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In the past, I’ve never really used a book of shadows.  It always seemed as though it were just another journal which could be useful as a self exploratory tool, never really caught my interest.  The further along the path laid before me I get, it keeps becoming more and more apparent that I need to keep one–not for myself, but for my children or any other “students” that come along.  I know that I have had to figure everything out myself from the very beginning, and though this has been a useful exercise in itself, it’s not something that I would wish on anyone else especially my children.  There will always be trials that I never had to go through, entities that I’ve never encountered, and paths I have not traveled, but I wish to have a reference for them so that they can have a place to begin with.

And that brings me to the purpose of this post:  to explain my thoughts on my now current BoS and the future of it.

The purpose of the BoS is not to be a journal.  It is to be a reference book that could never be sold in a store, but can be trusted completely as a reference.  Therefore, it must be clean, easily scanned through, thorough but not to the point of rambling.  All of the information must be completely understandable and not put into metaphysical/New Age confusion which is so prevalent in other references.

It must be a book not a computer file because computers die, flash drives get lost, and every other possibility that can cause things to get lost randomly on a computer.  It is currently in a journal with no lines so that drawings are easy to understand.  It currently is unorganized because organizing in a journal is a task of futility, but once the journal is filled, the information will be recopied into another that is far more organized.  It may even be typed up and printed.

The sections will include the following:  rituals, practices for increasing magickal power, entities and all information on them, special circumstances, information on associations, and a random information part.

Now, other people may have different ideas on what a book of shadows is supposed to be, but this is my view of it.

*Just as an FYI, the image is from Oberon Designs who make the most fantastic leather journal covers I’ve ever found.  Check them out because you won’t find a better journal cover.

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/start sarcasm

My exaggerated view of a Barnes and Nobles metaphysical bookshelf

Hmmm… this is a pretty big Barnes and Nobles, maybe they’ve got something different than the one from my small town in South Texas. Oh yeah, there’s some Silver RavenWolf, that’s what I’ve been looking for. Sweet! I’ve been needing a sixth book on Magick 101! This one’s got a pretty picture of a flower on the cover and it’s all sparkly! Oh yeah, and there’s the section on Cunningham, definitely haven’t seen those before. I hear they’re good especially if you’ve never heard of primary sources. Oh and here’s the section on meditation. Probably much different from the meditation that’s taught in Asian philosophy and everywhere else. Oh yeah, and there’s the 270 page fairy book that has absolutely no information that can’t be found in a child picture book. Definitely my choice purchase. Oh wait, it costs $31.99? I’m sure it’s worth it. Oh yeah, here’s what I was looking for, the section on altars. So there’s Altars for Different Seasons, Basic Altars, How to Make Your Own Altar, and the ever popular Different Crap You Can Buy to Decor…I Mean Honor Stuff With Your Altar.

/end sarcasm

I wonder why the average Pagan creates an altar. I also wonder why there is such a market for books on the subject. I know that some people need ideas for their first altar, and most books are marketed to the novice in their practice, but the idea of an altar is fairly simple and doesn’t really require buying anything–even books on the subject. An altar’s three-fold purpose is to create a sacred space in a home that is normally filled with non-sacred emotions and actions, to honor spirits, and to use as a magickal tool for filling something with energy and power.

When taking the purpose into account, can you really tell me that you need to buy a bunch of overpriced stuff for an altar? And how can you make an altar out of a book? I know that my altar has a few things that a book would suggest, but I wouldn’t ever go buy the items just to build an altar (which the books seems to suggest that you do). I’ve got a chalice that I used long before I ever had an altar. Yes, I’ve got a few crystals that I had before I was Pagan and was using them for meditation practices. Yes, I’ve also got an incense burner that is actually a mortar filled with salt. I’ve got a few feathers…that I got as a gift my spiritual teacher.

So what is it that I’m trying to say? An altar is supposed to bring you closer to “God” as the Christians say. It’s supposed to open you up and allow you feel safe and calm. It’s no different from the sacred temples of the ancient Greeks or groves of the Druids. Do you really think that the priests of old went to their local Magick-Mart for a bunch of stuff made in China or Korea in sweatshops to put in their brand new temple? We don’t have to hand-make everything like they did, but please remember that the energy in these cheap foreign-made products is likely to be less that awesome. I would rather have an incomplete altar than one filled with items that will bring negative energy into my workings. Magick is a subtle art that is heavily influenced by the nuances of the practice rather than the basics, and so in this case, yes you should sweat the small stuff.

The other thing to think about is that an altar is not so much a tool like a rake or steak knife. It isn’t just something to use in order to get results. It becomes a living extension of yourself. That is one of the primary reasons that taking care of it is such an important task. It needs the love and attention that you give in order to put you into that place of spiritual openness.

How is it so necessary to own 7 books on a subject that is simple. Put pieces of yourself into the altar above all else. Put spiritual pieces that mean something to you next. Yes, it’d be nice to honor the elements and certain gods, but remember that the altar is your gateway to the infinite, and so it should be a part of you rather than some altar template that you found in a book.

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As I look at my magickal bookshelf for something to look back on, to give me more insight, or just something to randomly give me something to think about during a road trip, I get depressed. There’s not much on there that really makes me think, “Wow, that’s a really unique idea. I think I’m going to put that into practice.” Maybe it’s the fact that every facet of these books has been explored and reiterated back to me over and over again throughout my random website searches. Maybe it’s the fact that I spend too much time at the computer reading “advanced” discussion boards. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve read through most of the books that I own. Or maybe it’s that there has been so few revolutionary thoughts in the past few decades that I haven’t heard of the books that they’re in or the people who’ve come up with them.

How many different books does a person have to buy to finally come up with something noteworthy? Yes, I have most of the Crowley library in hard copy or on the computer, and yes I have perused them to my heart’s content, but they have been rehashed over and over again. I know that they hold a lifetime’s worth of knowledge, and quality knowledge at that, enough in fact, to keep someone busy for a decade at least. I’m just looking for something new, something that hasn’t been rehashed. I started with Cunningham’s work (as many people do) and quickly realized there wasn’t much in the way of substance there. I worked through a lot of the Golden Dawn stuff and though there’s a lot of substance there, I simply do not feel completely happy with all of their thoughts and ideas. I’ve gone through much of the original Wiccan thoughts and ideas and have found them to be lacking in many places. I could go on and on about the books and the ideas that I’ve explored and though they are worthwhile studies and practices to pursue, I am tired of them. I want something new.

No, please don’t refer me to another book written in 1905. Please don’t send me a magickal text from the 1600′s (okay, actually send it to me simply because I’d love to have it, but don’t refer me to it). Send me something new. A new idea even. Hell, I’d take a random thought that hasn’t been published by 200 Llewellyn authors, a new idea for a ritual, even a new name for a pet. Magickal journals everywhere rehash the same ideas that were brought to light by someone a century ago. Magazines and ezines take the same trash and reiterate it to me over and over again. You wonder why these magazines and ezines are failing? It’s because anyone who’s interested enough in magick and Pagan thoughts to buy a magazine or sign up for an ezine probably already knows everything written in them. I’ve been doing this stuff for almost 8 years and I’m coming up to what I think is the end of written knowledge.

There are literally thousands upon thousands of Pagan authors out there, and yet I haven’t found any books written in the past 20 years that are truly noteworthy. I take that back, there are many authors out there that have done plenty for the Pagan community in their efforts to “convert” and “get us out of the broom closet”, but I haven’t found any that are noteworthy for the people who actually understand what they’re doing. Why is that? I know that I’ve put thoughts and ideas up on this blog that haven’t ever been written about or published by anyone else because I thought of them. I didn’t reiterate something from a manuscript. I didn’t combine all of the knowledge that I’ve gained so far and put it onto the internet. Obviously, that information is already out there. What I did was think, “Hey, that’s a cool idea. Maybe I’ll put it on my blog.” Then I sat down and wrote it. The end. So why is it that I haven’t found these revolutionary thoughts everywhere? Why is it that when somebody has practiced some sort of magick for 35 years, they haven’t had those errant thoughts that change their perspectives or practices to some degree? And if they have, where are those errant thoughts stored? Did they write them down? Or were they lost, as dreams are lost?

So I challenge you, the reader to take what I say and think about it. Do you have those errant thoughts? Do you practice in some way differently than what the books say? What are those small pieces that are different? A change in the way that you make a gesture, a change in the wording, or a different type of tool that you came up with is what I’m looking for.

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For practicality’s sake, there’s only one New Age book publishing company and this company’s name is Llewellyn.  This is the publisher that has dominated all of your local Barnes and Nobles New Age/Metaphysical section.  It’s also the publisher that’s produced such authors as Scott Cunningham, Silver Ravenwolf, D.J. Conway, Amber Wolfe, and Ted Andrews.  This publisher is the greatest corrupter/influencer of all silly teenage witches (if you’re not silly then this doesn’t apply to you), gothkids, uninformed Pagans everywhere.  For the most part, this company will publish any book that expounds on guided visualizations or the great questions “What is Paganism” and “What is Magic(k)?”.  I always figured that if I ever got hard up for cash, I’d sit down for a week and write a shitty how-to book on the intro to Paganism and would be able to pay the rent for the rest of the month.  I’m sure that this isn’t actually how being an author works, but at the same time, I do know that there is more absolute shit published by Llewellyn than any other publisher, and I think they like it that way.  Anyways, on to the point of this post:  5 books that every serious practicer of magick should own.

Magick Without Tears by Aleister Crowley
There are hundreds and probably thousands of introductory books about Magick and they all seem to be full of the same stuff.  They talk about after doing these 5 visualizations that everything in your life will change dramatically and that this is all you have to do to do Magick.  I’m not saying that visualizations aren’t important, but I am saying that an introduction to magick should have a broader range of things it introduces you to.  And this book does exactly that.  It touches on over 50 topics ranging from “What is Magick” to duality to qabalah and it does so in a very comprehensive yet short series of chapters.  This book will definitely not teach you how to DO very much Magick, but it will definitely tell you where you should go next, and I think that that’s exactly what an introductory book should do.

The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk
Okay, I’m going to start out by saying that I have not adequately perused the astrology sections of the world to make too many criticisms about any other books, but I do know that this book has helped me immensely to understand astrology and that’s simply amazing, because I originally thought of it as a very complicated art/science.  There’s actually not a lot I feel confident about saying on this subject other than the fact that I learned a good deal from this book about astrology that I’ve found to be extremely useful in my life.

The Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Agrippa
Granted, this is a Llewellyn book, but it was also written in the 16th century so it’s public domain…  Now, this book is what most of the Golden Dawn and Crowley’s OTO were based heavily on, and since these secret societies seem to be the earliest and best managed groups of modern Magick I believe that this book may have a few keys that could be extremely useful to a practicing magician.  I have not read very much of it truthfully, but I just recently found it and it should be arriving at my doorstep within the next couple days.

I also would like to speak to the fact that there really aren’t any other books that are available to the public that are as old or as comprehensive as this book is.  I’ve looked and looked for books that were written at the time of the old alchemists and magicians and have been extremely unsuccessful.  However, this book was written at that time and I’m completely excited to get a glimpse into the ideas of the time.  I’m sure that much of it will be silly and they’ll talk about diseases as spiritual issues entirely, but they had to have something right or no one would have believed that they could do Magick.

The Complete Magician’s Tables by Stephen Skinner
One of those great stereotypes for Pagans is that they love their reference books…and I’m no exception to this one.  This book is kind of an expanded Liber 777.  It’s got planetary symbolism, numerological symbolism, brief descriptions of many gods, gemstones, herbs, elemental associations, metals, the tree of life, tarot symbolisms, and many many other tables.  Half of the book is tables and half is commentary.  I really haven’t found any other book that has all of this information in a single source other than Liber 777.  Not only does this book have more information, but it also is far better organized which is a key thing when you’re talking about a reference book.

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
This book is fiction and has no true Magickal significance, but I’ve never met a person who’s life isn’t changed for the better by this book.  In truth, the story is incredibly simple.  It’s about a boy who dreams the same dream twice and goes to Egypt in search of the pyramids because in the dream he is said to find a great treasure there.  He is robbed, works at a small shop in a country he’s never been to before, falls in love, meets an Alchemist and all in search for this treasure.  This book is about the fact that life is a journey and that everyone must spend their life in search for their treasure because you can never be unhappy while searching for it.  I’ve reread this book at least 40-50 times and will continue to reread it every time my life is confusing.  Everyone should own this book and it will show you that you truly should believe in dreams whether they be while you are sleeping or while you are daydreaming.

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