Spiritual Scents by Shauna Aura Knight

Spiritual Scents: Creative Use of Scent and Fire in Ritual
Shauna Aura Knight
Jupiter Gardens Press, 2013
20 pages

Reviewed by Hilde

As more people discover they have intolerances and allergies the use of scents has become an increasingly important topic. The restrictions of many areas also make the use of live fire difficult or even completely unavailable. But limitations of attendees and venues need not be a worry for a facilitator willing to make some compromises. Knight bring her experience as both an attendee and a leader of ritual to provide alternatives for practitioners.

The majority of the alternatives the author offers are possibilities most people are already aware of, like using battery operated candles instead of wick candles or using water instead of oils. She also suggests the use of guided techniques to stimulate the mind into feeling and smelling what may not be physically available.

Even if there are restrictions with scent, it doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be used entirely. A little bit of organization, like splitting the smudging of sage between multiple people, can greatly reduce the amount of smoke. Substituting one sense for another is also an option, like using a rattle to cleanse with sound instead of cleansing with scent like smudging.

While I appreciate having all of these ideas readily available in one booklet, I didn’t see anything new or innovative. A little bit of common sense and creativity could easily lead a facilitator to choosing many of these options on their own.

Three pawprints out of five.

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Everyday Witch Book of Rituals by Deborah Blake

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

Reviewed by Micheal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four pawprints out of five.

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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Quadrivium Oils by Quadrivium Supplies

Quadrivium Oils
Quadrivium Supplies
Assorted blends

Reviewed by Skyllaros

About a month ago I received a sampler pack of oils from Quadrivium Supplies http://www.quadrivium-supplies.com/). I wanted to take a good amount of time to thoroughly review them both for their quality as an oil, and have a chance to use them magically as well.

For those not familiar with Quadrivium, these oils are made for ritual magicians. Most people are familiar with Hoodoo oils, and these follow the same concept but seem to be made for practitioners of ritual magic in mind. Many of the oils are made based on the timing of astrological elections, lunar calendars, and planetary hours. They are made with natural ingredients.

First off let’s talk about the oils themselves. They came in little amber glass bottles, and let me tell you they smelled wonderful! They do not skimp on the ingredients! Each of them smelled sublime and very strong. One dab worn was almost too much. Eventually I started dabbing them on my pocket piece (High John the Conqueror root) in the morning instead of putting them on my person, which seemed a perfect comprimise. However each of the ones I tested smelled good enough to be used as a personal scent for magical means if that’s your preference. I think delicious is the word I would use. Also, they simply feel magical, a far cry from some of the inert feeling oils I have used in the past. One can simply tell upon opening that they were crafted by someone who knows what they are doing and puts the utmost of themselves into their creation.

I received bottles of Cut and Clear, Red Fast Luck, Road Opener, Crown of Success, and Fortune and Favor. Many of these fit with workings I had planned anyway so it was the perfect time to test them. I was able to test 4 of them fully. First off I used Fortune and Favor. This was by far my personal favorite. I first used it to anoint a candle in a Favor of Kings ritual I did in the day and hour of the sun to kick off the enchantment. After that I wore a dab of both Fortune and Favor and Crown of Success on my person daily, as well as putting in in strategic places on my desk and work place. I noticed a profound difference almost immediately. Not only did I notice people treating me with greater respect and reverence throughout the day, but the effect worked on myself as well as I felt as if I was radiating confidence at a visceral level. Thus I considered the rite a resounding success, and I continue to use them today.

Next I used Cut and Clear. I had an unfortunate situation with a co-worker that required I did my first binding in years. I used the oil, again anointed on the candle I used for the working and the co-worker has all but ceased bothering me or interacting with me negatively in any fashion. It worked quickly and completely, as I noticed to be the case with the previous oils.

I also had the opportunity to use Red Fast Luck on one occasion when quick luck was required. Lets just say my Will was done and all went according to plan that day. Would it of anyway? It’s hard to say, but the oil did appear to help matters go very smoothly in the best way possible.

I would recommend using these oils wholeheartedly. If I had to summarize one thing about my time working with these oils it would be that in all cases of my use they worked quickly and effectively.

Five pawprints out of five.

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Holy Smoke by Amy “Moonlady” Martin – new edition

Holy Smoke: Loose Herbs & Hot Embers for Intense Group Smudges & Smoke Prayers
Amy “Moonlady” Martin
Moonlady Media, 2010
110 pages

On rare occasion I will review a book a second time, especially if it’s undergone a lot of reworking. In its initial incarnation, this title was known as Spirit Herbs: Simple Recipes for Hibachi Herbal Magic & Sacred Space, and I gave it a glowing review because it was just so awesome. So a while back (longer than i care to admit, thanks to grad school eating my life), the author was kind enough to send me the new, updated, and even better version of the book! She removed a few things that she felt no longer fit, and added a LOT more practical material.

If you’re not familiar with the original review, this is a book all about alternatives to the usual sage smudging wand that everybody and their coven mother uses at the beginning of group neopagan rituals. Smudging is one of those practices that often gets taken for granted. “Okay, we’re going to waft smoke over you–and then get into the REAL ritual!” Yet this text takes what could be a brief step and goes into much more depth.

Some of the material is meant for the aforementioned group rituals. Beyond the initial “clean-up”, there are also smudges meant for much more intensive work over a duration of time, even a couple of hours. And whether you work with a group or alone, the “smoke prayers” are incredibly useful, both for offerings, and for focuses for meditation. At the center of all of these is the concept that scent is one of the most powerful senses we have; in fact, studies show that aromas are even more evocative than visual memories for bringing us back to a place and time, and Martin uses that to connect specific smudges to particular states of consciousness, ritual settings, etc. This is powerful stuff!

Better yet, she offers a variety of recipes for loose herb smudges. If you want a more organic alternative to chemical-laden incense sticks and cones, and especially if you’re big into DIY creations, this is a superb resource. The recipes can get you started, but she also takes care to familiarize you with a variety of ingredients and what they do, which will help you start making your own blends.

I thought I couldn’t say enough good about this book, but this new edition proved me so wrong–for which I’m quite happy! Whether you’re an herbalist looking for an addition to your library, a member of a group wanting more interesting material for rituals, or simply someone who appreciates the full use of the senses in spirituality and magic, this is a most excellent text to pick up!

Five pawprints out of five

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A Guide to Zuni Fetishes and Carvings by Kent McManis

A Guide to Zuni Fetishes and Carvings
Kent McManis
Treasure Chest Books, 1995
48 pages

Note: There are expanded editions of this text available; this is an older edition. Please see the link at the end of the review. Please follow the link at the end of the review if interested.

Often imitated, but hard to reproduce at authentic quality, the small stone animal fetishes created by the Zuni and other southwestern American Indian cultures are well-known artifacts. However, most people don’t know much beyond the fact that they’re made by indigenous peoples, and perhaps that they’re worth money to collectors. This little book serves as an introduction to their origins and the current state of the art form.

A very basic explanation of the spiritual cosmology that informs the creation of Zuni fetishes is offered at the beginning. This creates a nice context for what follows, brief but interesting explanations of some of the more common animals found in fetish art, and what their spiritual and cultural significance is. Unlike Zuni Fetishes by Bennett, this is not a how-to text, and sticks pretty closely to the source material as opposed to extrapolating rituals that may or may not be authentic.

The book is largely aimed at collectors, and the absolutely stunning full color photographs that grace much of the book make it worth the cost on their own. McManis showcases the works of some of the better-known fetish artist families, as well as giving some information on the current living artists, and a bit on how to tell a fake apart from the real deal. The depth of the talent and creativity displayed in the examples given is amazing, and the book made me appreciate this art form even more than before.

Whether you’re a potential collector, a spiritual or artistic researcher, or simply interested in knowing a bit more about a neat niche topic, this is a good starting point. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it’s an easy to digest intro.

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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The Amulet Manual – Kim Farnell

The Amulet Manual: A Guide to Understanding and Making Your Own Amulets
Kim Farnell
O Books, 2007
134 pages

Note: This review was originally written for and published in newWitch magazine.

Most Pagans, once they have some experience, prefer to create their own rituals, spells and magical objects. The Amulet Manual is a basic guidebook to making amulets, magical objects aimed at drawing a particular sort of energy, influence or entity.

The first part of the book deals with the history of amulets in various cultures, and gives brief overviews of common amulets found everywhere from South America to ancient Egypt. The author also explains the difference between an amulet and a talisman, and provides a basic ritual for creating and charging your newly created amulet.

The bulk of the book is dedicated to magical correspondences that may come in handy when making amulets. The usual suspects—herbs, stones and planetary energies—are covered, though Farnell also covers sigilization (classic and Chaos magic). Her research is good and there’s a good bit of information in these pages. If you already have several books of magical correspondences, though, you may find much of the material redundant. In fact, the best audience for this book is the Pagan who has the basics down and wants to test the waters of amulet magic, but can’t afford a lot of books. It’s compact, though it shouldn’t be taken as the do-all and end-all of correspondences.

I do wish she would have cited her sources, or at least provided a bibliography. There’s a lot of information quite clearly taken from third party sources, and she doesn’t give credit for any of it. Additionally, it would be nice to know where she got her historical information.

If you’re still a relative beginner and want a good introductory text to the theory of amulet creation, this is a good start. There’s no practical how-to information on the actual creation of amulets, but this gives you basic building blocks.

Four pawprints out of five.

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Thorn Magazine, Volume One, Issue One

Thorn Magazine, Volume One, Issue One
Various authors, editors, artists and other contributors
December 2008
72 pages

Before I start this review, a disclaimer: I have been taken on as a reviewer by this publication, and have a book review in this issue. Please note the potential for bias, though I will do my best to maintain my neutrality.

The quality of neopagan dead tree magazines vary greatly. On the one hand, you have a small grouping of professional magazine publishers who have consistently managed to put forth decent material on a schedule. On the other, you have the magazines that never made it past the first issue, DIY zines of varying stripes and qualities, and some miscellaneous forgettable examples throughout the years. Running a magazine is tough, because it means multiple times a year you’re collecting, editing, laying out, printing and distributing material from all sorts of writers and other creatives. Burnout is common in the (relatively) small press magazine world.

I have a lot of hope for Thorn magazine, however. Started by “Chip O’Brien, the hideous result of a mad experiment by the Rutgers English department”, this is a pagan mag that goes well beyond spells and shiny objects. For this first issue, Chip and Co. managed to compile a delightful variety of articles, commentaries, artwork and other items. There’s too much to discuss every single item in detail, but here are a few of my favorites:

–The Wild Hunt (magazine column version) by Jason Pitzl-Waters: Despite the prevalence of paganism on the internet, not all pagans love spending time online as much as I do. So I thought that the addition of a summary of some of the highlights from the Wild Hunt was a great way to help the less cyber-focused still get access to a wide variety of pagan-relevant news bits. I thought it translated well, especially as I am a regular reader of the blog itself.

–Without a Watchmaker: An Atheist’s Search for the Gods by Robert Koskulics: Having recently taken up with someone who identifies both with the terms “pagan” and “atheist”, and having seen a recent spate of discussion of atheism in paganism via various popular pagan blogs, I leaped on this article almost immediately. It’s a sensitive treatment of one atheist’s experiences joining a coven for their Samhain celebration; while the author was frank about the points where he maybe wasn’t so moved by the ritual as the pagans were, I did enjoy his conclusion: “Gratitude for my life and my place in the world is almost as good as knowing why I should be grateful in the first place” (p.11). It’s a beautiful piece, and one of my favorites from the entire issue.

–The Extraordinary Healing And/Or Totally Fraudulent Powers of Orgone by Jeff Mach: I’m a bit familair with Reich from an occult perspective, but also from the perspective of a psych grad student. I haven’t yet read Reich’s works directly, though I have them in my possession, but I did have a class where a Reichian therapist sat in as a substitute for the usual professor and talked a bit about his practice. Mach’s article, on the other hand, tends to favor the more occultish interpretations of orgone energy, Reich’s theoretical energetic matrix that permeates, well, everything. While he does touch on Reich’s work in psychotherapy, much of the article deals with the more esoteric applications of orgone–and the conspiracy theories surrounding Reich’s persecution and mysterious death in prison. Reich and his work are not a simple topic to tackle, and Mach does quite the admirable job of presenting his case.

The Cauldron of Poesy (translation) by Erynn Rowan Laurie: This is a circa 7th century poem written by an Irish fili, or poet-mystic; Laurie has done a lovely job of translating it. Translation is always a bit of a challenge, especially with poetry, because often the original words are specifically chosen for their rhythm and sound, and trying to make a translation that sounds just as nice isn’t easy. Laurie preserves the meaning while creating something that is pleasurable to read and recite.

–Thralldom in Theodish Belief by Joseph Bloch: I’ll admit that I’m no expert on heathenry, and I know less about Theodism than other sorts, such as Asatru. However, I was utterly fascinated by this approach to a neotribal membership process that draws on the concept of a newcomer to a culture being a thrall, a “nobody”, who then must earn their place in society, through working within some very specific parameters. It’s a wonderfully thorough way to weed out potentially problematic applicants and to show who’s really dedicated to being a part of the tribe. I admit that I couldn’t help but be reminded, to an extent, of the spirit of the Master/slave relationship in BDSM–while the Theodish thralldom is in no way sexual, the general concept of a willing sacrifice of one’s power for a particular goal/purpose seems to be a commonality.

There were plenty of other things that I loved, to include a beautiful critique of Gimbutas’ faulty research, some absolutely amazing artwork, and spotlights on pagan-related pop culture. Admittedly, there were also a few pieces I thought weren’t as strong. Tchipakkan’s “Hanging with the Gods”, a discussion of her and her family’s experiences with “real live encounters” with the spirits and deities made me want to reach for my Occam’s Razor. Starwolf’s “Wyrd Science: A Lab Report” was supposed to include “20% craft skill, 60% research and 20%….insane inspiration!”, all I really saw was a couple of instructables on how to make a copper wand and a “Psychic Shield Generator”, with no real scientific method, research, or other content. And Jack Lux’s “An Evening With Uncle Chuckie” discussed the author’s inspiration to thumb his nose at “white lighters” and their pesky ethics after a presentation by the infamous Charles Cosimano; it came across more as a rebellious OMGDARKMAGICIAN, and my end reaction was “Gee, so you cast a curse and it might have worked. That’s nice”.

Still, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this magazine, and even the parts I wasn’t so impressed by may absolutely tickle someone else. Also, I’d like to mention (and here I’ll definitely admit my bias as a writer!), Thorn is one of very, very few paying venues for pagan magazine contributors. Granted, as a startup, they’re limited in what they can afford to pay. However, considering most of the time writers have to settle for a contributor’s copy of the magazine they get published in, or maybe a free subscription, this is a welcome change. I strongly suggest that if you like what you see from this magazine, that you treat yourself to a subscription–and help keep this excellent publication afloat.

Thorn is by far the most professional startup I’ve seen, and if the first issue is an indication, this will definitely be a strong voice in pagan publishing for years to come.

Five pawprints out of five

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Runes For Transformation – Kaedrich Olsen

Runes for Transformation: Using Ancient Symbols to Change Your Life
Kaedrich Olsen
Weiser Books, 2008
230 pages

When I first became interested in paganism back in the mid-1990s, the very first divination set I worked with was the elder futhark of runes. I had a photocopy of a few pages with rune meanings out of a book that I suspect may have been from Ralph Blum’s questionable writings. While runes have never been a central focus in my practice and I no longer utilize them, I do have somewhat of a nostalgic soft spot for them. I am quite pleased with this brand-new text–it takes an entirely innovative approach to the runes, not only as a historical alphabet/divination system couched in venerable traditions, but also as a living, evolving set of energies and symbols that the modern practitioner will find relevant regardless of current cultural context.

Olsen presents us with a solid overview of the history and origin of the Norse runes. However, before he even gets into that, he throws a chapter on the nature of reality at the reader, asking us to challenge our perceptions and assumptions, particular with regards to magical thinking. This sets a stage for an introduction to the runes not only as symbols with correspondences, but as tools for shaping and understanding subjective reality.

While Olsen has done his research, drawing extensively on primary texts, he strongly supports the use of Unverified Personal Gnosis as a key to one’s individual relationship to the runes and their meanings. This is a much more organized and introspective process than mixing up runes and the I Ching, for example. While UPG is crucial, it is still set within the context of historical meaning, and the two are meant to complement each other, even if their information doesn’t entirely agree. In short, Olsen allows the historical material on the runes to serve as a solid foundation on which the practitioner may then build hir own extensive personal research–a healthy balance.

The runes are also not treated as only tools for divination. One of the most valuable dimensions of this book is the potential for a Western system of internal change. Olsen blends techniques from NLP and other psychological systems, as well as other areas of modern science, with runic magic and spirituality to create a wonderfully workable system. The runes are promoted as tools for understanding interconnection between the self and the world, and various elements thereof; as energies that may be utilized in improving the self in deep, fundamental capacities; and making connections with deities, among other capacities. The depth with which Olsen explores these possibilities is commendable, and I say this not only as an experienced psychonaut, but also a counselor-in-training.

Practitioners who are critical of UPG may find this book to be too UPG-heavy for their tastes. This all comes down to a matter of subjective preferences. Olsen does an excellent job of presenting his material, and beyond a certain point it’s not really possible to change peoples’ minds. The solid research may mollify some by-the-book folks; however, I can also see this book coming under fire from exceptionally conservative individuals.

Overall, this book is a winner. Whether you are Asatru, or a psychonaut in need of a system for internal exploration, or merely someone who appreciates the magic and aesthetics of the elder futhark, this text is an excellent choice.

Five pawprints out of five.

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