A Review of Merlin: Once and Future Wizard by Elen Sentier

Reviewed by Frank Malone

Elen Sentier’s latest book continues the fabulous Pagan Portals series from Moon Books. These brief volumes constellate an author’s accumulated wisdom on a specific subject. From my perspective as a psychoanalyst, I had heretofore approached Merlin as an archetypal image of the Wise Old Man. Amongst other things, Sentier is trained in transpersonal psychotherapy. She has opened my eyes so that I can begin to see the depth and complexity of Merlin. Furthermore, Sentier teaches us that Merlin is available to us now for relationship.

To my surprise, Sentier shows us that Merlin is the spirit of the land of Britain – and Brittany to boot! She thus explains the many (apparently) contradictory places in Britain and the Continent associated with Merlin in the legends. As spirit, he is far older than the figures in the stories. Sentier takes us through the divers guises of Merlin in literature. This includes, inter alia, the Green Man. The author discusses the light that these incarnations shed on Merlin as spirit.

Sentier is also one of the awenyddion (Celtic shamans). I was fascinated to learn about the Celtic way of journeying to the Otherworld. The trance-induction is different from the auditory-driven induction used in core shamanism, which is my training and practice. The author draws contrast between these two shamanic approaches. Additionally, the Celtic journey process described is, as she observes, “far closer to what Jung calls ‘active imagination’. It was also interesting to read how she integrates shamanic knowledge with her practice of psychotherapy.

I was delighted and grateful for her chapter on Nimue/Vivian. This was the most satisfying treatment of the topic I have seen. I enjoyed as well the integrated biographical material woven throughout the book. I appreciate authors who can be genuine and not hide behind an intellectual defense. The book is also infused with her gentle good humour. Sentier’s book is fun and informative, and I shall keep it around to refer to for years to come.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-merlin

Minoan Leftovers: What should I do with those offerings?

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In Modern Minoan Paganism, as in many other modern Pagan traditions, we make offerings to the gods. This is a practice that connects us back through time with the Minoans and other ancient people. Offerings are a way to show our appreciation and thanks for the divine in our lives, a way to show our devotion. Most of the time, we make offerings to specific gods and goddesses, though it’s also possible to set out items on your altar to the divine in general, the entire Minoan Pantheon (perhaps as a thank-you for getting to “meet” them) or nature or Mother Earth.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a flower laid on the altar or a stick of incense lit with a silent “thank you.” Sometimes the offering is a ritual in itself, perhaps a libation of wine poured into a bowl or outdoors onto the ground. Often, offerings involve food or drink, just as they did in ancient times. But that leaves us with a question: What should we do with the leftovers when it’s time to clean off the altar?

Obviously, if you’ve poured some wine or milk onto the ground outside, there’s nothing left to clean up afterwards. That stick of incense? Just sweep up the ash and you’re done. Wilted flowers can go in the compost pile.

But what about leftover food? It seems a shame to waste food, especially in our bloated, “affluenza”-ridden modern world where we already waste so much of so many things.

Let me emphasize that we don’t honestly know what the Minoans did with the remains of offerings that had been set out in shrines and on altars, in other words, given to the gods. So we have to decide for ourselves what we’re comfortable doing in our own spiritual practice. There are a few options here.

One is simply to consider that the offering has been “served” to the god or goddess in much the same way you’d serve food to an honored guest who comes to your house for dinner. You wouldn’t take food off their plate and eat it yourself, would you?

In this case, you would leave the offering on the altar for however long feels right to you: overnight, a set number of days, until the next full moon, or some other span of time. Then you’d dispose of it in a respectful way, doing your best to honor the Earth and the resources that went into making that food. I garden so most of my food offerings end up in my compost pile: They go back to the Earth to make more food. I prefer not to set food outside for the wildlife to consume, simply because many human foods are harmful to wild animals. If I lived in the middle of a big city and didn’t have, say, a worm composter on my apartment balcony, I’d probably just put the remains in the trash.

But what if your offering is something much bigger? What if you’ve dedicated a whole meal to the Ancestors or Ariadne or Dionysus? To me, that’s kind of like having a dinner in honor of a special guest: You serve them their portion of the food and you (and everyone else who’s there) gets to eat the rest. In this case, I would dispose of the remains of their portion in one of the ways I listed above. This scenario is similar to the feasts in honor of the gods that many ancient cultures held. Often, the deity was assigned a specific portion of the main dish, which might have been an animal that was slaughtered in a sacred or ritual manner. The Minoans appear to have built special dining shrines just for this type of occasion.

There’s a third option for disposing of offerings, one that was common in ancient Egypt and that I’m sure the Minoans knew about: reversion of offerings. The process is simple: You set out the food and/or drink offering, give the gods some time to absorb the essence of it (they’re not physical beings so they’re not going to eat the physical food, right?). Then you remove the food from the altar and eat/drink it yourself so there’s no waste.

In ancient Egypt, there was a specific set of rituals for ensuring that the gods were satisfied before removing the offerings from the altar. It’s a good idea to do something like that, say a few words and really listen to make sure it’s OK to remove the offering before you do so.

There is, of course, a practical consideration for reversion of offerings as well. You don’t want to leave the food out long enough for it to spoil. Fresh fruit will last for days and still be safe to eat, and a loaf of bread might last a while as well, but you certainly don’t want to leave meat or most cooked foods out more than an hour or two, for safety.

I’ve only tried reversion of offerings a handful of times with the Minoan deities. In about half of the cases, I felt very strongly that I shouldn’t remove the offerings and eat the food myself, so I didn’t. To be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable with this practice, since it feels like taking back a gift, but that could simply be my modern mindset. If you’d like to give it a try, there is historical precedent. Do let me know how it goes if you head down this route.

 

Regardless of how you dispose of your offerings, I hope you make plenty of them. It’s frequent interaction that keeps our relationships with the gods alive. And that’s a good thing.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

New Pagan non-fiction

I’ve been approached to shout out so many new Pagan books this month that I’ve had to split them into two groups. You can find the new Pagan fiction here. We’ve also got a new resident reviewer, do check out frank Malone’s review for The Norse Shaman.

Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd

By Jhenah Telyndru

Blodeuwedd. Flower Face. Keen-Eyed Hunter in the Night. Dwelling for centuries in darkness, flying on owl wings along the liminal boundary that straddles superstition and sacred symbol … this world and the Otherworld … archetype and Divinity… the essence of all that is Blodeuwedd is venturing once more into the light of consciousness. Simultaneously Flower Bride and Owl of Wisdom, Unfaithful Wife and Lady of Sovereignty, this complex figure holds many lessons for those who seek to know her, and through her, learn to shed the fragile petals of illusion wrought by the expectations of others, in order to birth the authentic Self that is able to see Truth with owl-wise eyes. Whether she is simply a legendary figure from Medieval Welsh lore, or is in truth a Sovereignty Goddess once worshiped in Celtic Britain, there is no doubt that Blodeuwedd is celebrated and honored in modern times as a Divinity in her own right.

Find the book here – https://www.amazon.com/dp/0978904591/

 

Celebrating The Seasons with Children
By Helen Royall

Celebrating The Seasons follows the seasons of Mother Earth. This wonderful treasury of stories enthuses children with the beauty of nature, engages them in creative activities and offers soul food for the imagination. Helen Royall describes vividly the ancient festivals of Samhaine, Imbolc, Beltaine and Lammas, each with fascinating stories, crafts, food and songs for us all to enjoy. She brings the ancient Goddesses alive, relating them to each season. Topics include: – The Celtic Festivals and Seasons – The Goddesses – Nature tables and crafts for the seasons – Year round rituals and rites of passage – Nurturing health, self respect, creativity and spirituality.

Find the book here – http://www.lulu.com/shop/helen-royall/celebrating-the-seasons-with-children/paperback/product-22966233.html

 

Mountain Magic : Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps

By Christian Brunner

“Mountain Magic: Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” explores the traces the early Hallstatt Celts (and even older people) have left in lore and tradition in the Eastern Alps. This is a leisurely stroll through the mountains, building bridges to and finding parallels with lore found on the British Isles, and giving the reader ideas on how to weave these old traditions into modern magical practice.

Find the book here – https://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Magic-Celtic-Shamanism-Austrian/dp/131299519X

 

The Witch’s Cauldron: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Ritual Vessels (The Witch’s Tools Series)

By Laura Tempest Zakroff

Explore the spellbinding history, tradition, and modern uses of the Witch’s cauldron. From blessing and using your cauldron in ritual and divination to practicing kitchen witchery with it, this easy-to-use book provides essential information for Witches of all ages and skill levels.

The Witch’s Cauldron shows you the ins and outs of one of the most iconic tools in Witchcraft. Learn about the cauldron’s role in lore and mythology, its development through the ages, and old-world witchery. Discover how to choose, personalize, and care for your cauldron, and find unconventional ones already in your home. This entertaining book also features advice and spells from well-known writers, helping you delve into the endless possibilities for using a cauldron in your practice.

Find the book here – https://www.amazon.com/Witchs-Cauldron-Magick-Ritual-Vessels-ebook/dp/B01LWKJSZA/

 

The Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice

By John Beckett

Paganism is a way of seeing the world and your place in it. It means challenging the assumptions of mainstream society and strengthening your relationships with the gods, the universe, your community, and your self. The Path of Paganism provides practical advice and support for honoring your values and living an authentic Pagan life in mainstream Western culture.

Discover tips for establishing or deepening a regular practice. Explore how your spirituality can help you deal with life’s inevitable hardships. Learn the basics of leadership roles and other steps to take as you gain experience and move into more advanced practices. With questions for contemplation as well as rituals to help you integrate new concepts, this book guides you through a profoundly meaningful way of life.

Find the book here – https://www.amazon.com/Path-Paganism-Experience-Based-Modern-Practice/dp/0738752053

The Norse Shaman: A Review

A review by Frank Malone

It is remarkable what Evelyn C. Rysdyk has accomplished in her new book, The Norse Shaman: Ancient Spiritual Practices of the Northern Tradition. The rise of the shamanic renaissance is such that I stumbled across this volume at a Barnes & Noble (a Borders-like bookshop in the States). An immediate delight in reading Rysdyk’s treatise on seiðr (Norse shamanic journeying) is that it is unusually scholarly for the “spirituality/shamanism” genre. It integrates shamanism, archaeology, and anthropology with a feminist and ecopsychological lens.

Rysdyk herself is an American professional illustrator whose maternal grandparents immigrated from Norway. She originally trained with Dr Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman in the core shamanism model. Subsequently, she trained with indigenous shamanic teachers from the Siberian, Himalayan, and South American regions. A founding member of the Society for Shamanic Practice, Rysdyk maintains a practice in shamanism in Maine.
It must be noted that this book assumes the reader has been formally trained in shamanic journeying. That said, the first chapter, “Visionaries in Our Family Tree” contains (before the concluding exercise section) the finest introduction to shamanic spirituality I have ever read. It is a masterpiece of clarity and concision.

My gateway into Norse mythology was through my appreciation of Richard Wagner’s cycle of operas, Der Ring des Niebelungen. This led me to the original Nordic and Germanic sources to determine how Wagner had modified them to achieve his unified vision. Rysdyk gives an excellent overview of how the Norse and shamanic worldviews meshed, and summarizes what you need to know about Norse mythology. My subsequent entry into shamanism was through working and training with core shamanic practitioners. Part of my interest in this book stemmed from learning (to my surprise) from a shamanic practitioner that I have Scandinavian ancestry, later confirmed by DNA testing.

Further, as a psychoanalyst who is also trained in ecotherapy, I appreciated the addition of ecopsychology to her discourse. Originating in the 1990’s, it is the latest paradigm shift in psychology. My clinical profession has evolved over the decades from focusing on only the individual. It then moved to considering interaction with the family system, then with the culture, and now with the ecosystem. By introducing current ecological crises into her discussion, she gives contemporary and global relevance of these northern shamanic traditions, beyond personal spirituality work.
I especially enjoyed that the book is written from a feminist perspective. This framework allows Rysdyk to bring in anthropology to bear on issues that confound literary scholars concerning the Eddas. As an example, Rysdyk is able to bring understanding to the differential between the gods of Vanaheim (Old Europe matriarchal traditions) and Æsgard (Asian patriarchal traditions). One would never get this from purely literary treatments of this mythological material. Certainly in the recent English translation notes of the Eddas there is no comparable depth of insight.

Rysdyk masterfully displays for us what is known about Scandinavian shamanic practice, and how it can be used today. Chapters conclude with step-by-step exercises to help the reader experientially apprehend the discussions. Also helpful are pronunciation charts for the Old Norse letters and words. There is even an appendix on how to make your own seiðr hood to wear when journeying. In short, this book is a satisfying smörgåsbord of delights.

find out more about The Norse Shaman here – http://www.evelynrysdyk.com/bookstore.html

New Pagan Fiction and Poetry

I’ve had such a lot of recommendations for new Pagan books this month that I’m going to have to do two posts! It doesn’t seem so very long ago that ‘new pagan book’ was a rare occurrence to get excited about. We’ve grown as a community in so many ways.

So, here’s the new Pagan fiction and poetry….

Forest Rain

Poetry and prose by Michael Forester

This collection of Spiritual Learnings in prose and poetry form a unique meditation that will support you in exploring your own journey, and the life events, both great and small, that will offer themselves to you as you travel forward.

More here – http://michaelforester.co.uk/books/forest-rain

 

Ashael Rising by Shona Kinsella

Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.

The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.

More here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MRCASMU

Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings, by Philipp Kessler

It was a simple protection spell, what could possibly go wrong? Everything and then some!

Sandra Blackwell wants to help her friend find peace and protection after a nasty break up. Little did she know that Elaine’s home was already under protection – if you call flickering lights and depression protection. After the bulbs begin to blow and they realize something has backfired, they battle their own mental and emotional demons to fix what Sandra did. Two Egyptian Gods play with Sandra’s understanding of who she is and Elaine is floating in her own personal limbo after the blow up of her relationship and the backfire of a well intentioned spell. Can they fix things without it all blow up in their faces?

More here – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XTSBM9W/

 

The Shadow Crucible by T.M. Lakomy

In a world where angels, demons, and gods fight over the possession of mortal souls, two conflicted pawns are ensnared in a cruel game. The enigmatic seer Estella finds herself thrown together with Count Mikhail, a dogmatic Templar dedicated to subjugating her kind. But when a corrupted cardinal and puppet king begin a systematic genocide of her people, the two become unlikely allies.

You can read my review here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/review-the-shadow-crucible/

Find out more here – https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Crucible-Blind-God/dp/1590794141

Moon Song, by Elen Sentier

(Previously published by Cosmic Egg, recently re-released by Moon Books)

When Isoldé hears that her lifelong hero, Celtic folk singer Tristan Talorc, has just committed suicide, it strikes home and makes the oppressive London, where she works just after “nine-eleven”, feel nearly as oppressive as the Belfast of The Troubles where she grew up.  Fate intervenes when an ex-boyfriend offers her a job with him down in Exeter in the West Country. And so begins her enchanted journey to find the lost song of Tristan Talorc, the Moon Song…

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/moon-song

The Minoan Pantheon: Deities A-Plenty

La Pariesienne Evans

Most people have heard of Ariadne, Dionysus, and maybe the Minotaur, but there’s more to the Minoan pantheon than just those three. Here’s a quick rundown of the gods and goddesses we relate to in Modern Minoan Paganism.

Please note that, although Theseus is well known from the Greek version of the story of Ariadne, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, he’s not a part of the Minoan pantheon. He’s a Greek culture hero (the Minoans weren’t Greek) whose purpose was to show the Minoans in a negative light. Many cultures have created this kind of propaganda via mythology. The Greeks aren’t alone by any means, and for all we know, the Minoans might have done it, too, though we can’t yet read their writings to be sure. Find out more about the origin and nature of the Theseus myth here.

Here’s the Minoan pantheon as we currently experience it within Modern Minoan Paganism. Some people focus on just one or two deities and some like a big party. 🙂 Whatever works for you is just fine.

Posidaeja – Grandmother Ocean who surrounds the beautiful island of Crete, one part of the Land/Sea/Sky goddess triplicity

Rhea – Mother Earth; her body is the island of Crete itself; her womb is the cave on Mt. Dikte (or maybe it’s the one on Mt. Ida – in fact, Ida may have been one of Rhea’s names). She’s the Land portion of the Land/Sea/Sky triplicity.

Ourania – Great Cosmic Mother-of-All, embodied in the starry night sky. She’s the third member of the Land/Sea/Sky triplicity.

Ariadne – Rhea’s daughter, Queen Bee, Lady of the Labyrinth. She figures prominently in the story behind the Minoan precursor to the Eleusinian Mysteries. You can find a lovely version of that tale in Charlene Spretnak’s book Lost Goddesses of Early Greece.

Dionysus – shamanic god of wine and other intoxicants that allow communication with the Underworld. All types of fermentation and hallucinogens are sacred to him, as are ecstatic states.

Zagreus – “The Dismembered One.” Shamanic bull-god who may be an aspect of Dionysus.

Ananke/Arachne – goddess of fate and destiny; possibly an aspect or “job title” of Ariadne.

The Melissae – ancestral bee spirits; Ariadne is their Queen

The Horned Ones – three pairs of animal deities that may go back as far as Neolithic Crete.

Britomartis/Diktynna – deer goddess, connected with Mt. Dikte, later also associated with the sea thanks to some linguistic confusion

Minelathos – the sacred stag, consort to Britomartis

Amalthea – goat-goddess associated with Dionysus and the Minocapros; sometimes described as Rhea’s sister or twin

Minocapros – the sacred goat, associated with Dionysus, consort to Amalthea

Europa – the great Moon-Cow whose milk spurted to create the Milky Way; generally considered to be a doublet (pair or twin) of Pasiphae

Minotauros – the sacred moon-bull, consort to Europa; also associated with the Labyrinth (but I promise, he’s not a monster)

Aega – goddess of the Aegean Sea

Helice – willow goddess; sister or twin of Rhea

Eileithyia – divine midwife; you can still visit her sacred cave near the north coast of Crete

Minos – triple Moon god, judge and protector of souls in the afterlife, healer

Daedalus – smith god; the Minoans were a Bronze Age culture so he would have overseen the smithing of bronze, silver, and gold, but not iron.

Asterion – name meaning ‘starry one’ and applied to several related figures in Minoan mythology: Minos’ father or foster-father (if he’s the father – and the Hellenic Zeus isn’t – then Asterion may be another name for Dionysus); the Minotaur (Karl Kerenyi supported this view); Europa’s consort (but apparently not the same as the Minotaur). It’s not clear whether any or all of these were originally the same figure in the Minoan pantheon.

So there you have it: plenty of choices. Obviously, there’s way more to these deities than just the few sentences I’ve offered here. So if any of these gods and goddesses call to you, it’s worth your time to answer that call. Sure, you can do some research, but what’s equally important is connecting with them directly yourself. Invite them into your sacred space, your rituals, your life. You’ll be the richer for it.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Pagan Books for April

We’ve got two fine new books for you this month – a fiction and a non-fiction. Text here is taken from author/publishers sources, it’s a not a review, but as I’ve reviewed one of them, I’m including a link!

The Knowing, by Kevan Manwaring

Pagan fiction

Janey McEttrick is a Scottish-American musician descended from a long line of female singers. She lives near Asheville, North Carolina, where she plays in a jobbing rock band, and works part-time at a vintage record store. Thirty-something and spinning wheels she seems doomed to smoke and drink herself into an early grave, until one day she receives a mysterious journal – apparently from a long-lost Scottish ancestor, the Reverend Robert Kirk, a 17th Century minister obsessed with Fairy Lore. Assailed by supernatural forces, she is forced to act – to journey to Scotland to lay to rest the ghost of Kirk and to accept the double-edged gift she has inherited, the gift of Second Sight: the Knowing.

My review here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/the-knowing-a-review/

Buy the book here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Knowing-Fantasy-Kevan-Manwaring-ebook/dp/B06XKKFGFV

 

Pagan Portals – Animal Magic, by Rachel Patterson

Pagan non-fiction

An introduction to the world of animal magic; how to find, recognise, connect and work with the power of animal magic.

Buy the paperback – AMAZON US AMAZON UK INDIEBOUND

Buy the ebook – AMAZON US AMAZON UK INDIEBOUND

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