Shamanka by T.E. MacArthur

Shamanka: Oracle of the Shamaness
T.E. MacArthur
Tarot Media Company, 2009
55 pages plus 44 cards

Reviewed by innowen

Shamanka is a unique oracle deck based off the principles of Shamanism. T.E MacArthur created and painted the deck herself and says, “The images are deeply personal to me. I was guided by dreams, visions, and experience to design and complete each one. My influences and training come from Siberia, the Himalayas, Mongolia, Tibetan Buddhism, and the Pacific Northwest. I do not represent any of the cultures either as an expert or claim that they are my own culture. I am at best an amateur anthropologist. It has been a spiritual journey for me and a privilege to share them with you.” The deck’s 44 images focus around a type of shaman, going about their work. The paintings are brightly colored and have a multicultural appeal. The backs of each card show hands set upon a tribal-style background. The cards do not contain any numbers.

The Shamanka companion guide, which can be purchased separately or with the deck, contains 55 pages of good info. There’s an introduction to shamanism, three spreads based off global shamanism topics, and information on each card. MacArthur really delivers with the background info and divinatory meanings (positive and shadow sides). In the first chapter of the Shamanka companion guide, MacArthur believes that her deck can help anyone “reconnect with the Universe and gather knowledge.”

1. What can you teach users?
I drew The Traveler, which shows a female shaman drumming in a tunnel. The companion book says that this card represents “a physical journey.” In this position, this card tells us that using Shamanka can actually be a force of nature in our lives to tell us where we need to go and what paths to take.

2. What are your strengths?
The Shapeshifter. The shaman on this card wears a bearskin and appears ready to dance. The companion book says that this card is about our ability to shape shift, where we can change our behaviors and become something new. As a strength card, the Shapeshifter, tells us that using the Shamanka oracle can help us shift our perspectives and get out of our skins and grow as individuals.

3. What are your weaknesses?
The Spirit Warrior. The shaman on this card, is from the Pacific Northwest. She wears traditional garb and wields a staff out in front of her. The companion book says that The Spirit Warrior on this card is about acting courageously, and becoming a leader. It’s about breaking traditions and standing out… as long as you’re fighting for something you believe in. In this Weakness position, this tells me that the deck will fight for your right to transformation and change, but the images on the cards may not resonate with the images to understand the deep power that can help push you out of your habits and make the change that needs to stick.

One thing I noticed after drawing these cards is their colors. The Traveler shows a shaman in a cave, there’s a lot of dark blues and blacks. The Shapeshifter shows the fiery colors of reds and oranges and The Spirit Warrior displays light colors of green and yellows. It’s almost as if the cards’ colors are telling a story of going from the darkness and into the light by trial by fire.

Bottom Line
If you are interested in a new shamanic approach to divination and want to connect to the universe, then give Shamanka a try. This multicultural deck guides you to seeing new perspectives through connecting with shamanic cultures around the world.

Three and a half pawprints out of five.

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Everyday Witch Book of Rituals by Deborah Blake

Everyday Witch Book of Rituals: All You Need for a Magickal Year
Deborah Blake
Llewelyn Publications, 2012
337 pages

Reviewed by Micheal

I’ve had this book for a few months now, and it has been taunting me from my desk; however, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to review a book of rituals. Should I use one of the rituals and report the results or should I review the content as if it was any other book? I decided against conducting one of the many rituals, lest I fail to add the needed energy to cause any of them to come to fruition.

Blake has put together a great book, as it stands, for the novice witch to begin their journey and start their grimoire construction. The rituals are categorised as either a new moon ritual or a full moon ritual and then there is one additional ritual for each month. Whilst the rituals are designed for the solitary practitioner, they can be easily adapted for a group and Blake offers advice on how to do just that.

For the more experienced witch, the rituals appear to be easily expandable and adaptable to fit almost any path. Moreover, given the range and diversity of the rituals that are included in the book makes this an ideal resource to have for those times when there is the desire to commune and do a ritual, but not the time to write one.

Additionally, the tools and items that are called for are items that are easily obtainable at any craft and metaphysical store, no need to scour the shops for mandrake root and the like.

I did find the rituals, as they stand, to be a bit more on the “fluffy” side for my liking, but I think the openness in which Blake constructed the rituals will make them easy to modify and “de-fluff'” if one is so inclined.

Given the book’s array of rituals and the flexibility they offer, I give the book:

Four pawprints out of five.

The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook by Tamara Siuda

The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook
Tamara L. Siuda
Stargazer Design, 2009
168 pages

Reviewed by Devo

Before I get into the bulk of this, I’d like to state that I have a bias – I don’t like reading prayers and hymns. They are alright if you’re using them to learn about a god or a ritual, but on a whole I don’t really get a lot out of reading prayers/hymns.

The setup of the book is pretty straightforward. Siuda discusses the basics of prayer – its uses, how you do it, etc. She then discusses some of the basics of Kemetic Orthodoxy practice and then goes into a listing of prayers for gods, goddesses, akhu (blessed dead), family uses, and children. The book also contains prayers for blessings, protection, and some heka (magic) basics as well as prayers for holidays and daily usage. The deity listings contain various epithets and stats on each deity- which is rounded out with a few prayers for each. Lastly, there is a basic calendar that you can utilize in your daily practice and the bibliography and index. The book is easy to read and quite short.

Due to the age of this book, I would be careful to place a lot of stock into the Kemetic Orthodoxy sections. This book was written with Kemetic Orthodoxy in mind – it is geared for members of that faith. However, because it is an older book, some things seem irrelevant now (in regards to Kemetic Orthodoxy) and it seems to me that the book could use an update for this particular section.
The thing I liked most about the Prayerbook was the listing of gods and some of their basic attributes. There are some things that she mentions in the Prayerbook that helps me to understand various references while on the Kemetic Orthodoxy website, and there are a couple of interesting facts/tidbits that I was unaware about that were nice to learn. In fact, I wish this section were longer, and more inclusive, so that I could learn more. This was the most helpful section for me.

What I don’t care for in the gods section is the hymns/litanies/etc. that followed each entry. It felt to me that these excerpts were exactly that – excerpts, and that there was a bigger something that was missing. I would have rather read the whole hymn/litany/etc or not at all. Not just three or four lines out of it. So for me, there was a disconnect.

On a whole, the book is okay. I personally don’t care for it, but it is interesting to see a bit where Kemetic Orthodoxy started. I personally don’t like that the book is insufficient as both a Kemeticism 101 book and as a prayerbook. I wanted something closer to Eternal Egypt where things are cited more thoroughly and explained better. I feel that the book could have benefitted if the author would have explained some of the symbolism behind the litanies and hymns because if you don’t understand that, then the whole point gets lost. Because of a lack of this added information, I really didn’t feel the book was of any use to me personally.

I would recommend reading the book if you want to get a better basis for Kemetic Orthodoxy or want a list of pre-made prayers that you can use, but otherwise, I don’t feel the book has much to offer a recon/independent Kemetic, unless you’re interested in the gods section.

Three pawprints out of five

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The Sacred Depths of Nature by Ursula Goodenough

The Sacred Depths of Nature
Ursula Goodenough
Oxford University Press, 1998
174 pages

Reviewed by Ser

I was quite excited by the premise of this book, so I believe I gave it more of a chance than I normally would. The goal of The Sacred Depths of Nature is to unite the two fronts of science and religion… not an easy task. The author is a biology professor with a lifelong interest in religion, and pulls experiences from both aspects of her life as she progresses through the book.

The basic format of each chapter is to present a scientific topic (such as DNA, reproduction, mutation), explain it, and then close with a reflection on how this topic can be seen from a spiritual point of view. This seems to be an excellent way to discuss the many topics, some of which the reader may never have heard of. However, each section is so… science-y. There is a lot of (in my opinion) dry explanation using terminology that would be more familiar to the scientific community, rather than someone more familiar with the religious or spiritual. I feel that the final part, “Emergent Religious Principles”, is where the real value of the book is for me, as it goes beyond the scientific explanations and discusses topics such as gratitude in everyday life, and shows how to apply this scientific understanding to our daily experiences.

There are a number of places in the text (most noticeably large captions of images) that simply stop in mid-sentence, never to be picked up or continued elsewhere in the book. I feel these should have been captured by the editor before publishing.

I was also a bit disappointed in the chapter on the big D – death. The author pays a lot of attention to most of the topics in this book, but I feel the death chapter was sort of lacking. While death can be a simple subject, death is something much meditated upon by religions across the globe. She simply ended the chapter with the statement, “My somatic life is the wondrous gift wrought by my forthcoming death”. I feel there was a lot more she could have touched on, more she could have expanded on to share with the reader how she is able to overcome her fears of the unknown. If your audience often asks the same question or gets stuck on the same topic, that might be a good indicator of a chapter you should spend more of your energies on as well.

I did appreciate the author’s attempt to unify the two seemingly opposite fronts, and I appreciated some of the metaphors (such as a Mozart sonata standing for reductionism). I personally don’t agree that life, when reduced to it’s component molecules, can’t possibly have more to it – a soul, an essence, what have you. I also disagree with her view that animals cannot feel “unique, special human emotions” such as love. However, I enjoyed appreciated this view from another’s eyes.

Two and a half pawprints out of five.

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The Element Stones by Clayton Griffin

The Element Stones
by Clayton Griffin
Book + handmade wooden divination set

Reviewed by innowen

The Element Stones by Clayton Griffin are a 13-piece divination system loosely based off the elements. Each piece is hand made from wood, and it’s hard to tell but the symbols are either drawn or burned into the wood. You then use the set like runes: by drawing pieces from the velvet case the set comes with and answering questions. The last component of this set is a large 8.5 by 11” slim handbook that gives a keyword listing of what each stone means. The booklet also gives you three quick ways to use the cards and instructions for meditation.

When I review divination tools I tend to ask the device in question a few questions to understand what strengths, weaknesses, and things that it can teach its users:

1. What can you teach users?
For this question, I received the Forest Stone. The image has 3-trees, in a triangular shape on the front of the piece. According to the book, the Forest Stone represents “magical path,” “rejuvenation,” and “returning home.” Based off these meanings, I wager that interested pagans can incorporate the stones into their magical practice and gain a sense of coming home to pagan ways and divinations.

2. What are your strengths?
I pulled the Storm Stone for this question. Among the list of keywords the booklet gives, this stone means to “destroying old patterns” and “creation and destruction.” I’m interpreting this to mean that The Element Stones can help see you through the storms in your life by giving you ways to undo old patterns and seeing new ways to bring magic into your life.

3. What are your weaknesses?
For this question, I pulled the Fire Stone. According to the booklet, this stone refers to “creativity,” “fertility,” and “strength.” As this stone is in the weakness position, I think that The Element Stones are not the best that they can be. There is a lot of ambiguity around the meanings of the stones and how a reader should best use them. There is also no real connection between how the symbols came into being to best represent each element.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very impressed with the booklet. It’s not well written and quickly glosses over the meanings of the stones and their uses. There’s very little information about where these symbols come from and who Clayton Griffin is.

Bottom Line
The Element Stones have potential. However, as written, the booklet that comes with the set does not accurately introduce or guide the user into bringing the strengths of the stones out. However, if you are interested in a modern divination set that is based around 13 elements, then you might want to give this set a try.

Two pawprints out of five.