Ritual Body Art – Charles Arnold

Ritual Body Art: Body Painting for Ritual & Magic
Charles Arnold
Phoenix Publishing, 2001
176 pages

When I first got this book I thought it was going to be a hell of a lot more advanced than it is. Instead, it’s useful only because it draws together a whole bunch of magical correspondences, which you could get out of a collection of Cunningham’s books.

This isn’t to say there isn’t any good material in it. If you’re new to paganism and don’t know much about correspondences, and want to play with body art a bit, this is a good book for you. The chapters mainly deal with color symbolization, oils, materials you’ll need, props and jewelry, and some common symbols you may want to try using. There are also some suggestions on how to tailor body painting to different Sabbats and Esbats. In short, it’s a very basic how-to-get started guide.

The examples are rather limited, and divided sharply by a polarized view of male and female–there’s a lot of “male this” and “female that”, and, in addition, are heavily fertility-based, particularly for women. Pregnancy and childbirth get a lot of time, especially in the photos in the center. And his only body art for a woman who has had an abortion involve tears of mourning and a bloodstained hand–in fact, it’s the exact same design as miscarriage except for the bloody hand. How about an abortion design of rejoicing in one’s own choice, maybe with an Artemisal motif? Granted, the reader can certainly create new designs, but couldn’t the examples have been a little more imaginative and varied?

I’d really only recommend this book to beginners who don’t have the cash to pick up a few books on correspondences and symbols. It’s a good pocket guide, but nothing I’d be running out to buy.

Two pawprints out of five.

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  1. Charles Arnold said,

    March 16, 2007 at 10:46 am

    I won’t bother to apologize for the fact that you don’t like the book, you are coming from a completely different philosophy and I can understand that. Unfortunately, you left out a lot of the healing work that is covered.

    As for your comment on abortion, what I chose to portray was based on interviews with a number of psychologist and abortion counselors where the concensus was that women need to take responsibility for ending a pregnancy and go through a mourning process before they can move forward. You, obviously, have a different view.

    As for the sexual dichotomy that is evident in my work, it seems to be rather realistic as it is based on physiology driven reality.

    You also seem to have left out the space I devoted to invocation, evocation, coven unity building and other aspects but, there again, I never intended the book to be politically correct.


  2. lupabitch said,

    March 16, 2007 at 11:05 am

    And this is why reviews are wholly subjective, because we bring to the table our own experiences and worldview. No book is ever completely worthless, and a review is only one person’s view of a particular work. Just because there were aspects of the book that I didn’t agree with doesn’t mean that no one will find it useful.

    In re: to the dichotomy, my point was not that there was dichotomy, but that the examples all seemed to be primarily fertility-based in nature. What might have been nice would have been a discussion of non-fertility-based uses for body art that you’ve come up with. As to the abortion design, that’s indeed a matter of personal preference based on the subjective experiences I’m bringing to the table.

    As to the rest, yes, I probably could have elaborated more on the ritual working. This is an older review that I’ve added to this blog, and so isn’t as balanced as some of my newer ones. I sometimes come back to books after several years because I can get things out of them that I might not have at a different point in my life; if I get a chance to do so with this book and revise the review I’ll keep this point in mind.

    Thank you for your feedback on this; it’s appreciated.

  3. Shawn said,

    June 27, 2007 at 5:09 am

    Reviews are reviews, and it should be respected. If you can’t, then you’d better not do anything at all; else, you’ll bound to be criticized. It’s like wearing navel rings. There are a lot of opinions for people who sport one.

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