Tag Archives: Bkwyrm

Power of the Witch

Bkwyrm reviews Power of the Witch: The Earth, the Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment by Laurie Cabot in the Bkwyrm archive.

Laurie Cabot (if you don’t recognize the name) is the official Witch of Salem, MA, and the person mostly responsible for the Witches League for Public Awareness. She’s done some good things for the community, but I don’t like her writing. This work covers Cabot’s understanding of Witchcraft, and the chapter titles are: The Ancient Power of Magic, the Old Religion, What They Say About Witches, The Craft of the Wise, The Science of Witchcraft, Alpha, A Witch’s Life: Everyday Magic and Milestones, and Witchcraft Tomorrow. Some of the information she presents as fact in the chapters “The Old Religion” and “The Craft of the Wise” are really not facts, they’re conjecture based on shaky scholarship. There’s some good information in here, on different traditions and how to go about finding out which tradition you belong in, but it doesn’t cover anything other books don’t explain better and without that condescending tone. Her brief bio tells the reader “Laurie Cabot….always wears her witch’s robes in public”. Enough said, I think.

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Practical Candleburning Rituals

Bkwyrm reviews Practical Candleburning Rituals: Spells & Rituals For Every Purpose by Raymond Buckland in the Bkwyrm archive.

Subtitled “Spells & Rituals For Every Purpose”. Contains exactly what the title says it does. However, these candle rituals are probably a little more elaborate than many Wiccans use. The work includes an astral color chart, a guide to the symbolism of colors, and information about which days of the week are best for working particular kinds of spells. It has the same drawbacks as Buckland’s other works, however – a disregard for the fact that while Buckland does it one way, lots of people get perfectly good results doing it other ways.

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Practical Demonkeeping

Bkwyrm reviews Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore in the Bkwyrm archive.

It’s in paperback, you can read it in an afternoon or so, and please do. This book is absolutely hysterical – a demon, a former seminarian, a feminist witch, and in-jokes about Cthulhu. Practically guaranteed to cheer you up.

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Principles of Paganism

Bkwyrm reviews Principles of Paganism by Vivianne Crowley in the Bkwyrm archive.

How disappointing. I had hoped to suggest this work as a good general overview of Paganism, especially because the work says on the cover “The only introduction you’ll ever need”. Unfortunately, it’s lousy. Ms. Crowley has decided that all Pagans are Wiccan, for starters, and has taken it upon herself to present to the reader exactly what it is all Pagans believe. She’s wrong. Not all Pagans are Wiccans, and they certainly don’t all agree on matters of faith, devotion, deity, or practice. Nicely written, well put together, but full of factual errors and conjecture presented as fact.

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Psychic Self-Defense

Bkwyrm reviews Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune in the Bkwyrm archive.

I always wondered where people got the idea that they were being pursued or harassed by some kind of “black coven” and needed “heavy shielding” to be protected from these evil people. Now I know, thanks to reading this book. I won’t say it’s complete crap – this is Dion Fortune, some of the stuff is going to be useful. If you can get past the “when I was twenty, I was a victim of a psychic attack that led to a nervous breakdown” twaddle, some of the material is pretty useful. Actually, it wasn’t until the third section (the book is divided into quarters) that I found material that could be useful in a way other than whipping normally sane humans into hysterical omigodthey’reafterme paranoids.

Part one is devoted to types of psychic attack – the signs of it, examples of it (somehow I wonder if Dion was really pursued by lesbians constantly, but that’s another story altogether), a look at astral travel titled “Projection of the Etheric Body” that is really not that bad, information on psychic vampires (I’ve yet to meet one), information on hauntings, things about danger from non-human entities, and a section on the risks specific to ceremonial magic.

Part two is actually interesting, in a sociological-study kind of way. It covers “Differential Diagnosis” of psychic attack – the “distinction between objective psychic attack and subjective psychic distubance”, for example. Also contains a section on the non-occult dangers of the Black Lodge, which is not likely to be of interest to people who don’t think the world revolves around them and their tremendous psychic powers. Ahem. Anyway, Part two is interesting enough.

Part three is about the diagnosis of a psychic attack – essentially, says Fortune, you have to know that you’re being attacked before you can defend yourself. Which is true, but the criteria she uses for diagnosing psychic attacks are somewhat suspect, at least to me. I still can’t get past this whole concept I have that one must have a firm belief in one’s own attractiveness (psychically speaking) to believe that an attack by a “Black Lodge” or a “Black Coven” is likely. The two chapters on motives behind psychic attacks all seem to center on her own experiences of being attacked in this way for a variety of reasons – indeed, it is amazing that Ms. Fortune had the time to write this book, as she was so busy fighting off so many attacks. I’ll stop being snide now. Part three is really kind of pointless, unless you want to entertain yourself with the stories of Ms. X, Y, and Z and their psychic adventures. Hey, it got me through a plane trip to D.C.

Finally, at long last, we come to the actual useful material – “Methods of Defence Against Psychic Attack”. First the reader has to get through the physical aspects of psychic attacks and defenses (which are actually worthwhile, if the reader has never dealt with this topic before), and the methods of diagnosing the nature of an attack. Strangely enough, the diagnosis here seems much more reasonable than the entirety of part three. Four chapters of methods of defence follow – they include a strange mixture of folklore, superstition, and ceremonial magic. Some of it might be handy. Some of it sound like complete hogwash. Up to the reader to decide, however.

All in all, not too bad. But Dion Fortune was writing at a different time, and her audience was comprised of people with much different (I hope) mindsets than contemporary magicians. I’m inclined to be forgiving about much of the hysterical twaddle that accompanies the actual information in this book – I have hopes that it was included to make the book appeal to a wider audience. In closing, then: if you need a book on psychic self defense, there are much better ones than Psychic Self-Defense. It is, however, a classic, and you could do worse. Avoid it if you’re easily excited, or prone to thinking that others are attacking you – Fortune feeds right into the martyr we all have hiding in a corner of our soul.

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Raising Hell

Bkwyrm review Raising Hell: A Concise History of the Black Arts – and Those Who Dared to Practice Them by Robert Masello in the Bkwyrm archive.

Subtitled “A Concise History of the Black Arts – and Those Who Dared to Practice Them”. This work is a brief history of the major occult arts: necromancy, sorcery, astrology, alchemy, and prophecy. Believe it or not, it’s interesting. The author writes fiction, as well as non-fiction, and knows how to keep his readers amused. The title is a bit misleading, though; I was surprised to see the Freemasons, the Order of the Golden Dawn, and a few other organizations tossed in the “Mystical Orders” section. The book is not in depth and just gives an overview of who did what to whom and when. If you don’t know who Dr. Dee was and the only place you’ve ever heard of a Hand of Glory is in a horror novel, this is a book you should probably read.

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Rats and Gargoyles

Julianus review Rats and Gargoyles by Mary Gentle in the Bkywrm archive.

This is an excellent and complex fantasy novel based on Renaissance Hermeticism. It is set in a sort of archetypal world-city where humans are ruled by man-sized intelligent rodents and their huge incarnate stone deities (the rats and gargoyles of the title.) Ms. Gentle has done a splendid job of integrating historical Alchemy and Magick into a fantasy setting, with one interesting twist: she had deleted all references to Christianity. The religious background seem to combine elements of Ancient Egypt, late Antique Mystery religions and Freemasonry. One wishes she had gone into more detail on this point, but it hardly detracts from the book itself.

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