Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: MOON MAGIC by Dion Fortune

Moon Magic by Dion Fortune
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dion Fortune's books are packed with esoteric wisdom, and she's sometimes a hard author to read. I've been working my way slowly through this novel for months, but last night I was finally able to finish it.

This book is the sequel to "The Sea Priestess", but it could easily be read and understood alone. I preferred this novel, in fact.

Lilith Le Fey is a strange woman by the standards of pre-war British society. She lives alone, practices ancient magic, and is searching for a priest to help her change the world. She finds that priest in Rupert Malcolm, a renowned neurological doctor with a prickly personality. Malcolm is a vital man, but time and again, he chooses to allow his vitality to be sacrificed to the norms of the society. When he meets Lilith, he undergoes a deep spiritual transformation.

This novel is rich with symbolism, and in fact Fortune has been quoted as saying her novels are practical manuals for magical transformation. If you enjoyed "Mists of Avalon" or any of Marion Zimmer-Bradley's other titles, you will like this novel. Remember, it's slow going, so take your time and don't get frustrated if the small font and sometimes spotting punctuation throws you momentarily.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: BEAUTIFUL DEMONS by Sarra Cannon

Beautiful Demons by Sarra Cannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harper has been kicked out of her second to last foster home. If she can't make things work at Shadowford, a home for "troubled" girls, her social worker has promised her a quick trip to juvie. Determined to finally make a home and finish a school year in the same place that she starts, Harper is on her best behavior. But her past comes back to haunt her when the head cheerleader meets a grisly death. The issue? The girl was killed by something that very much resembles the power Harper has tried to keep secret. It doesn't help that she may or may not have killed her adoptive father, and Harper is instantly a suspect.

What happens next is bizarre, but not unexpected for paranormal readers. Harper may have found a place where her powers will be valued, or she may have fallen into something more dangerous than she could have imagined: only time will tell.

This is a great book to read during a storm, or in an old, spooky house. Looking forward to more from this author!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: SUMMONING THE FATES by Z. Budapest

I've decided to start featuring book reviews whenever I read anything magical.  Fiction, nonfiction, it's all fair game! 

Summoning the Fates by Zsuzsanna Emese Budapest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zsuzsanna Budapest is a leading figure in the women's spirituality movement, yet somehow this was my first encounter with her as a writer. I really enjoyed this book. Budapest looks at life through astrology, focusing on the Norns and the Fates as guides for different phases of life. Instead of the Western concept that the round numbers (like 30, 40, and 50) mark dramatic change, Budapest advocates for a complex astrological cycle.

Although I didn't understand some of her ideas, my own life seems to line up to what she's saying: evidently, the first major transitional period in life occurs sometime between the ages of 26 and 30, where the first self gives way to the second self. I certainly feel like I'm starting my second identity as a writer!

Her writing style is conversational and filled with folk tales and rituals, making this an easy read. Don't read the epilogue: it's a bit more, um, biased than the rest of the book. If you enjoyed Sue Monk Kidd's "Dance of the Dissident Daughter", "Summoning the Fates will be right up your alley.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Goddess Goodies: Pomegranate Scones

For me, baking is a spiritual practice.  Maybe it's my natural kitchen-witchery showing through, or maybe it's because of the warm memories I have of learning to bake with my mom and grandma.  For whatever reason, I love crafting warm, gooey goodness that I can share with my family and friends in the spirit of the Goddess.

When my husband got groceries this weekend, he texted to let me know that pomegranates are back in season.  Since Persephone has been on my mind lately, I decided to experiment with pomegranate scones.

 You will need:
1 pomegranate
2 cups flour (I use wheat, but most people prefer all-purpose for lighter scones)
1/4 cup of honey
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 TBSP cold butter
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream (I use low fat)
2 egg yolks
 1. Slice the top off the pomegranate, and score the fruit three or four times.  Invert it in a bowl of cold water for at least five minutes: this will make it easier to get the pomegranate seeds out.

When you are able to remove the seeds, do it slowly.  Working with a pomegranate is very meditative,  and this is the step in the process where I set my intentions for the recipe.  If I want to honor Persephone, I think about her story.  If I want to fill my tribe with love and joy, I think about that.

Make sure you rinse the seeds and drain them.

2. Combine flour, honey, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Cut in the butter until it's crumbly.

3. Combine sour cream and egg yolks, add to the crumb mixture.

4. Mix in pomegranate seeds.

5. Flour your hands and divide the dough into two round balls.  On a floured baking sheet, press the balls flat.  Score them with a sharp knife, but don't separate the scones yet.

6.  (Optional): Whip one egg white and drizzle it over the scones.  Add cinnamon and sugar, pouring it over the egg.

7. Bake at 425 F for 18 minutes

Cool on a wire rack.  WARNING: these scones are crumbly!

Enjoy with a cup of chai tea or your morning coffee.  Blessed be!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Mabon: let's talk about the Underworld

I know, I know, not the most cheery topic for a bright Friday morning.

But today is Mabon, the fall equinox, and it is on this day when sunlight and darkness are in perfect balance.

It is also on this day that Persephone begins her annual descent to the realm of her husband, Hades.

Fall is my favorite season, and while I'd much rather twirl about in the sun, soaking up energy for the coming winter, I've had the idea of the Underworld descent on my mind lately.    What can modern women learn from these stories?

Persephone travels to the Underworld every year, cycling from her role as daughter to her role as wife and queen.  Her descent tugs at the seasonal tides, and her return signifies the beginning of spring.

Then there's Psyche.  She had to journey to the Underworld and back again before she could win her lover and be reborn as a goddess.  Her journey was about the help she received along the way, but even with celestial advice, she almost didn't make it.  Luckily for her, Eros stepped in at the last minute to keep his love alive.

Stepping away from the Greco-Roman myths, consider the tale of Inanna.   When she travels to the Underworld to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, and pay her respects to the dead,  Inanna surrenders the tools of her queenship as well as the protection of her clothes.  Naked before her fierce sister, Inanna is captured, condemned, and hung on a meat hook.  When her faithful minister comes after her, Inanna is allowed to return to the light if another soul is left in her place.  She returns home to find that her lover, Dumuzi, isn't acting the way he should.  He doesn't seem concerned about her death: in fact, he's lounging about on her throne, enjoying the remnants of her power.  Inanna knows right away who she'll be willing to sacrifice to her sister.

Traveling to the Underworld can be seen as an initiation into power: all three of the goddesses discussed here become stronger after their ordeals in the land of the dead.  They leave behind a part of themselves and emerge in their full strength.

How can we learn from these stories?  Today, as the earth is balanced between light and dark, it is a good time to think about that which we are ready to leave behind.  Like Inanna, we must shed our protective layers in order to become what we are meant to be.

As we step into the dark season, focus on the strength you will learn this season.  What can you leave behind?

Blessed be.