Pagan Reader

Archive for October 2010

Though not my favourite book on magick, The Little Book of Pocket Spells is a convenient size to carry around, particularly when you’re travelling and don’t want to drag a large volume like the Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells  around with you.  It’s easy to slip into your handbag, or pocket.  My copy is worn and bent from the many times that I’ve taken mine with me on holiday, or just out with friends or family.

Because it’s such a small book,  The Little Boof of Pocket Spells summarises a lot of what is written in the larger books into one or two pages, such as the correspondences, the lunar cycle and candle magick.  However the spells aren’t categorised in any sort of order, which makes it bothersome to find the spell you want.

Most, if not all, of the spells within this book are quick and easy to perform, provided that you have the necessary ingredients.  And if you feel it necessary, you could add to these spells to make them more personal to you.

This would also make a great beginner’s book on magic and witchcraft.  Also, the little cat printed in the corner of each right-hand page that wags its’ tail if you flip the pages like a flipbook is a nice touch, particularly for slightly older children from around twelve years.

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Now available as an eBook on Amazon. Click here.

Another wonderful volume from Judika Illes-this would make a wonderful addition to any library, whether pagan or non-pagan, for research or ritual work.  The Encyclopedia of Spirits compiles many of the major deities and spirits from around the world, from both present and past cultures, such as China and Ancient Greece.

A lot of the spirits, I have never heard of, mostly because I have never read or taken an interest in the cultures that they are part of.

Each article for each spirit has been well researched and well presented with clear description.  The profiles include their titles, alternative names, their place or culture of origin and rank within their pantheon (if there are), the different versions of the most well-known stories they are featured in, specific dates, places , plants and animals that are sacred to them (this only applies to deities), their manifestations, attributes and celestial bodies associated with them, as well as objects that would make appropriate offerings to them.  Although, not all profiles include all of the things mentioned.  At the end of each profile, Illes give names of deities or spirits associated, whether linked by familial connections or in stories.

Illes also uses examples from modern popular culture, particularly when it comes to spirits from Japan, as they are often used as inspiration for popular cartoons and comic books, such as Inuyasha and Yu Yu Hakusho.  Some of the most well-known American television dramas also use spirits that are notorious for hauntings and creating mischief, both harmful and non-harmful.

Some of these articles also include historical or cultural notes, particularly if deities were originally people who were ‘deified’ after death.

Whether you a writer of fantasy or horror, a pagan or witch, or just a follower of the paranormal and supernatural, the Encyclopedia of Spirits is an absolute must-have.

I purchased the 2008 edition of the The Witch’s Almanac from a charity store last month.  I paid for less than a third of the original price, so I was quite happy with it.  It didn’t matter that it was an older edition.  I had thought to purchase a newer edition, whether for 2010 or the 2011 one later in the year, thinking that the contents would change every year.  But I happened to see a copy of the 2010 edition of the Almanac when I was browsing around in WH Smith a few weeks later, and decided to have a quick look through it before deciding whether or not I should purchase it.  And thank goodness I did, as I was disappointed  by what was in it.  It was practically the same as the 2008 edition.  The only thing about the almanac that changes are the dates, and the rhythms of the moon, sun and planets and the cover.  It has all the same spells, rituals and information, and poems.  (Each section for the months has a poem at the end of it).  Even the illustrations are the same.

One would be better off, just buying one edition of the book, and buying a Witch’s Calendar, which has the rhythms on each day, and special dates marked.  Any other days important to your specific Path you can just add yourself.  For that, I would recommend The Witch’s Calendar published by Llewelyn.

Though the title gives the impression of a fictional book, it’s subtitle more than corrects you on that note–‘How to live and work by natural cycles in the everyday world’.  Now, the word pagan,  actually comes from the latin word paganus, which means ‘country-dweller’.  Nowadays it is a generic term used to describe those who practise pre-Christian ideals, particularly those who live in countryside.  Going to university in Central Lancashire, which is to the North of England and considered more rural, I did notice that paganism seems to be more widely accepted than in the South where I live with my parents.

When I first started reading and learning about paganism, I thought it was a religion albeit an informal one, but after reading this book, it made me realise that it was also a way of life, or rather how you choose to live your life.  A philosophy of life in other words, much like Taoism in a way.

The language that the author, Cassandra Eason, uses is easy to understand with none of the flowery language you often see in mainstream pagan texts, and uses examples from everyday life.  The author also gives alternative suggestions to things that may not be possible given the lifestyle of the reader, such as if one cannot create a magical hearth (which requires either a grate or a brazier if one doesn’t have a hearth) , the alternative is to create a sacred place (which can be a coffee table that you decorate to your tastes). 

Like any other pagan text you find on a chain bookstore shelf, it does include rituals that one can do, the Sabbats and some basic information on crystal healing.  There is also a little about divining with water and the clouds.  However, unlike other books I’ve read, Pagan in the City also explain in depth the pinciples of paganism.  A couple of them are similar to Wiccan beliefs, but life many religions in the world, there are some similarities in how they view things.  Eason also makes a few references to Asian cultures, to which I was disappointed that there were not more of them.  As this is a book on living in the city as a pagan, Eason gives pointers on creating a harmonious home and workplace.  The latter is stated as being more difficult to keep the harmony, mainly due to work colleagues.

Because this was mainly written from the writer’s own experience’s as pagan living in a city, one doesn’t have to completely follow the ideas and suggestions in this book, but adapt them to suit your own lifestyle.  So it is more of a guidebook than an instruction manual on how to live your life in a certain way.

While reading, it would be  good idea to have a notebook handy to jot down anything in the book that appeals to you, so you can incorporate them into your routine or just use them to make an anniversary or party a little extra special.

Eason has also included useful contact information for pagan groups and organisations, as well as lists for further reading on subjects mentioned in Pagan in the City.  Eason has included her own contact information ( her website), and the titles of some of her other works.

Despite reading and learning about paganism for over five years, I didn’t start practising it until after starting university!  If like me, you were not active as a pagan during secondary school (the British equivalent to American high schools), and really want to start living as a pagan now that you’ve started university, here are some pointers on how to live as a pagan while you’re at university.

  • Join your university’s Pagan Society (most universities have one) and regularly attend meetings and take part in organised activities, including workshops and rituals.
  • Ask people about their Paths as pagans, particularly if they’re giving a talk about it.  (Don’t ask silly questions as they may take offense, unless you know each other well.)
  • Make regular trips to your pagan/occult store, whether to top up on your supplies, or to talk to the clerks.  They are always willing to answer any questions on paganism and the occult and recommend good books on the subject.
  • Stock up on your pagan supplies: buy herbs and essential oils; and start collecting crystals, if you haven’t already.
  • If your student accommodation doesn’t allow you to have candles or incense, substitute with fake battery-powered candles.
  • Though the dress code at university is lax compared to secondary school, be discreet about wearing pagan amulets and symbols, as it can gain you negative attention expecially from other religious groups both at and outside of university.
  • Set aside time for meditation; about 10-15 minutes two or three times a week.  This will help you to regain focus.
  • Visit your local park or places of pagan interest, such as old ruins and stone circles (if there are any near you).  Go out and be close to nature as much as you can.
  • Don’t tell people outright that you’re a pagan.  Get to know them first, and see their stance on the subject.
  • Keep a journal, or Book of Shadows to keep track of what you’ve learned, and to record your experiences.
  • Read, read and read!  Read as many books as you can on the subject.  You can never learn too much.

”Coming out out of the broom closet’ is a widely discussed topic among pagans.  OnYouTube there are a lot of videos by pagans on their experiences of ‘coming out of the broom closet’.  If you’d like to have a look at the ‘Coming Out of the Broom Closet’ video I’ve posted on my channel, click here.

Looking back, I don’t think I was ever in the ‘broom closet’.  It wasn’t really much of a problem with my parents.  As I’ve said before, both in a previous blog post and on my video blog, my dad isn’t religious and thought that my fascination with paganism and the occult was just that: a fascination.  My mother isn’t much of a believer either, despite coming from a country with many spiritual practises.  So it was relatively easy to open with my parents about becoming a pagan.

School was a bit of a different story.  I used to get teased a lot, and openly being a pagan or Wiccan/Witch, gave them something more to tease me about, particularly since I often brought my spellbooks into school with me during morning break-times and lunchtimes and during English class when we happened to be studying Macbeth.  Being an oversensitive teenager like all thirteen to fourteen year olds, I reacted a little badly to it.  Mostly by lashing out and hitting people.  Now I know that goes against the Wiccan Rede and paganism in general, but at that point in my life I didn’t pay much attention to it.

It wasn’t all bad.  Some were genuinely interested in why I had taken in interest in paganism and witchcraft, and sometimes asked my opinion on certain subjects, when we were talking between ourselves during Religious Studies class.

When I started university, I didn’t go round telling people that I was a pagan, even after joining the Pagan Society, since I’d learnt the hard way that it can gain you negative attention.  When I made friends, I didn’t immediately tell them that I was a pagan, but waited until they told me their stance on religion in general.  Although during a speed dating session, I did let it slip that I had an active interest in paganism, which didn’t go down very well as it turned out that he was religious fanatic; the kind with a holier-than-thou attitude and preach Christianity at you. 

A lot of books on paganism and witchcraft, especially ones directed at teenagers, will have a section on ‘coming out of the broom closet’.  And most will caution you against telling people that you are a pagan or witch, particularly if you don’t want it be known that you practise magick but also give you pointers on how to explain your chosen Path to family and friends.  A good one to read would be from The Real Witch’s Handbook by Kate West, which I really should have read first rather than immediately telling people that I was a ‘witch’ after just reading a few books on magick.

Thankfully I’ve learned from those experiences and am now a lot more cautious about what I tell people about myself in regards to my ‘religion’. 

Anyone who is thinking of telling friends and family about being a pagan or witch, talk to other pagans and read up on how to best approach the topic.  Different people will have different reactions, so some may be worse than others.  But always remember, your family and real friends will love you no matter what your religion.

When studying magick, one should not limit themselves to just one book as their Wiccan or pagan “bible”.  It’s better to read more than one book on the subject, as different people will have different opinions and methods on the practise of magick.  Some you may agree with and others you may not, but it’s good to be well-informed.  However, you have to be careful on which books you buy, as some are not as accurate as others and have mostly been written for the sake of money.

I would like to recommend some of my favourite books on magick.  I hope you find them as useful as I did.

The Real Witch’s Handbook by Kate West

This is much easier to digest than some other books I’ve read on the Wicca and the Craft.  It’s not that it’s shorter or simpler, rather it uses language that is easy to understand, especially for someone who has only just started learning about the Craft, so it’s good for both teenagers and adults.  It also gives examples of how to celebrate the Sabbats in a non-magical way of you don’t really have the time to be casting spells or performing rituals during those times, as well as basic information about Wiccan principals and beliefs, the coven initiation system, herblore and spellcraft.  Kate West also includes a section on ‘coming out of the broom closet.’

A Witch’s Grimoire: Create Your Own Book of Shadows by Judy Anna Nock

As a comprehensive guidebook, A Witch’s Grimoire is a wonderful addition to any Wiccan or pagan collection whether as a study aid to those new to the study and practise of magick or as a companion for the more experienced practitioners.  This text is broken down into sections that one can easily follow, from the making of your own personal book of shadows to exercises on writing your own spells, rituals and invocations, with additional information on commonly used gemstones, magickal herbs and herb blends, spells, recipes and rituals.

Anyone wanting to have a look at my video on creating a Book of Shadows, please click here.

The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Illes

An excellent compilation of spells and rituals from cultures around the world.  A great reference book any Witch or pagan.  The categories of spells and other magickal practises are broken down into many subcategories, which is a bit of a bother but worth it.  I really like the fact that it includes spells from other countries, not just from around Europe.  The book also gives a long bibliography of the different sources that the author used to compile this encyclopedia, which is great, particularly if you’re trying to find a book on a subject that is a bit more obscure than the topics you usually see in bookstores.

If you would like to look at my more detailed video review/recommendation, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALDl9ZOF9Mg

10 Minute Magic Spells by Skye Alexander

A very useful book, if you don’t have very much time on your hands, especially if you’re a student at university, or have a demanding worklife.  The book is broken down into two parts; the first, explaining the workings and theories of magick, and essential steps that have to be taken when performing a ritual or spell; and the second part gives you the actual spells.  This is great for the absolute beginners, to give them the gist of what magic is about.  Just don’t go straight to the second part of the book, as I have been guilty of in the past.