Just because reviewing books can be a very subjective process, the G&C staff decided to present their respective (and sometimes opposite) reviews of the same book. The Frater's views are at the top, while Quill's views follow.
Lon Milo DuQuette, Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot (Weiser, 2003), paper, 352 pp., $24.95, ISBN 1-57863-276-5
Without sacrificing any of Crowley's acerbic wit, shallowing up his depth of knowledge or diluting his personal magickal outlook, this book reveals the true beauty and occult wealth inherent in the Thoth Deck. Containing the history of the deck, in terms of Crowley's relation to Lady Frieda Harris his correspondences concerning the essence and nature of each card as well as her subjective revelations as she painstakingly produced each piece of symbolic art according to his notes and descriptions as well as being a full working guide for the purpose of divination using the deck, Lon Milo DuQuette's wisdom and often biting sense of humor shine through like facets on a fine jewel. This book is every bit as important as Weiser's 2002 publication of The General Principles of Astrology by Crowley and Evangeline Adams in terms of revealing the full width and breadth of Crowley's seemingly boundless magickal prowess. An invaluable tome.
When it comes to the subject of Tarot cards, many people have become jaded, due to the proliferation of decks like the "Tarot of the Cat People" or the "Baseball Tarot". It is nearly impossible to find any depth to the divinatory meanings of such decks.
Best, by far, to look for the richness of tradition, which is where Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot can be found. Unfortunately, the book Crowley wrote to elucidate the meaning of the cards so brilliantly painted by Lady Freida Harris The Book of Thoth requires a patience and supplemental knowledge quite a few readers do not possess.
That is where Lon Milo DuQuette's latest comes in. He looks at the history of not only Crowley, but of Harris, the historical situation surrounding the Thoth deck's creation, and the myriad magickal components inherent to the deck. And he does it in plain English, with touches of his delightful humor, so the door can be thrown wide open for more Tarot enthusiasts to come to an understanding of what Tarot is really about, especially the Thoth deck.
The extensive research which went into this volume, as well as DuQuette's own considerable experience on the subject, make this a text to be valued and read time and again just as DuQuette himself recommends reading The Book of Thoth on a regular basis. But now, because of DuQuette's incredible efforts, the latter will be better understood by a broader audience, and the Thoth Tarot more comprehensively used for spiritually enlightening purposes, as it was meant to be.
Lon Milo DuQuette, The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of Rituals of Thelema (Weiser Books, 2003), paper, 261 pp., $19.95, ISBN 1-57863-299-4.
In the seemingly unending parade of biographies based on the life both factual and fanciful of the "evilest man in the world", this work stands as a stunningly original book as it is the only one that invites the reader to draw their own picture of the master magickian based on his magick alone. Originally published in 1993 as The Magick of Thelema, this edition is corrected and expanded, containing both an Aleister Crowley FAQ which contains the answers to all the classic sensationalistic questions and a sample from Crowley's Rites of Eleusis, an excellent example that Thelemic magick a) contains elements of pure magickal drama meant to bring enlightenment en masse, and b) is not simply a narcissistic system of self deification, but in many ways is a willed methodology of varied and artful invocation. And Lon DuQuette's intellectual and experiential proficiency on the subject of ritual magick in general and Crowley in particular is revealed in the fact that this is an excellent book for any magickal practitioner who is looking for either an objective, lucid introduction to Crowley's rituals or simply a guide to reacquaint themselves with the nuts and bolts of Thelemic thought. (As an afterthought, a revelatory and approachable edition concerning the ancient Eleusinian Rites was published earlier this year Dudley Wright, Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites [Ibis Press, 2003], paper, 112 pp., $14.95, ISBN 0-89254-070-2. Highly recommended.)
Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Essential Golden Dawn (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003), paper, 310 pp., $16.95, ISBN 0-7387-0310-9.
Since the publication of Regardie's magnum opus and the renaissance of the works of Aleister Crowley, a veritable forest of accounts of the Golden Dawn and its colorful members have sprung up like weeds, some decent, some painfully skewed. The Cicero's offering contains a fairly unromanticized overview of the history of the Golden Dawn, both the English and American branches. It is also a good illustration of the way that Hermetic magick can be utilized by an initiatory order (and not the other way around this is a key distinction), despite the fact that the Golden Dawn's system of Enochian magick is still touted as being derived directly from Dee's writings (if this statement is to be believed, then one probably also views the author of the Judaic book between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah as being the individual who penned the Greater and Lesser Keys). Tempering one's magickal palate with a book like Flowers' Hermetic Magic will make this book all the more useful, not to mention appetizing.
Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Self Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003), paper, 742 pp., $34.95, ISBN 1-56718-136-8.
This voluminous work is not as intimidating as it seems or rather, it is, but that's a good thing in this case. Each of the elemental grades is covered in detail, each bit of information presented in a clear, detailed and straightforward manner. Comprehensive, well balanced suggested reading lists are presented, exhaustive question lists conclude each section in order to help the aspiring student master both the obvious and subtle magickal elements and constructive final suggestions for applying the acquired knowledge in practical and cerebral ways both in and out of the temple compliment the exhaustive yet rewarding text. For all those who were overwhelmed by the amalgamated Hermetic content and unencumbered textbook like presentation of Israel Regardie's The Golden Dawn, this is the book for you. It's well worth the monetary investment.
This is an excellent resource for the student interested in the history of witchcraft. It is written in a clear and concise manner with an emphasis on witchcraft's beginning to its current practices of today. The author separates the history about witchcraft into three sections: 1) The Acient World, 2) The Medieval and Early Modern World, and 3) The Modern World.
The Ancient World covers the history of witchcraft from the pre Christian beliefs in Goddess worship, to the Gods of Greece and Rome, to the birth of Christianity in Europe. The Medieval and Early Modern World covers the rise of Christianity and "the burning times." The author uncovers how the Gods or Goddesses of the old religion become the demons or devils of the new religion. The Modern World covers the survival of witchcraft today with the history of the term, "Wicca", and the persons responsible for its popularity.
I would recommend this book to any student or advanced practitioner of the Craft for their personal libraries.
I thoroughly recommend this book as a resource to those individuals trained in the Craft that wish to form their own study groups or covens. This is a "no fluff" style of informational book. The author gives definite, as well as specific exercises and lists of additional suggested reading that truly require dedication and "work".
Grey Cat's truths/experiences may not work for everyone, however, she emphasizes that the reader use whatever means it takes for their own truths/experiences to work for them. This book is also an excellent resource for those interested in educating the community at large about what Wicca is and is not.
Clearly, Scott Cunningham was no actor, but if viewers can look past the occasional flubs in narration, and a slight problem with the volume of the voice (it seems to get louder in spots, and fade in others), the information in the video is a fantastic augmentation to his books. As Cunningham says, himself, the best way to learn is to do, and he shows viewers how to do a variety of magickal preparations with herbs of various types. Well worth an hour's time, and can be viewed on a repeated basis, to "brush up" on techniques which some may not use too often.
While this text was originally published in 1961, this new translation does not lend itself to easy reading. The author's concept is intriguing: how those exceptional individuals can survive the current dissolution and chaos within societies and cultures to "ride the tiger" to higher spiritual realms. Evola sees where this can be accomplished by finding the true, core "traditions" behind all the hype as in Christianity and other organized institutions (religious or otherwise). His explanations, however, are often confusing and, though the language used is not overly academic, the flow is not conducive to good comprehension. Having to slog through a meaningful book is sometimes worse than reading something with little substance. The reader can easily become discouraged and set the text aside, missing out on a prime opportunity for spiritual growth.
There was a degree of skepticism when reading the opening pages of this book, due to the fact the author spent 20 years in the Navy, followed by a career as a satellite technology specialist. That he received a doctorate in metaphysics is also a source of concern because, most often, such degrees are not recognized by the professional medical organizations. Nonetheless, Batie's work is comprehensive and written in a style which those interested in the subject matter will easily understand the concepts. He addresses such questions as whether the ability to heal is a gift, or if anyone can learn to do it. He gives details about many (though, he admits, not all) energy healing techniques. He also points out that new developments in the field are ongoing, and provides a useful bibliography to encourage further study. An admirable effort from someone who definitely cares about the well being of others, and about discovering the truth within himself.
While the author states this book is primarily for those who have some experience with Tarot, his presentation clearly is for beginners. The information contained in the text is nothing new, and would probably bore experienced users of the Tarot. The rituals and spells presented are unoriginal, more a rehashing of "what everyone else is doing". The sections on using the Tarot as part of ceremonial magickal rituals or sex magick rituals are deficient in their descriptions, as well. Some readers might find this book useful, but those who truly have delved deeply into the significance of the Tarot will be disappointed.
While this book will be enlightening for female readers who may be interested in Starhawk's Reclaiming Tradition, the approach may be difficult to understand. The author starts off with the fairy tale of the twelve wild swans, and intersperses the characteristics of those fictional beings into the explanations of the techniques and beliefs throughout the text. It would very possibly be difficult, as well, for an individual to make this tradition workable as a solitary, given the information provided. A group setting might be more feasible, but finding one might be equally problematic. An interesting read, if one is only wishing to study the trends in the development of various traditions.
This is a difficult book to summarize, because the authors have an odd approach to the subject matter. Instead of complementing each other's work, or collaborating on the text, it is divided between the two, with Drew commenting upon the aspects of the Gods, and Telesco doing the same for the deities. What might have made more sense is for the authors to address their views of the opposite sex deities; it would have been less biased, to say the least.
There is also the matter of how both, in their respective Prefaces, flatly state that the deities were created by humanity. As Telesco puts it, "...it gives you an idea of how humankind created both God and Goddess in our image..." (pg. 18). For those who deeply believe the deities came before creation, this is a grave disrespect. Overall, this book should be read with a grain of salt.
Here is just another elementary level book for those newest to the Craft. The strong impression given by the content of this book is that readers who are finding the information useful should not even be involved in a coven, because they haven't the knowledge to enter a circle with those who may be more experienced. Worse, to follow the author's suggested spells and rituals (in the Grimoire section) is to lend a level of sappiness to the coven's workings that would detract from success of the activities. Best for a coven to collaborate and write their own spells and workings from scratch than to rely upon the tripe found on these pages.
This is the kind of book that not all readers will find useful, but it will be an asset to those who may be interested in the Qabalah, or the magickal traditions which see in the Hebrew alphabet the secrets of life. That Ashcroft Nowicki, whose other books focus more on Wicca, is the author is rather surprising, but she does a thorough job, according proper seriousness to the subject matter, and not "dumbing it down" for beginners. This is not a text to be rushed through, as the author herself advises. The potential for personal spiritual growth is very real with the meditations provided, and should not be taken lightly.
There are few human beings who would not admit to a certain apprehension about the idea of dying. This applies to Wiccans and Pagans, as well as others. The good thing is that O'Gaea puts into this text a balanced view of that ultimate adventure, and how it applies to these traditions which honor the cycle of life. She also deals with the more mundane aspects of death, such as the funeral and the arrangements, giving that a Wiccan perspective which takes it out of the hands of the "strangers" i.e. professional funeral directors and makes such events a celebration of life where emotions can be freely expressed, rather than suppressing the grief in unhealthy ways just to appear "strong". A useful book, to be sure.
This is a reprint of the work originally published in 1983, when the concept of creative visualization was just coming into vogue. While the text is clearly written for beginners, which may make it difficult for more experienced practitioners to tolerate, there are valuable points in places. Unfortunately, there are also ideas presented make this seem like an easy fix to all life's problems. In the same way the efficacy of magickal ritual depends on the practical effort put into achieving a given end, it's not enough to sit back and visualize something as real, one must act on that belief in a very physical way. The authors write of not cluttering one's mind with unnecessary trivialities but, sadly, much of this book amounts to just that. It's continued popularity may well be due to the severe lack of writings on this topic (the only other widely known is by Shakti Gawain).