T5W: Books Featuring Witches

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To begin October (one of my favourite month!) in the proper way, here’s a collection of various witches of every kind that I gathered for this week’s topic. And no, no Harry Potter because that would be rather predictable ūüėČ

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Stardust is a modern fairytale, or at least it reads as such. It seems appropriate then that the “evil” characters – Ditchwater Sal and the Lilim – have so many traits in common with the classical witches you can find in tales: evil, wicked and hungry for power.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
The birds talked to Patricia when she was little. She doesn’t know how they find her, she doesn’t know how to contact them again. What she knows is that she’s a witch and that she wants to attend a magical future. What she doesn’t know, though, is that together with her childhood friend, she’s going to save the planet.

Dreamwalker By J. Oswald
The mother of the dragon protagonist (Benfro) is your friendly village witch: cottage at the outskirt of her society.? Checked. Collecting herbs? Checked. Helping people with her concoctions? Checked. Her practices reminded me of the modern hedgeriders or traditional witchcraft. Plus, she’s a dragon and this makes her even more cooler.

Wizard’s First Rule by T. Goodkind
I know, I know: Kahlan isn’t a witch and her powers aren’t magic or spells. However the sisterhood she’s part and head of, as the Mother Confessor, made me think about the one in the Mists of Avalon. She loves people, she’s devout in serving her community and fights for her people. Not very witchy-like in the usual sense of the term, but there’s more to the archetype of the witch apart from the cauldron and the incantations.

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer
Okay, okay: the character isn’t really a witch. She’s just one of the other humans to discover how to bend reality through a computer file. And she isn’t more that a side-character in this book, although she’s featured in the sequel (where she flees to Atlantis to be with other reality-bending women). I liked the character, though, and I liked this concept of magical world that…isn’t that magical.

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October’s here!

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I like October: the coloured leaves, the hot tea, the first warm sweater. October is a happy month, for those who are little bears like me and enjoy cozy time on the sofa or a quiet walk in nature. I must say it has been a little clouded the last few days and the gloom and the mists over the fields remind more of November than of the beginning of autumn we’re in. The temperatures are still warm, though.

I have a little goal for this month: start an ongoing devotional activity in the evening and in the morning. I want to familiarise myself a bit more with the ADF core order of ritual and there’s nothing better than practice to achieve this. My only obstacle is to figure out a place in which I can ritualise at 6am in the morning, but I believe I’ll sort that out.
I’m also about to read the chapter of the Dedican Manual about mental training so I believe I’ll have my 10-15 minutes of meditations back in my life soon.

On a sidenote, I discovered that October 3rd Cathu Alesiae (the anniversary of the battle of Alesia) is celebrated:

¬†Alesia was the last major engagement between Gauls and Romans and marked the turning point of the¬†Gallic Wars in favour of Rome. The siege of Alesia is considered one of Caesar’s greatest military achievements and is still one of the classic examples of¬†siege warfare and¬†circumvallation. – Battle of Alesia

Although I am not a Gaulish polytheist I live in ancient Gaul territory so I found it appropriate to pray the Ancestors, pay homage and let Them now their sacrifices aren’t forgotten

source

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T5W: Books You’ve Read Because of Booktube/Blogging/etc

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Since I started lurking following the book community, especially BookTubers, I found a lot of great (and not-so great) titles to put my hands on. These are the books that I’ve been pushed to read the most, for a reason or another.

Furiously Happy, a Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
I saw this book in a wrap-up, I thought “I have to read it” and after three or four days I had finished it. It’s that good. It’s a collection of essays about basically everything that happens in the author’s life, told with a big dose of humor. I appreciated Mrs. Lawson being open about her dealing with mental illness: she has a way of with words that make you laugh even when you’d like to cry (which isn’t bad) and describes her experience in such a way that you can’t but relate. We’ve all been through horrible things, after all.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Saw on a YT channel, I thought I was going to read an eerie story and got…nice vintage photographs. Don’t get me wrong, the story and the writing aren’t bad, they’re just not what I was told they were: horror or at least creepy. It really wasn’t to me, so it felt like a bit of a letdown (and no, I’m not intendioned to go on with the series: it didn’t catch my attention).

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
Written by a girl whose booklr I used to follow, this is a collection of poetry. I gave in to buying it when I saw it was listed for the 2016 Goodreads award and it didn’t disappoint: the poetry, modern in style, is touching and some poems are so relatable to my own experience in adolescence that I almost cried here and there.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I saw this book multiple times on multiple YT channels as the “must read” for every nerd and videogame lover. I bought it and…it was a huge disappointment. The story is boring and the main character is too. Overall it seems like a whole book was written just to show the knowledge of 80s pop culture of the author. Which is amazingly vast, but unfortunately not enough to write a novel about.

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
The best way to describe this book is: “it’s like reading Mass Effect”. I really liked it and I’m soon going to re-read it to get into the companion novel, too. It’s set in space, but it’s more of a character-driven novel than a space opera. The various humans and aliens that populate the pages are well thought of and I appreciated the effort put into creating different alien species. However, the writing sometimes feels a bit off, although I couldn’t say exactly why.

Special mensions go to Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and All the Birds in the Sky by C.J. Anders! Both of them wonderful books that I recommend you check out.

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Week 1, aka: I’m bad at writing liturgy

I’m trying to work on the first oath that I intend to perform during the equinox rite. The oath is just a self-commitment to the work the ADF stands for and an affirmation of the dedicant in front of the Gods, Ancestors and Spirits.

While reading the book the fellowship gives you for training, there was a small oath to be performed and I did it. You know, when pagan books tell you to “stop everything” and recite the occasional small prayer for this or that purpose? Exactly that. I was firm in my decision and recited that first oath, but it came out a bit…impersonal. Which is why I decided to make a simple, but full, ritual as it is outlined in another work: The Dedicant Path throgh the Wheel of the Year, an awesome resource that is helping me organising my work. Many thanks to M. J. Dangler for writing it.

However, while trying to write something, writer’s block came in: how should be the structure? The pace? What’s wise to include? (It’s still an oath: I don’t want to dedicate myself to works I can’t sustain.)
I ended up writing almost an exact copy of the already-existing oath and thinking that whoever wrote those words probably knows better than me, as there’s no other way I could phrase my commitment to virtue, piety and study that sounds better than those lines. They’re simple and on point. I added some tweaks here and there: personal things I value or believe important in my practice, and that’s that. It’s still (mostly) identical to the one printed, even though I know I’ll work on it a bit more.

So yes, turns out I’m not great at writing prayers. My solitary practice has always been mostly silent because you can’t chant while mom and sis have tea in the kitchen, unless you want to solicit their attention. My prayers have never been written down, I’d just start speaking. This is all new, the ritual structure seems complex and in any case it’s different from what I was used to, and I’m starting to get frustrated with all the things I don’t know. When they said that building a Druidic practice would “challenge and irritate you – we promise!”, I didn’t believe it would happen so soon!

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REVIEW: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

I do not love grammar. For all the love I bear to languages, grammar is always my least favourite part. That thing that stands between you and expression. Unfortunately, rules are what make us comprehensible to others.
In my almost 20 years of studying English – my, do they sound a lot! – I’ve learned about verbs and sentences and tenses, but never (not properly) about punctuation. It seemed sensible to me, when our professor gave us a list of books to choose from, to pick this one: first, because the subject matter is one I’m weak in. Secondly, because I want to learn to write properly. Punctuation is as essential as words, in that regard.

truss_book-a7ef04dc51ca66b0ffa7b6e403faa170e627455a-s6-c30I begun the book with great expactations, as it is (apparently) well known and well loved. I enjoyed the introduction, although I found some bits…uncanny. I read pleasantly of the various mistakes, the horror of the author at misplaced apostrophes, the history bits.
I must say that I did found interesting rules for the semi-colon and some for the comma; apparently they escaped my formal education. However, much of what is written is ridiculously…predictable. Maybe it’s because usage resamble a lot that of the Italian language, or maybe because I studied a lot of grammar. Either way, that part didn’t give me what I was hoping for (superior punctuation powers, that is). However it did help me point out mistakes I make regularly, so I call it a win.

The problem that became apparent all through the reading is the obnoxious insistance of the author on herself: I get it, you illustrate stuff that happened to you by recalling a life event. Many non-fiction books of this level do. Many bloggers do, too. It gets annoying, however, when there’s a continous stream of insults of any kind masked as “humor” or those very self-centered part that are meant to point out how superior you are.
I still need to understand what statements like: “I bought a book on grammar while every other girls was having dates and abortions and were at the isle of Wight, and wrote rude letters to a teen-ager” really give to the book. To me, it sounded like “I was not like other girls” discourse; meant just to underline, once again, the stupidity of others or the abyss between the stickler and the non-sticklers.

The constant pointing to the internet as the Devil, come to destroy the world, is something I still have to understand. More specifically, the claim by Truss that punctuation will disappear because it was invented for the printed medium of books and not the interwebs is absurd. There exist tumblr, with its uses of language that are meant to convey tone and allow people to write in a way that is more similar to speech (and yes, it does take a linguist do appreciate this), there are the facebook status updates of people who forgot how to use a comma; people that don’t care because “it’s the internet”. And then there are websites like Wikipedia, scholarly institutions like universities, companies and a whole lot that use punctuation because it will never cease to be usegil.
I really don’t see why a person can hate the old : – ) emoticons because they’ll make punctuation be forgotten, and be taken seriously. By the time the author made this claim, it was the end of the book; I was seriously done with these amount of absurdities and obnoxious tone though.

I gave the book 3/5 stars: it’s good, it’s not bad written, it gives information. You need to be really good at ignoring the author’s voice, though. I honestly hoped for it to be better.

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I have joined the ADF (√Ār nDra√≠ocht F√©in).

I’ve thought about it quite a lot recently: what do I want from my spirituality? Especially, what do I want to make of it?

Like many, I started dabbling in paganism around 15 years old – as an adolescent I was amazed by all the things I discovered, all the things I learned. The more I dug, the deeper that neo-pagan thing got: Wicca came first, through the neo-wiccan publications available (sorry, Gardnerian folks). It wasn’t what I was looking for, though.
An eclectic mixture of various pagan tradition was the second path I took: studying the Hellenic mythology, while observing Celtic holidays. Present-day me goes “yikes” everytime she thinks about it. Yet, it was a well with no bottom, in many ways it still is, and the still-adolescent me didn’t knew what to make of all this information without structure she had acquired during the years.
Then, the abrupt alt: what am I doing?

Books, books, books: for some reason, they always seem to be the answer.

When I found out that the neo-pagan nerds are called “reconstructionist”, I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding. That was a thing I could go well with! The previous explorations had been good, but my relationship with the Gods gave me an idea of the divine that apparently wasn’t the most popular. Fortunately, there is always someone that names the thing you’re passsing through or what you experience. We should really thank the shared human experience for that, saves you the horrible feeling of loneliness.

I dabbled a bit in Celtic polytheism before stopping with even the basic religious and spiritual practices I managed to hold during Hard Times. I needed time to reflect upon worthiness, relationships, myself. The relativity of existence. Adjectives. Meaning. A whole bunch of things.
Keeping contact with the divine might’ve been wiser, but sometimes you need to cut some ties and give time to yourself before being able to really invest yourself into a relationship.

I feel like this is the appropriate time. That’s why I decided to start the dedicant program with the ADF. I’m not gonna lie: I need structure. I’m lazy and I need to be pushed to action, sometimes my own internal drive is not enough. Mix this with the problem the reconstructionist movement face, and you get the perfect deterrent for me: “how do I even put these things together, where do I start? Ugh, Whatever!”
ADF will hopefully give me the structure I need, without sacrificing anything in terms of personal exploration of the pantheons and heart-cultures.

It’s not like when I was 15: nine years of life have added something. Even if there is not the kind of excitement that comes from the discovering of a completely new world you’ve just discovered, there’s this calm serenity that seems to say: “come at me! I’m ready!”

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February wrap up

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100 days of solitude by Daphne Kapsali
rating3
I bought this book on a whime, back in December, because it was on sale (I think it’s still is in the Amazon’s monthly deals section or somewhere). It was 0.99‚ā¨ and…it sounded intriguing. It’s a¬†collection of essays, wrote during the 100 days the author spent on a Greek island, writing. She wanted to be a writer and never did anything to achieve the goal, and then left her life to see if she could make it. I must say that like every story that aims at being motivational, is interesting: will she make it? What will she learn along the way? I find the writing style breezy and it’s an entertaining book…up to a point. Around half of it, the topics were more or less the same and it got a bit slow.
It was an enjoyable reading, though, and it’s definitely a good one if you like memoirs.

Se una Notte d’Inverno un Viaggiatore¬†(If on a Winter Night a Traveler)
by Italo Calvino
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Italo Calvino is one of the few Italian authors I’m interested in. This book was a compulsory reading for one of my uni courses and I must say I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a book that celebrates book, literature and the joy of reading (and of being a reader). It has a very peculiar way of telling the story, a story that unfolds rather unexpectadly. You could say it’s a bit experimental (although not the modernist kind of experimental novel).¬†Although the story in itself is extraordinary and the storytelling clever, I must say that it wasn’t the story in itself that I liked. It was everything else.

The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life by Micheal Puett & Christine Gross-Loh
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I’ve recently started to be interested into Daosim and subsequently Chinese philosophy, so I looked for a quick and easy introduction on the subject. This book is very short and shouldn’t be taken as more than it is: a brief, concise – although wonderful – introduction to the idea of the major chinese philosphers (Confucius, Lao Tsu, Zuangzhi, Mencius, etc.). It is so short I finished it in 24 hours, but despite the size I believe it’s a useful read, as¬†it points out the core ideas of each philosophers in a clear and understandable way. It¬†gives a very basic, very general knowledge that won’t change your life, but it is surely a good starting point. I found considerable food for thoughts into these pages and a very good bibliography to continue my researches.

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