The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan

The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook
by Kenaz Filan
Destiny Books, 2011
320 pages

Reviewed by innowen

The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook is a introductory text on practicing the New Orleans blend of voodoo. Filan acquaints the reader to what exactly this is, how it differs from Haitian voodoo, and gives you a history of the practice, its influences, and loa. Finally, there is a small chapter that includes some things the reader can try out.

Good

Many pagan books delve right into the practical hands-on of their topic without giving any background information. While I do enjoy books of that nature, The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook, spends most of its time laying the groundwork to tell the reader how the region was formed and how this tints the flavor of magic/conjure that comes out of the city. You can practically smell the foods, or hear the blues while reading the book. I also loved how the structure of the book builds off from the previous chapters. Doing so made a great transition from the historical, to the knowledge on the loa, and to the conjure and practical stuff in the later chapters.

Bad

This book is billed as a guide to the practices and tools and formulas of New Orleans voodoo, and there are some but the bulk of the book is culture and history. I was hoping that the book would help me delve a bit more into the practices that make voodoo mysterious. Instead I learned a lot more about the history of the region, the people who are prominent, and the loa worshipped. I really didn’t get the hands on aspect that I was hoping for.

Bottom Line: I recommend The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook for those who want to learn more about the culture and beginnings of the spiritual tradition. This book is light on how-tos but is filled with the background information needed to really tie the spiritual practice into it’s rightful place in magical traditions. For those who want to know more about the practical aspects, you can probably find websites (like Lucky Mojo) more resourceful on the hands on.

3.5 pawprints out of 5

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Worlds Apart by Stephen B. Pearl

Worlds Apart
Stephen B. Pearl
Dark Dragon Publishing, June 2013
352 pages

Reviewed by Ser

It should be noted before going further that I received a prepublished, uncorrected proof for review. Therefore, it didn’t have the cover art or summaries to hint at what I was getting myself into.

Worlds Apart is a romantic fiction novel about Alcina and Markus, two pagans from similar yet completely different worlds. Both dealing with struggles and opposition in their respective worlds, their paths suddenly intersect when a science experiment-slash-ritual brings Markus hurtling into Alcina’s world.

It took me a little while to get into the story, but once I was in the plot it was enjoyable. There were a plethora of characters but it wasn’t too complicated to keep track of them. The only confusing spot for me was when the author chose to continue the story in Markus’ world after his disappearance, and I had to play catch-up to figure out who these new characters were. I’m glad the author did choose to continue the story in this world though, as it really helped build up the storyline and presented some new characters (including a sex-obsessed vampire).

I especially enjoyed the tension as Markus learned of Alcina’s world, its different cultures and technologies. The times he stumbled brought a realistic and relatable humor. I thought it was cute that he uses The Magic School Bus to learn our world’s science – excellent choice, Markus!

The author also chose to use humor in some of the chapter titles. Generally good, these sometimes spoil the chapter’s content, and titles such as “Why are the Cute Ones Always Nutz?” only took me out of the story wondering why that “z” is there.

The pagan elements were, on a whole, interesting. There were spots I felt could do with more explanation (as I do not have experience or knowledge of certain deities) or just an extra sentence or two to clear up what was going on. There is a lot of Christian-bashing, mostly directed at an overly zealous cult, but also Christian hate in general. I’m pleased that, for the most part, such generalized hate is commented on by other characters and explained that not all Christians (or those practicing other monotheisms) are bad.

Romance novels are not my cup of chai, and had I known that was the genre of this book I would not have picked it up. There are plenty of sex scenes (and mentions of “nether lips”, which amused me rather than entice me). As it is romance, there was also plenty of sexual humor and discussion outside of the sex scenes – I can’t think of a character in the book that didn’t have some discussion, mental or otherwise, about another character’s breasts, legs, or butt. While appropriate for a romance novel, it isn’t realistic. The only character not interested in boffing, an unnamed side character, was told by Alcina that it was her responsibility to “be a woman” and that her desire to not have sex was only a power game. (pg 58) There are also a few spots of sexism, and not just from the cult. Particularly Markus and Alcina’s discussion about how things are “only chauvinistic when it doesn’t exactly work to your benefit”…”Exactly, just ask any woman”. (pg 169)

Some of the descriptions were a bit of a stretch as well; my particular favorites being, “Only the very observant would notice that her small breasts only rose and fell with breath when she spoke,” (pg 53) and “She liked the fact that this stranger had hoped to see her [naked]” (pg 41). While now realizing this is a romance novel, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Really?” No matter how attractive someone is, I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable, let alone enjoy, being nude around a person who popped out of my ritual circle speaking another language and poking me with magical language-translating earrings (similar to a Babel fish, though I’m still a bit fuzzy on the particulars).

There were a number of typographical and grammatical errors, particularly from Chapter 29 on, but as I read the uncorrected proof I cannot speak to whether these have been revised. There was also a spot of character name confusion, as Markus was referred to as Marlon (pg 10) and I had to reread a few times to see if I had simply missed the addition of this new character. Hopefully, this too was corrected.

After reading this proof, I was ready to give this book a low score. I didn’t enjoy the plethora of sex and genitalia-obsessed characters and felt it detracted from the book. When I looked up the book to see if it had been published, and saw the cover, I realized I had to reconsider my review and base it on the book as it was intended. Looking at the plot, character development and overall writing, I think this would be an enjoyable book for any romance fan.

Three and a half pawprints out of five.

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Rabbit’s Song by S.J. Tucker, Trudy Herring and W. Lyon Martin

Rabbit’s Song
Written by S.J. Tucker and Trudy Herring, illustrated by W. Lyon Martin
Magical Child Books, 2009
32 illustrated pages

If you haven’t become acquainted with the rich fabric that is S.J. Tucker’s storytelling skill, here’s a chance to introduce both yourself and your child to her way with words. In this collaboration with author Trudy Herring, Tucker creates a delightful tale of how rabbit and other overlooked animals became favorites of the trickster, well before they gained their fame through such pranks as stealing the sun. Its message is clear–even the humblest beings have important places in the world, a crucial moral to give to any child. And the amazingly complex and appealing illustrations by artist W. Lyon Martin give this book a sense of life and movement while evoking the Otherworld of mythos.

The suggested readership is 5 years and up. It would be easy to say this is a book for pagan children, but that’s selling it short. Many children are raised with world mythology, and this lovely tale draws inspiration from the best of those. Animals and nature feature prominently in a lot of children’s books as well, and this one has a variety of wild creatures beckoning the reader in. However, even adults can enjoy the rolling lyrics and lovely artwork of this book, making this a finely crafted tale fit for a wide range of readers.

Five pawprints out of five.

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