Fulltrui: Patrons in Asatru by Mist

Review by Mike Gleason

Fulltrui:  Patrons in Asatru  by  Mist  © 2011  Megalithica Books  

This is one of those books whose appeal will be severely limited, unfortunately.  Its primary appeal will be to Asatruar, and  not even all of them, as there are individuals who do not accept the idea of patrons within the cultural context.  In fact there are those who deny the personal, physical existence of deity.

The concept of patrons used to be common within the Wiccan community (and still is in some segments), but it has fallen out of favor as the eclectic movement has gained ascendancy.  Many eclectics seem to view the idea of patrons as giving away the power of the individual, and that is anathema to a great many people.

Mist spends a goodly amount of time introducing the concept of patrons; explaining the various aspects involved (the individual choosing or the deity/being doing the choosing being the most important in my opinion).  Everything she says about the generalities involved applies to every neo-Pagan religion which has a worshipful orientation, and that SHOULD make this book more appealing to a larger potential readership.  So I say, here-and-now, even if you are not interested in the Asatru faith, you will really find a reading of this book to be beneficial.

There are a number of concepts which do not resonate for me, but I discovered a long time ago that (unlikely as it may seem to me) others may have differing yet equally valid points-of-view, therefore I accept the fact that disagreement is a fact of life, and not worth losing sleep over.  Mist presents Asatru as a living, evolving religion, with an emphasis on experience and inspiration as primary sources, while acknowledging that there is little information contained within the historical record.  Some might see this as a disadvantage, but in reality human nature is constantly evolving so our religions (being one part of of our own existence) should also be expected to evolve.

UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) and PCPG (Peer-Corrorborated Personal Gnosis) are simply “new” names for what used to be termed “Divine Inspiration” (think “Prophets” of the Old Testament, or the Epistles of the New Testament for those of you from Christian background).  They are, ultimately, the sources upon which much of Asatru is built.  While they may be disagreed with, they cannot be refuted since each individual has their own perception (what is slate grey to one person may be charcoal to another).

I am sure that there are large numbers of readers who will dismiss Mist’s descriptions of the Nine Worlds, the various halls within them, and even the gods as either mere flights of fancy or as delusions.  They are entitled to their own beliefs, and there is no way to objectively prove them wrong; subjectively is another matter entirely.  Although I am not a follower of her system, I have done enough journeying through other levels of reality to recognize truth when I encounter it.  And, although I haven’t encountered as of the Aesir or Vanir in my journeys, I have encountered enough deities to recognize the validity of her suggestions regarding how to relate to them.

When referring to the Vanir, Mist mentions that they previously required large numbers of animal sacrifices,  but now seem to be heading in a “greener” direction.  This is one area where I have to question whether it is the Vanir deciding to make this change or their followers.  To be honest, most modern inhabitants of the Western world are not terribly comfortable with the concept of personally killing animals.  Buying meat at a store is one thing, but butchering an animal is (to many folks) both disgusting and just plain hard work.  Being semi-familiar with the rituals of the Santeria, and having attended the preparations for several Asientos, I can understand people’s reluctance.  Still, if your deity is accustomed to being given offerings of beef and you try to convince him/her to accept a basket of wheat or vegetables in its place, I would not be surprised if you suffered some form of consequence as a result of your desire not to get blood on your hands.  If the idea makes you uncomfortable or queasy, perhaps you need to be looking for a different pantheon.

UPG is something which, while not unique to Asatru, doesn’t receive as much acknowledgment among other religious philosophies.  Even among the Pagan faiths there is more reliance placed on the “received lore” (mythology, history, etc.) to gain an understanding of the deities.  Especially in some of the more traditional groups UPG is very much distrusted, if it is acknowledged at all.  But then, Asatru has very little in the way of “received lore” to start with.  Almost everything has come down through the filter of the Christian missionaries and monks who recorded the stories, after they sanitized it and altered it enough to make it conform to their perceptions of the world.

Unfortunately, this book is riddled with editing glitches.  I have been impressed by the quality of the writings produced by this publisher and was tempted to just glide over this problem, but if this was your first exposure to their line, you might be put off by it, and that would be regrettable.  You should overlook the editing problems simply because everyone has an occasional “off” production once in a while.

Mist makes a remark/suggestion on page 83 that causes the hair on my neck to raise up.  I freely admit that this is the result of UPG on my part.  She says:  “For example, Frey required boars killed in offering.  If you cannot find boar meat anywhere, you could substitute it with cow’s meat, or if you are vegan, you could offer him berries, herbs, or natural items from the woods.”  Now, that MIGHT work.  Then again, it might not.  I would strongly suggest that if you are going to offer some unorthodox substitution (and boy, I think vegan offerings for Frey definitely qualify as unorthodox) it would be to your advantage to check with the deity beforehand.  It may be unintentional, but I feel the possibility strongly exists that you might inadvertently offend the deity involved (and who needs a ticked off deity in their life?  Not me!).

Mist provides guided meditations to introduce you to each of the major deities in the Asatru pantheon.  Through these meditations you learn a little bit about each of them, their personalities, and their usual surroundings.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Asatru, this is an invaluable resource in itself, and even for those who are semi-familiar it can serve to open up avenues of exploration.

Following the meditations are a series of articles, written by members of Mist’s kindred, regarding interaction with various gods.  These offer a unique view of what each of the patrons mean to the individuals involved, although they should not be taken as “standards”.  Each of us will relate in our own individual fashion.

In  Chapter 9 Mist offers devotional poetry.  Followers of any of the ancient deities are well aware they enjoy hearing their own stories retold; their praises sung, and other forms of flattery.  It is necessary, however to remember the difference between flattery and b.s.

In the Appendix, Mist provides 25 pages of basic information concerning the Asatru deities and a little over a page of runic correspondences for the gods.  The book is finished off with a bibliography and a list of helpful resources for your individual research and enlightenment.  In my opinion, the only thing missing is a short glossary (although, since this book is primarily aimed at practitioners there isn’t a strong need for this.

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Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick by Frater Barrabbas Books 1-3

Review by Mike Gleason

Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick  Book 1:  Foundation   by  Frater Barrabbas  ©  2008

Ordinarily, I don’t read other reviewers’ comments before I start reading a book, but the author alerted me to a review which had panned this book, so I took a look to see what had caused the dislike.  The gist of the comments amounted to the fact that this book was confusing.  While this may have been true, it is somewhat expected for two reasons.  First, this is a book of Ritual Magick, which is slightly different from the more common Ceremonial Magick.  Second, this is NOT a “101” book, but is designed for intermediate (at least semi-experienced) practitioners, so it makes certain assumptions.

Perhaps that reviewer’s confusion arose from the fact that she was expecting a basic exposition of Ritual Magick, since the book is the foundation of a trilogy.  Since Frater Barrabbas assumes a working knowledge of Ritual Magick to begin with he begins in the “deep end of the pool.”  This is most certainly not a beginner’s work.  If you are a novice you will be confused.  You might want to buy this series and put it aside until you are ready for it.

Another potential problem regarding the other reviewer (in my opinion) is her youth.  She is not yet out of her twenties and may (potentially) not have enough magickal and life experience under her belt.  To an extent, this is evident since she dismisses Frater Barrabbass’ non-amplification of statements without realizing that they were more fully covered in his previous work (The Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick).  He consistently refers readers to this earlier work, and to attempt to understand the current work without having read it is like trying to understand advanced college courses without having covered the prerequisite material.

Although I am not a practicing magician on the level of Frater Barrabbas (I have not dedicated the requisite time or energy necessary to work at that level), I have enough exposure to those kinds of workings to recognize the essential truths of his work.  While the reviewer referenced earlier found reason to disagree with almost every aspect of this work, having had more exposure to magickal workings (I have been working low level magick longer than she has been in this incarnation), I recognize that disagreement about technique and attitude does not invalidate the workings of others.  Like the previous reviewer, I don’t entirely agree with Frater Barrabbas.  Unlike her, I took the time to read his earlier work and thus had a basis to understand his positions.

Keying off the title of this series (“mastering the Art of Ritual Magick”), I would not expect this to be a beginner’s book, since mastery of a subject does not come at the start of one’s studies.  This is obviously intended as an intermediate series of works, designed to prepare the reader (and encourage them) for further independent, unguided studies and practices.

Expectations can color one’s perceptions.  If you tackle a subject expecting to find a simple answer, it is easy to be confused.  Conversely, if you expect deeply profound insight, you may miss simply stated truths.  Go into this book only if you have clearly defined your own expectations and be prepared to give it more than one reading.  Do your preparation (Read The Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick), and your homework, and you can expect to gain new insights and benefits from your magickal workings; attempt it unprepared and unwilling to work at it, and you will come away (at best) confused and/or disappointed.

Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick: Grimoire   by  Frater Barrabbas  ©  2009

Once again, I need to remind potential readers that this series of books is NOT intended for the novice magician.  The author assumes an intermediate level of working and comprehension on the part of the reader.  If you have not been working magick, successfully, for a couple of years (on at least a basic level), you will probably have trouble making use of this material.

This volume, the second of a trilogy, is composed, primarily, of ritual forms.  They are not complete, nor are they intended to be.  It is intended to provide a framework within which the individual magician can create rituals which are significant and powerful for himself.

The system is one which was developed by the author, and has some unique (in my experience) terminology and concepts.  I will be the first to admit, however, that Ritual Magic is not my forte, and these items may not be as unique as they appear to me.  As an example, I had never heard of “the 40 qualified powers,” which consists of the ten aspects of Deity in the four elements and their relationship to the numbered cards of the Lesser Arcana of the Tarot.  It is logical and, for those dedicated to this style of magickal working, easy to work with.

The two books which preceded this one (The Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick:  Foundation [which is the introduction to the intermediate level of working] lead to the material in this volume.  The final volume in this trilogy (Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick:  Greater Key) should finish off the instructions offered, although it won’t come close to completing the work – which will continue until the end of the magician’s life on this plane.

There is a lot of information and inspiration herein.  Frater Barrabbas has devised a system which is easy to understand.  He has broken the rituals down into a standard set which can be easily modified by any competent magician.  Don’t be afraid to work with what he gives you.  Tweak it and make it yours.

This is not a book, or a series, I would recommend to everyone.  It is not suitable for one who only “dabbles” in Ritual Magick.  Nor would I recommend it to the “average” Pagan or Wiccan.  But, if Ritual Magick is your focus, and if you want a source of inspiration, this is where you want to be.  You must be willing to do the work, practice, and focus on your goals to make the most of what is offered.

Mastering the Art of Ritual Magic  Book 3:  Greater Key  by  Frater Barrabbas  © 2010  

This is the conclusion of a series of books dedicated to “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick” (hereafter abbreviated to MARM).  It, like its predecessors ( MARM Volume 1:  Foundation and  MARM Volume 2:  Grimoire, both available from the same publisher) is designed for use by the intermediate student.  It is necessary to have a solid foundation and working knowledge of magick theory, technique , and practice before beginning the work laid out in this series.  This boon is designed to help the magician build a key of correspondences and the  apply that key to the rituals put forth in the series.  It also contains suggestions for setting up and maintaining a working group.

For those critics who insist that a TRUE magician doesn’t need books to learn, all I can say is “Why reinvent the wheel?”  Books can, and should, serve as inspirations and jumping off points.  They are  not intended to be followed slavishly, but to provide background.  As one of my instructors told me decades ago “I will teach you what has worked for others through the years.  If it works for you also, great; if not, we will find what works for you.”  My personal correspondences are colored by my own growth and experiences and depart from “standard” in many aspects.

Frater Barrabbas feels that the idea of a magician working in isolation is a bad idea, and I agree with him.  It is not necessarily desirable that such an individual be a member of a magical order or lodge (although there are some advantages), but it is desirable that they have contact with others of like mike and varying ability.  Feedback (aka “peer review”) keeps one from wandering off into dangerous (on many levels) territory without having backups on call.

Newcomers to the field of Ritual Magick will be well advised to either hold off on purchasing this book, and its predecessors, or else hold off on reading them, as confusion is likely to result.  Because a working knowledge of the subject is assumed, explanations are kept to a minimum, or else are couched in terms which could be unfamiliar to the novice.

The  author presents three basic forms of the keys:  Pagan/Wiccan, Qabbalistic, and Gnostic, thus providing frameworks which should work for the vast majority of practitioners.  His position is that SOME form of religious orientation is absorbed by everyone living, and that to make your magick work you need to account for that  orientation in your rituals.

The Glossary provided at the end of this book is composed primarily of words used in the MARM series, and thus is not as extensive as many.  Still, it is concise and clearly written.  The bibliography is relatively short, but is divided into eleven separate categories which even include some good Pagan fiction.  Lest you think this is strange, I will remind you that Dion Fortune (a member of the Golden Dawn) once stated that her non-fiction books contained all the theory while the practical information was in her novels.

For those students who are “mid-level” in their studies this book will be a valued resource.  The newbies and the more advanced practitioners will find less of use.

Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment by Tony Mierzwicki

Review by Mike Gleason 

Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment  by  Tony Mierzwicki © 2006  

Are you as frustrated as I am by all the “101” books available in the magickal field?  Do you want something with a bit more meat to it?  Well, this book is a good place to start.  True, it contains a great deal of “101” material, but it includes translations of the original sources, not just the tabulated results (although they are provided as well).

Assumptions ARE made about the level of commitment on the part of the magickian, as well as about the degree of comfort and expertise brought to the study of the material.

For those out there who are more interested in reading about rituals than actually doing them (you know who you are), this book will be interesting.  For those already familiar with Classical Greek writings, it may be redundant.  For those interested in working with pre-Medieval magickal systems, it is invaluable.

The first 82 pages provide a fairly comprehensive background on the deities and sources of the information, as well as explaining some individual modifications made by the author.  None of these modifications, by the way, are at all radical, and all are explained clearly

Each of the planetary rites consists of invocations, including the use of “words of power”, none of which would be particularly useful without the inclusion of Appendix 2:  Pronunciation, which helps the would-be Graeco-Egyptian magickian make sure that they are calling the appropriate entity.

Many modern day magicians might be uncomfortable working without the perceived protection of a magick circle.  However, since the magickians of the period lasting through the first five centuries of the Common Era did not use a circle, it would seem that the best way to duplicate their experience would be to duplicate their methods to the best of our ability.

Granted that the author allows his personal perceptions and biases to affect the invocations he uses (modifying the originals in order to achieve specific results), he is honest enough to explain what he has done, and more importantly – why he has done so.

Although I am not a Ceremonialist, by any stretch of the imagination, I found it easy to understand Mr. Mierzwicki’s directions.  I must admit that I found a few areas where he and I disagree in regards to the myths and their interpretations, and a few other items, but I kind of expected that going in.  I knew that my background in Graeco-Egyptian culture was weak, and so I was willing to accept the fact that I would find things to challenge my perceptions.

Although I am not sure how valuable this book will be for my own personal development, I am able to see its overall value and usefulness.  If “high” magick is your forte, this book definitely belongs in your library.  It is not intended to be a “quick fix”, as the rituals need time to work on many levels and cannot be rushed, but working within this system will definitely yield benefits.

Pop Culture Grimoire: An Anthology of Pop Culture Magic by Taylor Ellwood

Review by Mike Gleason

Pop Culture Grimoire: An Anthology of Pop Culture Magic  by  Taylor Ellwood (editor)

My training in magick is of a traditional style; therefore I’m not entirely comfortable with some of the ideas advanced by the contributors to this anthology.  Chapter Three, “Break On through To the Other Side” especially gave me pause.  The creation of thought-forms for magickal working is an accepted action, but the creation of a “pseudo Orisha” seemed to stretch to me.  Nevertheless, to give Ms. Schmitt her due, it appears to have worked for her.  I don’t think I would recommend it to others but that is personal bias, which I freely acknowledge.

I freely admit to a “traditionalist’s” prejudice when it comes to the topic of pop culture being integrated into magickal working.  However, I also admit that I have long been a believer in doing whatever it takes to accomplish your ends.  Therefore, even though some of the topics seemed almost blasphemous to my traditionally-trained mind (a Narnian-based ritual and Pokeman Magic, for example) I was willing to see what the contributors had to offer.

I couldn’t connect with some of the suggestions put forward in this book, but that doesn’t mean that others won’t make the connection.  I freely admit that I am a bit of a “fuddy duddy” when it comes to electronic innovations and pop culture references.

Mr. Ellwood has assembled an interesting collection of viewpoints and writers.  Each is presented without editorial comment, thus being allowed to stand on its own merit.  There are 18 authors represented in this work including Mr. Ellwood’s own contribution.  With an average length of just under nine pages, each author has a chance to present their thoughts and explain their reasoning.

While it won’t appeal to everyone, for those interested in the topic, it will be an eye- (and mind-) opening experience.  It offers unique perspectives.  Pick up a copy and prepare to expand your perception of what magick can be.

Reiki Light: Reiki, Buddhism and the Medicine Buddha by Karl Hernesson

Review by Mike Gleason

Reiki Light:  Reiki, Buddhism and the Medicine Buddha  by  Karl Hernesson   ©  2011   

I am not a Reiki practitioner, nor am I particularly interested in learning the techniques involved, although I can recognize the validity and usefulness of them.  Therefore I approached this book as simply someone who wanted to learn about a topic.  Honestly, I was not expecting the Buddhist background and history, although I did appreciate how that information placed Reiki within a historical context.  Another thing I appreciated was the attempt by the author to dispel the rumors and falsehoods which have attached themselves to this method of healing.  Knowing that the current form is quite a bit divorced from the spiritual underpinnings made it easier to appreciate the information being conveyed.

Mr. Hernesson makes several valid points about the advantages of “in-person” Reiki attunement as opposed to “distance” attunement, several of which  are so obvious as to really not need stating, which makes their inclusion all the more important.  Some of them also apply to other forms of distance learning, but that is another matter entirely.

A differentiation is made between Reiki and other forms of spiritual healing, with the emphasis added that is it not necessarily “better” than other forms, merely different.  To some, this may appear to be nit picking, but it is necessary to do both, as there are individuals who tend to brag about the superiority of their way of doing things.

Unfortunately, to truly take advantage of this book one needs to be able to devote a decent amount of time to not only reading it, but to working with it, and that is a luxury I simply don’t have.  My evaluation must be based solely on the ability of the author to convey information in an easily understandable way, which Mr. Hernesson does nicely.  Even the section on the chakras (which can often be quite confusing to one not familiar with the background of it) is clear and easy to understand.

Various methods of self-protection are explained in detail, ranging from simple shielding to complete sealing.  Which one(s) you choose is for you to decide on an individual case basis.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, and only you will know which is appropriate.

Techniques are discussed for the transmission of the healing energies which include a variety ranging from beaming the energy (from hand or chakra) to rainbow beaming.  Along the way, the various aspects of the colors are discussed as they relate to Reiki.  These can be applied for both in-person and distance healing.

The symbols which currently form such a vital part of the Reiki system (especially in the Western world) are  explained (and their illustrations appear in Appendix F [starting on page 397]).  Their usage in modern Reiki is looked at, even though there is a possibility that they were a later addition to the system.  Without a doubt, they are very much integral to the usage of Reiki by the average practitioner.  Their usefulness in cleansing an area, healing individuals, and as meditation subjects are all explored.

Breathing techniques are also explored in some depth, and their applications are looked at for a variety of uses. It is necessary to understand the underlying principles of Japanese thought and perception (which are, understandably, different from Western perceptions) in order to help your practice of Reiki come to a fuller fruition.  This is not to say that you must reject your Western-based concept of reality and truth and accept the Japanese version; it simply means that you must take into account the variations which occur between the two ways of looking at the world.

The book is extensively foot-noted and references a variety of sources with differing perspectives on the history, development, and use of Reiki.  There is a great deal of information contained within these foot-notes and it should be taken advantage of.

I must admit that I skimmed this book (as opposed to my usual thorough reading of each page), and that I must have missed a fairly large amount of the detail.  Regardless, I did read several sections in their totality and have to say that, personally, I would not hesitate to recommend this book.

I plan to revisit this book in the future.  I also plan to have a Reiki practitioner I know read it and give me their  evaluation of it, so expect to see an update on this review some time later this year.

Kink Magic: Sex Beyond Vanilla by Taylor Ellwood and Lupa

Review by Mike Gleason

Kink Magic  Sex Beyond Vanilla  by  Taylor Ellwood & Lupa  © 2007  

I am obligated to admit that my love life is decidedly vanilla, and hence I have no personal familiarity with the kink scene.  In a way, that makes me an ideal individual to review this book.  If the information can be conveyed in a clear, non-threatening manner to a complete novice, that is the mark of a well-written book.  This is such a book.

There will be those individuals who will be put off by the mere title of this book. Either the word “kink” or the phrase “sex magic” will convince them that this is a pornographic book.  It most assuredly is no.  It is not concerned with what goes where.  It is concerned with how to use non-traditional energy sources to achieve magical ends.  If you want pornography, graphic illustrations and that style of thing, fire up your web browser and net surf your brains out.  If you want to explore the potentials in the use of sex for magical purposes, this is an important book for you.

Like all of the works I have seen from this publisher, this is a book aimed at a specific audience with limited appeal to the general population.  For this reason their works often get overlooked, and that is too bad.  They produce thought-provoking, well-written books which deserve to be better known.

If you have an interest in some of the more esoteric aspects of magick and related topics (Og(h)am, Otherkin, etc.) you would be doing yourself a favor by checking out their website and supporting this company by purchasing some of their books.  The quality is far superior to what I have come to expect from small publishers; the topics are thought-provoking; and the prices are reasonable.  If you need more incentive to purchase their work I can’t help you, but those are more than enough for me.

A lot of time and space is dedicated to the safety aspects of both magic and kink – a subject which is all too often neglected in books on either topic.  This is NOT a “101” book, in spites of its insistence on covering the basics.  This is simply a matter of making sure that everyone is on the same page.

Although I, personally, am not a fan of the gender neutral pronoun “hir” I can understand its use in this case to offset the common misperceptions about dominance/submission in a kink setting.  Every time I saw it, it reminded me that all is not necessarily as my early cultural conditioning may have led me to expect.  It kept me on my toes, and that was a good thing.

If either of these topics (magic or kink) interests you (especially if both do) this book is a wonderful addition to your library.  It accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to show how kink can be used to enhance magical workings.  Is it necessary to combine them?  No, but for some individuals it can enhance their experiences.

Raising Hell: Subversive Spirituality, Insurrectionist Witchcraft & Black Magic by Kali Black

Review by Mike Gleason

Raising Hell:  Subversive Spirituality, Insurrectionist Witchcraft & Black Magic by  Kali Black   © 2009 

The author has an unorthodox view of Black Magic (if that isn’t an oxymoron) when compared to standard views.  She sees Black Magic as encompassing most, if not all, forms of rebellion.  She is not hesitant about sharing her opinions (ranging from anti-consumerism to the vegan life-style).  But, while sharing these opinions, she is adamant about informing the reader that “Your mileage may vary.”

She sees things in a very different light than I do.  But that is what makes life interesting.

While I most assuredly do not agree with everything she has to say, I have to admire both her courage in stating her position, and her ability to present her ideas without alienating her readers.

While I found a few minor editing errors (unfortunately common-place in today’s publishing markets), there was no misunderstanding what she meant.  Her views and experiences may be uniquely her own, and her comparisons have some readers scratching their heads, but she has no difficulty making them abundantly clear and comprehensible.  At the end of the book you may not find yourself nodding in agreement (I know I didn’t) but you will have a clear understanding of her approach to life and magick.

I honestly feel that, assuming you are generally well-grounded in reality, you can benefit from this book.  It will make you question your perceptions (and hers, as well), and make you think about what you “know” and why and how you know it.  That is a valuable thing in today’s world.  Agree or disagree with Ms. Black’s approach, you should find yourself more comfortable with your own decisions.