Oracle Bones Divination by Kostas Dervenis

Oracle Bones Divination: The Greek I Ching
Kostas Dervenis
Destiny Books, 2014/2004
166 pages

Reviewed by innowen

Dervenis’s book, Oracle Bones Divination, describes the practice of astragalomancy—the divination using the ankle bones of an animal (in this case, a sheep). According to Dervenis, this system possibly predates the Chinese I Ching by a few thousand years. Dervenis has spent a lot of time pouring over ancient texts and poems to make sure he was able to produce a coherent and cohesive ressurection of this practice. He’s even given it a bit of a modern face-life by giving instructions on how to divine with coins instead of the bones. The book contains two parts. Part one discusses this system, how Dervenis came about reconstructing it, and how he feels it works. It also goes into a bit of historical background about the Greek’s perspective on divination and mentions a smattering of Gods who could be used in seeking guidance. Part two details the stanzas that are to be read in the divination setting. The stanzas themselves are short and a bit “mystic”. They read more like fortunetelling bits than actual advice that one could get from going to a practitioner.

To use this system, you need three coins and a question. Holding the question in your head, you then “toss” the coins and use a chart from the book to record the number. You do this five times for each question before consulting a chart in the back of the book to tell you what page to read from. This is very similar to the Chinese I Ching system. However, trying to find your 5 numbered system can take some time. Dervenis lists the order of the coin tosses in an order of “total” numbers. For example, 4-4-3-1-3 = fifteen. So I had to go to the area that lists all fifteens and then find my pattern in the next column. It’s not easy to find the numbers (the book doesn’t list all the combinations, rightfully so!).

This book is compact. It comes in at 166 pages but there’s no fluff. I liked how Dervenis introduces readers to the heart of the matter. I also like that he cites his sources and notes that if he got interpretations of the stanzas wrong, then it was his fault. I also like the fact that he’s a true resource for this system… he’s Greek and lives in Athens. This is important when it comes down to spiritual appropriation. He’s not appropriating the material, he’s trying to restore a valuable resource for his culture.

Because this book is intended to act as a real divination system, I decided to ask the system three questions (just like I do when I review new tarot decks or other systems). The results of the coin tosses (and their interpretations) come straight from the book.

1. What can you teach users?

4-4-3-1-3= page 80. My toss lead me to the “Zeus the Savior” passage, which reads, “A single one, two threes fall, and two fours: For such deeds as much transpire, with courage, take action. Proceed, for the gods send good tidings on this matter. Spare no efforts; there is nothing evil ahead for you.”

I interpret this to mean that this system can help users gain clarity and get clear guidance from this system. That it takes courage to test this out and to “learn” it but it will help you uncover what concerns you have.

2. What are your strengths?

3-6-3-3-4 page 118. This passage is called “Victory Triumphant” and reads,” One six and three threes, the fifth a four: I foresee good things, stranger, in this consultation. And he who walks in foreign lands will end his journey well. With the help of Zeus, you will soon achieve what you strive for.”

I interpret this to mean that the oracle’s strengths lie in it’s ability to give those victory over adversity.

3. What are your weaknesses?

4-3-3-1-3 page 74. This passage is called “Triton” and reads,” A single one and three threes, the fifth a four: Your attempts are in vain; you struggle against the waves. You seek a fish in the ocean; be in no hurry to act. Nor is it useful for you to make demands of the gods at the wrong time.”
Wow… okay, this is a bit spooky. It’s like the oracle has a sense of humor and knows that I am asking it about itself. It’s like this passage is all “I know what you are doing and it’s not going to work. Take me seriously, or don’t use me at all.” Point taken oracle, point taken. I’m just trying to let the readers here know what they can expect, that’s all.

Bottom Line

Oracle Bones Divination is a great introduction to using this oracular system. It gives readers history of where it came from, two ways to divine for guidance, and it even discusses some of the theory behind how this could all work and which of the Greek gods to use when casting the system. If you are curious about Greek methods of divination, then this book is right up your alley.

Three pawprints out of five.

Want to buy this book?

Advertisements

Invoking the Scribes of Ancient Egypt: The Initiatory Path of Spiritual Journaling by Normandi Ellis and Gloria Taylor Brown

Invoking the Scribes of Ancient Egypt: The Initiatory Path of Spiritual Journaling
Normandi Ellis and Gloria Taylor Brown
Bear & Company, 2011
xii + 307 pages

reviewed by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

This book has an intriguing concept, and in its scope it attempts to provide (at least) four things to potential readers: a travelogue of an especially inspirational pilgrimage to and tour of Egypt; a series of writing exercises; a group of thematic rituals and guided meditations; and personal accounts by various participants in the pilgrimage and tour that don’t necessarily have to do directly with what occurred on the trip, but may relate to their earlier experiences, or particular reflections on lessons learned as a result of the trip and the writing exercises done on it, often including short poetic compositions. To entitle this entire collection both “Invoking the Scribes of Ancient Egypt” and “The Initiatory Path of Spiritual Journaling,” however, is a bit of a stretch in both cases, unfortunately.

Information on scribal practices in Egypt is not as plentiful as many of us might hope, but it is far more extensive than is indicated in this book. While both the scribes of Egypt and the participants in this tour and pilgrimage were both “writing in Egypt,” the similarities somewhat end there. To suggest that what exercises are given in this book—however useful or profound they might end up being for some readers and writers—is in any sense a continuation of ancient Egyptian practices any more than any other type of writing done in Egypt today, or done anywhere else in the world by anyone, would need to have better lines drawn to indicate such than what is presented in this book. Further, to refer to the practice of keeping a journal of one’s spiritual exercises and reflections (which is, undoubtedly, a useful and enriching practice) as an “initiatory path” is also an overstatement. Initiation is a far more serious, intense, and dedicated spiritual practice than keeping a journal is, and many individuals keep journals as assiduously as (if not more so than) some spiritual practitioners, and yet to call one “spiritual” simply by virtue of some of the topics addressed in it is likewise an exaggeration, at very least.

For those who take the existence of the Egyptian deities seriously, some of the writing exercises might not be very palatable. Writing an “I Am Isis” aretalogical poem, for example, may strike some as impious, since that formulation and the goddess are being used as a projection screen for one’s own self-exploration.

Some of the rituals given in this book—including those at the beginning and end of the pilgrimage—are not Egyptian-specific, and in fact draw upon an eclectic range of spiritual traditions, including various Native American concepts (though no singular people or culture is named, only vague notions of totem-type animals and their desirable characteristics). In both rituals, which have a directional (East, South, West, North, Above, Below, Center) focus, ending with the phrase “…all our relations” and then “Ah ho” is the format followed. I don’t know the cultural background or training of the main ritualist amongst the group, but I can’t help but feel that doing this sort of North American indigenous tradition-inspired practice as a beginning and end to a pilgrimage in Egypt is inappropriate at best, and culturally appropriative at worst.

Egyptian tradition is not my primary area of familiarity, but even I know that some matters are rather inaccurately portrayed. The Great Sphinx is addressed by some participants as a female (p. 47), and even though the gender of the statue is not entirely certain, the Egyptians of antiquity considered it male. The Egyptian goddess Satis is called the “goddess of satisfaction” at one point (p. 57), but the etymologies of the name “Satis” and the word “satisfaction” are not at all connected (and originate in two entirely different, non-cognate languages!), and Satis herself has no direct connection to such a concept. In reference to Imhotep, the architect of the step pyramid at Saqqara (amongst many other venerable accomplishments), Gloria Taylor Brown writes “[He] is the only example of which I am aware where a historical man has been added to the pantheon of Egypt” (p. 245). Brown’s biography in the book suggests she is a lifelong student of Egyptian studies and teacher of Egyptian mysteries. Thus, it is rather upsetting that she doesn’t seem to know about the possibilities for deification of humans that are present in a great deal of ancient Egyptian religion, nor the further examples of it, including Petesi and Paher (whose temple is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), and which continued through to the early second century of the current era as well with, at very least, Antinous. Granted, few amongst the pharaohs, even, achieved renown as great as Imhotep, but he is far from the only example.

For readers who are not interested in a close study of Egyptian precedents for spiritual practice, and who don’t mind a fair bit of New Age material (including references to Edgar Cayce, Omm Sety, and various other New Age-Egyptian connections), as well as spiritual traditions from a variety of other cultures, being mixed into the ever-intriguing cauldron of Egyptian “mystery,” this will be a very satisfying book. What I found the most interesting and useful about it was the photos and the two principal authors’ narratives about some aspects of the various sites that were visited on the tour. The type of writing exercises offered here are found in many other places, and if approached outside of the specific Egyptian tour and pilgrimage context, may be just as effective to pursue for those who wish to do so.

Two pawprints out of five.

The Catalpa Bow by Carmen Blacker

The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan
Carmen Blacker
Routledge, 1999
384 pages

The Catalpa Bow is a gold mine for lesser known Japanese religious practices, and it’s a shame that this book is often overlooked. Unlike a lot of books that pertain to Japan and its religions, The Catalpa Bow doesn’t pull any punches and the author doesn’t sugar coat or hide her data behind any amount of political agendas as so many books seem to do. The Catalpa Bow discusses a variety of religious practices within Japan, but Blacker mainly focuses on the practices surrounding various mediums and ascetics.

The book starts out with a brief overview of the Japanese religious structure. Blacker goes over the way that religion changed within Japan, covering the basics of Shinto origins and how those practices morphed once Buddhism was introduced into the country. She also goes into some depth regarding how later government influences changed the topography of the Japanese religious landscape and the impact that the government had as a whole.

Once she has set up a foundation to work on, she goes into detail about the various roles and powers that mediums and ascetics are said to have in Japan and the methods and trials that people go through to gain and maintain these powers. Blacker then wraps up her book with methods of how the Japanese might do spirit work or perform spirit journeys as well as discussing oracle methods and exorcism methods. All in all, the book is incredibly informative and is written with a lot of respect for the culture and the people that are the subject of Blacker’s research. Additionally, unlike a lot of authors, Blacker experienced a large portion of her topics first hand- going through some of the same trials and procedures that the other ascetics and mediums were going through (such as fire walking, fasting, sutra recitation, etc).

This book is definitely written with an academic slant, though I don’t think that it’s dry in its approach. Blacker does a good job of giving you a wide foundation of terms and background information so that you should be able to pick this book up and follow along even if you don’t have a lot of pre-existing knowledge of Japan or its religious practices. Blacker discusses a lot of things that I have never seen mentioned in any other book, and I definitely would recommend this book to others, as I feel it captures a glimpse of Japanese religion that just doesn’t exist in very much capacity in the modern era. I feel like her book peels back the layers of time and shows you a glimpse of Japanese religion before the modern era took over and it definitely has left me wanting to learn more about pre-WWII era Shinto. Additionally, a lot of the topics discussed in the book have applied to my current religious practice and have given me ways to reconsider and re-evaluate some of the stuff I do when interacting with gods.

Here are some excerpts from the book that I found interesting:

The term yorishiro also describes a wide variety of objects used as temporary vessels for the kami. Many yorishiro were long and thin in shape—as a tree, a banner, a wand—as though the numinous presence, like lightning streaking down a conductor, could be induced by such means to descend from his higher plane to ours. Thus trees, particularly pine trees, have always been a favourite vehicle for the kami’s descent. (p. 20)

The power-giving qualities of seclusion in darkness have been interestingly explained by Origuchi Shinobu. Sacred power is often manifested in Japan, he writes, inside a sealed vessel. In the darkness of this vessel it gestates and grows, until eventually it bursts its covering and emerges into the world. … Before sacred power, as manifested in a being from the other world, can buist its skin and appear in our world, it must pass a period of gestation in the darkness of a sealed vessel. Likewise the ascetic who wishes to acquire sacred power undergoes a period of gestation in the nearest he can find to an utsubo vessel, a cave or darkened room. In this womb-like stillness he undergoes his fasts and recites his words of power, emerging only to stand beneath his waterfall. (p. 77)

5 pawprints out of 5.

Want to buy this book?

The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook by Tamara L. Siuda

The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook
Tamara L. Siuda
Stargazer Design, 2005-2009
167 pages

Reviewed by Ser

I started reading The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook without any expectations, other than hopefully learning more about Ancient Egyptian religion. I believe having an open mind led me to enjoy this book beyond it’s face value of a book full of prayers.

This book was written with practitioners of Kemetic Orthodoxy in mind, but I believe non-practitioners can still get something from this book, if only a better understanding of what those following KO believe and practice. There are two small chapters at the beginning dedicated to the definition of prayer, setting up shrines, and how to properly pray at a KO shrine (along with some recipes for natron and kapet); these chapters build a brief foundation for the prayers to follow, but I would have enjoyed more background.

Chapters 3 through 11 are each devoted to a different type of prayer, such as prayers for certain holidays, prayers for ancestors and prayers for specific deities. I enjoyed the latter in particular, as for each god and goddess the author included a historical section that included details about the deities going beyond simple attributes. Information in these sections include the origins of worship for that particular deity, the evolution of worship, and even some customary offerings that other practitioners have had good experiences with. Deities are also named in Egyptian style, rather than Classical, which I enjoyed (for example: Aset, instead of Isis). A wide variety of prayer styles is also included, from short mantras to lengthy prayers I imagine are used in full ceremony. There are even a couple of short, non-deity specific prayers that I enjoyed specifically.

Throughout the book are a few typos, but not enough to really detract from the book. (However I think they should have been caught before the second edition was released.) While reading, I would have liked a bit more explanation on the holidays, though I expect that would be better suited for a general Kemetic Orthodoxy book than a specifically named Prayerbook.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and am pleased with the variety of prayers included. This book wasn’t too applicable to my own studies, though it did present me with some new ideas and things to ponder. While I really can’t see this as a stand-alone book by any means, it does well as a companion book to anyone serious about studying Kemetic Orthodoxy or the worship of Ancient Egyptian deities in general.

Four pawprints out of five.

Want to buy this book?

Nebt-het: Lady of the House by Tamara L. Siuda

Nebt-het: Lady of the House
Tamara L. Siuda
lulu.com, 2010
36 pages

Reviewed by Ser

In the book’s preface, we learn that Nebt-het: Lady of the House started life as a “formal academic paper” for the author’s master’s degree. While Amazon lists the book as containing 36 pages, in actuality the “meat” of this book is only 9 1/2 pages. It reads just like a paper, too: rather dryly.

The preface to the 2010 edition is a spiritual dedication to Nebt-het herself, so I expected the rest of the book to follow suit. It does not. After the 9 1/2 pages of the paper, there is an additional 9 pages of references or “Notes”, another 3 pages of “Bibliography and Works Cited”, and 6 1/2 pages of alternative names and associations of Nebt-het. $12 is a lot to pay for 9 1/2 pages of someone’s school paper, a lot of which (though not all) contains information that I could find online after a few minutes of Googling. Whether this is because of the book or in spite of it, I can’t tell. (It does make me consider publishing my own school papers to earn a few bucks.)

There is a line stating something was discussed earlier, “on page 5”. When turning back to refresh myself of the subject, page 5 turned out to be the preface to the 2004 edition. I had to count individual pages of the paper itself to find the location being referred to. A small revision is needed to clarify this point to save the reader time and possible confusion.

That said, it is nice to have the scant information on Nebt-het in one place, as well as a listing of the many epithets of the goddess. I don’t doubt this information would be useful to anyone interested in learning more about Nebt-het and how she ties into Ancient Egyptian theology. As this paper is no longer for school purposes, I feel that there should really be more of the second preface’s contents included – the personal experiences and feelings that can give the goddess personality. I expected to learn of Nebt-het through the author’s point of view; this may be because I was reading Siuda’s “The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook” simultaneously, which does include some of her personal experiences. I believe this book itself would be better served on the internet as a beginner’s reference (perhaps on kemet.org, which I believe is owned by the author?), or as the first chapter in a book on Nebt-het, followed by stories of current worship and encounters.

Three pawprints out of five.

Want to buy this book?

The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat by Kiya Nicoll

The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat
Kiya Nicoll
Megalithica Books, 2012
160 pages

Reviewed by Devo

Today I’m reviewing the book “The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat” by Kiya Nicoll. This book has been circling around a lot of the Kemetic community, and I was interested to take a look when Lupa gave me the chance to review it. I think if I could sum up this book in a sentence, it would be that it is too in-depth to be a 101 book, but not in-depth enough to be a 202 book. I understand that the author was trying to make the book approachable for non-Kemetics and laymen, but I felt that the language used made the concepts more difficult to grasp than needed. Perhaps this is just my method of reading and understanding, but I often found myself reading a section three and four times, trying to understand what was going on. Using things such as “retirement plan” to refer to death, or “book a tour” to refer to visiting the Duat while dreaming just ended up making me more confused on topics and concepts that should be fairly straight forward.

In this book, the author discusses magical type things (charms, rituals and other similar items), but she doesn’t go very in depth about how to perform them or utilize them in modern practice. It’s almost like everything that could be useful for actual protection is only mentioned in passing without much detail. So while I get the general gist of what she’s getting at, I don’t actually feel competent enough to perform the things she is suggesting. I find this to be a real shame, because there are some really interesting ideas mentioned in the book, and I would have been interested to see them taken a step further so that modern practitioners could put them to use.

Sometimes the author leans towards authenticity over actual practicality. In one section of the book, the author suggests the use of malachite-based cosmetics to help with distant travel within the Duat. I understand the desire to showcase things that are from ancient Egypt that were used in antiquity. However, I think that in cases where the user’s health could be as stake- its important to add disclaimers such as “malachite that has been placed on the skin can kill you, or make you very sick. As an alternative, you could use modern green eyeliner”.

There are some basic formatting issues in the book that bug me. The Sidebars in the book being labeled as “Sidebar” was confusing, and wasn’t something I was used to. Normally a sidebar gets its own page, or is literally- a bar of text that floats on the side of the page, however the sidebars in this book were inline with the rest of the text- you’d get a header, notifying you of the sidebar, but you never knew exactly where it ended, and for me, this just made for more confusion. The inconsistent header text styles also bothered me. These are little things compared to content, but were still enough that I noticed them.

I noticed that the author introduces terms without any sort of definition within the text, so you have to go to the back of the book for definitions sometimes- which can be cumbersome. Because I’ve read a fair amount of books on ancient Egyptian religion, most of the terms were no problem for me- however, for someone who isn’t well versed in these terms, this could be a problem.
One of my favorite sections of the book was the short overview of materials for amulet creation.

I particularly liked the section on the Eye of Horus. It was a more in-depth description than I have seen in most places. The explanation of the Eye of Horus/Heru was one of the clearer ones I had read:

“The Eye itself was used hieroglyphically to represent fractions; each stroke was a different proportion of the whole (“wedjat” means “whole” or “restored one”). Thus, it is a unity of many parts, an individual manifestation which is itself a community of members.”

“The Pyramid Texts refer several times to the Eye of Heru that has been illuminated by the finger of Set. In the great conflict… each attacked the other in his place of power… Without the conflict between the rivals, the Eye remains unilluminated: the dedicant does not become an initiate. The power of the Eye resides in the fact that it contains the legacy of its damage; it is strong enough to handle the turmoils of conflict in a world that contains chaos and destruction.”

Some other quotes that caught my eye:

“Broadly speaking, the Duat lies between seen world and the Nun. It is closer to the realm of formless potential than the material world, and thus more fluid in form and concept, as well as being more vulnerable to the dangerous forces of unbeing… Whether one imagines this space as part of an underworld into which the sun vanishes when it dis below the horizon or the interior of the goddess Nut who swallows the sun in the evening to give birth to it in the morning makes no difference; this world is neither, both, infinitely distant and perfectly overlapping that which we can see. The horizon is the seam between the two worlds: always visible, never reachable.”

“As your ba contains your reputation, you will wish to be concerned with your good name. Those who speak ill of you are capable of doing harm to this soul, harm which may separate you or make you ba fractious and disinclined to associate with you.”

All in all, I think the book can have some uses, but I don’t find it very user friendly due to the language used and the confusing layout of topics and order of discussion. Perhaps if I knew more about the Book of Going Forth By Day (aka the Book of the Dead- which is largely what this book is based off of), it would have made more sense to me. However, considering this book is supposed to be approachable to all people- you should be able to grasp the concepts without having read anything else about the Duat.

Two pawprints out of five.

Want to buy this book?

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

Want to buy this book?

Phantom Armies of the Night by Claude Lecouteux

Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and the Ghostly Processions of the Undead
Claude Lecouteux
Inner Traditions, 2011
320 pages

Reviewed by Uloboridae

As the title promises, this text is a detailed introduction to the “Wild Hunt” literary theme found throughout Europe. Dr. Lecouteux frames the entire book around the hypothesis that the Wild Hunt theme is an ancient pagan fertility (“third function”) motif of Indo-European origin that was later modified for Christian uses.

The first two-thirds of the book is spent looking at the various figures within the stories, their origins, and the many ways the stories were used for promoting a Christian worldview, particularly regarding sinful actions. This is mainly organized as a timeline, with the first chapters starting with the stories in early 1000s and gradually becoming more recent in later chapters. This is where he identifies, and then separates, the Christian additions from what he recognizes as the original Pagan framework. This method results in quite a large chunk of the book dedicated to explaining Christian clerical beliefs. The author starts out with the “Good Women” troops and the troops of the dead, and then goes into the troops that participate in a hunt or a procession of some sort. The troops of the dead reappear in later chapters to clarify the differences between these types of processions.

He also identifies the regional variations of the figures and stories, focusing mainly on Germanic regions (primarily today’s UK, Germany, Denmark, Austria, and parts of Scandinavia) and Germanic-influenced regions in Spain, France, Italy, and Central Europe. Attention is given to famous figures such as King Herla, Hellequin, and Perchta along with lesser known ones such as Oskeria, Dame Abundia, and Guro. Little attention is given to non-Germanic cultures, which is disappointing, but understandable, given that his professional background is specifically Medieval Germanic literature.

Eventually the author ends his timeline-based exploration in chapters 11 and 12 with the evolution of the Wild Hunt stories in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. He discusses the romance of Fauvel to lead into the more exploratory aspects of the processions, such as the rowdy troops of the living that imitate the dead and devils. Pausing briefly for a chapter on Scandinavian folklore that resemble more basal Wild Hunt stories, the author then ties up the previous 12 chapters with a review on shared themes and other scholars’ interpretations.
The author then concludes with a dismissal of Odin as a Wild Hunt leader, going into detail as to why he is not a true huntsman figure, and an exploration of living processions that are linked to the lore processions. His final chapter recognizes the fact that no true conclusion can be met about the nature of the Wild Hunt and related stories, a refreshing attitude for books of this subject. The appendixes are translations of old stories and poems that depict or refer to the Wild Hunt and other processions, free of Dr. Lecouteux’s interpretations (those are given in earlier chapters).

Overall, I found this book to be informative from both a historical and a religious viewpoint. There are times where he asserts an idea as if it were fact (particularly with linguistic connections being used to “prove” or “disprove” an aspect or being of the Wild Hunt), which one would not be able to check unless they were familiar with the field. This situation forces a regular reader to either accept his word, or ignore it, which I find a bit distracting. I prefer to have context and information to support either decision, rather than mentally flipping a coin to decide which way to go. Usually I end up just ignoring the unsupported assertions, which thankfully does not interrupt the rest of the book.

This book is written in an academic voice, requiring some sections to be reread to fully comprehend them. Occasionally the book felt dragging due to the repetition of ideas and interpretations. Dr. Lecouteux also has a tendency to pack his books with information, which can be both good and bad. Good because historical Pagan information is limited and many of us need every bit we can find. Bad, because there is often no room left to give context to the random tidbits. Since the book was originally written in French, the references are mostly French and German sources, so trying to trace the information is nearly impossible for other language speakers to do. For someone like me who wants to double-check something for “truthfulness”, this can be irksome.

However, the author is excellent in keeping a neutral, professional tone in his work. He does not promote or degenerate Christianity or Paganism, nor does he reveal which “side” he is on (if any at all). His interest is solely academic, allowing this book to appeal to a variety of readers. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves European and Religious history and lore, as well as those seeking to understand the differences between Christian and Pagan worldviews. It will make an interesting addition to their library. However, due to the lack of context for some ideas, I would not recommend this book to those new to historical paganism. This is a “201” book, something to read after basic knowledge on Pagan worldviews has already been obtained and understood.

Three and a half pawprints out of five.

Want to buy this book?

Reading Egyptian Art by Richard Wilkinson

Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture
Richard Wilkinson
Thames & Hudson, 1994
224 pages

Reviewed by Devo

I have to say that I’m very impressed with this book. This is the first book that I’ve read in a long time that presented any new material for me to learn. And after reading this book, I feel like I could potentially navigate ancient Egyptian reliefs with a bit more knowledge and ability.

This book is set up pretty simply. On any given spread, you will see a hieroglyph and its name. On the right side, you’ll see the glyph explained in detail about what it represents, its symbolism, uses, etc. On the left hand side, you’ll see various pictures and examples of the glyph being used. It makes a nice reference, esp. when you’re looking at some relief, and want to know more about it. In the back, there is a basic index of hieroglyphs, in case you want the full list.

The book presents a wide variety of glyphs which have been categorized into easily navigable chapters and sections for easy reference. The writing is straight forward and very easy to read. The writing style works well for beginner and seasoned reader alike.

The only down side to this book is that I wish he covered more glyphs. I flip through the back, and look at other symbols, and I want to know what they mean, what they represent. I wish there was a full reference of every major ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, so that I could study it more. Other than that, I have no complaints with this book. I learned a lot of mythology I didn’t know before, I learned more specifics about the gods that I was unaware of, and I got to learn more about the basic symbols you see all the time, but usually aren’t explained well.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book if you’re interested in learning more about symbolism and hieroglyphs in Ancient Egyptian art.

Five pawprints out of five.

Want to buy this book?

Following the Sun by Sharon LaBorde

Following the Sun: A Practical Guide to Egyptian Religion
Sharon LaBorde
Self-published (lulu.com), 2010
300 pages

Reviewed by Devo

This book disappointed me on many levels, though I can’t say that it was unexpected. There were many things that irritated me about this book, though a few things stick out in particular. Those being: the author’s sourcing, the author’s tone/writing style, and the actual content of the book.

My biggest complaint about this book is the sourcing (or lack thereof). For me, if you’re not an actual Egyptologist and you’re writing about historical ancient Egypt, you have to have good sourcing in order to be taken seriously. Otherwise, your work means nothing. There are many tidbits and facts in this book that I have never seen before. This is normally a good thing, because it means I’m learning new information. However, in this case, the lack of sourcing makes the book totally useless because I can’t vouch for the validity of much of anything that is written.

My second issue with this book is the author’s tone while writing. I assume that she wanted to be considered “jovial” or easy to approach. However, it just makes the author appear dumbed down, or that the author feels that you, the reader, are dumb. It was so frustrating. Along with her tone, I didn’t like that she made it sound like Kemeticism IS this or IS that. There is no wiggle room. Nothing irritates me more than a black and white book that speaks as though it knows all. Ugh. She is quick to call certain theories “zany” or outlandish. She is very harsh towards ideas that are not her own. Along the lines of harsh content, both her Intro and Conclusion had “stories” in them that made reference to people who misunderstood Kemeticism. That’s fine, but the way she relates these stories to the reader is more of a “I met this person, and they said something stupid in relation to Kemeticism. And now that you’ve read my book, you won’t be as stupid as they were!” What if the people she referenced happened to read her book and they saw her caustic remarks?

And finally, I didn’t like the content of the book. I felt that the content wasn’t well researched at all. And you can definitely see the biases of the author through the content (e.g. a total slap to anything remotely Kemetic Orthodox in nature, or her constant references to the 18th dynasty, a dynasty that she is very much into). To me, an author should promote an unbiased and well researched book, and this book is neither.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone, especially not to a beginner (which is ironically the target audience for this book). I fear that if a beginner read this book before anything else- that they would have to unlearn a lot of things that are not generally accepted in the Kemetic community. Plus, due to the bad sourcing, I am afraid that some of the facts or scenarios laid out in this book are incorrect, thereby causing problems for the newcomer who stumbles their way into the online Kemetic community.

1 pawprint out of 5

Want to buy this book?

« Older entries