell magic. I haven't read her others. But I'm pretty confident about her information.

Additional Voodoo Titles

Africa's Ogun old world and new: Sandra T Barnes. I have it, but I haven't read it yet. It looks to me as equally fascinating as Wade Davis's books are. The back reads: “The ancient African god of iron, war and hunting is worshipped by more then 40 million adherents in West Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Africa's Ogun is a rich interdisciplinary collection that draws on field research from several continents to reveal Ogun's dramatic power and enduring appeal. Five new essays, focusing mainly on Ogun worship in the new world enhance this landmark introduction to Yoruba religion.

Leafing through it, there are a lot of tribal photographs, chapters on trance possession, dancing, chanting, philosophy of living and dying.....looks like some pretty good stuff.

The last title in the store in this section I have no comment on. It might be good, it might not be. I just kind of threw it in there since other then the titles mentioned above I have no other personal experience regarding voodoo books to recommend. So you can take your chances on this one.

The Handbook of Yoruba religious concepts: by Baba ifa Karade. 

Last but not least:

Possession (Demoniacle and Other): I didn't know where else to put this book so I put it here in the voodoo section. This again is another book I bought in the recent past but have not yet read it. I found it in the Sociology section of our local used book store. It's the first book I've ever seen about the phenomena of possession and the practice of exorcism that is not written by a fundamentalist Christian perspective. This is a sociological study of the phenomena of demonic possession in various tribal cultures around the world and it looks completely fascinating to me, on par with Wade Davis and the Ogun book above. Some very serious, heavy weight, metaphysical reading.  (This book is currently not available on Amazon, I'll keep searching to see if it becomes available.)

And that's all for today. Please check back again for more reviews and stories. There will be more titles coming. As you can probably see I'm pretty picky about the content I'm providing as a resource for your enjoyment, so I'm taking the time to find the really good stuff I want to share. Anyone can buy any of the ten million books on Wicca that are trending out there. I'm trying to keep things a little more unique here though. Sometimes to really learn about magic you have to get out of the metaphysical section and wander around sociology, and archaeology as well. Please keep checking back and I will update often.

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