Power Crystals by John DeSalvo

Power Crystals: Spiritual and Magical Practices, Crystal Skulls, and Alien Technology
John DeSalvo, Ph.D.
Destiny Books, 2012
189 pages

Reviewed by Ser

Lupa hadn’t told me which book I’d be receiving to review, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book chosen for me was Power Crystals. I had just viewed a few documentaries on the subject of crystals skulls, including Smithsonian’s The Legend of the Crystal Skulls, and I was eager to devour more information on this enchanting topic. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the author lived up to my expectations.

There were three main issues I had with Power Crystals that I would like to discuss. First, this book proved difficult to read and I had to walk away from it numerous times. There are plenty of examples of typos and grammatical issues, as well as repetitive and run-on sentences such as:

– “These practices were all forbidden by the church, and the continued practice of them could lead to excommunication or worst.” (pg. 38)
– “I wrote a book called Andrew Jackson Davis, First American Prophet and Clairvoyant about the nineteenth-century clairvoyant and prophet.” (pg. 57)
– “They hold a power to heal, but modern crystal practitioners have not unlocked the lock.” (pg. 60)
– “Known for his in-depth scientific work on the Shroud of Turin… John DeSalvo holds a Ph.D. in biophysics and, for more than 30 years, scientifically studied the Shroud of Turin.” (back cover)

Second, in the Introduction the author voiced his wish to “be the first scientist/paranormal researcher to carry out the first objective study of ancient crystal skulls”. However, this goal is not carried out even through the second chapter. Chapter Two started out with a lot of potential, briefly mentioning the Schumann Resonance and how it might contribute to a connection between crystals and the human brain, but then goes on to spend a lot of time on biblical references that don’t contribute to his point. For example, DeSalvo inserts a large quote from Ezekiel 1:22-28, citing a “significant reference to crystal”: “Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like an awe-inspiring crystal”, followed by many more lines with no further crystal references. The author then quotes the Bible three more times, with more examples of how something is shining “like crystal”. The author is using these examples to illustrate “the holy significance of crystal”, but to me, these are just similes and do nothing to strengthen his argument.

Part Two was focused on crystal skulls and the tests performed on these skulls to determine their age. The premise of this section was interesting, but again there was an issue of the author’s objectivity. In one section, he states, “We all know the power of prayer and the energy it releases” (pg. 57). This area would have benefited from a short discussion on his view of the power and energy of prayer before comparing it to crystal energy. I also question his definition of “specific” when he says that “soon” is a specific time frame (pg. 104) – soon could mean in an hour, or it could mean a month from now. He also includes some side stories which detract from the subject of the book; in chapter 4, he says that he believes in spiritual healing, though he has never experienced success healing with crystals or any other gems. To qualify his belief, he explains an experience at a charismatic healing program, spanning two pages, which ends in, “This is the mystery of God’s will. I do believe Jesus healed my back that day” (pg. 59). Again, this seems to detract from his goal of scientific research and objectivity. He brings up a scientific subject, such as string theory, then with the next sentence states his experiences and assumes his reader will accept them as reality because he does. I would also like to know why he feels that scrying with crystals is successful, while healing with crystals is not.

Lastly, I feel that the last two sections of the book need a lot of expansion. Section Three, and in particular Chapter 10, deals with meditation, and seems almost entirely written by his friend Helene Olsen. While her input is important, there should be more sources and discussion on meditation than just quotes from one person! Chapter 11 seems to serve as an advertisement for his other books, as he mentions their titles four times in a span of four paragraphs. It is also worth noting that the author seems to see God as male-only energy, taking a lot of his reference from his time in the Christian church, which may not sit well with some readers. He prefaces his section on Enochian meditations and journey to the Thirtieth Aethyr with a warning to undertake this exploration at your own risk, yet I don’t think he was able to get his point across about why we would want to try this meditation, how it relates to crystals, and what it can offer.

Part Four, dealing with Atlantis and alien technology, comprises a mere 14 pages of the book. What was said about Atlantis seems to not even have been written in his voice and instead reads like a history book (which may actually be more his style, as his previous works include college textbooks). He teases the reader about a “structure” found on the Atlantic Ocean floor that could be a remnant of Atlantis, but then neglects to describe the structure at all! All he says is that it could be man-made – but how? Is it a building? Is it a statue? What could this mean for our view of history? The reader is left wondering.

That said, I do have to compliment DeSalvo on his inclusion of numerous lovely, full-color photos. There are 29 full-color “plates” as well as a few diagrams and photos throughout the rest of the book, all displaying wonderful crystals and skulls. (My favorite photo is #9, a rose quartz crystal larger than the man posing next to it!) I also enjoyed the variety of topics presented by DeSalvo as well as the way they were presented in order to build on each other as you progressed through the book – I just feel many of them are lacking in detail and the scientific attention he seemed to want to give them. There was a lot of potential in this book, but overall it feels rushed – so many details are omitted, sentences confusing, and again it has that lack of objectivity throughout. It seems that Power Crystals was written for a group of close-knit friends – the author frequently mentions how he is close to this skull owner, or this psychic. While it may accurately portray the relationships between skull owners (as ancient and antique skull owners are few and far between), at the same time I wonder why this book was not proofread by these individuals a few times to help the author catch some of the spelling and grammar issues, and perhaps point out a few of the places needing further clarification.

I would not recommend this book to those looking for an objective study of crystal skulls. I would suggest it to someone in passing, if they were interested in personal experiences with crystal skulls and photos of lovely crystal collections, but would suggest skipping the last two, seemingly unfinished, sections.

One pawprint out of five.

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Nature-Speak by Ted Andrews

Nature-Speak: Signs, Omens & Messages in Nature
Ted Andrews
Dragonhawk Publishing, 2004
448 pages

This is a book that I’d had my eye on for several years before finally picking up a copy. What Animal-Speak is to animal totems, so Nature-Speak is to plant spirits and landscapes. It follows much of the same pattern–some basic theoretical information about a particular set of beings or phenomena in nature, then some exercises to work with them, and finally a dictionary section. Andrews addresses some of the expected beings like trees and flowers, but also gives “weeds” a place in this veritable garden as well.

And like Animal-Speak, this book is written in a friendly, inviting manner. Andrews had a knack for writing to a wide audience, making the information accessible and interesting enough to make the reader want to try it out for themselves. This is a book that’s good both for the novice and for the more experienced nature pagan.

However, it also deviates into other areas of esotericism. There are rituals for the Sabbats, for example, drawing on Andrews’ rich experiences in nature. And he delves into such areas as work with angelic beings, as well as splashes of Hermeticism and other ceremonial traditions. In this way it’s a more eclectic text than Animal-Speak‘s quasi-shamanic flavor.

The only real complaint I have about the book is the proliferation of typos. It’s possibly one of the worst for that, to be honest. Every few pages I was picking out some misspelled word or grammatical error. I am unsure what Dragonhawk Publishing’s internal structure was like; it was Andrews’ own company, and now that he is sadly deceased I can’t simply ask. So it may be that he was editing his own work.

Still, for all that it’s a worthwhile read, and I highly recommend it for those interested in its subject matter.

Four pawprints out of five.

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Temple of the Twelve, Vol. 1: Novice of Colors by Esmerelda Little Flame

Temple of the Twelve, Vol. 1: Novice of Colors
Esmerelda Little Flame
New Gaia Press, 2008
278 pages

A young woman finds herself at the threshold of service to great deities who embody archetypal powers. Rather than a relationship of fear, though, can she create connections of love and devotion with them?

I had heard about the Temple of the Twelve books from a few friends who were working through the pathworking system woven into the novels, and I’ll admit I was quite intrigued. I do like fiction that also serves as a teaching tool, but unfortunately a lot of it turns into awkward monologues about what Wicca is shoehorned into a badly written teaching scene or somesuch.

While there is some teaching dialogue scattered throughout this book, much of what each of the archetypal Twelve deities in this story–one for each of several colors and their correspondences–have to teach is demonstrated in their interactions with the main character, Caroline. For example, Caroline creates paintings of several of the deities, and one deity, Lord Blue, felt them strongly: “He felt the colors radiating from them. The hot red. The cool white. Need. Love. Lust. Pain. Joy” (p. 96). The author does an excellent job of “show, don’t tell”.

The story is nicely paced, and allows Caroline to develop not only in her relationships with the gods and others, but as an individual. At the same time, a usable spiritual path is drawn out as the story progresses; shortly after the experience with the paintings, Lord Blue tells Caroline she will bond in particular with one god and one goddess, which reflects the tendency of many pagans to have strong bonds with a few deities in particular (often along perceived lines of balance, such as between male and female energies).

In this, the book creates a mythology upon which nonfiction workbook materials have been based, and there are other novels that expand on this mythos (and I will be reviewing other books in this series). I can see this particular text being everything from a good read in and of itself, to the foundation of a pagan practitioner’s magical path based on colors and correspondences. The author’s personifications of the archetypes shows a strong connection, and I look forward to seeing more implementation of this in a practical sense.

Five 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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Shamanic Wisdom by Dolfyn

Shamanic Wisdom: Nature Spirituality, Sacred Power and Earth Ecstasy
Earthspirit, Inc., 1990
184 pages

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I want to not like it, because there’s a decent helping of cultural appropriation in it. Lots of “medicine” and various appropriations of watered-down indigenous concepts that have become so common in new age neoshamanisms. However, there are also some useful rituals for practicing a nature-based animistic path. I think it might have been a better book framed as animism rather than shamanism, and without the pseudo-Native trappings.

The good stuff includes practices for connecting with the directions, animals, plants, the sun and other celestial bodies, and various other denizens of the natural world. They’re designed to recreate awareness of these things we often take for granted, and the author does have a nice ecological flavor in her presentation of the material. The rituals are also not too difficult to enact, and this would be a great book in a lot of ways for a newbie pagan just learning to reach out to the world around hir.

However, as with so many other neoshamanic texts, there’s an element of entitlement, as though Nature will automatically always help us. While the chapter on eco-magic does emphasize giving back, the overall approach is fairly lightweight and says nothing about any of the potential dangers of connecting with these spirits. And there’s not really a discussion of the differences between what is presented here and indigenous practices. There’s the usual brief and somewhat stereotyped animal totem dictionary, just as a bonus.

Taken with some cautionary salt, this can be a useful text for beginners to nonindigenous animistic practices. Be skeptical, but also be open.

Three pawprints out of five.

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Llewellyn’s 2010 Sabbats Almanac – Various

Llewellyn’s 2010 Sabbats Almanac
Llewellyn, 2009
312 pages

Note: This is a guest review by Bronwen Forbes, who graciously agreed to take on some of the extra review copies I had when I decided to go on semi-hiatus.

I am honored to be a guest reviewer for Lupa’s book review blog, eager to read something closer to my “field” than the erotica and science fiction I normally critique for a national book review magazine. I bravely told her to “send me anything” only to receive the most random collection of Pagan books I’ve ever seen!

First on the stack was Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac: Samhain 2009 to Mabon 2010. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say upfront that I am a relatively new member of the Llewellyn author family. That being said, this latest addition to the Llewellyn annuals (Witches’ Spell-A-Day Almanac, Witches’ Companion, etc.) is, I think, a useful and worthy one. I may not feel comfortable pulling out a Llewellyn Witches’ Datebook out of my backpack when scheduling my next dentist appointment in this small Kansas town, but the Sabbats Almanac is something I will likely refer to from time to time throughout the year – in the comfort of my own home, of course.

Contributing authors to the Almanac include a deliberate mixture of relatively new writers and Pagan “celebrities”; Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, Kristen Madden, Ann Moura, Dan Furst, Raven Grimassi, Michelle Skye, and Thuri Calafia (plus others) all add their expertise and voices.

The history of each sabbat is thoroughly discussed, including an astrological section by Fern Feto Spring. I would have liked a little more explanation of astrological terms for the zodiacally-impaired reader. Kristen Madden provides seasonal recipes for an appetizer, main course, dessert and beverage for each holiday far beyond the usual “bread at Lammas, apple pie at Samhain” fare. Every sabbat section ends with a holiday ritual that can either be done as a solitary or with a group (except Mabon, which definitely requires several people).

In further interest of full disclosure, I’ve never once opened any of the Llewellyn Almanac series until Lupa sent me this one. If the Sabbats Almanac is any indication, I’ve been missing out on a basic, useful source of inspiration and ideas. The Sabbats Almanac, at least, may just become a permanent addition to my holiday book-buying binge.

Four and a half paws out of five!

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Witches & Pagans Magazine, Issue 19

Witches & Pagans Magazine
Various authors, editors, artists and other contributors
BBI Media, Autumn 2009
96 pages

First, a little background: Witches & Pagans is what happened when BBI Media merged their prior publications, PanGaia and newWitch. PanGaia was their more “serious” pagan publication, with a heavy eco-friendly slant and a target audience interested in ritual practices and spiritual experiences. newWitch came about a few years ago, and was met with some skepticism since its general themes were “sex, spells and celebs”. Some feared that newWitch would manifest all the worst stereotypes of image-obsessed teenybopper witches, and yet the publication managed to hold a fine balance between entertainment and facing controversial topics head-on. As a disclosure, I have written for both publications, so my potential bias should be noted.

Witches & Pagans has managed to blend elements of both magazines. This issue, for example, features interviews with musician S.J. Tucker and author R.J. Stewart (the faery AND initial issue!), something that newWitch was keen on. However, articles on 19th century mystic Ella Young, a surprisingly well-researched article on Cherokee fey beings, and several other in-depth writings on a central theme of Faery hail back to the best of PanGaia.

The regular columnists provided me with some of my favorite reading overall. Isaac Bonewits explored the practice of magic at different stages of one’s life, and how factors ranging from physical health to years of experience and knowledge can shape one’s energy and thereby one’s practice. Galina Krasskova did an excellent job of tackling the practice of celibacy as part of the ascetic’s path, something that a heavily hedonistic neopagan community may not often give much thought to. And I love Archer’s article on connecting to the wilderness through forests and their denizens, both physical and archetypal.

Those who were used to reading only one of the parent publications that merged to create this one may feel disappointed that there isn’t more of “their” stuff in there. However, one thing I appreciate about Witches & Pagans is that it brings together two potentially separate demographics in the pagan community–the more “serious” practitioners who look askance at the supposed “fluff” content of newWitch, and the energetic (though not always neophyte) envelope-pushers who might see their counterparts as muddy sticks. Both groups have much to offer in their own way, and Witches & Pagans does a nice job of showcasing the best of both worlds.

Five pawprints out of five.

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Beyond 2012 by James Endredy

Beyond 2012: A Shaman’s Call to Personal Change and the Transformation of Global Consciousness
James Endredy
Llewellyn, 2008
220 pages

Leave it to James Endredy to write a book on 2012 that actually makes sense. I’ve liked what I’ve read of his work, particularly Ecoshamanism (which is one of my absolute favorite books on shamanism). It took me over a year after I first learned about the book to get it and read it, but I’m glad I did–it came at a good time.

Most of the books on 2012 are gloom-and-doom–the world is coming to an end in 2012 because the Mayan calendar says so, and all the bad things in the world are just more reasons to sit and mope and/or pontificate about this. And yet….and yet….this always struck me as really nowhere near constructive–especially since the end of the world had been predicted numerous time and had never happened. Beyond 2012 completely reframes the 2012 situation. Not only is the world not ending (except, maybe, as we know it) but 2012 is a good marker for a shift in consciousness and the way we make our decisions regarding the very real world we face right this moment, rather than some apocalyptic fantasy near-future. Endredy takes the root information on the 2012 phenomenon and manages to make a great deal of sense about it.

While Endredy’s shamanism does play a significant role in the material in this book, it is not strictly a book on shamanism. The techniques that he includes are more open than that, and are practices for those who wish to put forth conscious effort in making a better world in the face of environmental, social, and other destruction. Building altars, for example, is a fairly common technique in modern spiritual practices, and many of the techniques he provides for self-reflection aren’t so different from many of the concepts I’ve been learning about in my graduate-level psychological training.

What Endredy does provide is a keen awareness of the interconnectivity that humanity has with all of the rest of Nature, and a thoroughly developed, deeply-felt series of relationships with natural phenomena. A large portion of the book is written to reflect dialogues he’s had with the various phenomena of Nature, some of his most important teachers. What has always struck me about his work, both through his writing and in the occasion I was able to participate in a rite of passage he facilitated, is how sincere it is–he’s about the least pretentious person I’ve ever run into, and this includes within his shamanic practice. The material in Beyond 2012 reflects a primary focus on rebuilding that connectivity and awareness on a greater scale, and offering people a variety of tools to choose from. I know I’ll be keeping this text in part for work with my therapeutic clients, because there’s a lot of versatility here.

And in fact, this book has a lot of potential readers. In addition to shamanic practitioners and pagan folk in general utilizing this in spiritual and other manners, environmental activists and mental health professionals both can take the ideas into the wider social sphere. Additionally, I would love to give a copy of this to every person who’s convinced that the world’s going to hell in a handbasket come 2012, to show them that there are much more constructive ways to look at this potentially transitional period. I never thought I’d give this rating to a book on this subject, but here goes:

Five optimistic pawprints out of five.

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More Facing North Reviews

The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer

The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth
John Michael Greer
Weiser Books, 2006
272 pages

Druidry is one of those pagan religions that I don’t know as much about as some others. However, getting to read the basics of one particular tradition of druidry has helped flesh out my perspectives somewhat, and so as a near-neophyte to the entire concept, I have to say this was a great introduction. I’ve read and reviewed The Druid Magic Handbook, also by Greer, but this offers more background to that text. (In other words, I suggest reading them both, but in the reverse order!)

The Druidry Handbook, while being the material for the First Degree in the Ancient Order of Druids in America (of which Greer is the Grand Archdruid), is also quite suitable for the individual interested in self-instruction. It’s impeccably organized (in sets of three, of course!) and Greer has a definite talent for explaining things thoroughly but without overcomplication. The book starts with an honest assessment of the history of druidry, including some of the more controversial (and occasionally fictitious) roots, though even the fiction is valued for its mythological if not historical qualities. Greer then presents the basic philosophy and practices of AODA druidry, along with some 101 material such as sacred days, correspondences, and a beginner’s introduction to ogam. This is followed by three paths of specialization that the reader may explore; the Earth Path deals largely with ecology as applied spirituality, the Sun Path with ritual practice, and the Moon Path with meditation. The wrap-up includes information for those wishing to utilize the book in a formalized practice, whether through the AODA or not.

Even those who aren’t specifically interested in druidry may want to take a good look at this book. The meditation section, for example, has a series of practices that are useful and effective regardless of one’s personal spiritual paradigm. The seasonal rituals, too, may be adapted for use outside of druidry, being well-structured and lyrical in their own right. In fact, many of the regular practices could be incorporated into a variety of paths.

There are so many good things to say beyond this. I do, however, want to especially point out the eco-friendly focus of the material. Many books on supposed “Earth-based religions” barely give lip service to actual hands-on ecological practice, preferring instead to write rehashes of moon rituals and so forth. Greer promotes everything from tree planting to spending extended periods of time getting to know the land you live in, and makes compelling arguments linking spirituality with physical practices and activities. This adds a nice context to the reasons behind the more abstract portions of ritual practice and so forth, and provides an additional layer of meaning.

My only quibbles are personal disagreements, and they’re pretty minor. For example, in talking about the druidic conception of reincarnation through different species, Greer writes “Someone who displays the vanity of a cat or the empty-headedness of a sheep clearly didn’t learn the lessons those forms teach, and must go back to relearn them” (p. 56). This is an anthropocentric view which judges nature of nonhuman species as biased by human opinions on what is considered to be valuable. (Perhaps life as a cat or sheep can show why it is that cats and sheep and others are the way they are, and why that’s valuable in and of itself without human judgement!) ETA: I’ve since learned that this is something specific to AODA material, not Greer’s personal perspective, just FTR.

But I’m being pedantic, really. Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I’ll be keeping it on my reference shelf. Even if I never practice druidry myself, there’s plenty of valuable information here.

Five paws full of oak leaves out of five

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