This page is an archive of book, deck and CD reviews from February 2005 through July 2007.  All other reviews will now be posted on the As the Spirit Moves Me blog page.

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Posted July 27, 2007

A busy summer has left me less time than usual for reading--no languorous lounging on the beach! However, one book I gladly made time for was Bradford Keeney's latest: Shaking Medicine: The Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement. The well-traveled and rather intense Dr. Keeney--I recall him well from a New York Open Center workshop years ago--combines extensive training in psychotherapy and the shamanism of indigenous cultures. His book details his discovery of the curious ritual practice of physical shaking for healing and transformation of consciousness that is a characteristic of traditions as geographically and culturally diverse as the Bushmen of the Kalahari and the Quakers of America.

Keeney has fully embraced this sacred body-based technology known to traditional peoples around the globe, and he has done so with evangelical certainty and glee. This fascinating book can only take you so far. If you're itching to know what's shaking and why, Keeney invites you to try it. You'll find a 40-minute CD of drumming for ecstatic movement tucked inside the back cover. (2007, Destiny Books. ISBN: 1-59477-149-9.)

Posted June 14, 2007

Shamanic Mysteries of Egypt: Awakening the Healing Power of the Heart by Nicki Scully and Linda Star Wolf (with lovely illustrations by Kris Waldherr) stirs the heart and the imagination as it was intended to do. The reader–visualizing himself or herself as a white dove carrying the olive branch of peace–enters into a series of ritualistic meditations featuring encounters with the ancient Egyptian pantheon of Anubis, Nepthys, Isis, Bast, Hathor, Ptah and other August beings. In their intricate, descriptive details of images, gestures and dialogue, these meditations, originally brought forth in Wolf’s visions, bear a strong resemblance to the ceremonial magick traditions of the Golden Dawn and other esoteric movements. Some readers–and I count myself among them–might prefer a less detailed, less directive approach that won’t get in the way of their own abilities to perceive and interact with the divine. However, this is a heartfelt book that invites readers to step beyond limiting concepts. Scully’s love affair with Egypt is legendary, and fans of her previous books–Alchemical Healing and Power Animal Meditations–will value her focused exploration of this important archetypal pantheon. (2007, Bear & Company. ISBN: 1-59143-068-2.)

In his well-illustrated volume, The Templar Pirates: The Secret Alliance to Build the New Jerusalem, author Ernesto Frers takes us into esoteric history that will leave Johnny Depp fans gasping. He tells us that most pirates were either members of the Order of the Temple--that famed nemesis of the Vatican–or formed their own secret societies while taking revenge on ships sponsored by the Vatican and Catholic nations.  And there's so much more.  A real page-turner! (2007, Destiny Books. ISBN: 1-59477-146-4.)

Christopher Penczak continues his visionary scholarship in Ascension Magick: Ritual, Myth & Healing for the New Aeon. You can count on Penczak to be ahead of the pack, clear-eyed, level-headed, broad in his grasp of his subject, a creative and affirmative teacher. This timely book explores the necessary evolution of spiritual traditions and magickal practice and makes many of today’s ascension practices and movements comprehensible. A careful step-by-step guide and a wonderful reference book, it belongs in the library of everyone who cares about spirituality as a force for personal and planetary liberation and healing. (2007, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 978-0-7387-1047-1.)

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  • Trust Your Vibes Oracle Cards: A Powerful Tool Kit for Awakening Your Sixth Sense by Sonia Choquette

  • 52 cards + guidebook
  • Published by Hay House – 2004

Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Trust Your Vibes –the 52-card oracle deck by popular psychic and author Sonia Choquette–will bring a smile to your face, guaranteed! But if you’re like me, you’ll quickly tire of the nearly indestructible box that protects this treasure. The box’s heavy cardboard is stiff, tight and entirely too child-proof. When it comes to wanting to get at a beloved deck right away with absolutely no obstructions, I am a willful child.

Also be prepared for one of those wide decks (5" X 3 ") that might not immediately fit comfortably in smaller hands. But that’s it for my grumbling because–can you tell?–I love the Vibes!

Their boldly-designed pastel images have a saturated, earthy intensity that belies their simplicity. The openness of this simplicity draws them to my heart immediately. It’s easy to see what we need to see in them. They make a good, nonthreatening deck to help put new and possibly skittish Tarot querents at ease before you bring out the stronger stuff.

To encourage us to value and develop our latent sixth-sense, Choquette starts off right with her first card, the reassuring "Woo-Woo is Wonderful." ("Birds have radar. Whales have sonar. You have vibes," explains the charming guidebook.) Other cards include "Back to Basics," "Claim Your Boundaries," "Name Your Higher Self," "Stay in Your Own Skin," "Walk it Off," "Clear the Past" "Ask Your Spirit Helpers," "See the Solution," and "You’re the Boss."

Trust Your Vibes is fabulous for a daily one-card draw, a practice dear to many Tarotists and which Choquette rightly recommends as an excellent training exercise for psychics. You can also pull a card for guidance on a particular concern or situation in your life. I’d also recommend using a Trust Your Vibes card to open and/or close a regular Tarot reading or to illuminate an elusive or difficult aspect of your Tarot layout.

Hold onto that box, though, no matter how annoying it can be. You’ll want to keep these wonderful cards safe and handy for many years to come.

For more information, see http://www.hayhouse.com/.

2007, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Posted February 16, 2007

  • 2013 Oracle
  • by David Carson and Nina Sammons with art by Gigi Borri
  • 34-card oracle deck, book and cenote cloth
  • Published by Council Oak Books 2006

(Published February 2007 on Aeclectic.net at www.aeclectic.net/tarot/.  Re-posted with permission.)

While traveling in Belize last fall, I bought a small handcrafted change purse studded with shiny, fiery-red, orange, yellow, black and silver beads. I confess I didn’t need a purse at the time but I craved this gorgeous one. Now I finally have the perfect use for it. My newest deck–the oval-shaped, palm-sized cards of the 2013 Oracle--nestles comfortably inside. There’s even room for the deck’s unique, kerchief-sized cenote cloth–where the reader lays out the cards–with its print of four jaguars guarding a black reflecting pool. The purse neatly tucks into my handbag: Good to go!

Inspired by ancient American/Mesoamerican prophetic themes and symbols, authors David Carson and Nina Sammons and artist Gigi Borri have produced an oracle deck of uncommon depth. Each card bears a stunning iconic design saturated in color, invoking energies that can guide us as the world passes through enormous changes predicted by the ancient peoples of the Americas. Mayan elders taught that this world, at least as we know it, would end in 2012--hence the deck’s hopeful, one-year-later name.

Some examples of the deck’s symbolic entities include the vibrant Waterdog (Metamorphosis), a salamander bridging the realms of water, air and fire; the solemn, wise and forbidding Snake Skirted Woman (Healer) who remembers your fate and cleanses you of poison; and the richly-carved obsidian Smoking Mirror (Divination), Lord of Deepest Night.

The 195-page guide book, 2013 Oracle: Ancient Keys to the 2012 Awakening, provides a wealth of information and full-color illustrations of each card. Immersing myself in its heady poetry, I frequently surfaced with great quotes, images, stories and unexpected ideas. Some people will prefer to read the text straight through, studying each card with care and getting a proper overview of its philosophical message. But taking a serendipitous dip--opening this book to any page–provides in itself a valid and fascinating oracular method.

Doing a reading with 2013 Oracle is a world apart from the ordinary. Why bother with the old Celtic Cross layout? What do the Celts have to do with this anyway? Carson and Sammons offer appropriate alternatives with an opening ritual and several layouts designed for their deck: the Cenote, Black Cosmic Cross, Pathway of the Flower, the Light Serpent Going to the Sky and The Diving Serpent.

Carson also co-created (with Jamie Sams) the widely-praised Medicine Cards, published by Bear & Co. in 1988. Based on Native American animal spirit lore and beautifully illustrated by Angela C. Werneke, it is one of my oldest and best-loved decks. Similar in quality and appeal, 2013 Oracle is nevertheless a far more intense and urgent implement. Introducing their first card, Alligator (Regeneration of World), Carsons and Sammons tell us how the old sages taught about the coming changes:

"When the next world comes, it will be like an Alligator. Alligator lies buried in the water and mud near the bank, never stirring. So it seems. Yet without warning, alligator will leap out of the water and seize you." (1)

Clearly 2013 Oracle is not for people who prefer their decks gentle and sweet. Read advice like "Kick your puny ego down the street like a rusty old tin can because you won’t need it anymore"–from the Black Sun (Initiation) entry–and know you are not in Kansas anymore.

Kansas is a perfectly wonderful state, but the states of mind and soul heralded by 2013 Oracle are nothing short of electrifying.

For more information, visit www.counciloakbooks.com.

Note:

1. Carson and Sammons, 2013 Oracle: Ancient Keys to the 2012 Awakening, p. 13.

(Published February 2007 on Aeclectic.net at www.aeclectic.net/tarot/.  Re-posted with permission.)

Posted January 28, 2007

For my reviews of The Millennium Tarot by Dorothy Simpson Krause and the Afro-Brazilian Tarot by Giuseppe Palumbo, see either http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/ or http://www.thetarotchannel.com.  And stayed tuned for my upcoming Aeclectic.net review of 2013 Oracle by David Carson and Nina Sammons, art by Gigi Borri.

Posted January 12, 2007

Llewellyn has issued a revised and expanded edition of Amber K ’s popular True Magick: A Beginner’s Guide that could fly off the bookstore shelves as if by magick! It’s a great resource–intelligent, practical, broad in scope, and worth far more than its reasonable price. Amber K, a fine writer and teacher, includes supporting material on a variety of magickal paths beyond the Craft, and her discussion of ethics offers readers the opportunity to examine their own and to determine how best to proceed in any magickal task. Beginners and experienced practitioners will consult this most useful book again and again. (2006, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0823-2.)

What were the true origins of Christianity? Was Jesus a political revolutionary–and a feminist, too? Why did it take so long for the Dead Sea Scrolls to be made public? Who were the Knights Templar and why did the Catholic Church eventually persecute them? What’s the secret meaning of the expression double cross? Does Scotland have pyramids? Were America’s founding fathers on an esoteric path? Was "William Shakespeake" a fictional character? Was Dostoevsky a spiritualist? For some possible answers to these and many other questions, check out Forbidden Religion: Suppressed Heresies of the West, a compilation of articles from the bi-monthly journal Atlantis Rising, edited by J. Douglas Kenyon. Some of these essays deal with topics that don’t appear particularly forbidden, religious, suppressed or heretical, and the level of interest varies, but a number are worth a look. Peter Novak’s "Searching for the Real Star of Bethlehem: Who Were the ‘Wise Men’ and What Were They Up To?" is a lively-paced read that concludes with the suggestion that Jesus was born on Rosh Hashana. (2006, Bear & Company. ISBN: 1-59143-067-4.)

Speaking of Christmas, I received a gorgeous book entitled Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide much too late for me to recommend it to you for your holiday gift-giving. But it’s not too early to stash away a few of them for next winter. Authored by Christian Rtsch (anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist) and Claudia Mller-Ebeling (art historian and anthropologist), this charmingly-illustrated book decodes the customs, imagery, lore, herbal preparations and culinary goodies associated with Christmas, sourcing their origins in pre-Christian pagan and shamanic traditions. Read up, and the next time you hear fundamentalists railing about a so-called "War on Christmas," you’ll be well-armed. (2003, Inner Traditions. ISBN: 1-59477-092-1.)

Also received:

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis. A useful reference guide to esoteric terms. Some illustrations. (2007, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0905-0.)

Tarot of the Four Worlds by Steve Nichols. Described as "a major breakthrough in theoretical magic. From 1500's Italy come these strange and powerful 88 major taro [sic] arcana of the Four Worlds of Cabala." Engraved illustrations of each card. Fascinating! For more information or to order the book and pack, see http://enochia.net or http://enochianchess.com. (2006. Self-published. ISBN: 978-1-8746-0307-8)

Posted October 26, 2006

News of the arrival of Canadian author Donald Tysons new Portable Magic: Tarot is The Only Tool You Need got my attention right away. When it comes to magickal matters, Im a firm believer in "keeping it simple." Tyson teaches that these richly symbolic cards can be effective substitutes for altar tools, and card layouts can replace actual magick circles. Portable Magic offers essential though mostly familiar information on elemental, astrological, and Qabalistic correspondences. Beginners will appreciate this overview as well as the authors insights into how Tarots symbols were conceptualized and utilized by members of the Golden Dawn movement. I abandoned ship only when Tyson himself began to introduce large, complex ritual layouts of cards plus visualization and ritual action for a variety of purposes: banishing, business, "lucky charm," "ritual of union" (in which one "unites psychically with another person," living or deceased), and "evoking an elemental." I suspect most readers will appreciate Tysons original ideas but opt to devise far less taxing ways in which to work with the cards. Just remember: Keep it simple. (2006, Llewellyn Publications. ISBN: 0-7387-0980-2.)

Posted September 25, 2006

I approached the beginning of Mindlight: Secrets of Energy, Magick & Manifestation, the new book by Wiccan author Silver RavenWolf, with no small measure of skepticism. Classic occult theories about the creation of thoughtforms and the metaphysical implications of quantum physics are both all-too-familiar territory. RavenWolfs casual style of writing about complex matterswhich at times turns sloppy--did not increase my confidence in her. But once the author breezed past her introductory material and began to display her unique waresthe practical applications--I discovered an inspiring, motivational teacher with something novel to offer. RavenWolfs innovative exercises, especially her plainspoken, sugar-free invocations, are like nothing Ive found in a lifetime of reading books on Wicca or other magickal practices. Readers will come to understand the fundamental usefulness of meditation enhanced by creativity and common sense. I highly recommended Mindlight to readers of any tradition and at any level of experience in magick. (2006, Llewellyn Publications. ISBN: 0-7387-0985-9.)

When it comes to our spiritual beliefs and practices, people are actually more alike than we realize. Journey through this reality with Christopher Penczakauthor of quite a few excellent books for Llewellynin his new cross-traditional primer, The Mystic Foundation: Understanding & Exploring the Magical Universe. (2006, Llewellyn Publications. ISBN: 0-7387-0979-4.)

Posted September 14, 2006

Every year, the perennially inspirational archetypes of Tarot are imagined anew by countless visual artists. Now heres New Englands Stone Riley, creator of Spirit Hill Tarot, who has devised a CD of striking Tarot paintings based on his "New Modern Art" theory. Riley believes that contemporary art viewers have learned to absorb information from multiple sources simultaneously and his workdistinguished by intense color, imaginative shapes, and startling juxtapositions--invokes influences ranging from indigenous cultures to Salvador Dal, from minimalism to Picasso. Some of the Spirit Hill images were created to correspond with specific Tarot cards; others pre-existed Rileys project but--as he discovered--turned out to fit particular Tarot archetypes quite well.

Each image in this "gallery of life in its immense variety" comes with a few snippets of interpretation. Four of Earth is "The owner, and his power, and his love of power." Rileys absolutely right-on message for the Queen of Waterfrom his painting "Gorgon"is "Fear this voice and despair, welcome it and learn." Both the Six of Waters legend--"The Past Speaks"and the title of the painting from which it is drawn--"House of the Spirits"both strongly resonate with me; Im astounded and grateful to know that someone perceives the Six of Cups exactly as I do.

The CD, which works like a Web site with hyperlinks, contains slides of all 78 cards, singly and in groups of four. These images can be viewed individually, in large or thumbnail size, or via an automated slide show. They can be printed out to create an actual deck. Rileys disk also includes a few essays, some poetry, and a handful of links to resources on the Web. (2006, Spirit Hill Studio. www.lulu.com/stoneriley and www.yessy.com/stoneriley)

Channeling: Use Your Psychic Powers to Contact Your Spirit Guides, new from Godsfield Press (www.godsfieldpress.com), could not be more inviting. A clear, user-friendly manual by Shirley Humphreys Battie, with sweet illustrations by Sandra Howgate, this book sets out to turn a much-hyped psychic process into an accessible, safe, and comfortable part of everyday spiritual practice and personal development. Add this essential paperback to your metaphysical bookshelf. (2006, Godsfield Press. ISBN: 1-84181-291-9.) For a scholarly study of the historical, sociological, scientific, and psychological aspects of the channeling phenomenonfrom ancient times through the 20th Centurypick up a copy of Jon Klimos comprehensive Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources (1998, North Atlantic Books. ISBN: 1-55643-248-8.)

At the outset of Calls to Mystic Alice, California psychic Alice Rose Morgan seemed like such an unassuming, mirthful person that I had great hopes for her book. But theres less here than meets the eye. The chipper subtitleA Psychic and Her SpooksExplain Karma, Reincarnation, and Everything Else You Forgot On Your Way To Earthignores the fact that, over the past several decades, numerous mediums and spiritualists have reminded us of these "forgotten" items many times and that some of the hoary, dogmatic concepts expressed herebefore you were born, you chose to be raped or murdered in this life, for instance--have been challenged and tempered by newer metaphysical thinkers. (2006, Llewellyn Publications. ISBN: 0-7387-0936-0.)

Flash Silvermoons abundant talents embrace the musical, literary, ritual, healing, and psychic arts. She is both mystic and businesswoman. When I could not figure out how best to explain all that Silvermoon has studied and accomplished, I turned to her recently received Wise Womans Tarot (illustrated by Barbara Vogel based on Silvermoon's line drawings and instructions) and desperate for direction, drew one card at random: The Star. I had to laugh; The Star stands for the Renaissance woman at the very hub of the turning world, sending and receiving wave after wave of energy and digitized information. Theres even a flash of lightning in the cards midnight blue sky!

Silvermoons and Vogels deck, published in 2002, represents the product of a quarter-century of research and development. In its accompanying book, which is laden with wonderful photos of Silvermoon and her human and animal companions, readers will find comprehensive, provocative information about Tarot, Vogels 78 blazing images, and the authors creative, woman-affirming and richly multicultural approach to metaphysics, divination and life itself. It is indeed as advertised, "a Pandoras box of new/ancient embedded symbolism fully explained." Be prepared to spend a lot of time reading, considering, and experimenting with the extensive information and deep ideas contained within this generous book. But dont be surprised if you take one look at the deck and dive right in. (2002, Flash Silvermoon. ISBN: 0-9723952-0-2. Deck and book set) Fans of rock, funk and blues should check out Phases of the Silvermoona CD with irresistibly danceable numbers like "Sacred Space," "Dancing with the Snake," and "If Your Heart Aint in it Get Your Ass Out"--available at www.flashsilvermoon.com.

Posted August 15, 2006

Reading Be Blessd: Daily Devotions for Busy Wiccans and Pagans is like having a kitchen-table chat with author Denise "Dion-Isis" Dumars over herbal ice tea on a sweltering summer day. While the Introduction shows this priestess of Isis Isis, Thoth, and Yemaya to be an organized, competent guide, Dumarss first chapter proves her to be an easygoing companion, and jokester to boot. Be Blessd details numerous simple ways to infuse every aspect of even the busiest life with spiritual energy and meaning. The book encourages both excellent self-care and the nurturing of respectful, friendly relationships with the gods and goddesses of your choosing. (Dumars calls Thor the Dude of Dudes, a very accessible buddy-type; visualize him dispensing his wisdom from a bar stool, beer mug in hand.) Best of all, Be Blessd feels like a book written by an explorer who genuinely lives what she teaches and enjoys life very much. (2006, Career Press. ISBN: 1-56414-872-6.)

One of the most absorbing books Im enjoying this summer is The GOD Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People by Cathleen Falsani, an experienced journalist who covers religion for the Chicago Sun-Times. Falsani is an evangelical Protestant, and the word "God" appears in huge, uppercase letters in her cover title. But dont let that give you the wrong impression. Like so many of her fascinating interviewees--Bono, Sandra Bernhard, Senator Barack Obama, Melissa Etheridge, Studs Terkel, Hugh Hefner, David Lynch, Sandra Cisneros, Inyanla Vanzant, Mark Morris, Annie Lennox, Sherman Alexie, and Tom Robbins among them--Falsani turns out to be insightful, honest, and open-minded to an extraordinary degree. The GOD Factor includes interviewees who profess a specific faith, a creative combination of religions, or simply a spiritual view of life and the world. Some define themselves as atheists, agnostics, or secular humanists, and some resist any label for what they believe and do. Falsani treats each one with the greatest respect and often finds spiritual wisdom where we would least expect it. have often been pleasantly surprised, deeply moved, and greatly instructed by these profiles, and my envy of Falsani knows no bounds. What a terrific project and an important book for our times! (2006, Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN: 0-374-16381-2.)

Posted August 10, 2006

To read my review of Lo Scarabeo's Afro-Brazilian Tarot deck--the Tarot Deck of the Week on Aeclectic.net--please click on:

http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/afro-brazilian/review.shtml.

Posted August 3, 2006

Tarot Talismans: Invoke the Angels of the Tarot is the latest publication by the Florida-based ceremonial magicians Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. A well-produced, enjoyable treatise on the magickal use of Tarot and Qabala from the Golden Dawn perspective, this book offers an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to ritually invoking the energies symbolized by Tarots images. The authors explore elemental, astrological, Qabalistic, and angelic correspondences for each Tarot card and provide numerous charts and illustrations, including magickal alphabets, planetary seals, and arcane sigils. They offer comparative interpretations of each card as rendered by five different decks: Golden Dawn Magical, Thoth, Universal, Babylonian, and Marseille. (They are co-creators of the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot, and Sandra Tabatha Cicero is artist and creator of the Babylonian Tarot, previously reviewed on this page.) Even readers with little interest in actually performing the fanciful, elaborate rituals of ceremonial magick--or even visualizing angels in the concrete way that the Ciceros dowill appreciate the extensive information and imagery provided here. Names, signs, images, and ritual gestures can indeed be keys to the transformative energies within consciousness. (2006, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0871-2.)

Dovid Krafchows Kabbalistic Tarot: Hebraic Wisdom in the Major and Minor Arcana presents Cabalanote his preferred spelling of the word 1as that old-time religion and, in his view, the mother source of Tarot. In an assertion sure to rattle most Tarot historians, Krafchow argues that the Israelites, living under the rule of Alexander the Great, developed Tarot cards as a way to disguise their study of the Torah. When the Jews routed the Greeks, Tarot went underground only to resurface during a new era of oppression, this time by the Catholic Church. You dont have to agree with Krafchows theory to find Kabbalistic Tarot valuable. The book focuses on basic Cabalistic concepts and some fresh readings of the Major Arcana. I enjoyed entertaining the notion of The Emperor as the embodiment of sight while The Empress is insight, the Hermit as one who listens to what is said while the High Priestess hears what lies behind the spoken words, and the light of The Star as greater, more potentially life-changing than the light of the sun. (2005, Inner Traditions. ISBN: 1-59477-064-6.)

Note:

1. Despite his publishers choice of the traditional, more widely-recognized spellingKabbalahKrafchow makes a highly appealing case for an alternate spelling in his Preface: "Cabala should be written with a curve, denoting the feminine, and not defined by the line of the rabbis. Rigidity, the line, is the antithesis of the subtle, ephemeral truths that swim in the deep waters of the Cabala." Also note that the Ciceros use yet another spelling--Qabalain keeping with Western Magickal tradition.

Coming Up

Lovers of Welsh mythology will snap up copies of Anna-Marie Fergusons Llewellyn Tarot kit: a guidebook and a 78-card deck in a lovely golden brocade pouch decorated with beads and tassels. The British-born Canadian artists dreamy watercolor paintings are like little windows that immediately draw the viewer into a world that expands and comes alive. For each Major Arcana card, the companion book offers captivating legends of heroes and deities from Celtic lore. Look for Llewellyn Tarot in September 2006. (Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0299-4.)

Additional Books Received

Inner Power: Six Techniques for Increased Energy & Self-Healing. Colleen Deatsman. (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0667-1.)

Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess through Her Sacred Symbols. M. Isidora Forrest. (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0705-8.)

Spiritual Journaling: Writing Your Way to Independence. Julie Tallard Johnson. (2006, Bindu Books. ISBN: 1-59477-056-5.  For teenagers)

The Sacred Embrace of Jesus and Mary: The Sexual Mystery at the Heart of the Christian Tradition. Jean-Yves Leloup. (2006, Inner Traditions. ISBN: 1-59477-101-4)

Merlin and the Discovery of Avalon in the NewWorld. Graham Phillips. (2005, Bear & Company. ISBN: 1-59143-047-X.)

Chakra Healing and Karmic Awareness. Keith Sherwood. (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0354-0.)

Oracles of the Dead: Ancient Techniques for Predicting the Future. Robert Temple. (2005, Destiny Books. ISBN: 1-59477-085-9.)

Posted May 29, 2006

Who is Dougall Fraser? "The Queer Guy with the Third Eye," as his publisher describes him. He has authored one of the most enjoyable, well-written New Age memoirs that youll ever read: But You Knew That Already: What A Psychic Can Teach You About Life. Fraser traces his development from a psychically-sensitive youngster in Garden City, Long Island to successful professional psychic in Dallas and New York City. With bouyant humor and grounded insight, he discusses his familys challenges, his personal struggles (weight, loneliness, being a closeted gay man, and the coming-out process), and the numerous missteps hes made on the path to fulfillment in love and career. Well before you reach the books last satisfying word"Perfect"youll understand how even talented psychics, genuinely helping thousands of strangers, can often "get it wrong" in the conduct of their own lives. Frasers growth process has made him a more compassionate counselor and given him a taste for honesty that makes this book touching, memorable, and essential. Since he does not hesitate to skewer fraudulent practices in the psychic field, examples of silliness in the New Age movement, and incidents of cynical exploitation by themainstream media, this book serves also as a useful guide for the consumer of psychic information and services. For more details, see www.rodalestore.com or www.DougallFraser.com. (2005, Rodale Press. ISBN: 1-59486-136-6.)

Posted April 14, 2006

The childlike charm and vest-pocket size of Wiccan Cardsa new 33-card oracle by Nada Mesar (design) and Chatriya Hemharnvibul (artwork)make this deck a great choice for people who love the symbols and traditions of the Old Religion and for novice readers or querents who find Tarots complex symbol system a little intimidating. There are cards for each of the traditional magickal tools of the Craft, one each for the goddess Aradia and the god Cernunnos, eight for the high sabbats of the pagan year, three master cards (The Otherworld, The Three Wise Ones, and Oak Tree), and sixteen symbol cards (e.g., Spiral, Cat, Mask, Raven, and Book of Shadows). The high sabbats cards, related to the seasons and months, can help with the often tricky task of figuring out timing in a reading. The LWB (little white book) gives just enough information to stimulate your own imagination and creativity. Begin by picking one card each day and telling yourself a story about what you see in its picture. One more plus: The modest price! (2005, Lo Scarabeo. ISBN: 0-7387-0793-8.)

My first glance at Sandra Tabatha Ciceros unique Babylonian Tarot transported me to another time, past todays tragic developments in Iraq, to the extraordinary and influential Sumerian civilization. Ciceros intense imagerycolorful, fittingly vital and vibrant representations of forces of Earth and the universe--will draw you in and shake up your expectations of Tarot symbolism. The 83-card set includes an excellent 179-page book that presents detailed explications of each cardincluding astrological and Kabbalistic correspondences--and orients readers to Sumerian lore. It also includes two new layouts inspired by Sumerian cosmology. (2006, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0716-3.)

The poet Theodore Roethke wrote, "In a dark time, the eye begins to see." Ross Heaven and Simon Bruxtonco-authors of Darkness Visible: Awakening Spiritual Light through Darkness Meditationchampion the shamanic practice of retreating into dark spaces in order to profoundly commune with Spirit and deep levels of self. If you have not yet tried this, you might find inspiration in their words and example. However, with numerous accounts drawn from the authorsown therapeutic workshops and ceremonies, Darkness Visible has a curious whiff of self-promotion. The meditation exercisesall reliably good and searchingseem original only in that they are to be performed in the context of darkness. (2005, Destiny Books. ISBN: 1-5947-7601-1.)

It appears to be a fact of life that, every now and then, a brand new book by Christopher Penczak will come along--a cause for celebration. So three cheers for Instant Magick: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Spellcraft! Read it and ease into Penczaks clearsighted, simplified approach to spellcraft, one that puts the focus on mind work--meditation, visualization, and direction of will, energy, and words--over the mere manipulation of tools and trinkets. (2006, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0859-3.)

Like all good New Agers, metaphysician Adrian Calabrese, Ph.D. does not believe in coincidences. Her new book, Sacred Signs: Hear, See, and Believe Messages from the Universe, tells how to ask for messages of daily guidance and become more attentive and better interpreters of them. Fair enough, but Calabrese has formulated a highly-codified approach to something most folks do quite casually. Her work offers few revelations, and shortsightedness often mars her arguments. She writes, for instance, "If you were requesting a sign to assist in a marriage decision, you might dream about your future spouse, or a wedding, or see yourself cohabiting, etc. That would be clear, but if you see yourself and your fianc in a rocket ship going to Mars, you are probably not getting a sign."(1) [Italics mine.] Since Mar is the masculine deity of aggression and war, the only question should be: "Is that sign yellow for Proceed cautiously? Or red for Dont go there!?" Calabrese declares logic to be a friendly tool in one chapter, then in the next chapter calls it "that old demon." (2) And since she surely pledges allegiance to the New Age idea that each one of us creates his or her own reality, its rather confusing that, writing about trusting God/Goddess, Calabrese declares that "Surrender means that you no longer expect to control the outcome of the situation...surrender means you give up the struggle of trying to manipulate your life," andeven more confusing, given the nature of her book, "Surrender means you no longer try to figure out everything before you take action." (3) A lightweight and sadly unreliable book. (2006, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0776-7.)

Notes:

1. Calabrese, Ph.D., Adrian. Sacred Signs: Hear, See, and Believe Messages from the Universe, p. 93.

2. Calabrese, p. 102.

3. Calabrese, p. 103.

Posted January 18, 2006

In the wake of The Da Vinci Code, novelist Dan Browns deeply-flawed bestseller, Margaret Starbird offers her fourth volume of audacious scholarship, Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile, which also includes an hour-long CD lecture by the author. Few readers will find Starbirds topic fresh or shocking, but unlike the popularizing, sensationalist, and ultimately compromising Brown, she serves her material well with decent writing and steady, heartfelt conviction.

The basic outline is familiar. Mariamthe talented, fiercely devoted disciple, confidant, and lover of the Rabbi Yeshua--enflames the jealousy of many of her male counterparts who eventually split off to establish a more hierarchical and misogynist Christianity. Down through the ages, as a result of their slander of her name, Mariam will be known as prostitute and penitent. After the great rabbis execution under Roman order, this towering female leader, her daughter by Yeshua, and a few supporters flee by boat to safety in the south of France, where her legend will be kept alive in the folkloric rites of the gypsies.

For centuries, Mariam--Mary Magdalene--has been the subject of intense fascination and misunderstanding. For example, Starbird details evidence that Magdalene does not refer to a purported hometown (Mejdal or Magdala). Its Hebrew origin--h Magdalnhnmeans "Watchtower of the Flock" and was clearly intended as an honorific title. Comparing the Greek Orpheus-Eurydice myth to the Christian tale of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, Starbird writes, "Both Orpheus and Jesus bring great gifts for their followerssecrets of transformation and enlightenmentand in both myths, union with the beloved is denied. Both Eurydice and Mary Magdalene are left behind. Orpheus returns alone to the earth realm, while Jesus ascends to a heavenly thronealonewhere he manifests the ascendant male principle of Western civilization for the next two thousand years."(1) If youre still wondering why the Catholic Church will not ordain women, opposes womens right to control our own bodies, and fears the immense popularity of Wicca and Womens Spirituality, think back to the Great Magdalene. (2005, Bear & Co. ISBN: 1-59143-054-2.)

And while youre at it, grab a copy of Sexy Witch. What is Sexy Witch, you ask? Mix one part Our Bodies, Our Selves (the original), one part witchcraft Book of Shadows, and one part creativity or journal-keeping workbook then throw in a healthy helping of up-to-date, sex-positive, consciousness-raising counsel. Abracadabra! Presto-change-o! Its LaSara FireFoxs cheerful, motivational guide for todays crafty woman. Still not enough? Turn to the appendiceslists of copious resources--a roundup of Web sites devoted to powerful women. Anyone who can envision a pantheon embracing not only Artemis, Kali, and the Virgin of Guadalupe but also Coretta Scott King, Jackie O., June Carter Cash, J. K. Rowling, Annie Sprinkle, Mother Jones, Sinead OConnor, Susan Sarandon, and Patti Smith, definitely gets my attention. (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0752-X.)

What moved the widely-popular Rachel Pollack to produce Seeker: The Tarot Unveiled? This beginners manual features her patented off-the-cuff stylean acquired taste--and idiosyncratic interpretations. A book of this nature should have something, aside from the authors Tarot-land celebrity, to make it stand out in an already-crowded field of basic Tarot books. Keep your eyes peeled for more substantial, better-written guides. Theyre out there. (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0521-7.)

Absolutely no worries about lack of substance in any book by Aussie-born shamanic dream expert Robert Moss! In person, Moss is a compelling, generous teacher with an astonishing depth and breadth of esoteric knowledge. As always, his new work--The Dreamers Book of the Dead: A Soul Travelers Guide to Death, Dying, and the Other Sidegives us more than we bargain for; the only risk is that we might get lost in its intricate stories-within-stories. The current banquet includes everything from Mosss dreamed encounters and partnership with Irish poet William Butler Yeats to explorations of the death legends and rites of Lithuania and ancient Egypt. According to Moss, each time we dream were offered the chance to set forth and see for ourselves what lies beyond this life. The veil between worlds is truly thin and admits the well-prepared traveler. Approach The Dreamers Book of the Dead when youre ready to go slowly and absorb its heady, powerful themes and meditations. (2005, Destiny Books. ISBN: 1-59477-037-9.)

For a different take on spirit communicationwell-grounded in a moving story about family relationshipspick up Rochelle Jewel Shapiros Miriam the Medium. Miriam is a phone psychic whose professional and personal life starts to come undone. The reader looks on, horrified, as bad goes to worse. Happily, Miriam is also a terrific mom and one tough cookie. Shapirowho based her narrative on some aspects of her own life and psychic careerhas created characters about whom its very easy to care. This story is less about Miriams connection to the spirit world than about the healing spirit of love. (2005, Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 0-7432-4478-8.)

Note:

1. Starbird, Margaret. Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile. pp. 114-15.

Posted December 28, 2005

With his Harmonious Tarot deck, Ernest Fitzpatrick has achieved a most refined hommage to Victorian artist Walter Crane (1845-1915). Flowery imagery of exquisite detail abounds, making this one of the prettiest Lo Scarabeo decks on the market. Cranes fanciful artborrowed or adapted by Fitzpatrick--certainly lends itself to the imaginative purposes of Tarot. At first glance, it appears that Fitzgerald has chosen to evoke the Crane best known for childrens book illustrations, fabric prints, ceramics, and interior design, not the Socialist Crane who created hard-hitting political cartoons like "The Capitalist Vampire" (1885) for Justice Journal. But look sharply! Even a pair of cutesy-pie posies like the young ladies adorning Fitzpatricks Two of Swords can sting. Each wears an armor-like bodice covered with thorns; they arch a thorn-encrusted branch around themselves. Approach if you dare! The Ace of Swords depicts a sword hurtling skyward as if jet-propelled as an heroically dancing angel whips up gusts of wind with her feather fans. The wealth and overindulgence of the Nine of Cups is symbolized by a round-faced cook holding herbs in one hand while his other arm curves around the neck of the plump goose that walks trustingly by his side. The cook gazes over his shoulder at a pair of servants, each bearing an elaborate dessert in the shape of a house with a spire of flowers. Fitzgeralds conception of The Tower really packs a wallop. The towering structure has already been blasted beyond recognition, and a lone figure tumbles amid a terrifying shower of huge stone blocks. Its impossible to look at this brilliant image without feeling profound, visceral disorientation. How interesting that this deck is called "harmonious" when so much of it bears unexpected intensity, urgency, and power. (2005, Lo Scarabeo. ISBN: 0-7387-07884)

Something told me I would love Corrine Kenners new book, Tarot Journaling: Using the Celtic Cross to Unveil Your Hidden Story. Maybe it was the authors opening gambita half-serious, half-cheeky "Cautionary Note"--or her utterly charming headshot photo, or the appendix devoted to "Writing Prompts" that I first flipped to and immediately devoured. Little did I know that Id quickly enthrone this book beside Mary K. Greers Tarot for Your Self and, with wild enthusiasm, urge it upon any Tarot newbie or post-newbie. For anyone who wants to develop intuitive skill and a deep knowledge of the cards, Tarot Journalingthe book and the practice--will work beautifully. Like Mark McElroys clever Tarot workbooks, Tarot Journaling offers both an amazing breadth of imagination and breathtaking thoroughness. For one exampleand I could offer manycheck out Kenners exhaustive list of types of journals. Youre sure to find something in these nine pages that you never considered: If the thought of keeping a formal journal inhibits you, use index cards; slip loose sheets of your Tarot-related journal writing or illustrations into an artists portfolio; make audio recordings of your insights. Please get this book even if youre as bored with the Celtic Cross layout as I am (or used to be--thank you, Corrine). Get it even if youre really more interested in journaling than in Tarot. Get it even if youre absolutely sure you dont want to keep a journal of any kind whatsoever. The suggested exercises make great tools for self-exploration (and Tarot deck exploration) even if you never choose to write down a word of your discoveries. Just dont be surprised if, with Kenners resourceful support, you do write, and write abundantly. (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0643-4)

Books devoted to historical, cross-cultural symbolism and depictions of sacred, magickal objects belong on every Tarotists reference shelf. Migene Gonzlez-Wippler, author of numerous books on the occult and mystical religions, now offers the richly-illustrated Complete Book of Amulets & Talismans. (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-87542-287-X.)

The tone of Alexandra Lecleres memoir, Seeing the Dead, Talking with Spirits: Shamanic Healing through Contact with the Spirit World, owes a lot to her background as a television producer and distribution executive. She gives a business-like, straightforward presentation--no-frills, WYSIWYG.* What her story lacks in exotic spookiness or literary magic, it makes up in sincerity and self-lacerating honesty. Lecleres experiences in the paranormal probably wont raise the hairs on your arm, but her relationships with menan annoying husband and a hulking, manipulative, self-declared shamanic healer from the Adirondacksdefinitely will. Its a cautionary tale with a happy ending because Leclere got smart. Her difficult experiences led her to profound growth, self-regard, and joy in living. (2005, Destiny Books. ISBN: 1-5947-7083-2.)

[*What you see is what you get.]

Yoga of the Mahamudra: The Mystical Way of Balance reads like a sustained breath of clean, purifying mountain air. In this beautiful volume by Canadian writer Will Johnson, you will learn how the body can become like a bamboo flute and how relaxed, spontaneous movements of the body can express higher consciousness and usher in divine energies. (2005, Inner Traditions. ISBN: 1-89281-699-6.)

Posted November 22, 2005

The Hartley Film Foundations new Great Minds DVD, Andrew Harvey: Sacred Activism, features a dramatic and stirring motivational lecture by the well-known scholar, author, and mystic. The film presents complex global crises as urgent calls for us to passionately re-engage with Spirit, nature, and humanity. We must do so without delay, Harvey argues: "Everything that we are is at stake." Through seven scourgessuch as rapid population growth, global warming, and religious fundamentalism--the Divine Mother invites us to gaze upon the damage we have wrought within ourselves and our world. Detailing each of these "seven heads of the Beast," Harvey adds, "I am not frightened and I am not in despair." For every ill, he offers a balm from his list of "seven stars of divine humanity" and bids us become midwives of "a new way of being and loving everything that is even now being manifested." While Harvey stops short of offering specific prescriptives, he identifies available resources and core values that will help each "sacred activist" find his or her appropriate role in this movement of healing and renewal. (2005, Hartley Film Foundation.) To order or for more information, visit www.hartleyfoundation.org or call 1-800-937-1819. See Harveys Web site at www.andrewharvey.net for more information about his recordings, publications, and special events.

Posted November 8, 2005

The Masters of Magic Oracle Cards by Laura Tuan and Severino Baraldi presents, as its box tell us, "The holders of the Occult Lore, the characters that had made the history of magic and of hermetic knowledge." Of the 36 modest-sized cards, only four depict women, and these only from the realm of legend and myth. Why are the flesh-and-blood women from Britains Golden Dawn or Americas Spiritualist movement, for instance, missing in action? Surely they should join the likes of Pythagoras, Mesmer, Edgar Cayce, and a host of more obscure spiritual ancestors. Masters of Magic is a good concept overburdened in its execution. Its not often clear how each cards key words and ideas square with the life and nature of the person depicted. The accompanying booklet details each masters biography, the positive and negative meanings assignedarbitrarily, I thinkto each card, and associated colors, elements, months, and days of the week. The booklet offers three basic "interpreted games" (or layouts) and six far more interesting "uninterpreted games." The book is not user-friendly. Unless you possess prodigious powers of memorization, youll need to constantly flip back and forth between distant sections as you struggle to piece together your interpretations. If youre fascinated by the lives of great clairvoyants, mediums, alchemists, astrologers, and healersat least of the male varietyyou might overlook the awkwardness and unsuitability of this deck as a divination tool and just enjoy it as a novelty collectors item. (2005, Lo Scarabeo. ISBN: 0-7387-0797-X.)

For something completely different, treat yourselfor an art-loving friendto the Golden Tarot of Klimt. Be aware that for this classy, black-and-gold-trimmed beauty, artist A. A. Atanassov does not shy away from appropriating many of Gustav Klimts cold, grim depictions of the human form. All in all, Atanassovs resplendent images are a revelation, offering new ways to understand The Fool and The Empress, for instance, and not stinting on fresh, creative ideas when presenting each card of the Minor Arcana. As is often the case, if you know your Tarot, you can safely file the accompanying booklet and never refer to it again. I would not recommend this deck for beginners who desire a firm grounding in conventional Tarot imagery and interpretation. However, if youre a Klimt fan, dive right in! (2005, Lo Scarabeo. ISBN: 0-7387-0790-2.)

Posted October 27, 2005

Author Susan M. Watkins drew from several decades of her own experiences of coincidence and precognition to bring us What A Coincidence!: The WOW! factor in synchronicity and what it means in everyday life (2005, Moment Point Press. ISBN: 1-930491-07-7). "What if the mind is sorting through far more than what we think of as daily life, and has literally an infinite reach, encompassing everything that is possible and probable in a constant, dazzling organizational display from which we pick and choose the shape of our experience?" she speculates. (1) What if you had never considered this possibility or read other authors who had?

Watkinss lengthy personal accounts and casual tone are impaired by clunky writing and occasionally fuzzy thinking, such as her attribution of unconscious or subconscious content to the conscious mind: "What if everything we need to know is contained in our conscious minds, of which we habitually employ the merest surface layer?" (2) Is the conscious mind really an interior Google, as she suggests, or more likely the computer through which we can dial up that collective Google that so fascinated Carl Jung?

Eyes glazing over, I hurried past Chapter 4, landing on a page where Watkins recalled reading an historical novel by Max Byrd. She wrote, "I lose my patience with it for some reason and start skimming through the chapters to see how it comes out." (3) WOW!

If youve drawn breath, youve had numerous coincidences of your own and need not join this convoluted trip down memory lane. But perhaps youll find useful counsel in Chapter 15 where Watkins reveals her basic recommendations: Keep a coincidence journal; make predictions every day and, for the record, email them to yourself or a friend; tell yourself that your next random thought will offer the solution to your problem.

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, youll enjoy Annie Wilders House of Spirits and Whispers: The True Story of A Haunted House (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0777-5.). Its a pleasure to spend time with a good storyteller--one gifted with style, wit, and compassionate insight. Dont expect a scary tale. Although Wilders Victorian house may seem like rush hour at Times Square from the comings and goings of so many disembodied and embodied characters, theres surprisingly very little unpleasantness afoot. Whats more, Wilder is completely at ease with her psychic sensitivity. That puts us at ease, too, and eliminates the hopped-up sensationalism that often prevails in this kind of first-person account of paranormal activity.

Teenage readers interested in the intuitive arts might find a counterpart in Linda Joy Singletons main character, the young psychic, Sabine Rose, in Last Dance (2005, Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN: 0-7387-0638-8.). In this volumethe second book in Singletons youth series, The Seer--Sabine strives to find a cure for her grandmothers illness while attempting to cope with the difficulty of being very different from her mother and her peers.

Notes:

1. Watkins, Susan. M. What A Coincidence!, p. 9.

2. ibid.

3. Watkins, p. 39.

Posted September 14, 2005

The prolific Christopher Penczak continues his impressive series of witchcraft guides with The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits and the Healing Journey. The witch must be a "walker between worlds," Penczak argues, and to do so he or she must reunite contemporary Wiccan practice with its roots in ancient shamanic tradition. The author explores these roots, proposing a "year-and-a-day" course of training in which the student journeys to the shamanic Upper, Middle, and Lower Worlds of spiritual power but also, and most importantly, encounters his or her own personal shadow self. Penczaks clearly-organized and hearty book features useful approaches to meditating, accessing high levels of awareness and perception, creating sacred implements and rituals, healing emotional wounds, and journeying among a plethora of deities and spiritual beings. This is Penczaks richest book yet, a good starting place for readers who are new to his work. Highly recommended. (2005, Llewellyn. ISBN: 0-7387-0767-8) Also look for Penczaks 4-CD audio companion set, featuring shamanic music, guided journeys, and various exercises and meditations. (ISBN: 0-7387-0768-6)

The Sacred Power of Huna: Spirituality and Shamanism in Hawaii, by social anthropologist Rima A. Morrell, Ph.D., is reminiscent of the Hawaiian language, itself a central topic of her study of the culture, philosophy, ethics, and lore of native Hawaii. In the mellifluous Hawaiian tongue, a single word may carry various associated meanings. These multidimensional words nestle within sentences that are themselves capable of deftly shapeshifting to signify one thing and then another. While English speakers most often strive to deliver efficiently discrete packets of information, Hawaiian speakers proffer radiant petals to linger over and unfold, the better to savor the nectar within. Morrells presentation holds wonders if you dont mind gathering your knowledge in the Hawaiian way. Beginners who might prefer a more comprehensive and straightforward guide to Huna and its psychological applications should try Max Freedom Longs The Secret Science Behind Miracles. Read Morrells book for unique features such as the chapters dealing with the shamanic basis of hula and Hawaiian beliefs about sexuality. (2005, Inner Traditions. ISBN: 1-59477-009-3)

In Foundations of Magic: Techniques & Spells That Work, author J.F. ONeill strips magick (or magic, as he would spell it) down to its bare essentials in an unusual and fascinationg spellcraft book that owes quite a bit to the theories and practices of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Ericksonian hypnotherapy, and gestalt therapy. Readers who already follow a spiritual or religious pathor no tradition at allshould find no conflict with pre-existing beliefs or systems of practice. ONeill holds the use of magickal accoutrements such as herbs, sigils and candles to a stark minimum while he maximizes the use of conscious, focused will (or Will, as he would have it) and ritualistic precision. Even if you do not believe in magick or you believe but cant figure out how it works, you can perform the suggested spells successfully, the author says, if you follow his exact directions. Part I offers a substantial discussion of theory and exercises that prepare the student for Part IIs instructions for any manner of workings, among them: "Spell for an Unfaithful Lover," "Eliminating An Allergy," "Bringing Out the Sun," "Bringing Out the Rain," and perhaps the most useful spell ever conceptualized, "Not Taking Yourself or Your Situation So Seriously." Highly recommended. (2005, Llewellyn. ISBN: 0-7387-0743-0)

Through its Destiny Recordings label, Inner Traditions has recently reissued three CDs that should appeal to a wide range of spiritual practitioners:

Ritual Drumming: Evoking the Sacred through Rhythms of the Spirita cross-cultural musical celebration (from Middle Eastern to Brazilian percussion), featuring drummers Mishlen Linden and Louis Martini (1994, 2005. ISBN: 1-5447-7072-7)

Sacred Sounds of the Female Orishas: Rhythms of the GoddessSanteria praise songs collected by Raul Canizares, author of Walking with the night: the Afro-Cuban world of Santeria. (1994, 2005. ISBN: 1-5947-7071-9)

Attunements for Day and Night: Chants to the Sun and MoonHindu mantras chanted by Harish Johari. (1995, 2005. ISBN: 1-5947-7073-5)

Posted August 6, 2005

The Moonlit Path: Reflection on the Dark Feminineedited by Fred Gustafsonprovides an antidote to the often unbearable lightness of feel-good New Age spirituality. Authors Sylvia Brinton Perera, Matthew Fox, Meinrad Craighead, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Andrew Harvey and others present a collective portrait of the feminine spirits and goddesses who best reflect the dangers and the tranformational power of our current days. Essay titles include "Guadalupe is a Girl Gang Leader in Heaven" (Clarissa Pinkola Ests), "Dark Bride: Magdalene As Mystic" (Annette M. Hulefeld), and "Raise Up Those Held Down: A Pilgrimage to the Black Madonna, Mother of the Excluded, Aparecida, Brazil" (China Galland). (2003, Nicolas-Hays, Inc., distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser. ISBN: 0-89254-06408)

The muted, dreamy art of Lisa Hunts appealing Animals Divine Tarot deck will spark your imagination as you explore each card. Hunt maintains traditional Tarot structure and terminology but also reaches beyond Tarots conventionally human and Eurocentric imagery, taking inspiration from a world of cross-cultural legends and myths about animals and animal spirit guides. Both readers and querents will find this deck inviting, perfect for shamanic-style meditation as well as divination. (78 cards with book. 2005, Llewellyn. ISBN: 0-7387-0321-4)

Mark McElroy, the practical, infinitely clever author of Putting the Tarot to Work and Taking the Tarot to Heart, now offers Whats in the Cards for You?, an accessible workbook featuring thirty experiments designed to help beginners accelerate their engagement with Tarot. (2005, Llewellyn. ISBN: 0-7387-0702-3)

Each card in Zach Wongs Revelations Tarot deck is meant to be read either right-side up or reversed. Each direction bears more or less distinct imagery. This approach might sound like a boon for new Tarot readers who need guidance in how to interpret reversed cardsa tricky, if potentially creative and illuminating aspect of divination. Unfortunately, the murky, ambiguous, cartoonish illustrations--particularly in the Minor Arcana--undercut Wongs concept. Few students will want to spend much time learning on a deck thats simply not pleasing to the eye. (78 cards with book. 2005, Llewellyn. ISBN: 0-7387-0607-8)

Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age brings freshness to the topic of magickal practice with provocative ideas and fun exercises derived from author Patrick Dunns study of linguistics as well as his extensive knowledge of diverse pagan traditions. Experienced practitioners may differ with some of Dunns techniques and question a few glaring instances of ethical laissez faire. Postmodern Magic outshines most magickal manuals by demonstrating that a mages most powerful tool is an open, searching mind. Instead of guiding readers along a well-worn path, Dunn encourages them to ask probing questions and to answer them through original research. (2005, Llewellyn. ISBN: 0-7387-0663-9)

Posted May 17, 2005

Books

Pina Coluccia, Anette Paffrath, and Jean Ptz: Belly Dancing: The Sensual Art of Energy and Spirit (2005, Park Street Press) ISBN: 1-59477-021-2. 183pp. www.InnerTraditions.com

Authors Coluccia, Paffrath, and Ptz take a woman-empowering, Goddess-oriented approach to beledi, the beautiful dance of the Middle East. Informative, even engrossing, their book is written for a broad audience, especially women with no prior experience in any kind of dance. The combination of simple language, clear design, and glossy, colorful photos of contemporary dancers and ancient art makes Belly Dancing an appealing readperfect for a rainy weekend with a little classic Turkish music playing softly on your stereo.

We learn about great ancient goddessesIshtar, Artemis, and Aphroditewho represent energizing aspects of self that we can access through dancing. The authors discuss Islams original concept of womanhoodsurprisingly quite feminist!and the way beledi lost some of its true dignity and psychospiritual power when it was introduced to the West in the 19th Century and became danse du ventre or belly dance.

We discover the benefit of belly dances undulating movements for pregnant moms, andwho knew?men can who practice this dance can relieve their stress and throw away those Viagra pills! Every age groupfrom childhood to menopausecan benefit from learning this dance. As an exercise regimen, its superb for boosting metabolism, strengthening the cardiovascular, muscular and skeletal systems, burning fat, and toning the body. The authors take great care to detail how the body-minds storage of difficult and traumatic experiences can produce injury and illness. Dancing, they tell us, helps the body-mind system release harmful, stuck energies so that it can more easily recover.

The instructional sections (warming up, basic movements, patterns) emphasize proper posture, relaxation, safety, and enjoyment. The authors introduce images that can help the student dancer achieve alignment, flexibility, range, and energy. ("Remember to think of your hips as a giant spoon that you are using to stir thick dough.") These instructions, fairly comprehensive, work best for the beginner who asks a friend to read them to her while she tries them out. After some practice, you will only need to consult the instructions for fine-tuning.

Not enough, you say? How about the authorsterrific finale: Middle Eastern cuisinevery healthywith some wonderful recipes!

Posted May 12, 2005

Books

Catherine Shainberg: Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming: Awakening the Visionary Life (2005, Inner Traditions) ISBN: 1-59477-047-6. 205pp. www.InnerTraditions.com

"What characterizes great dreams? Their classic structure, clear colors, compactness, beauty, impact, simplicity," writes Catherine Shainberg, Ph.D. in Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming. "Great dreams are like good poetry, we trust them. Or like a good lover: strong, sweet, pliant, inciting. Beacons, they illuminate and guide us and we can never forget them." The philosophy and methodology Shainberg proposes necessitate astonishing trust in the stirrings of the subsconscious and the transformative power of imagery.

The readers journey with Shainberg begins, appropriately, with a charming photograph of her and her mentor, the late Colette Simhah Aboulker-Muscat who traced her Kabbalistic lineage back to Jewish sages of 13th-century Provence and Gerona, Spain. Looking at these two women sitting in the garden of the elderly Aboulker-Muscats Jerusalem home, the reader is immediately drawn in. Shainbergs Acknowledgements page also brings a smile to ones face. Rather than the usual page of paragraphs, she offers an image--a flower with each of its numerous petals named for a person the author wishes to thank. The Prologue tells the story of Shainbergs early life and of her introduction to and training with her teacher. We learn that Aboulker-Muscat taught that Kabbalah originates within the self, accessible to anyone of any background willing to set dogma aside. Following promptings from her dreams and visions, Shainberg eventually converted to Judaism but sees that step as an individual commitment, not a requirement for Kabbalah.

Amazingly, you will not find a single Tree of Life diagram or reference to the ten spheres in this book. Shainberg replaces these revered traditions with a strong thread of psychological exploration and development, including numerous exercises in imagery work and applied lessons from stories and myths. Readers with interests in Jungian psychology will be apt to find this approach compatible. Dont be surprised if you occasionally find yourself slightly spacing out while reading some of Shainbergs material and then becoming alert and focused when she addresses issues that, in the moment, have great consequence for you. For more information about Shainbergs work, visit www.schoolofimages.com.

Posted April 26, 2005

Books

Silver RavenWolf: A Witchs Notebook: Lessons in Witchcraft (2005, Llewellyn Publications) ISBN: 0-7387-0662-0. 248pp.  www.llewellyn.com

Silver RavenWolfs latest volume updates the very idea of the Book of Shadows--a witchs record of spells worked and their results--by packing it with concepts, symbols, language, and methods from quantum physics, Zen Buddhism, Native American ways, Voodoo, even Don Miguel Ruizs The Four Agreements. Her book quickly plunges the reader into action with a copious helping of imaginativeif often overly fussy--exercises and spells and a wonderful, large section on the symbolism, lore, and uses of herbs in healing and spellcraft. An eager witchcraft newbie might be confused by RavenWolfs liberal appropriation of so many non-Wiccan elements. The writers preoccupation with Buddhist concepts of "enlightenment" and "no mind"integral to her understanding of how magick works--might make unconvinced, impatient readers skip ahead. Its grand that this influential Craft expert recognizes that todays witch need not develop his or her practice in cultural and intellectual isolation; theres a world of great resources and wisdom out there. Diverse beliefs and practices, like islands rising from the sea, may be seen to have a common foundationwhat Aldous Huxley called "the perennial philosophy"reflecting our common humanity. However, RavenWolfs eclectic approach could have been more effective if her material had received careful editing and copyediting. What works fine in a personal journal, an intimate workshop setting, or casual conversation does not always translate well to the page.

Posted April 5, 2005

Books

Robert Moss: Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul (2005, Destiny Books) ISBN: 1-59477-034-4. 278pp.  www.InnerTraditions.com

Anthony Shafton: Dream-singers: The African American Way with Dreams (2002, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) ISBN: 0-741-39535-8. 311pp.

If you value dreams, you owe it to yourself to read these two books that examine cultural perspectives unfamiliar to most dreamworkers. These studies broaden our understanding of the important roles that symbols and altered states of consciousness play within cultures outside the Euro-American mainstream. In Dreamways of the Iriquois, Australian-born Moss--one of the dreamwork fields most enchanting writers and teachers--shares his personal, mystical journey deep within Native American lore and history. After Shafton--a white writer and researcher---noticed the dearth of black people involved in the Association for the Study of Dreams--he launched an independent study of African American dreamers and their dreams. Dream-singers contains a wealth of information about black peoples beliefs, experiences, practices, and literary writing related to dreams. Laypersons as well as professional counselors will find Mosss and Shaftons books to be enjoyable, eye-opening reads and will benefit from the documentaion, perspectives, and useful tools each volume offers.

Posted: April 2, 2005

Books

Teresa C. Michelsen: The Complete Tarot Reader: Everything You Need to Know From Start to Finish (2005, Llewellyn Publications) ISBN: 0-7387-0434-2. 288pp. www.llewellyn.com

The Complete Tarot Reader, a systematic training program for beginners, is a workmanlike effort from one of Tarots most reliable advocates and teachers. Michelsens substantial analysis of the clothing and body language of Tarot characters shows her typical smart thinking. Other fine sections include discussions about handling tricky querent situations (for instance, when the querent does not offer a specific question or asks too many), formulating a code of ethics, and overcoming psychological barriers to reading effectively for yourself. Shes absolutely right that its often presumptuous and alienating to rephrase a querents question. I usually give my querents space to hear themselves as they ask their questions. When they sense that a question may not be productive, they usually seek ways to rework it by themselves (with my support). Thats more empowering and less off-putting than rushing in to "correct" them. Michelsens discussion of the difference between (and challenges of) predictive and facilitative readings is also constructive and non-dogmatic. This book is a good companion piece to Mary K. Greers Tarot for Your Self, making up in thoroughness what it may lack in fun and imaginative style.

Posted: March 6, 2005

Books

Neale Donald Walsch: Tomorrow's God: Our Greatest Spiritual Challenge (2004, Atria Books) ISBN: 0-7434-5695-5. 406pp.  www.simonsays.com

I hopped off the Neale Donald Walsch Express right after Conversations with God, Book 1, and apparently missed everything from Conversations with God for Teens to Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships and Conversations with God: Re-Minder Cards. (Surely a Conversations volume for pets and their human buddies is missing, and Walsch should get on that right away.) Nonetheless, I was curious enough to hop back aboard this year to see how Walsch and his controversial source of information--nicely and satisfactorily explained in this latest book--would deal with religion's culpability for the sorry state of our world. The dialogue is suitably cautionary: Humankind's challenge is to let go of rickety old theological concepts before we completely destroy ourselves and our planet. This book offers a sensible new paradigm and--less compelling--an invitation to join Walsch's official network of likeminded souls committed to spreading new thought and action around the globe. Read as much of this didactic but unabashedly heretical book as you feel you must to get its point and then, if it moves you, live your life accordingly.

Judith Orloff, M.D.: Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions to Transform Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength and Love (2000, Harmony Books) ISBN 0-609-61010-4. 353pp.  www.drjudithorloff.com

Judith Orloff, M.D., a psychiatrist and intuitive, practices what she preaches in her latest book: She writes with great energy, insight, warmth, and wit. Combining her scientific knowledge, clinical skills, and empathic, intuitive gifts, she offers a complete program for liberating yourself from harmful attitudes and behaviors, and becoming more attuned to the wisdom of your body and soul. You'll want to snap up copies for everyone who matters to you.

Posted: February 8, 2005

Suzi Gablik: Living the Magical Life: An Oracular Adventure (2002, Phanes Press) SBN: 1-890482-86-2. 207pp. Distributed by RedWheel/Weiser. www.redwheelweiser.com

Art critic and gadfly Suzi Gablik (author of Has Modernism Failed? and The Reenchantment of Art) recounts her time of obsession with the Black Madonna, oracular divination (via the I Ching and randomly-selected thesaurus entries), and one maddeningly elusive hearthrob. Living the Magical Life--by turns, fascinating and irritating--merits your time by virtue of the author's rich prose and her insight into the strange wonders of synchronicity.

David Goddard: Tree of Sapphires: the enlightened Qabalah (2004, RedWheel/Weiser)ISBN: 1-57863-303-6. 222pp.  www.redwheelweiser.com

Having enjoyed The Tower of Alchemy and The Sacred Magic of Angels, I was eager to read this latest work by David Goddard, one of the best teachers on the subject of Qabalah and its transformative applications. Like its predecessors, Tree of Sapphires offers an unusual combination of crystalline clarity, practicality, poetry, and magic.

Sheilaa Hite: Secrets of a Psychic Counselor: Insightful Guidance & Inspiring True Stories of Love, Prosperity, and Success (2003, Moment Point Press) ISBN: 0-930491-03-4. 155pp. Distributed by RedWheel/Weiser. www.redwheelweiser.com

One-part handbook on self-esteem, one-part book of spells, Secrets of a Psychic Counselor, like its African-American author, has style and humor. Examining Hite's case histories, however, I'd say she doesn't use psychic skills but, rather, a perceptive observation of human nature and skillful motivation. The spells she asks her clients to perform--"courses of action," as she calls these elaborate workings--are mere window-dressing or, perhaps, a crafty way to establish her authority. Secrets, a quick and sometimes amusing read, shows how Hite gets clients to shift how they think about themselves and their problems.

Marcia L. Pickands: Psychic Abilities: How to Train and Use Them (1999, RedWheel/Weiser) ISBN: 1-57863-111-4. 132pp. www.redwheelweiser.com

Marcia L. Pickands' parents accepted her psychic gifts and she was blessed with Cherokee mentors who passed along a matter-of-fact attitude about all things spiritual and psychic. Her readers benefit from this natural, no-fuss approach to the intentional development of psychic abilities. In her small but useful guide for beginners, Pickands wisely emphasizes ethics, humility, and a dedication to serving a power greater than oneself.


This 'n' That

Posted: February 16, 2005

Don Miguel Ruiz: The Mastery of Love: A Personal Guide to the Art of Relationship. 2-CD abridged audio book. ISBN: 1-878424-57-2. 153 min.  (2002, Amber-Allen Publishing) www.amberallen.com

"The truth, forgiveness, and self-love: With these three points, the whole world will heal and no longer be a mental hospital," writes shaman and bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz in The Mastery of Love. Ruiz, world-renowned for The Four Agreements, describes himself as a Toltec ("artist of the spirit"). He's on a mission to help readers and students rediscover divinity within. This audio abridgement of The Mastery of Love--read by L.A. Law's Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker--includes don Miguel's perspective on breaking free of your childhood programming ("domestication"), becoming aware of your true identity (pure love), and restoring your free will. Self-acceptance is the key to a fresh start in life and a requirement for healthy relationship. Overall, I enjoyed this CD--especially its gorgeous final chapter--but you might be jarred, as I was, by don Miguel's occasional references to "a man and a woman." Hard to believe that this otherwise broadminded teacher can't imagine non-heterosexual romance. Since most of his presentation counsels working on self rather than hunting love or trying to fix another person, many listeners will be able to overlook don Miguel's momentary heterocentric lapses. A list of track numbers and chapter titles would have been helpful for those of us who don't own the book and can't listen to the full 2
hours in one sitting or who want to repeat particular sections.

Posted: February 8, 2005

Cari Cole: The Circle of Fire (2002, Amber-Allen/Thirst for Life) ISBN: 1-878424-14-9.  www.amberallen.com and www.caricole.com

Singer-songwriter Cari Cole's CD will appeal to fans of her mentor, the shaman don Miguel Ruiz (world-famous for The Four Agreements) and please the more openminded, New Age-y end of the Christian music market. However, you need not be religious to be charmed by this luminous performer, her deep musicianship, and her uplifting compositions. If you love Sarah McLachlan's work, as I do, you'll find much to admire here.