Hello all faithful followers! I decided late last night that I would like to share a quick write-up of the books I have been reading lately. This is in no was a complete list of the books I have referenced or utilized quickly this week, as that would be a very, very large post indeed. These are the particular books I have been reading on my “down-time” which happens right before bedtime or while waiting for incense/oils/potions to set.
1. On Prayer – from the writings of Bishop Theophan the Recluse
This is a small chapbook of 16 pages, collecting now Saint Theophan the Recluse’s (canonized in 1988) various letters concerning Prayer. It cost a single dollar at the local Russian Orthodox Bookstore. Well worth it. I am generally interested in prayer from wherever and whomever it is prayed. Also, I am a sucker for Recluses, Hermits, and Holy Mountain/Cave people in general, so this was a no brainer purchase. The chapbook was a quick read, but meaty on the ideas and philosophy presented by Theophan. It’s great reading his responses to young monks doubting their effectiveness, etc. Inspiring and thought provoking. Though it is written by, and for, the followers of the Russian Orthodox Church you would be hard-pressed NOT to find helpful instruction in his words, no matter your religion, path, or diety/ies. From ‘A Prayer Rule of Brief Prayers’ letter; “…a prayer rule is imperative because we have a certain strange quirk about us. When we are busy in the world, hours pass as minutes. But when we stand at prayer, a minute does not go by, and it seems as though we have prayed for hours. Time distortion brings no harm when we complete a full, established prayer rule from our prayer book. But when we pray with only prostrations and the brief prayer, such distortion can be a great temptation and can cause us to stop prayer, having only begun, leaving us with the delusion that our prayer was completed as described.” For gems like that: a dollar well spent…and this second printing was put out 5 years before he was made a Saint.
2. Ammachi – Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi by Swami Amritaswarupananda
I confess, I love Ammachi, The Hugging Saint who has claimed to have hugged more than 26 million people. Yes, there is controversy surrounding her, however I find Amma, not the cult born around her, to be fascinating. This book is sensationalized, it was written for Amma’s own Center, it is definitely a bit of propaganda…that said I am still awe-struck by the book. Half way through I notice how much I like reading it in small chapters each day. It improves my mood and helps me get restful sleep. It has been a help reading about daily goings on for the spiritual Indian faithful, helping me put into context terms I know, but from an outside view, such as darshan, bhajans, bhava, and pujas. Amma’s life has been astonishing and it is a joy to read. It doesn’t hurt that I get to tread passages about Black Magic Sorcerers who are employed against Amma and her followers, threatening to “…split the midrib of a coconut leaf blade in two while uttering certain powerful mantras” to force the cessation of visitation of the God and the Goddess from her body. Also worth a mention, the woman who, trying to get a Temple Priest to unknowingly “exorcise” Amma of the Holy Mother, “in order to initiate the conjuration the woman wrote the Holy Mother’s Name and birth star on a piece of paper and gave it to the priest.” Perfect and right up my alley as far as magical content!
3. Practice of Magic – Draja Mickaharic
What can I say about Mr. Mickaharic? I can definitely say that I wish I had knowledge of him when I was a teenager. No offense to Scott Cunningham at all, but wow, I would be miles ahead of myself had someone just slipped me one of Draja’s books. I won;t go off on a long tirade about who he is and why he matters. You can feel free to Google or Wiki the man. I will add my small voice to the roar of many others and say get ‘Practice of Magic’, ‘Spiritual Cleansing,’ and ‘Century of Spells’ as soon as you can. Go now…I’ll wait. Combining an amazingly astute grasp of multiple cultures and works Draja gives a no frills, fat-trimmed approach to magic that I find refreshing. No matter your path, your angle, you way, your philosophy, these books will inform and delight. I just re-read this book for the chapter ‘Communing with the Spirits’ and know I will come back to it again for another re-read in the near future. Topics covered in this particular book of his are: Modes of Magical Practice, Preparing to Practice Magic, the Religious Ritual, Ritual & Ceremonial Magic, Learning Ritual Magic, Deific Magic, the aforementioned Communing with the Spirits, Learning Astral Projection, Elemental Magic, and Natural Magic. This lays down the framework of no-nonsense, not silly, serious magical workings. Must haves for your shelf!
4. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend – Kvideland & Sehmsdorf, editors
Not a week after I ordered this book did Miss Ida Lundin recommend it to me when I asked her for suggestions of books written in English about Scandinavian or Swedish Folklore. I am of Swedish descent and have been more and more curious about the Folklore of the lands that bore my family. This is a definite bookshelf keeper for fans of the Harry Hyatt folklore collections as it has where, when, and from whom the Folklore or Tale was collected. The topics made me happy too, as I have certain interests that rouse my passion more than others. A few of the topics covered in the book are the Evil Eye, the Dead, Ghosts, Healers and Wise Folk, Protecting House and Home, Magic, Trolls, Witches, and on and on. Fabulous topics fill and spill out of this thing. Over 400 pages of tiny type make this an admirable collection to have on hand. I have barely cracked the first half of this book and it has been an immense amount of new information to process. The book was printed by the University of Minnesota Press and can still be had for far less than it’s worth in ‘guld.’
5. Pagans and Christians – Robin Lane Fox
This lovely, lovely book. Ahhhhh. I love this book. Acquiring it for free from the Green Apple Books free bin is just the icing on this delicious cake. This book is a very scholarly report of the ways of the Pagans and Christians as they began to tangle from 150 to 312CE. This book has obviously been painstakingly written and referenced from historical texts. The things I am learning from this book actually make me gasp out loud and interrupt my wife’s reading to quote from the book. Take this for example: “…the art of magic was varied…most of it’s spells can be defined as a type of sorcery which was used for competitive ends. They enlisted a personal spirit and deployed the power of words and symbols in order to advance a suit in love or in the law courts, to win at the games, to prosper in business or to silence envious rivals. Significantly, this sorcery was a learned art, preserved in texts and usually worked by experts for their clients.” That is a tiny, tiny paragraph in the introduction chapter to part one of the book. I am not even a quarter of the way through this thing and each day can’t wait to read more. Have you ever wanted to know what pagan life was like before it was called “pagan life?” Do you know where the root of the word Pagan comes from? Constantine, Angels, Prophecy, Heresy, early Christian beliefs, pagan practices, gods and ritual…any of this interest you? Me too. I relish reading about “primitive” Christianity and Pagan roots. This is a text book for both, at a time when they were about to meet head-on. 681 pages on how the Christian Church became more popular than the current pagan beliefs from a non-biased author who has reverence for both bodies of spirituality. I also want to mention that there are 118 pages of teeny-weeny type just to fit the Authors Notes by Chapter, Bibliography by Chapter, and Extensive Index. That’s what myself and others like to see… Cory from New World Witchery, I’m looking at you!
Phew I’m parched! I’m going to leave it there and perhaps do around 5 books every few weeks. Maybe even do update posts on a few of them as I progress… What are you reading? Share with me!