Paganism is a beautiful blending of the inner world that we keep deep inside, and the outer world, nature in its glorious abundance. The closer a view we have of both our inner spiritual selves and of the natural world in which we live and function, the more awe-inspiring our spiritual path becomes.
So in this article, I'd like to look at both the personal and the natural. First we journey within, then we journey without.
In this recent guest post on The Wild Hunt blog, Cat Chapin-Bishop wrote, "We like to say that Paganism is not about following a creed or obedience to commandments written in an ancient book. It's about lived experiences: direct encounters with our gods and our communities, with nature and with spirit. So why is nearly everything we write in the form of a recipe book? Why so little in the way of lived experience? For a religion of direct, personal gnosis, we have remarkably little writing about what happens when we set out to practice rather than preach."
I couldn't agree more. Once you've ventured past the spellbooks, the books that explain the tenets of Wicca or Paganism, you'll undoubtedly get to that place where you say, "Huh. Have I read everything of value there is to read? I know how to cast a circle, I know how to write my own spells, I have a relationship with my deities—don't make me read another how-to book!"
There will always be newcomers to Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism, people who are just now getting their heads around this thing called magic, and therefore there will always be beginner's books. But remember, as you grow more advanced, you'll also have greater skill at identifying and avoiding books that for you cover already-charted territory. And then what? Then you turn to personal accounts of other people's journeys, to learn things that they have picked up along the way, to revel in the companionship that these pages can inspire, to recognize the landmarks and the patterns that your growth has also followed.
In June and July, we have two books for you that are just such personal explorations. First we have One Witch's Way: A Magical Year of Stories, Spells & Such, written by Phoenix, AZ witch Bronwynn Forrest Torgerson. This is an incredibly lovely first-person story—or rather collection of stories, odds and ends, poetry, and ritual. This is not a bare-faced "how to" book written by someone who's been doing it for five years. Bronwynn has practiced the craft for thirty-five years, and writes in a beautifully lyrical way that reminds me of Z Budapest's style. High Priests and Priestesses might get more out of it than others, as there are great sections on performing handfastings and other rites of passage, but I truly feel that anyone can enjoy the writing in this book, even if they're not going to go out and use every bit. There are instructions for children's circle casting, for buying and naming a car, finding an apartment, and other practical concerns, alongside a love song for Pan, treasured buffets, lost friends, brushes with deity, and closely guarded, cherished memories.
Next month we have The Sin Eater's Last Confessions. If you read and like books such as The Celestine Prophecy, The Alchemist or the writings of Carlos Castaneda, then I have to highly recommend this to you. It is the true story of author Ross Heaven's meeting with a traditional Welsh sin eater named Adam during his youth in England. The sin eater is a person who lives on the edges of society, generally shunned but called upon when people needed healing or redemption—basically a shaman who can walk between world and read signs and omens, a cunning man who knows the ways of herbs, vision quests and more. It is a fascinating and engrossing tale of this nearly lost Celtic spirituality as it was passed on to Ross by his mentor over the period of several years. There is a "sin eater workbook" of exercises that were taught to Ross by Adam (such as aura gazing or finding your soul purpose), but these are placed in an appendix at the back of the book so as not to break the entrancing flow of the story. Another gorgeous book that I am happy to have come across.
Now let's turn to the outside, to the natural world. Instead of connecting with people's personal stories, these books will encourage you to reconnect with the natural world around you. (And what better time than Midsummer?)
Sea Magic by Sandra Kynes (a June release) can be used by anyone, even if you don't live near the ocean. There are plenty of illustrations of different types of shells you can collect (or buy on eBay!) and use for divination. There is a new way to ground and center using the cyclical nature of water instead of the solidity of the earth, called Sea Centering. Kynes also introduces a plethora of sea deities and sea creatures such as selkies, mermaids, sea fairies, and elementals, and there is an entire section on finding your sea fetch, familiars such as Penguin, Salmon, Albatross or Turtle. Sea altars and ocean breath yogic breathing, sea meditations and more round out this handy book—a great way to reconnect with the water element!
And if you're a landlubber, a gardener, or a tree-hugger, check out Flower and Tree Magic: Discover the Natural Enchantment Around You by Richard Webster in July. Here you'll find a myriad of ways to commune with or entrain the energies of your well-known backyard friends—everything from tree magic to medicinal plants to flower divinations. You'll learn how to properly hug a tree, get the low-down on Bach Flower remedies and how to use them, how to contact flower fairies, and which trees and flowers are associated with each sign of the zodiac. A great book to keep handy on your summer outings.
Finally, if you'd like to reconnect with the animal kingdom, check out the cute and tiny book called Animal Omens by Victoria Hunt. Small enough to carry in your purse, it covers the animals most likely to cross your path—from ants and butterflies to cats, dogs, ducks and crows. Some of the most unusual are the White Hart or the White-Tailed Kite.
Have a lovely summer, see you in August!
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