The Little Book of Odes and Invocations by Auntie Matter

The Little Book of Odes & Invocations
Auntie Matter (Sondra Slade)
Self-published, 2010
10 pages

One of the things I love about reviewing self-published works is that while a good number of them are in sore need of editing, there are those wonderfully independent gems that are both well-written, and defy conventional publishing rules. A ten-page book of nothing but sacred poetry may not sound all that exciting or original, but this particular little chapbook packs a lot of quality into a small space.

The booklet begins with a Winter solstice invocation, with meditative lines on “The Slumbering Seed”, “Endless Night” and “Formless Energy”. The air of anticipation and turning toward the sunnier part of the year again is apparent. The last invocation is, appropriately, the Summer Solstice, a joyous celebration of life and light. In between these, Slade writes of the Moon, a Wiccan-flavored raising of energy, and one of the few things written about 2012 that I didn’t hate, among other themes.

Her writing style is incredibly descriptive even in a few words, and I can definitely see where these invocations would have a very powerful effect in a ritual. Her words have a good flow and rhythm to them, which should help bring on altered states of consciousness rather nicely. They’re interesting to look at, too. She patterns some of her free verse poetry with indentations to punctuate specific words or ideas following a general idea earlier in the stanza. This adds a wave-like quality to the works.

Pretty much my only complaint is that this is a very slim volume for the $10 price. I recognize that because it is printed on a home printer, to include some wonderfully detailed full-color illustrations, that printing up these booklets probably requires a lot of ink cartridges. However, seven poems and two pieces of artwork on ten pages is going to be a tough sell for a lot of people, even with the excellent quality of both writing and art. I might suggest that the layout be redone, and maybe some content added, to accommodate the minimum page count for a book at Lulu.com.

Still, it’s a wonderful compilation, and if you are looking for some really effective creative invocations for use in either solo or group rituals, this is a great resource to have on hand. It’s obvious that the author is tapped into the energies she writes about, and this comes through in every piece in this book.

Four pawprints out of five.

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Earthwalks for Body and Spirit by James Endredy

Earthwalks for Body and Spirit
James Endredy
Bear and Company, 2002
200 pages

One of the things I have always appreciated the most about James Endredy’s writings is that he takes spirituality and roots it very firmly in the physical world, perhaps more than just about any other author on shamanism and related topics. It’s a much-needed reconnection in a time and place where too often “spirituality” is focused on ethereal, untouchable things of the mind and imagination, with little hooking them to the “everyday” world. So having exercises and concepts that remove the gap between this word and the other one (if there is even a distinction) is a really welcome change. This, his first book from nearly a decade ago, is no exception.

The premise is simple: walking meditation. For a lot of people, sitting and being quiet simply isn’t a good option. Walking meditation is a way to focus the mind while also allowing the body a chance to settle down and move more intently. However, this book is not simply about focusing on the body, but focusing on the body as being an integral part of the environment it is within. The ability to be aware of both within and without simultaneously allows one to break down the barriers until there is no within or without, only what is.

This isn’t just the same steps made over and over, however. The book contains dozens of unique and incredibly useful ways to walk, starting with the most basic Walk of Attention, which trains the person to be aware of how the body moves and what it’s moving in, to more elaborate group walks, and walks that are aimed at focusing on specific elements or other parts of the environment. In fact, one could work with this book for months, if not years, and not get bored.

Very little of it could be misconstrued as woo-woo; this is spirituality grounded constructively and healthily. Any beings of spirit are encountered in their physical forms, for the most part, and the animals, plants and other phenomena behind the spirits are what are brought into focus. Yet the wonder and awe is not at all lost; on the contrary, Endredy’s walks encourage and facilitate the most fine and complex amazement at the world around us, as well as the bodies we wear. Even the final Walk for Vision only calls for a vision after an entire day immersed in the beauty of physical things.

This is an extraordinary book that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Anyone practicing shamanic practices–in fact, anyone who professes a nature-based spirituality–would do well to pick this book up. And even those who are not particularly spiritual but who would like to reconnect with nature and the world at large may very well benefit from this text.

Five walking pawprints out of five.

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Animal Spirits Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet

Animal Spirits Knowledge Cards
Susan Seddon Boulet
Pomegranate, 2007
48 cards, no booklet

I have loved Susan Seddon Boulet’s artwork for a good long while; her detail and original, ethereal style make fitting imagery for animal totem work (though I recommend her other creations, such as depictions of various deities, too). I am fond of the lush colors as well and the depth of the figures. Her creations are alive, if any art can be said to live and breathe.

However, this deck is not only about the art, but also about the meaning. There’s no book, but on the back of each card is Boulet’s brief interpretation and keywords for the totem on the front. Each is necessarily brief because there’s only so much room on each card, and text can only be shrunk so far. However, Boulet did her best to pack in as much information as she could. Generally, each card contains both historical and mythological information about the totem, and some commentary on the image she herself created.

This is not at all exhaustive, and should not be taken as the end of your research on each totem. And, as with any dictionary, it’s the author’s interpretation of what each totem means. Additionally, there is somewhat of a New Age approach, with smatterings of Eastern religions, “feminine energy”, and rather light associations with each totem; this has been aimed at a broader audience than the neopagan community. Some may find these meanings lacking; others may wish to primarily see them as commentary on the art, and attribute more detailed, personalized meaning to the cards.

The thin cardstock is disappointing, and if you’re wanting to preserve the art, you should have two decks–one for art, one for divination. However, the selection of animals is nice, if being almost exclusively vertebrates. Additionally, some of the cards are really general, like “Birds” or “Animal Deities”, which isn’t particularly helpful if you’re looking for something more specific.

Overall, though, this is a lovely addition to any collection of totem cards, whether for art or divination.

Four and a half pawprints out of five.

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Hiatus is Over!

So, it’s been the better part of two years since I put this blog on hiatus so I could focus more on my graduate school endeavors. I’m coming back to reviewing, though, so let’s just call it official!

Since I’m still in school, to be followed by full-time self-employment, my posting may not be quite as often as before school, but I need some things to read that aren’t all about my academic career, and I’ve missed writing these reviews quite a bit.

So expect more to read from me, and if you’re an author or publisher who’d like me to review something for you, just let me know!