Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Book Review – A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year

Book Review – A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year by Ellen Evert Hopman, Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1995.

https://www.amazon.com/Druids-Herbal-Sacred-Earth-Year/dp/0892815019/ref=sr_1_1?s=books

I came to review Hopman’s book because of my reading and review of her most recent book, The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead and of the manuscript of her yet to be published book, The Sacred Herbs of Spring.  Though this book is 25 years old, what Hopman offers is timeless.  It is a wonderful introduction to the ancient Druid rituals that are still and even more meaningful in this 21st century.

The Druids were the healers and shape-shifters of the Celtic era, the poet-priests and priestesses who could prophesize the future. With their study of divination, magic, astrology, nature, and herbal medicine, their poetry and songs of incantation could raise the winds and fog and could dry up lakes.  The Bards, the story-tellers for the long winters and for such ceremonies as wakes, weddings and baby blessings, had the ability to listen to the voices from the otherworld and provide guidance, instruction, and knowledge, often providing it for the Celtic kings and chieftains.  The Ovates, the keepers of prophesy, were the executioners of prisoners and the criminal outcasts.  The Celts believed in reincarnation and were polytheistic with each deity holding special functions.  Their three tiered world was the water world of the ancestors, the land of the earthy beings and the sky world of the deities.  The months of their calendar and the letters of their alphabet were given the names of trees.

The Druidic herbal medicines were prepared as they are today as teas, salves, tinctures, poultices and syrups, as well as homeopathic dilutions.  The magical uses of the herbs were administered while in a hypnotic state of consciousness and through spells, a state of consciousness that I attain through ecstatic trance.  The herbs for each of the eight spokes of the cycle of the year is the valuable core of the book, each herb presented in a clear succinct manner including its preparations, and its medicinal, homeopathic, and magical uses.  Mistletoe is important for three of the eight spokes of the wheel of the year, the winter solstice or Mean Geimhridh, the summer solstice or Mean Samhraidh, and Lugnasad that falls halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox.  Growing up in California where Mistletoe is very prevalent, I often collected it during the summer for our celebration of Christmas.  I now wonder about mistletoe’s role for the Celts with it growing in the warmer latitudes of California and not in New York or Pennsylvania where I have lived for the last 40 years. Hopman though reports that at least one species grows in northern Europe.  Mistletoe’s great sacredness to the Druids may be due to its greater rarity in these cooler climates. Its twigs and leaves are used for strengthening the working of magic, and for their importance in healing, protection and for producing beautiful dreams.  This parasite is one of the 14 herbs sacred to the druids, possibly the most important next to the oak upon which it often grows.  Research has shown that it stimulates the immune system, inhibits some tumors by activating the killer cells, and it is used to temper epilepsy.

From my love for and writings about the Icelandic Edda, I am familiar with the dart of mistletoe that was used to kill Baldr, the gentle and beloved son of Odin.  There was nothing else that would harm him, a promise made to his mother by every other substance.  Then, at the time of Ragnarok, the final battle with the demise of the gods of war, the gentle Baldr is reborn to lead us into a gentle New Age, a hopeful prophesy.

The herbal alchemy of the Druids defines a relationship between the Earth’s herbal forces and those of the celestial spheres, a system that classifies each herb by its planetary affiliations to the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter or Saturn.  For example, Mars is affiliated with the thorny and prickly plants with a strong acid taste, plants that help with motor nerve, muscle, and left brain problems.  These plants include nettles, hops, garlic and onion.  The sun’s herbs are orange, reddish orange to yellow and are nourished in the warmth of the sun, herbs such as butterbur, borage, motherwort and grapes which are used to help with problems of the heart, circulation, and the spine.

The rituals and celebrations of the Druids take place in the groves of sacred trees such as oak, rowan and hawthorn, rituals that involve repeatedly walking sunwise around the sacred hills, springs, stones, trees and fires, acts that reflect the desire to live in harmony with the cosmos.  Every tree, spring, well, rock, valley, mountain and body of water has its own animating spirits that reveal its sacred relationship with all other flora, fauna and minerals.  At these sacred places poetry, legends and song find their fullest expression.  At these places sacrificial gifts are offered to the deities and fairies to gain their support in providing for a fruitful life.  The twenty-one described herbs used for consecration and purification include Agelica, Asafetida, Basil, Cedar, Juniper, Mistletoe, Sage, and Valerian. Many of the described herbs are also used in funeral rituals and rites and for the journey into the Otherworld, herbs such as Elder and Hawthorn.  For marriage under the Oak the many herbs used include Anise, Apple and Maple.  For bringing peace and prosperity to the home the herbs used include Bay Laurel, Mandrake, and Plantain; and for the rites of passage from birth, for infant naming, and for puberty the herbs used include Ash, Birch, Holly and Rosemary.

These hypnotic and magical rituals beautifully bring alive our need for a harmonious relationship with the Earth and the Cosmos. These rituals are more relevant today than ever because of our separation from our one and only Earth that has occurred over that last several centuries because of our greed, separation that has led to our current battle for survival because of the climate crisis.  I still maintain that there is hope, hope for us to enter the beautiful New Age if we again reconnect with the sacred Earth and the Cosmos, a connection that was very much alive for our ancient hunting and gathering ancestors from the era of the Celts and Druids.

Nicholas E. Brink, PhD

Author of

  • Ecstatic Soul Retrieval (publisher – Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.)
  • Power of Ecstatic Trance
  • Baldr’s Magic
  • Beowulf’s Ecstatic Trance Magic
  • Trance Journeys of the Hunter-Gatherers
  • Grendel and His Mother (publisher – Routledge)

 

Find the book in the usual places or order a signed copy from the author at www.elleneverthopman.com

 

 

 

How to Save the Planet

Luke Eastwood’s How to Save the Planet offers the reader ten realistic and effective things they can do to help avoid deepening the climate crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If you’re feeling weary and overwhelmed and are not coping with the emotional impact of the climate emergency, this book may also be for you.” Read the whole review on Druid Life: https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/how-to-save-the-planet-a-review/ ‎

“Let me start by saying that this kind of primer is absolutely essential. ” Read the whole review on Pagan Pages https://paganpages.org/emagazine/2020/01/01/book-review-how-to-save-the-planet-10-simple-steps-that-can-change-the-world-by-luke-eastwood/

In this guest blog, Luke talks about his aims for the book https://wrycrow.com/2020/01/15/guest-post-reaching-out-to-the-wider-world-how-to-save-the-planet/

Here Luke talks about his own experiences of trying to be green – https://blakeandwight.com/2020/01/14/a-guest-post-by-luke-eastwood-how-we-can-really-make-a-difference-to-the-world/

And this one about the reality of living in something that looks like the plot to a sci-fi novel! https://markhayesblog.com/2020/01/13/how-to-save-the-planet-guest-blog-by-luke-eastwood/

You can buy a copy of How to save the Planet from many online retailers, here’s the amazon.com link – https://www.amazon.com/How-Save-Planet-simple-change-ebook/dp/B07X437H1X

 

Lions – an excerpt from Grimalkyn the Witch’s Cat

Here’s an excerpt from Pagan Portals – Grimalkyn, The Witch’s Cat: Power Animals in Traditional Magic Paperback by Martha Gray, published by Moon Books 29 March 2013.

Lions (panthera leo)

The second largest of the four big cats – tiger, leopard and jaguar – the only four that can roar and which are thought to have evolved into their class around 1.6 million years ago. They are muscular and stocky, which they use to their advantage in bringing down prey. Lions live in family groups, known as a ‘pride’ and are the only members of the cat family to do so, as the others are generally solitary. The males’ main function, with a thick mane to protect them when fighting, is to protect the pride from outsiders including other lions, while the females do all the hunting and rearing the cubs. Symbolically, the lion represents kingship, strength, courage, honour and valour.

There are depictions of lions all over Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, with the most famous being those of ancient Egypt. The oldest images are the paintings in the Chauvet caves in France showing a lioness hunting, which are thought to be around 30,000 years old; and paintings of two lions mating in the ‘Chamber of Felines’ in the Lascaux caves. While a prehistoric ivory carving of a lion has been found in the Vogelherd cave in Germany.

Ancient cultures used lions to decorate great buildings in order to add majesty to the design, and were widespread throughout Mesopotamia. The gates of Mycenae in Greece also show two lioness-deities flanking a column; while in Turkey, the old Hittite city of Bogazkay, they adorn the walls of the gateways. Persia also used the image of lions on their gates to project the great majesty of their cities.

The Greeks saw lions as having not just the power of strength but also of invincibility. In the myth of the Twelve Labours of Hercules, his first task was to slay the Nemean Lion. The beast’s golden fur was said to be impenetrable by any weapon, while its claws were sharper than any sword. Hercules eventually followed it into its lair and used his club to stun the lion, and then strangled it to death. He tried to remove the skin from the lion by using his knife but this did not work; the goddess Athena told him to use one of the lion’s claws and he was able to take the fur to use as a cloak of invincibility. The Greeks identified the constellation of Leo with the Nemean lion.

 

You can buy the book from Book Depository Amazon UKAmazon US 

Kitchen Witchcraft Spells and Charms review

By Cosmic Dancer

This is the 15th book I have got from this wonderful author…and I’m quite established at my practice. This book is just brilliant to just dip in and out of, I read it cover to cover when I got it. It covers an array of spells and charms from prosperity to confidence, banishing and healing. It’s perfect for the beginner as well as the more experienced witch. The fab thing about these spells and charms is, that most of the things needed you may have in your home anyway, so no great expense to pay out, and if you have read some of Rachel’s other books you will know if you don’t have something, you can use other things, such as your finger if you don’t have a wand. A brilliant book and well worth a place on your bookcase.

Kitchen Witchcraft: Spells & Charms is a the first in a series of books which delves into the world of the Kitchen Witch. Each book breaks down the whys and wherefores of the subject and includes practical guides and exercises. Other titles include Garden Magic, Altars & Rituals and The Elements.

Where the Hawthorn Grows – review

Cosmic Dancer reviews Morgan Daimler’s Where the Hawthorn Grows.

I noticed from  reading a couple of pages, that this was  more of a personal journey. The author tells us this up front.. which I found very good.

Morgan has  brilliantly outlined and described how Celts and Druids practiced in the past. If you  yourself wish to learn these ways, or to place them into practice today in a more modern world.

Which ever path you may find yourself on, this is a book that is most  definitely an interesting book to have and one that I am sure you will read from cover to cover, and maybe time and time again.

It has a very interesting section on healing deities along with fascinating chapters on spirits of the land, ancestors, detailed celebrations, life passages , which I particularly likes  and which you don’t often see in books, and a section on Celtic magic, which I loved.  Community and sacred tattooing which is also  interesting to find.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/where-hawthorn-grows 

 

Review of Fairycraft – Following The Path Of Fairy Witchcraft by Morgan Daimler

Review by Mael Brigde

A sumptuous blend of traditional lore, excellent scholarship, and a rich and ethical modern practice in the Fairy tradition.

“Modern paganism includes a dizzying selection of paths and traditions, of which Fairy Witchcraft is but one. Some people may find the combination of neopagan religion and traditional Fairy Faith beliefs ideal; others may decide that it is not the path for them. Indeed, although it is a path with many rewards it is also a difficult one to walk and one that requires a great deal of effort to practice. Above all, it is a religion of risk, not something safe and secure to curl up in like a warm blanket, but rather a tough pair of boots that will take you off the beaten path and into the trackless woods.” p1

I am excited by this work. I liked it enough to order a second copy as a present for my niece.

If I hadn’t known Daimler’s work from books like Pagan Portals: Brigit – Meeting The Celtic Goddess Of Poetry, Forge, And Healing Well and Pagan Portals – Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism, a glance at the cover would have led me to a wrong conclusion. Not because it is the wrong cover for the book—it’s lovely—but because of my own preconceptions. The cover image is of a pretty white woman wearing flowing robes and a flowery headdress, a book open in her hand, and the greenwoods blurring out behind her. Because of the sort of fairy-related things I have seen for years and years, I would have assumed that this was a light feast, possibly not very well researched, or at least, not covering topics that would be of much interest to me. I would have assumed it had an emphasis on a romantic, Victorian idealization of the Fair Folk, or alternatively was a Wiccan book: two things I was hugely drawn to in my younger days (first the one, and then the other), but which have been replaced by a love of the nuts and bolts details of the cultures, tales, and traditions that gave birth to them.

Luckily, this is my fifth nonfiction book by Morgan Daimler, and I would not keep coming back for more if I wasn’t very happy with what she has to offer. In all of her books she exhibits a careful and thorough scholarship in tandem with a genuine love of the traditions, both ancient and modern, that she is describing. There is a depth and breadth to her knowledge of the deities and culture of pagan Ireland, as well as a broader understanding of Irish, Scottish, Norse, and German spirit lore. She blends these with a deep personal practice and honest commitment to an ethical and full-bodied Polytheistic path. So when she tells me what she means by a “witch” in the first few pages, and when she says her term Fairy Witchcraft describes a modern Pagan practice that draws on the old Fairy Faiths, I am already sitting up and paying attention, eager to go on reading the book.

“A Fairy Witch is someone who has nurtured a relationship with fairy beings, who uses herbs magically, who uses divination, and who can identify and deal with different magical problems, whether they are caused by Fairies or by other magical people. Studying and understanding these older types of practitioner helps give us guidance on what we should do and how we should approach the magical side of our own witchcraft.” p 6-7

(A fairy is one of) “a wide array of Otherworldly beings and land spirits, which are not human and which may or may not be kindly inclined toward humans. Much as the word ‘animal’ includes everything from mice to bears, the word ‘fairy’ includes everything from tiny sprites to monstrous giants, from diminutive pixies to human-sized elves, from hags to water-horses.” p7

Although greatly interested in Irish deities and lore, I was not actually aware that there was such a thing as a NeoPagan Fairy path, so this book was an eye-opener for me in many ways. Daimler, herself a follower of Fairy Witchcraft, carefully explains to the unschooled like myself the basic principles of understanding and relating with the Good Folk, clarifying who and what they are, ways in which traditions agree and differ in regards to them, what types of offerings and principles of living please and annoy them, and so on. She discusses Irish, Scottish, Norse, and German fey, and offers her own experiences and insights, along with conclusions she has tentatively formed based on all of this. (The Norse material is in large part new to me, and it is useful to have it alongside the Irish.)

That is one of the things I like most about Daimler. I know where I am with her: is this information from the texts and traditions of old? Is it a modern idea? Is it her own reworking or new translation of an old text? Is it drawn from direct experience? She does employ all of these things, but she doesn’t mix them together higgledy-piggledy, so it is easier for me to decide what sort of weight to put on them. This is not an easy trick to pull off, and I am grateful to her for the effort she puts into it.

Daimler’s writing style is very readable as well. Many books of fascinating information are written in such a leaden way that it is hard for me to plough through them at all. Not so with her. The writing is idea-rich but clear; she is willing to give detail where needed, but doesn’t dwell overly long on each point. I always find myself reading longer than I intended to, because the book is so darned interesting.

A couple of random highlights from Fairycraft:

I am grateful, as I read “Chapter One – Beliefs” and try to get a sense of what Fairycraft is, for Daimler’s lucid, systematic presentation of her materials. She doesn’t neglect the most basic things: e.g. What are gods? How do fairy witches perceive them differently than in other branches of polytheism? How do they differ from fairies? But neither does she talk down to the reader; she is building a structure on a well-delineated base.

In “Chapter Four – The Other Crowd and Ancestors” I was particularly touched by her thoughtful exploration of how and why we might honour our ancestors. She addresses the temptation to cherry-pick who we will honour, and who to leave off, and does so in a way that both challenges us and is sensitive to our pain. This is one of the many examples of Daimler’s ability to think about a topic from many angles, and to ask us to live with integrity. Similarly, the insights in her discussion of what makes a space sacred (Chapter Five – Tools and Ritual Space) is a great part of what makes this book so special.

This is the longest of Daimler’s books I have read thus far, and it is a pleasure to see her unfold her subject in such detail. The slimmer Pagan Portals books are excellent introductions. Their brevity and strict focus is part of their strength. But in the longer form Daimler is able to stretch her wings, and I am very glad I decided to read a book that gives her that space.

For those who get a thrill from new insights into old ways, there is much to appeal in Fairycraft by Morgan Daimler.

Moon-books.net/Fairycraft

The Dictionary of Mystery and Magic

Reviewed by Cosmic Dancer

This is the sort of book I have been looking for for a long time, an absolutely  wonderful book full of information on Magic, its a very very  must have reference book.
I found that while looking through I was  making notes and then looking for other words… just to look up,
I also loved that there were dotted about, some Charms , Spells, Folk medicine, Tree Lore and Seasonal Celebrations. I got this book on kindle but will be making a  purchase for a hard copy, well worth having on your book case, you will use it time and time again. I just love they way Melusine writes too. Brilliant.