Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Magician's Law: Tales of the Bard

Author: Michael Scott
ISBN: 0722177755 / 9780722177754

I started reading this book on the flight to Australia a few months ago, and finally finished it last weekend, having read it piecemeal.

The book tells the tale of Paedur, who has risen to the status of legend, through the ages and his work to restore the "Old Faith" against an incomer which has grown in size rapidly. Mannam, the Lord of the Dead, assigns Paedur the task of keeping the Old Faith alive through his work as a bard, telling the myths and expanding the knowledge of the old gods. As they are want to do, the gods assign Paedur a further task ... a dangerous undertaking.

The author borrows from the myths of a few cultures, though the Irish seems most apparent, and creates his own world, peoples, cultures, myths, legends and religions. On reading the pantheon at the front of the book, the reader might feel overwhelmed, but as the tales unfold the names slip easily into place.

The book was written such that, although I picked it up and put it down often, the characters and the tale stuck in my mind. The action builds relatively quickly and there are several peaks, arriving at the last sequence with relative ease. You can feel yourself drift into the action and these other worlds. There was only one small quibble and that was my imagination was stifled (a smidge) by some overly descriptive passages, especially in the last few sequences, when it made the story feel a little stilted instead of racing (on a smooth track) to the end. I suspect, however, this won't bother most readers.

I hope to read the sequels, "Demon's Law" and "Death's Law" before the end of the year, that is if I can obtain them through one of the book swapping sites.

Rating: 4/5.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Free Copy of "Magus of Stonewylde"

I reviewed "Magus of Stonewylde" back in November 2007 and you can read that review here.  Now, you can read the book for free.

The author, Kit Berry, is giving away free copies of her book, "Magus of Stonewylde" to the first 100 applicants, as a special offer for Yule. Postage (from the UK) has to be paid, but the book is free.
See "Yule Offers" for further details.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Moon Paste

Was reading a book on Scottish folklore and belief, when reference was made to Isobel Goudie and the making of moon-paste, the formula for which was still current in Morroco and Brittany (the book was written in the 1950s).

So, after extensive googling, which resulted in two pagan-y boards which made only a passing reference, I know very little about this paste.   I found a reference to it in R. A. Gilbert's "The Sorcerer and His Apprentice", which states it was referenced in another book, "The Devil's Mistress".

"The details of the making of Isabel Goudie's moon-paste I have recorded in The Devil's Mistress, the lacunae in the Scottish accounts being supplied from Morocco, the processes being obviously identical. In the trial of Lady Monro of Fowlis, June 22, 1590, the material was clay. "

... a quote which is mentioned in other forums, but only to say that there was reference to the paste in that book, too. Not the formula, nor any other information on its use in Brittany or Morocco.Is anyone is a position to enlighten me?

It also rates mention in "A Highland Chapbook" by Isabel Cameron (page 97):
Moon paste, perhaps the most mysterious of all magic mediums, is also one of the oldest. The making of it was known and practised in ancient Thessaly; magicians in Morocco and in Brittany knew of it, and except for the language being different, the ideas and forms were the same as were used in Scotland so lately at the end of the seventeenth century. Water from seven wells, herbs gathered at certain phases of the moon, clay taken from a special place, and dried in the fire, and afterwards pounded into fine dust, all played their part in the making of the paste. It required, however, the magic of the full moon, and this could only be got by incantations, sung widdershins, and a most elaborate ritual. This paste could unite sundered lovers; it could cure illness; and if its owner so willed it, it was capable of bringing disaster upon one's enemies; in fact, it was capable of working magic; both black and white.
And on page 61:

Witches who had attained a very high standard of their art used, as a medium of black magic, moon paste. As the name implies, this was made by the moon being pulled out of the sky. This medium had to be made when the moon was full. Certain herbs had to be pounded and mixed; water taken from seven different wells and the whole thing had to be kneaded in a trough in a kirk yard with chantings and muttered words and turnings innumerable to "widdershins." Images made of this paste were capable of bringing weal or woe according to the wishes of the witch who owned it. Isabel Goudie used it to help Jean Gordon of Gordonstown, but she used the same medium to bring sickness and death to the house of the Laird of Park

Again, no reference to which herbs, gathered when, which "special place" to beget the clay, which incantations and so on. I was hoping an historian or someone who lives in Scotland might have further information.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Small Sacrifices

Recently, on a predominantly non-pagan message board, someone asked for suggestion on how to "celebrate" Samhain without spending too much money.   Many of the respondents gave a run-down of what they do, personally, at this time of year, as did I.

I generally sit out on fire festivals.  This involves staying out-of-doors from sun down to sunrise, meditating on what the time of year/festival might have meant to my ancestors, performing little rituals appropriate for the season and various other activities.   I have often considered my efforts rather tame and effortless in comparison to some; perhaps even bordering on laziness, so the responses I received to my suggestion took me rather by surprise.

"Oh no.  I couldn't do that; I'll freeze."  Fire and rugs don't seem to exist in the 21st century.

"What if it's raining?   I can't risk catching a cold."   Apparently, colds are spread by rain, not viruses.

"I can't go a whole night without sleep."  Is napping now a lost art?  Bearing in mind, Samhain fell on a weekend this year, I find this objection rather weak.  What's more meditation, when done correctly, can revive.

"Oh, I can't stay out the whole night, but I might go out after "Strictly Come Dancing" and "X-Factor"."   It seems false idols now take precedence over our gods, ancestors, and genius loci.

I have to admit the weather this year was foul, and I do camp in a place that is protected from the weather somewhat, whilst still giving a good view of the horizons.   I also have to admit that I did not sit out this past Samhain, but this was due to a (contagious and heavily medicated) illness, but that didn't stop me undertaking an all-night vigil, and doing as much as I could to mark the season.   Even so, I find it difficult to understand the attitude of some people to a little sacrifice in honour of their gods/ancestors/sacred festivals.  How is it that a small amount of time, or a bit of discomfort is too much?   It's not like I was suggesting people part with the hard-earned, and let's face it these days, precious cash.  I know people claim to be time poor these days, but is six nights a year such a strain?  Does our faith/religion/spirituality not deserve at least that much devotion?

I often hear people talk, and write about not wanting to pay for their spirituality or religion, but I always assumed they meant money.  I think I was wrong: perhaps what is sought is free spirituality, i.e. free from commitment, effort or exertion of mind, body or soul ~ free to do what you want, when you want and only if you want.


Before anyone jumps up and says:  "You're just being a grouch and what's wrong with having fun at Halloween anyway?".  

There's nothing wrong with having fun, joining in trick-or-treating, going to costume balls, and this can be combined with other, more spiritual activities effortlessly, as so many of my friends manage to do.  It's the  "can't be bothered" and "I've got more important things to do" attitudes with which I take issue.

I do wonder:
  1. If pagans find these small sacrifices too much to bear, exactly what, if anything, are they willing to do in the name of their beliefs?
  2. And, what would they honestly consider a real sacrifice?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Mirror Crack’d

I was ill over Samhain, so was not able to do my usual ritual. Instead, I read some unique folklore and thought I would give it a try. In order to do this, I needed to use a mirror and I thought I would use my obsidian mirror, which I keep in a wooden chest along with other particular items.

All well and good, except when I unravelled the silk in which it is wrapped, I found the wooden frame was cracked. The damage wasn't too bad, so I used the mirror anyway and proved the merit of this particular piece of folklore.

My only dilemma now is how to get the mirror repaired. I don't want to use superglue as this might affect the integrity of the original work, which is beautiful. I might have to contact its maker and send it away for repairs, but I am loathe to part with it, in case further, irreparable damage occurs. Still, I can't leave it as it is.

What to do?