Tarot For Healing by Kara Owl

Tarot for Healing
Kara Owl
Jupiter Gardens Press, 2012
176 pages

Reviewed by innowen

Tarot for Healing by Kara Owl describes a healing journey/pathworking that readers can learn to incorporate into their practices. Owl recommends that you have a basic knowledge of tarot (in that you know the card meanings, and can do readings for self and others) before diving in and using the techniques. The author has over 20 years of tarot experience. I think she puts the book best in her words when she says, “Why use the Tarot? Because the cards can pinpoint problem areas, and the reaction of the individual can aid in finding the proper path to solving them. Healing with the Tarot is a journey, a path to greater understanding of self.”

Owl begins the book by laying down her ideas of what tarot can do for healing, picking a deck, how to deal with ethics of healing work and doing healing readings. Throughout these introductory chapters, she does give small bite-sized techniques that you can try out and apply immediately to your practice. The meat of the book then focuses around card meanings, card meditations, and a sampling of spreads to use in your practice. The final chapters discuss setting up a practice, case studies, and ends with a note on trusting one’s intuition.

What I Liked
I liked that before Owl gets into the meat of the book, she instructs readers how to ground and take care of themselves first. Healers often forget that they need to be in “perfect” shape in order to effectively heal others. I also liked how she suggests that readers develop their own strengths into what subjects they’re willing to tackle and when to call in extra help on the areas/issues they are weaker in. The chapter on Tarot Healing Meditations was great. Owl gives a small guided meditation for each major arcana card to help aid the practitioner in diagnosing client issues. The spreads chapter, although short, gave a wide variety of created and modified spreads to use.

What I Didn’t Like
Early on Owl recommends that healers “be ever vigilant that those you read for do not become reliant on you.” I understand that we, tarot readers, do not want to be seen in a bad light. I know I hope that one day the health care community understands the power of tarot and how it can help uncover issues buried deep in our bodies. But… I disagree that we need to be hyper-vigilant to this need. There are just as many bad clients as there will be readers, and it’s our goal as healers to try and help everyone… even if it’s just a placebo.

However, my biggest beef with Tarot for Healing is that once again, we’re treated to a book with card meanings and the Minor Arcana are left with smaller info than their Major Arcana counterparts. Owl does an amazing job at describing how each of the majors relate to various areas of a client’s life. But, the minors are left to contend with generic “upright” and “reversed” diagnosis meanings. I am happy to report that the court cards get a small chapter with suggested meanings based on their rank in the court and their elemental and astrological connection. Oddly enough, Owl still gives the Court Cards the generic meanings alongside their other suit-mates in the minors sections.

This “shortening” feature was once again done in the Meditations chapter where Owl suggests mediations such as, “Two of Swords: For this meditation, ask how you can free yourself from things blocking you. Alternately, you can ask how to find a good compromise. Either way, the swords people can tell you the answers,” rather than giving the healer sample scripts to use.

I also want to mention that I’m not good with astrology and tarot yet, so the reader is left to decide whether the information Owl gives for astrological meanings in the Court Cards chapter and the Spreads chapter are correct.

Bottom Line: Interested in doing healing work with Tarot, or combining the divination system with another type of healing? Then Tarot for Healing is a good place to start reading, learning, and developing your own style.

Three Pawprints Out of Five

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Magical Identity by Taylor Ellwood

Magical Identity: An Exploration of Space/Time, Neuroscience, and Identity
Taylor Ellwood
Megalithica Books, 2012
252 pages

Reviewed by Selah

Taylor Ellwood’s Magical Identity is a important book for an occult library. Instead of giving us ways to change the world, it furthers the discussion he started in Inner Alchemy to how we can change our inner world (aka our selves)). In his introduction, Bill Whitcomb says, “Much of Magical Identity is concerned with identity; defining the other, defining the self, and redefining the boundaries between the two.” Ellwood’s main focus is how identities are made and how the occult magician can harness neuroscience, psychology, and elements of space/time to re-create oneself. Sounds rather big, right? I went into reading the book hoping that the book would help me change the way I saw myself.

Unfortunately, Taylor’s writing is way too academic. The book bogs down the practical exercises in with tons of in-depth theory. There are paragraphs that run on for a long time and it took a lot of time to get through them. Sometimes Ellwood’s definitions don’t align with what he is saying. While he mentioned that he contradicts himself in this book, I feel that a book needs to have a solid ground to help the reader along. It also doesn’t help that he tries to be all inclusive and overuses he/she or him/her.

There are a lot of great exercises in this book but you have to wade through many pages of definitions, lecture, and clunky sentences to understand how to apply the ideas to one’s life.

Three pawprints out of five.

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The Last Circle by Gretchen Blickensderfer

The Last Circle
Gretchen Blickensderfer
Self-published 2013
486 pages

Reviewed by Amanda Fisher

This is a rather long but very compelling thriller, set in a near-future American dystopia. What could happen if all of the fundamentalist Christian wing-nuts got it all their own way politically? This, like the very different Handmaid’s Tale, shows a version of the results, and why we need to take their sometimes ridiculous rhetoric seriously. I know this is a political comment, and I make it because the politics of the book are unavoidable. If you are sympathetic to the extremes of right-wing political rhetoric and its aims, you will hate this book.

It’s very focused on the action, which is fast moving with strong tension- so much so that I finished it in 2 days, even though it’s almost 500 pages! (Don’t be too put off by the length; it moves very fast, plus the type size is large and the line spacing very open.) The plot is very twisty, too, and primarily character-driven… which leads to one of its problems. The characters of the Bad Guys, especially Shelby, are more like caricatures. They’re definitely sociopathic, and possibly (especially Shelby) literally insane. I do not see how a pragmatic, if sociopathic, leader like Stephen Palmer would allow someone as basically unhinged as Shelby into the top circle of power. But then, we don’t see enough of him to know if he’s also psychotic; he may be, and just hides it better.

The Good Guys are better drawn- generally sympathetic, but flawed and they quite often irritate both each other and the reader. The main problem I had with them is that they did not seem consistently flawed. Sometimes their attitudes and responses didn’t seem coherent to what had gone before. However, compared to the kind of action story in which all the Good Guys seem to be of one mind and always in accord, this is refreshingly realistic. I also did enjoy reading a thriller where modern Pagans were definitely the Good Guys!

I liked the way the setting addressed the idea of what the USA would look like if extremist fringe of the right wing got their way. This was pointed up by the quotes that start each chapter- actual quotes from actual public figures, cited at the end of the book- though I wished the cites had been included with the quotes themselves, and think that would have made a stronger point that people are really talking about doing these things, here and now.

Dystopias tend to be exaggerated, and that’s true here. I really don’t think that the USA would slide into becoming a nation of fanatics in 5 or so years, especially not to the degree depicted.
Mostly people are far too apathetic for that…and if they were going for the apathetic as well as the “unbelievers”, they would not have much popular support- especially after they took away all the raunch in the media! I could be wrong about this, but very much hope I am not.

My final quibble has to do with the writing style, especially some of the word choices. They were odd in their rhythms and connotations. For example: “…[Texas] closing its borders to all but the most loyal paramours of Jesus.” (pg. 454) “Paramours” implies a far more carnal relationship than I think the author meant! Similarly, “She was screaming in berserk agitation as a third [agent] hammered a baton onto her gunshot wound.” (pg. 362). The nuances of neither “berserk” nor “agitation” really seem to fit the described scene. Also: “All were tacitly organized and, under Lilyan’s covert direction, assuaged their outraged guilt…” (pg. 377) It’s really awkward, since the adjectives do not match up well with the nouns they’re paired with. These are three examples, but this dissonance permeated the book. It’s as if the author used a thesaurus to find a fancier word with an arguably similar meaning, rather than choosing a plainer word that fit the sentences more comfortably.

I got this book for reviewing for paganbookreviews.net and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed it a lot despite its flaws, and would be interested in more from
Blickensderfer.

3.5 pawprints out of five.

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Grail Alchemy by Mara Freeman

Grail Alchemy: Initiation in the Celtic Mystery Tradition
Mara Freeman
Destiny Books
Rochester, VT 2014
278 pages

Reviewed by Micheal

I’ve had this book for a few months now, and despite my best intentions, I cannot finish it in one or two days.

Freeman, has done an excellent job at relating the Celtic myths to their counterparts in Christian, Hindu, and other mythos. Relating the Fisher King not only to masculine principle severed from the feminine but also to various other deities such as Osiris, Adonis(dying and being reborn) for example.

Additionally, Freeman views the silver branch to being a miniature version of the tree of life, and she correlates it to a Siberian Shamanic practice of attaching tree branches to their drums, as an aid to help them reach the tree on their journeys (pg. 49).

The meditations, VisionJourneys, are beautifully crafted, I would suggest that they be recorded prior to beginning the journey. Freeman offers a dedication and healing ritual at the end of the book.

Grail Alchemy presents the reader with a lot of information that simply should not be read over in one or two nights. While it has merely ten chapters, this reviewer would suggest that the reader take their time to truly benefit from the research and information that Freeman is making available.

Given the books depth of information, exercises, visualizations, I give the book:

Five pawprints out of five.

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Oracle Bones Divination by Kostas Dervenis

Oracle Bones Divination: The Greek I Ching
Kostas Dervenis
Destiny Books, 2014/2004
166 pages

Reviewed by innowen

Dervenis’s book, Oracle Bones Divination, describes the practice of astragalomancy—the divination using the ankle bones of an animal (in this case, a sheep). According to Dervenis, this system possibly predates the Chinese I Ching by a few thousand years. Dervenis has spent a lot of time pouring over ancient texts and poems to make sure he was able to produce a coherent and cohesive ressurection of this practice. He’s even given it a bit of a modern face-life by giving instructions on how to divine with coins instead of the bones. The book contains two parts. Part one discusses this system, how Dervenis came about reconstructing it, and how he feels it works. It also goes into a bit of historical background about the Greek’s perspective on divination and mentions a smattering of Gods who could be used in seeking guidance. Part two details the stanzas that are to be read in the divination setting. The stanzas themselves are short and a bit “mystic”. They read more like fortunetelling bits than actual advice that one could get from going to a practitioner.

To use this system, you need three coins and a question. Holding the question in your head, you then “toss” the coins and use a chart from the book to record the number. You do this five times for each question before consulting a chart in the back of the book to tell you what page to read from. This is very similar to the Chinese I Ching system. However, trying to find your 5 numbered system can take some time. Dervenis lists the order of the coin tosses in an order of “total” numbers. For example, 4-4-3-1-3 = fifteen. So I had to go to the area that lists all fifteens and then find my pattern in the next column. It’s not easy to find the numbers (the book doesn’t list all the combinations, rightfully so!).

This book is compact. It comes in at 166 pages but there’s no fluff. I liked how Dervenis introduces readers to the heart of the matter. I also like that he cites his sources and notes that if he got interpretations of the stanzas wrong, then it was his fault. I also like the fact that he’s a true resource for this system… he’s Greek and lives in Athens. This is important when it comes down to spiritual appropriation. He’s not appropriating the material, he’s trying to restore a valuable resource for his culture.

Because this book is intended to act as a real divination system, I decided to ask the system three questions (just like I do when I review new tarot decks or other systems). The results of the coin tosses (and their interpretations) come straight from the book.

1. What can you teach users?

4-4-3-1-3= page 80. My toss lead me to the “Zeus the Savior” passage, which reads, “A single one, two threes fall, and two fours: For such deeds as much transpire, with courage, take action. Proceed, for the gods send good tidings on this matter. Spare no efforts; there is nothing evil ahead for you.”

I interpret this to mean that this system can help users gain clarity and get clear guidance from this system. That it takes courage to test this out and to “learn” it but it will help you uncover what concerns you have.

2. What are your strengths?

3-6-3-3-4 page 118. This passage is called “Victory Triumphant” and reads,” One six and three threes, the fifth a four: I foresee good things, stranger, in this consultation. And he who walks in foreign lands will end his journey well. With the help of Zeus, you will soon achieve what you strive for.”

I interpret this to mean that the oracle’s strengths lie in it’s ability to give those victory over adversity.

3. What are your weaknesses?

4-3-3-1-3 page 74. This passage is called “Triton” and reads,” A single one and three threes, the fifth a four: Your attempts are in vain; you struggle against the waves. You seek a fish in the ocean; be in no hurry to act. Nor is it useful for you to make demands of the gods at the wrong time.”
Wow… okay, this is a bit spooky. It’s like the oracle has a sense of humor and knows that I am asking it about itself. It’s like this passage is all “I know what you are doing and it’s not going to work. Take me seriously, or don’t use me at all.” Point taken oracle, point taken. I’m just trying to let the readers here know what they can expect, that’s all.

Bottom Line

Oracle Bones Divination is a great introduction to using this oracular system. It gives readers history of where it came from, two ways to divine for guidance, and it even discusses some of the theory behind how this could all work and which of the Greek gods to use when casting the system. If you are curious about Greek methods of divination, then this book is right up your alley.

Three pawprints out of five.

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Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism
Stephen Harrod Buhner
Bear & Company, 2006
208 pages

Reviewed by Ser/Ket

This book presented a lot of interesting, thought-provoking information, though it proved tough for me to get into. I believe the largest disconnect lay in the frequently referred to concept that the world we live in (the everyday, mundane world) is less “REAL” than the sacred world. For me, all is sacred in some way, even the rainbows of oil slicked across the parking lot, and doesn’t exist in a separate space. I’m not claiming any view is right or wrong, but it did require me extra work to stick with the writing.

The author explores a variety of belief systems and traditions used by indigenous people throughout history. This was enjoyable to me, as I’m not familiar with very many of these practices, though at some parts the writing came across as dry and, at times, repetitive. I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the beginning, however, where many of the plants have a lengthy discussion not only of what the plant is used for, but also their appearance, location, associations in other cultures and belief systems, and personal interactions with the plants through meditation as well as personal use.

The most resonant part of the story for me was a personal one from the author, describing his journey from doctor to doctor to determine the cause of his debilitating pain. I myself spent many years trying to root out the causes of my own pains and can empathize with his frustration and disenchantment with the world of pharmaceuticals. The author’s story ends happily, by discovering a medicinal plant and working with it to heal, and leading him on the lifelong quest documented in this book. Through his work, I can see others joining him on this path, learning to work with the plants both in their local area and featured in this book.

A final point I’d like to mention were the inclusion of occasional songs, including sheet music and lyric translation. Not something I was expecting, but a nice touch!

Overall, I would give this book a score only slightly higher than “average” due mainly to it’s writing style. For me, I need the style to move me through the material presented, and I felt this book’s style was a bit halting and difficult. The dryness, coupled with an initial difficulty to relate to the content, kept me from really enjoying my reading experience. Of the positives in the book, the songs weren’t numerous, and the author’s experience with the plants contained much of the “REAL” belief system that I’d had trouble adapting to.

Three pawprints out of five.

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Voice of the Mother Goddess by Patricia Della-Piana

Voice of the Mother Goddess
Patricia Della-Piana
Self-published, 2010
401 pages

Reviewed by Ser/Ket

I received a copy of this book from the Goodreads Giveaway, which was pretty amazing given that I also won the contest for the previous volume, The Goddess Book of Psalms! As such, I was excited to receive and read this book, and wasn’t let down.

I read this book a bit faster than the previous; instead of reading one or two a night, it felt natural to read a handful of psalms as they flowed together like poetry. Since I became familiar with her work after reading Psalms, I could sense a definite change from her natural writing voice to the style used in Voice of the Mother, and I believe her genuine when she states she was channeling.

These are all psalms full of beauty and positive energy – I can envision coming to this book after a bad day, full of frustration, and letting the love in these words push the anger away.

The variety of psalms is greater even than that of The Goddess Book of Psalms. There is a wide range of formats used, some psalms use aretalogies, some focus heavily on repetition or sensory details, and others are reassuring reminders.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it and it’s companion to anyone seeking meditative psalms and mantras to try out in their practices.

Four pawprints out of five.

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The Goddess Book of Psalms by Patricia Della-Piana

The Goddess Book of Psalms
Patricia Della-­Piana
Lulu.com, 2008
190 pages

Reviewed by Ser/Ket

I received a copy of this book from the Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you!

I was thrilled to be the winner of this giveaway, and have the opportunity to read some of Patricia Della-Piana’s work. It has taken me a while to review this book only because I didn’t want to rush through the psalms; instead, I would read one or two a night as I felt the urge to.

Della-Piana’s psalms are numerous and beautiful, obviously written straight from her heart. So many of these I can envision becoming important parts of a practitioner’s daily prayers, and the name of a particular deity switched with “Goddess”.

I enjoy the variety of psalms included – some psalms follow a format, a general rhythm. Then in the midst of these will be a format-breaking, attention-grabbing piece that suggest an alternative format of meditation. In particular, I can see using the psalms with embedded questions for meditative writing practices, and the psalms with “I Am” statements to summon forth my own reflective aretalogies.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone looking to add some beautiful words and imagery to their spiritual practice!

Four pawprints out of five.

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A Magical Life, Volume 1 by Taylor Ellwood

A Magical Life: The Magical Journal of Taylor Ellwood Volume 1
Taylor Ellwood
Megalithica Books, 2013
344 pages

Reviewed by Nicky

A Magical Life: The Magical Journal of Taylor Ellwood, as the title suggests, is a compilation of the first three years of Taylor Ellwood’s magical blog. The blog covers events from his personal life, discusses books he is working on and includes musings of a spiritual and philosophical nature. This particular volume includes posts from 2008 until 2010. The book is divided into three parts, one per year with each entry or post divided by date and subject.

I began reading Taylor’s blog a small while ago and so was interested to read earlier entries. I am pleased to say that, overall, I was not disappointed with this book.

On a personal level, the reader could clearly see Taylor changing as he wrote. His demeanour differed noticeably when working with different elements, as he himself pointed out. When working on the element of Love, he was more emotional. When working with the element of Emptiness, his energy seemed slower and more depressed. When working through Time, it became more frenetic. It was fascinating to see how apparent these changes were. Even so, Taylor never hits you over the head with his emotional or spiritual development, it’s simply something that seeps into his words. The fact he was able to convey so much so subtly is the sign of a skilled writer.

On a philosophical level, Taylor’s musings often made me stop and think. Throughout the blog, Taylor often discussed relationships and honesty, analysing his own relationships and offering opinions based on what has worked best for him. I found his post on love magic toward the end of the volume especially worth reading, as well as his discussion of sex magic versus sex for sensation or distraction. I also agree strongly with Taylor’s assertion that to receive something, you must give something in return. My absolute favourite post came toward the end, entitled The Proof of Your Success. I highly recommend it.

Looking outwardly, Taylor included some great social commentary on the Pagan community and its general beliefs and practices. I found his thoughts on Aleister Crowley and the power – or, perhaps, lack thereof – of the Gods to be particularly pertinent. The post on President Bush as a negative manifestation was especially intriguing and his assertion that politics, that activism, can be something that is worked on internally rather than externally resonated deeply with me.

With all that excellent content, this book still had some areas that could have been improved.

One thing that slowed my reading down is that subjects jump a lot. Although the book maintains a consistent overall feel throughout, often I’d read something about a personal event, then go to something deeply philosophical, to something very spiritual, to something very practical. I felt I might enjoy it more if reading it as originally posted on his blog, where I could use tags and archives to follow my interests. The arrangement of the book sometimes gave me the feeling of “mood whiplash.” Sometimes it would take me a while to “recover” before I could read the next post.

Some posts were difficult to understand out of context. A paragraph or editor’s note here and there may have helped explain the context in these instances. I’m sure long term fans would get it but “newbies” such as myself may be confused.

Finally, this book is also a very meaty, dense book. I welcome any and all in depth content for Pagans but it did take me a long time to get through it. I think this was partly a formatting issue. The volume might have been better as a “best-of,” with a selection of the strongest posts or presented as a volume per year or two years; an entire three years in one is a lot to take in.

Overall, this is a very good book. It’s full of lots of great insights and it was lovely to watch emotional growth that has been deliberately sought after. Though this is not at all a light or quick read and there are some mood whiplash issues, it’s definitely worth a read.

Four and a half paw prints out of five.

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Beatrysel by Johnny Worthen

Beatrysel
Johnny Worthen
Omnium Gatherium, 2013
385 pages

Reviewed by Micheal

Initially, I had a difficult time getting interested in this book; the pace was slow and it started in such a way that it leaves the reader wondering why the demon is after Lady Sasha. However, I continued to read and by the third chapter, I was intrigued and as the characters developed, there’s the unethical psychiatrist, the intelligent and occult oriented professor…I became more and more fascinated with them and their interactions.

I found the book to be a nice blend of mystery, occult, and horror (only in the way that some characters died), and I have yet to read a book that has merged these genres before and Worthen did an exceptional job. The images of the Magickal temple, chants, all possess a realness that one doesn’t find too often in a work of fiction. The characters came alive with their own struggles, many of which, any reader could experience: adultery, lust, jealousy, etc. The one that might be lacking is creating a demon and a new grimoire for the modern age, however, this is developed in such a way in the book that it seems plausible and is not filled with hyperbole or cliched images of classical films.

My one complaint, would be that discovering the identity of the antagonist was too easy, I had suspicions by chapter 30 and knew who it was by chapter 40.

Overall, this was a fantastic read and one that I’ll likely read again. I can easily give it 5 paws out of 5.

Five pawprints out of five.

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