Magical Identity by Taylor Ellwood

Magical Identity: An Exploration of Space/Time, Neuroscience, and Identity
Taylor Ellwood
Megalithica Books, 2012
252 pages

Reviewed by Selah

Taylor Ellwood’s Magical Identity is a important book for an occult library. Instead of giving us ways to change the world, it furthers the discussion he started in Inner Alchemy to how we can change our inner world (aka our selves)). In his introduction, Bill Whitcomb says, “Much of Magical Identity is concerned with identity; defining the other, defining the self, and redefining the boundaries between the two.” Ellwood’s main focus is how identities are made and how the occult magician can harness neuroscience, psychology, and elements of space/time to re-create oneself. Sounds rather big, right? I went into reading the book hoping that the book would help me change the way I saw myself.

Unfortunately, Taylor’s writing is way too academic. The book bogs down the practical exercises in with tons of in-depth theory. There are paragraphs that run on for a long time and it took a lot of time to get through them. Sometimes Ellwood’s definitions don’t align with what he is saying. While he mentioned that he contradicts himself in this book, I feel that a book needs to have a solid ground to help the reader along. It also doesn’t help that he tries to be all inclusive and overuses he/she or him/her.

There are a lot of great exercises in this book but you have to wade through many pages of definitions, lecture, and clunky sentences to understand how to apply the ideas to one’s life.

Three pawprints out of five.

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A Magical Life, Volume 1 by Taylor Ellwood

A Magical Life: The Magical Journal of Taylor Ellwood Volume 1
Taylor Ellwood
Megalithica Books, 2013
344 pages

Reviewed by Nicky

A Magical Life: The Magical Journal of Taylor Ellwood, as the title suggests, is a compilation of the first three years of Taylor Ellwood’s magical blog. The blog covers events from his personal life, discusses books he is working on and includes musings of a spiritual and philosophical nature. This particular volume includes posts from 2008 until 2010. The book is divided into three parts, one per year with each entry or post divided by date and subject.

I began reading Taylor’s blog a small while ago and so was interested to read earlier entries. I am pleased to say that, overall, I was not disappointed with this book.

On a personal level, the reader could clearly see Taylor changing as he wrote. His demeanour differed noticeably when working with different elements, as he himself pointed out. When working on the element of Love, he was more emotional. When working with the element of Emptiness, his energy seemed slower and more depressed. When working through Time, it became more frenetic. It was fascinating to see how apparent these changes were. Even so, Taylor never hits you over the head with his emotional or spiritual development, it’s simply something that seeps into his words. The fact he was able to convey so much so subtly is the sign of a skilled writer.

On a philosophical level, Taylor’s musings often made me stop and think. Throughout the blog, Taylor often discussed relationships and honesty, analysing his own relationships and offering opinions based on what has worked best for him. I found his post on love magic toward the end of the volume especially worth reading, as well as his discussion of sex magic versus sex for sensation or distraction. I also agree strongly with Taylor’s assertion that to receive something, you must give something in return. My absolute favourite post came toward the end, entitled The Proof of Your Success. I highly recommend it.

Looking outwardly, Taylor included some great social commentary on the Pagan community and its general beliefs and practices. I found his thoughts on Aleister Crowley and the power – or, perhaps, lack thereof – of the Gods to be particularly pertinent. The post on President Bush as a negative manifestation was especially intriguing and his assertion that politics, that activism, can be something that is worked on internally rather than externally resonated deeply with me.

With all that excellent content, this book still had some areas that could have been improved.

One thing that slowed my reading down is that subjects jump a lot. Although the book maintains a consistent overall feel throughout, often I’d read something about a personal event, then go to something deeply philosophical, to something very spiritual, to something very practical. I felt I might enjoy it more if reading it as originally posted on his blog, where I could use tags and archives to follow my interests. The arrangement of the book sometimes gave me the feeling of “mood whiplash.” Sometimes it would take me a while to “recover” before I could read the next post.

Some posts were difficult to understand out of context. A paragraph or editor’s note here and there may have helped explain the context in these instances. I’m sure long term fans would get it but “newbies” such as myself may be confused.

Finally, this book is also a very meaty, dense book. I welcome any and all in depth content for Pagans but it did take me a long time to get through it. I think this was partly a formatting issue. The volume might have been better as a “best-of,” with a selection of the strongest posts or presented as a volume per year or two years; an entire three years in one is a lot to take in.

Overall, this is a very good book. It’s full of lots of great insights and it was lovely to watch emotional growth that has been deliberately sought after. Though this is not at all a light or quick read and there are some mood whiplash issues, it’s definitely worth a read.

Four and a half paw prints out of five.

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The Tarot of Vampyres by Ian Daniels

The Tarot of Vampyres
Ian Daniels
Llewellyn Publications, 2010
312 Pages, 78 Cards

Reviewed by Jasmine Simone

The Tarot of Vampyres, by Ian Daniels, has a lofty goal of helping the user to face their fears
and integrate their shadow self into one balanced whole. It misses the mark in a few places, but
the deck has beautiful art and a surprising depth — even the backs of the cards have meaning.

While tarot decks read differently for different people, I’ve found it to be fairly straightforward,
but time and contemplation reveal a lot of nuance in its responses. The cardstock is typical of
Llewellyn’s releases these past few years. It’s got a rather flimsy feel, but the cards have been
standing up to a lot of use and have a nice, smooth texture and shuffle. As is sadly the norm
lately, there is no bag included with the kit, and the oversized plain white box they expect you to
use falls apart after one or two openings.

The book that accompanies the deck is mostly dedicated to the descriptions and meanings of
the cards. Unlike many companion guides, the book includes no images of the cards, but it does
go into much greater detail on the Minor Arcana than what is usually found in these books. If it’s
a choice between the small black and white pictures normally given and the increased input on
the cards from the artist, I believe the right choice was made.

It sheds a lot of insight into the symbolism chosen, and since this is in no way a clone of the
Waite Colman Smith deck, the look into the artist’s intentions should be helpful for those more
used to “standard” imagery.

Daniels presents the cards as part of a system, and I found the various bits of kabbalah,
alchemy, elements, and Western astrology to be distracting, confusing, and unnecessary. They
aren’t necessary for successful tarot reading, and the information given isn’t enough to equip
a beginner to really use these methods. On the other hand, I thought that creating a “Vampyre
Name” was rather silly, but it was actually kind of fun, and the construction of a vampyre
persona may help lend a helpful distance in facing one’s fears.

The book also features many great exercises to work with the cards, and several interesting
spreads. This is a gorgeous deck that had a lot of thought put into it, although that wasn’t
immediately obvious to me. If you view this deck as being pretty, but shallow, as I did, flip
through the book and give the deck another chance.

Four pawprints out of five.

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Pagan Metaphysics 101 by Springwolf

Pagan Metaphysics 101: The Beginning of Enlightenment
Springwolf
Schiffer Publishing, 2011
128 pages

This book has so much potential. The concept is awesome: a book on paganism that doesn’t even start with tools and rituals and such, but instead gets to the very roots of the beliefs and cosmology through the language of metaphysics. Not “metaphysics” as in “woo”, but the nuts and bolts of “How does this work? Where did this core belief come from? Why do pagans often have this sentiment?” It’s the first in a planned series of books that build on each other to explore paganism in theory and practice, and is the foundational text thereof.

I will say that in some places it veers much more closely to the New Age than neopaganism. Most neopagans don’t really put much of an emphasis on Atlantis, for example. But there’s a lot that is more relevant, from how “energy” works, to practical work with karma (albeit a new Age tinged version thereof). Starting the book with a bunch of questions for the reader to answer about their own beliefs was a brilliant idea, because this book has a lot for a person to think about. Consider it brain food for spiritual exploration.

Unfortunately, the execution leaves me wondering whether the publisher even had an editor or proofreader look over this text, or whether the manuscript was simply put into print straight from the author. I found numerous typos, and places where the writing was rough and awkward to read. The organization didn’t always make sense, and sometimes the transition from topic to topic was less than smooth. I could kind of see the flow of where the author was trying to take the book, but it needs a good bit of refining.

Also, there are certain things that some neopagans may find downright offensive. The idea, for example, that Helen Keller (and other people born with disabilities) chose, prior to birth, to incarnate into a life with such challenges has all too often been used as a patronizing form of discrimination, as well as diminishing and even silencing the actual concerns of people with disabilities. This, and a number of other concepts that are more popular among New Agers than pagans, may cause some pagans to put the book back down (which is a bad idea–more on that in a moment).

My biggest complaint, though, is that the book simply could have been more. It’s a scant 128 pages, fewer if you take out the table of contents and whatnot, with fairly large text. The author covers a variety of topics, and yet many of them only get two or three paragraphs. I found myself saying on almost every page “This is really cool! But what about this element of it? Can you explain in more depth?” There are so many places where she could have expanded into more detail and background about just about everything she talked about, and still had a really good, coherent book that fit what seems to have been her intent with it.

What I would love to see is a second edition of the book someday, one that has better editing, has had more feedback from neopagans and what they more commonly believe, and, most importantly, more expansion on the material that’s already in here. Even with my complaints about the book in its current form, I do think there’s a lot of value to it–you just have to dig some. There is the aforementioned element of philosophical and soul-searching brain food that just about anyone would find useful, especially at a point of trying to find one’s spiritual identity (or simply as a refresher if you’ve been doing this a while). And despite the New Age woo that sometimes gets a little overwhelming, there are also awesome reminders that we are human beings in this life, and that sometimes that means things that are wholly human and physical and perfectly okay even if they aren’t strictly “spiritual”. There’s good grounding in there.

Three pawprints out of five.

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Coming Back to Life by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown

Coming Back to Life: Practice to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World
Joanna Lacy and Molly Young Brown
New Society Publishers, 1998
224 pages

I first encountered Joanna Macy’s work when I began to learn about ecopsychology. While she is not expressly a psychologist, her work in systems theory and deep ecology in particular tie in very nicely with ecopsychology, and her writings are considered foundational to that field. Her work with exploring and working through grief, as well as broader ritual practices, give her a solid place in the study and practice of modern rites of passage.

Pagans ought to be very aware of her works, especially those who enact group rituals. This text, cowritten by Molly Young Brown, herself a practitioner of ecopsychology among other disciplines, is a great starting point for those unfamiliar. It is a book for leading and guiding group rituals, without specific spiritual or religious trappings, that are designed to facilitate connection with the self, with others, and with the world around us. The context for the rituals is explained in great detail, from the feelings of grief, loss, and other emotions that often go unspoken in polite society, to the importance of caring for the emotions of ritual participants and how to help them through difficult catharses. Much of this may already be known to seasoned priest/esses and other pagan clergy, but there are some useful guidelines nonetheless.

The rituals themselves are fantastic. There’s the classic Council of All Beings, in which participants speak as various nonhuman entities. There are also exercises like Tape Recording to the Future and Letters From the Future which help us to place ourselves in context of the enormity of Time As a Whole, but also bring us into immediate awareness of the effects our actions have on those who will come after us. Narrative, art, and other forms of expression feature prominently, and there is much to utilize in working with pagan groups.

I highly recommend this as a guide to ritual practices, not only for eco-centric or politically minded pagans, but those wishing for inspiration for more emotionally involved rituals. There’s plenty to think about and even more to do, and I am nothing less than amazed by the creativity and effectiveness of what is presented here.

Five pawprints out of five.

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Rainbow Medicine by Wolf Moondance

Rainbow Medicine: A Visionary Guide to Native American Shamanism
Wolf Moondance
Sterling Publishing Company, 1994
192 pages

I tried to give this book a fair chance, despite my misgivings about claims of “Native American shamanism” from someone who, to my knowledge, isn’t recognized by any official tribe. (Having Cherokee and Osage genetics does not predispose one to knowing about a culture one has not been exposed to, or its religious practices.) While there are some useful practices in here, trying to call them a complete system of shamanism–or calling them Cherokee or Osage practices–would be seriously misleading.

As the title suggest, the information here is organized along the colors of the rainbow, though with an addition of “burgundy”, and several chapters on the directions and other natural phenomena. Each chapter includes the record of a journey the author did with the theme of the chapter, followed by a number of meditations, craft projects and other activities associated with the theme. And that’s pretty much it.

In and of themselves some of the journaling and meditation exercises are good reflection tools. Unfortunately, some of the activities, particularly crafts, are hijacked from various indigenous cultures, taken out of their context, and presented as “universal” practices. This, of course, dilutes their purpose as they need context which is unfortunately not provided here. One person’s journeying does not make up for the loss of an entire culture. Additionally, as mentioned, this seems to have less to do with complex Cherokee or Osage spirituality and more with core shamanism, New Age practices, and the author’s background in “human development” (does she have a degree in developmental psychology? Nothing is for sure.).

While I have no doubt that this can be an effective set of tools, both for the author and for some readers, I was disappointed by the lack of context, including but not limited to the lack of making direct connections between the author’s personal journey, and the exercises themselves. How much of this is the author’s own subjective experience, and how much is cultural material (however it may be presented)? It’s never made very clear.

One and a half pawprints out of five.

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ChristoPaganism by Joyce and River Higginbotham

ChristoPaganism: An Inclusive Path
Joyce and River Higginbotham
Llewellyn, 2009
310 pages

Hoo, boy. This book is bound to stir up controversy. There are plenty of pagans who seem to have no qualms with drawing inspiration and practices from other religions–pretty much all of them, except for Christianity. You have Jewish witches, and those who draw on indigenous religions (despite the protests of some indigenous practitioners!) Yet try mixing Christianity and paganism, and you get all sorts of complaints from those who say it can’t be done (no doubt many of whom are speaking from a history of bad experiences with Christianity–or at least Christians).

However, for those whose experiences in such blending do undeniably work, or for those who wish to give it a try, this is an invaluable text. The authors have a strong understanding of the theological concepts that go into blending such a seemingly difficult interfaith blending, and make a good case for it. They start out by giving good foundational explanations of neopaganism and Christianity. Some may balk at the “unconventional” approach to Christianity they present, which challenges a lot of assumptions that casual Christians may have, and goes back to a variety of historical research that shows a very different origin and growth of the religion than is popularly understood. (No, I’m not talking about the various grail mythos thingies that talk about Jesus and Mary Magdelene in Europe–it’s much better scholarship than that.)

In making the case for interfaith blending, they draw on a variety of contemporary sources, not the least of which are the writings of Ken Wilber as well as spiral dynamics. I will admit that I thought that occasionally the general message of a broader perspective being more evolved read like it translated into interfaith = more evolved, but a closer reading without this kneejerk reaction gave me a better sense of what the authors were trying to say–that a more evolved perspective allows for the existence of, but doesn’t necessarily include personally, such things. This sounds controversial, but this is a controversial book to begin with, so in for a penny, in for a pound!

There’s also a nicely substantial section of personal testimonies from folks who have done various combinations of Christianity and neopaganism. This may be really helpful to those who feel alone in their path, as well as give ideas on how-tos without dealing with dogma.

Ultimately, many people are going to come to this book with their biases intact whether I advise them to or not; needless to say, I still recommend approaching it with as open a mind as possible. Of all the ways this combination of faiths could have been presented, this is probably one of the sanest and most well-thought-out. While it’s not my personal path, for anyone who has been wanting resources on the topic of mixing Christian and neopagan religious beliefs and practices, this is a great text to have on hand.

Five pawprints out of five.

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The Living Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak

The Living Temple of Witchcraft: The Descent of the Goddess (Volume One)
Christopher Penczak
Llewellyn Publications, 2008
390 pages

Note: This review was originally published in the second issue of Thorn Magazine.

For the better part of this decade, Christopher Penczak has been building the Temple of Witchcraft, a substantial series of books for the solitary practitioner to get a solid footing in neopagan-flavored magick. The Living Temple of Witchcraft is the fifth book in this series.

Penczak’s strength lies in his ability to cohesively present a collection of material from the pragmatic to the personal so that it flows together in a guided journey through each book. Readers aren’t just given some spells and correspondences and left to figure out how they go together and what they mean. By utilizing each text as a workbook, rather than a theory reader, they may learn more about themselves and what motivates them to practice witchcraft. There is a depth to these books that is far too often missing in practical neopagan literature. The Living Temple of Witchcraft is definitely an advanced text in eclectic paganism, preparing the reader for going beyond self-study and personal practice.

This newest text goes beyond the individual practitioner’s needs and goals, and introduces the reader to concepts and resources necessary for teaching the Temple material to students. The overwhelming bulk of the book, though, prepares the reader for this task by emphasizing personal growth and evolution through mysticism. Don’t let that last term fool you into thinking this is New Agey, unsubstantial fluff. Penczak’s conception of mysticism follows the descent of Inanna into the Underworld; while the ultimate goal of the material herein is positive, many of the steps along the way require the reader to traverse frightening territory within the self.

For example, at one point Penczak integrates the shamanic practice of experiencing death and rebirth. This is never an easy process when done properly, and the exact manifestation that is included in this book focuses on facing one’s fears—and letting them kill you. While numerous books attempt to recreate the shamanic death, often those doing the killing are either random entities that show up, or virtual stock characters. Penczak makes this ordeal very personal by having the reader evoke what terrifies them the most. There’s a solid psychological reason for undergoing this process, multiple times if necessary—“The death is just that part of the outmoded ego patterns and the successful creation of new patterns that better serve you” (144).

Serve you to what end, you may ask? In addition to exercises and other material aimed at strengthening the self and shedding old paradigms of belief and behavior that may hinder personal growth, Penczak offers up some valuable food for thought for would-be teachers. A good example may be found in the chapter on communication. Along with expected tips, such as making sure you have everything you need for a lesson before the lesson begins, and making sure students have time to ask questions, he also includes the consideration of whether the would-be teacher has experience with public speaking, or suffers from performance anxiety in some (or all) settings. He is also careful to remind the reader that students all progress at their own individual pace, and so trying to rush slower students along is a poor plan.

For those unfamiliar with the Temple of Witchcraft series, do be aware that this is a very eclectic set of traditions. In addition to the Descent of Inanna, Penczak also draws on the seven primary chakras as an organizational structure for the material. Each of the chapters is centered around the qualities and lessons of a chakra. For example, chapter one, the Root chapter, deals with the basic environment of the body, as well as a introductory guide to the more advanced inner mysteries of numerous world traditions. Chapter two, dealing with the stomach chakra, “deals with the ‘gut’ consciousness, the primal instinct. Usually connected with the element of water…[it] is the temple of feeling” (p. 91). The rest of the chapters follow suit. He does draw on material from multiple cultures when speaking of a particular subject, such as in the aforementioned multicultural discussion of mysticism, or when he discusses the concept of the soul from the perspective of several cultures as well as a selection of neopagan and New Age authors. He doesn’t present these as being interconnected in artificial ways, such as trying to claim that every culture he discusses knew about each other and traded notes, or that all mystical systems descend from Atlantis. Rather, he offers these overviews of other cultures’ practices and beliefs as useful information to be aware of when discussing material with students, but with an important caveat such as that given when speaking of models of the soul: “Though given cultural terms, each of these models is influenced by my own understanding, and by those whose sources I’ve drawn upon” (p. 277). He can only dedicate a few paragraphs to each example from each culture, since the book is not meant to be an overview of global mysticism. While some readers may see this as covering topics without enough depth, alternately Penczak may be seen as offering starting points for researching ideas that it would be useful for the would-be teacher to know in more depth. There’s only so much that can be fit into one book, even one as thorough as this.

These are just a couple of examples of the wealth of material in this text. As I was reading, I was struck by how thoroughly Penczak covers ground. While occasionally I expected a particular detail to come a little earlier in the book, sure enough whatever I felt was missing would be explained later on. For example, I latched onto his discussion of witches as clergy in the introduction. I was a bit disappointed at first as I went through the first four chapters dealing with more personal-development-related material. However, when I got to chapter five, I understood how the previous chapters’ material was a necessary basis for being able to teach others. In being trained how to be self-aware in personal ways, readers are better prepared for such questions as “What did you like about your own training?…What did you enjoy about it, and how would you pass it on?…How does your own personality fit with teaching styles?” (p.195). As someone who has been pagan for over a decade and taught my fair share of workshops, I found a great deal of material to give me ideas for my own efforts in passing knowledge and practices on to others.

While I would strongly recommend this text to the general neopagan readership, I do recommend it in tandem with the previous books in the series. Normally I favor stand-alone books and while some of the material here may be useful for those who have already done the basics in other traditions, because Penczak’s books work so well together, they truly do deserve to be considered as a set. And if you’ve already been working through the Temple of Witchcraft series, be assured that this newest text is a pleasing next step in your development.

Five stars out of five.

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Shamanic Mysteries of Egypt by Scully and Star Wolf

Shamanic Mysteries of Egypt: Awakening the Healing Power of the Heart
Nicki Scully and Linda Star Wolf
Bear & Co, 2007
230 pages

Okay. I’m going to give this book some leeway because the authors make it very clear that what they’re presenting is New Age material. While they may take some concepts and flavorings from Egyptian mythos, what they’ve created are only very loose semblances, and they’re up front about that. Therefore I won’t pan the book as I would if they’d tried to convince me that the material was ancient, but I will have a few caveats.

Not that I dislike the book; for what it is and was intended to be, it turned out great! It’s a rather Aquarian pathworking system using Egyptian and sort-of shamanic elements. The pathworkings are arranged in groups. Two of them are–again, very loosely–based on the major arcana of the tarot, though the connections to the original cards might not immediately be evident. Then there are a number dedicated to the elements, as embodied through Egyptian phenomena (such as the Nile for Water). The authors then bring everything that the pathworker has done up to this point into a cohesive path toward “love” and “healing” (however you wish to interpret those particular concepts).

Kemetic pagans and others may disagree with the fairly light interpretation of the deities and other Egyptian beings; they’re shown as being a bit more nice and cooperative with the developing human spiritual being than ancient mythos describes (but again, this isn’t supposed to be grounded in the older mythos). I’m not sure I entirely agree with this being described as a “shamanic” text; guided meditations aren’t journeys, and while there is a death-rebirth theme to more than one of the pathworkings, that doesn’t make something automatically shamanic.

However, it’s still a quite useful text. The pathworkings, despite my qualms with the trappings, do build on each other, and do challenge the pathworker to delve deep within and wrestle with things that may not be easy to face. Certainly this books offers a good bit to think about and meditate on.

I didn’t like it quite so much as Scully’s Power Animal Meditations, but this is another decent collection of pathworkings along a specific theme. If that’s your style of working, this may be just what you’re after.

Four 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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