REVIEW: Practical Sigil Magic by Frater U.:D.:

305318After almost an year, I finally finished this book. Now, it took it so much because I decided to go slowly and experiment with the various techniques before proceeding with my read (and obviously this means a long span of time in which I didn’t use anything written on these pages at all). I also wanted to work a bit with sigils before getting into the chapter about “how does this thing work?”, as to not make up my mind on sigil work before actually doing some of it.

I am not a chaos magician. I have read about Chaos Magick and its principles, I find it fascinating, but I also don’t think it is what I want to do in my practice. My main interest is religious, magic and witchcraft are…something I am drawn to, but also something I am a bit scared of. They also tend to come up a lot. Sigil magic seemed an interesting starting point to explore magic, so I tried it. That being said, on with the review!

The book explores the modern method of sigilisation derived from the works of Austin Osman Spare, which is the same that can be found in Carroll’s Liber Null. The word, pictorial and mantric methods are explained with the use of examples, which I found extremely helpful. I had a bad time with the aesthetic of my sigils, being too much…bare? Common? Non-graphic? I don’t even know. However, seeing how the author makes and works on sigils really helped me gain confidence over mines. The explanation is simple, straightforward and non dogmatic. Methods of activation have their own dedicated chapter; although I admit that I might have found a couple more methods helpful, I understand that this is not a book about gnosis and how to achieve it. The Alphabet of Desire (which I find a fascinating topic) is also described in its two different iterations. Closing the book is a chapter on “traditional” sigil work, as known in high magic and hermeticism, which refers to Israel Regardie’s How to Make and Use Talismans.

I found this book very comprehensive, easy and practical. It gives all the information a person who has never heard about sigil might need, delivered clearly and without too much speculation. The chapter in which the *why* sigil magic work is discussed is very adamant on proposing models of explanation, theories instead of dogmas. I appreciated this, because the author invites the reader to try and understand magic for themselves; furthermore, sometimes trying to understand the technicalities and the reasons behind magic might hold back from doing and experiencing it. I will surely keep this volume as reference as I go on experimenting sigil work.

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REVIEW: Milk & Honey, by Rupi Kaur

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Milk and Honey has been on the home page of Book Depository for forever. I found some of the poetry by Rupi Kaur on pinterest, got curious and decided to give it a go. I finished it in one sitting on a Friday evening and got mixed feeling about it.

The underlying themes of the volume are abuse, recovery and love. They are further broken down into four different aspects, corresponding to four different chapters in the book: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. In each part, poems deal with that particular aspect; however, I feel that almost every poem can be seen as carrying inside it all the four aspects.

From what I see on Goodreads it’s a book people either love or loathe; I do understand some of the criticism moved to the form and content of the poetry, however I believe some detractors take this volume too seriously. It’s the first published work an author, not the last. Not the one in the midst of her career. And first works tend to be weakest by definition. Yes, it contains mediocre poetry and poetry that doesn’t work at all. There’s also some powerful poems, though:

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this is probably my favourite

My biggest problem with it is that sometimes the poems read too much like prose. Poetry conveys meaning subtly. It uses images, sounds and words, all combined. Sometimes you have to stop and re-read. Reflect about what you’ve read. Poetry is not a genre you can read a book in one sitting and expect to have grasped all the meanings it contains. This surely doesn’t happen with Milk & Honey: it flows and flows and flows untile you’re at the end. You don’t need to pause your reading except for a couple times. That’s why I understand the criticism to the form.

As to the content, what made this book so popular is, in my opinion, the way in which the author opened up. Rupi Kaur shows every inch of her being and of her experience, and sometimes it’s really heartbreaking. Some of her ideas are not groundbraking, especially when she talks about womanhood, her body and self-image. They sure aren’t groundbreaking ideas for me. Maybe for someone are, and to those people maybe it’s helpful to read about them. As much as her experience of sexual abuse might be relatable to other survivors. In this light, it’s easy to see why this book became so popular and why people like it.

Overall, I gave it a 2/5 stars on Goodreads. It has potential, even though it will take a bit more writing to the author to really produce the great work that is being sold. I once again fell in the trap of marketing, which surely is about judging the book from its cover.

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My 2017 in books and 2018 bookish resolutions

I started 2017 with the idea of not setting any book goals, in terms of number of volumes read. Unsurprisingly, I ended up reading a lot even without the ghost of the Goodreads challenge. However, I didn’t keep up with my intention of annotating books or writing down notes and thoughts. I still haven’t figured out a way that I like to do it.

Books read: 46
Number of pages: 9369
Longest book: Runemarks by Johanne Harris
Most-read genres: non-fiction
Authors were mostly male, with 7 female authors and 1 queer author

I guess I have become more critical in my reating, because there’s around 10 of them who got just one or two stars.
I’ve read a great deal of non-fiction on various topic, ranging from psychology to classical Chinese philosophy and Daoism, to polytheistic theology. As for fiction, apart from my Scandinavia literature cumpolsory reads for uni courses, it’s mostly fantasy or science fiction. It’s really not been an year for novels. There’s also a fair deal of graphic novel, although they’re mostly the Overwatch comics that come out every three or four month or so.

And now, in no particular order, my 5 favourite books of 2017!

  1. Niels Lyhne by Jens Peter Jacobsen – One of the few Scandinavia novels I really like, I fell this is a great read. It’s got all the best things from XIX century books, but with a fair dose of relatable existential dread.
  2. The End of Eternity by I. Asimov – My first Asimov novel, a book I bought at a library sale. It’s short, dense and amazing, I read it maybe in two days because I was so hooked on the story.
  3. The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer – the book that broke my heart into tiny little pieces, I’ll never be the same. A great book, as always when you hold one of Colfer’s volumes.
  4. A World Full of Gods by J. M. Greer – the first volume on polytheistic theology I read, a wonderful read that got me thinking a lot about my own practice.
  5. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thic Nhat Hanh – a wonderful book about meditation, full of reflections on the topic and exercices on which I draw from my daily practice.

What now?
Now that’s a whole new year, I want to keep with the same intent of not setting challenges and reading for the sake of reading. Not looking at my reading rate was really an improvement, even though I rushed through more than one book (but that’s just because I rush everything that I do).
I joined a couple of Goodreads groups to find some new titles to read, especially in the department of classics and literary fiction, because I lack knowledge of more than one volume (and bein an undergrad in English literature I can’t keep with what I am ordered to read).
The real challenge will be writing a review for at least half of the book I read: why would I have a blog to write about books, after all? Hope this will help me note more book thoughts as I read

Wishing you all a very bookish year,

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REVIEW: Irresistible, by Adam Alter

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I am one of the kids who grew up with the internet. It might not seem much (I mean, what kid doesn’t have the internet now?), but back in the day I had a 56k connection we payed so much for, we were allowed half an hour of it on Sundays. Me and my sister cherished that time, playing Scooby Doo flash games. I was 12 when I got my first ADSL connection, and there began my browsing and I became and internet citizen: I played (my beloved text-based RpGs!), I made friends, I chatted in forums and I also had many blogs. I have always been up to date with the latest internet fashion (be it neopets or memes) and I love it all. Internet is an open sea of possibilities that have been enhanced more than ever when social networks and smartphones came. Given both my interest for the internet and my slight smartphone addiction, this book immediately caught my attention when I saw it on Goodreads.

Adam Alter has made a wonderful work in this volume: he dwells into a vast body of research to talk about what behavioral addiction is and why it is relevant today, especially when we talk about smartphones and social networks. The first three chapters of the book introduce the topic and describe what substance and behavioral addiction are. I read people got bothered by this part, but I believe that it helps clearing up the misconception about both type of addiction, illustrating their similarities, but especially their differences. Recognising behavioral addiction is something we’ve done just recently, after all.
The second part of the book is divided into six different chapters, each one devoted to a single aspect of the design of addictive technology. Goals, feedback, social interaction and more are examined and plenty of examples are (unfortunately) drawn from our daily experiences. Waisting an hour on social network, playing until early hours in the morning, getting hooked on a mobile game or app is something most of us have experienced at this point. Organisations who work to help people recover from their addiction and researches who studied or are studying the phenomenon are also presented.
The three final chapters are more focused on how we can “exploit the bugs in our brains” (as my beloved engineer boyfriend would say) to promote healthy behaviours and replace wrong habits and addictions. How can we use modern technology to work with/for us, instead of against us?
I personally found the book an interesting read. The language is concise and clear, easy to follow even when it gets a little bit more technical. The amount of research that must be behind the writing of this book shows itself in the pages. There references to scholarly studies is surely helpful to those who are academically drawn to the subject, or just interested in furthering the research on their own.

The subject matter is surely something we need to become conscious about. I must admit that reading through the book, I felt a bit ashamed of my personal smartphone habits. I ended up uninstalling all games, YouTube, Tumblr, Goodreads and whatever other app on my phone before I finished the introduction. I am not one of those people who is frightened by every new tech, but nonetheless I believe we are all a bit addicted to these devices. Or we all can potentially be. It’s what they’re made for. Awareness is what will always save us from ourselves.

REVIEW: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxiere

I’ve put this book on my TBR years ago. I don’t remember why I did it (although, knowing myself, the cover tempted me), but I can only thank my past self. This book is beautiful.

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Alone in a country they do not know, Molly and Kip are in desperate need of a job. So desperate they accepted to work for the Windsor, the family living in the haunted Sourwoods. Once settled as servants, they begin to uncover the secrets of the family, the house and the tree that grows in it: what do they lock behind the strange,old green door? What does master Windsor do in there? What sickness is the family suffering? And who is the nightman the youngest child speaks of?

I liked almost everything about this book: the rounded characters you come to sympathize with (Kip is a real sweetheart, he’s probably my favourite), the compelling story that pushes you to go on reading to find out what’s going on. It has an eerie atmosphere about it, but being a book for 9-12 years old don’t expect it to scare you too much.
The only thing I didn’t like was how long the book began to feel toward the end. That’s when the pacing of the story, not the fastest but anyway flowing, started to feel a bit off. There is a particoular event (no spoilers!) that although required to end the story, really seem to cut the pace. Furthermore, the last chapters are short and some might have been merged as the switch serves only to change the character from whose point of view the story is told.

Despite this little flaw, however, it still is a beautiful story: it’s filled with magic, it tells about love, life, courage and the need to do what’s right; how sometimes what we want to do and what we have to do are very, very different things.

DP explanation of High Days #1 – Samhain

Samhain, celebrated October 31, is the third and last harvest festival. The themes of this holiday are the beginning of the winter season, the re-making of the world and the return of the spirits to the world of the living.

Known also as the Calend of winter, Samhain marks the beginning of the winter season, a change that had impact on our ancestor’s life. Because the sustenance of Celtic populations came mostly from agriculture and livestock,  the beginning of winter marked the end of the work on the fields: the harvest had been reaped, the animals had been brought home to the safety of their sheds and those who went to pasture with the animals came back home too. The festival of Samhain was held after all this work had been done and it was believed bad luck to harvest after the festival.

To the Celts the alternation of light and dark had a profound symbolic meaning. The year was divided into two halves: the light began with Beltane, the dark with Samhain. The gap of time during which the celebrations takes place are a “time out of time”: because they are boundaries, they are both within this world and outside of it. This is the mythic time during which the world is destroyed and remade. Chaos prevails only to be followed by the re-creation of the world:

“during this interval the normal order of the universe is suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily removed, the sídh lies open and all the divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among human beings and interfere, sometimes violently, in their affairs”[1]

The belief in the return of the spirits are reflected in the customs of the feast. The dumb supper, for example, survived up to the 20th century: food would be left out for the ancestors who walked the land during the night. An offering of corn or potatoes might also be left outside the house to the fairies, to propitiate good luck and a good harvest for the incoming year. Going out during the night was deemed inappropriate, as fairies fly from mound to mound and one could be snatched by them. Those brave enough to go outside disguised themselves, as Scotland costume demonstrates: masked and often with faces painted black, young men went around causing mischief during the night.

[1]Celtic Mythology by Proinsias MacCana, pp. 127-128

Sources
Celtic Mythology by Proinsias MacCana
Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton
Celtic Heritage by A. Rees and B. Rees
http://www.tairis.co.uk/festivals/samhainn/
http://www.maryjones.us/jce/samhain.html