Book Review: Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival

Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival by Christoper McIntosh

This book was a fantastic read and I recommend it to any one interested in French History or Occult history.

The book itself is divided in to three parts. The first part starts in 1720 and it sets the stage for everything else to come. It weaves an interesting story of how religion, philosophy and  politics were interwoven and influenced each other.  It talks of the birth of the French branch of the Masons and their part in sparking the infamous French revolution. It is full of short biography of colorful character’s like; Saint -Germain, Martines Pasqually, Abbe Fournier, Antonine Joseph Pernety,  and Emanuel Swedenborg.  One of the characters that was influential to  Levi was Franz Anton Mesmer the pioneer of Hypnotism.

The second part of this book is Eliphas Levi’s biography. he was born February, 8th 1810 as Alphonse Louis Constant. His life is a bit of a roller coaster. He spend the early part of his life in the Catholic church devoted to becoming clergy. He reached the rank of Decon in 1835, but then he realized that love was missing from his life and so he left the church and well I don’t want to divulge too much but his love live could have been scripted by a those unsavory talk shows like Jerry Springer or Murray. After those failed adventures and several trips to jail for distributing politiacal propaganda he turned too the Occult full time and became one of the most influentual writers on the subject. If Gerald Gardner is the Father of Wicca Eliphas Levi is its illustrious grandfather.

The third part of the book goes on to describe the contentious developments in French occultism focusing on Levi’s influence. Fun fact Aleister Crowley believed himself to be the reincarnation of Eliphas Levi.

As a follow up to this book I am now reading Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic, the A.E. Waite translation from 1896 reprinted in 1971. After reading his biography I feel reading some of his famous writings is a must. I feel it is important to follow the true geneology of modern occultism as far back as I can to understand why people now a days do things the way they do. I have a desire to filter out the modern fluff, glitter and black fingernail polish to discover the true core of  (for lack of a better terms) the occult, spirituality and paganism.

 

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Clash of the Pantheons:

The description of my blog is “a blog dedicated to my adventures in studying Neo-Paganism in central Ohio.”, and I feel like I have not written a whole lot on that topic. So today I thought I would tackle a topic not often talked about. “Clash of the Pantheons”.

Back in the late 90s-early 2000s there was a strong trend in Wicca of “plug-and-play” deities. It was widely excepted that the gods were just archetypes and any deity of the desired archetype could be inserted ritual and spell work. As someone that was devoted to a specific Pantheon that rubbed me the wrong way. I felt to was kind of disrespectful to the deities. I also robbed the practitioner and the deity of the full richness of that deities cultural background. while I still feel that way I realize now that experimenting with different deities till you find the ones that resonate with you is not a bad thing for beginners.

Moving forward to the present. As I have mentioned before I have been attending ADF Druid rituals to celebrate the Wheel of the Year. I am running in to a road block as it were. They are Druids and as such a majority of their rituals are to Celtic deities. I only work with the Roman/Hellenistic pantheon. While at first it was neat learning more about Celtic deities I am beginning to feel uncomfortable attending the rituals. Giving lip service to a god I don’t honor just to socialize feels shallow. On top of this the increasing dissatisfaction with the politics of this grove is making socialization itself feel shallow. The simplest solution would be to stop attending but that is not the overall point of this post. The point is asking the question:

“How do you deal with being at a public ritual that honors a deity you don’t know or care about?”

I asked around on Facebook and got the following suggestions:

  • Enjoy the socialization and community of the other attendees.
  • Look at it as an opportunity to learn a new deity.
  • Identify and Appreciate the Archetype

Yeah Okay I’ve tried all that. Those may work for other people but it is not working for me. It is like going to the birthday party of someone you don’t know just because your friends are there. It is awkward and rude. It also feels like I am disrespecting my own pantheon when I work with other deities. Maybe I am just too set in my ways? Maybe I should take people’s advise and get over my feelings and go anyways? But why? If I am not getting anything out of attending what is the point of going? It would be no different than an Atheist going to Church just because the people he want to be friends with are? It is faking it in hopes things will get better. Dose that ever really work? No wonder so many people prefer to be solitary practitioners it is so much easier. No social drama and no dealing with a Clash of Pantheons.

I suppose from the outside looking in a clash of pantheons is a ridiculous situation. My imaginary friends and your imaginary friends don’t want to play together. Does this count as an adventure in paganism? Dealing with the pitfalls of group dynamics, emotional discomfort, and strange gods? Well it would if this was a game of Dungeons & Dragons it would so sure an adventure then.

How many other people out there have a similar problem? How do you deal with going to a public / group ritual where they are honoring deities foreign to you?

 

 

Book Review: Herbal Tea for the Pagan Spirit.

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Herbal Tea for the Pagan Spirit; Inspirational Stories of the Pagan Path by Emerys Somerled.

A Short review for a short book, only 141 pages.  This is a collection of feel good stories about people practicing paganism, similar to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series. It is the kind of book one can in squeeze in to short amounts of time like coffee breaks at work. It leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy. This is a book I plan on loaning out to friends because it is a great pick me up for people that feel are feeling a disconnect from their chosen spiritual path. It is also a great read for solitary practitioners that are feeling a little too isolated and alone and want to feel some connection to the larger pagan community.

If you are are looking for more books that are full of pagans sharing their personal stories you might also want to check out . Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul, edited by Patricia Telesco

 

Book Review: Empedocles; Fragments and Commentary

Empedocles: Fragments and Commentary

Translated by Arthur Fairbanks 1864 -1944

I first came across the name Empedocles while reading The Praeger Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Civilization. Yes I am that level of history geek that I read an encyclopedia front to back A-Z. The entries were good short reads while I was on break at work. I always got a book in my locker. Anyways it is a good acquisition for any serious scholar, I got mine used for three bucks from the local pagan shop The Magical Druid a few years ago.

So back to the subject at hand Empedocles. He was a Greek Philosopher that lived 490 – 430 B.C.E. making him a contemporary of Zeno of Elea.  The thing that caught my attention about his entry was that he had written an alternative cosmic cycle myth. I was curious to see what other origin myths the Greeks had come up with apart from what Hesiod and Plato had wrote. Apparently this philosopher had written two works On Nature and Purifications. The surviving works are in fragments and partially preserved as quotes in other authors works which is the “Commentary” part of the book. Aristotle and Plato are the authors that are used specifically as the commentators in the back of this book. Which because of its age is available free on the internet here is Empedokles books if you want to read it for yourself.

My assessment on the works themselves; I think that this is a great original source read for modern pagans. It is one man struggling to explain his vision of the forces of nature and comes up with the idea that every thing comes from the polarity of Love and Strife. He describes what we now call Yin & Yang. He talks about after the influence of the polarity struggle every thing is made up from the four elements  Earth, Air, Fire Water. He teaches reincarnation and transmigration of the soul. Wiki says this is because he was influenced by the Pythagoreans.  Yin & Yang, the Four Elements and Reincarnation! Empedocles is teaching Wicca 101!

On a theological note the Deities that he references in his works are The Muses, Aphrodite, and Strife.

 

Am I Trading in Druid Robes for a Witch’s Hat?

Once the shopping frenzy of December is over winter seems to drag on forever. The temperatures here in Ohio have been crazy swinging from 19 degrees to 50 and then back down to 30 degrees some times in the same day. The warmer days have me yearning for spring. I have already ordered all the seeds for my vegetable garden and am planing my flower bed too.

I missed doing out on attending a public Yule ritual due to illness, and ended up missing the Druid’s Imbolc because I was still recovering from the flu. But a few days later I was well enough to attend a Imbolc celebration held by the Wiccan shop “Blessed Be”. This was my first time experiencing a Wiccan ritual. I got luck because it was a two for one ritual. The first part was for Imbolc and the second part was a full moon ritual.

I can honestly say it was a fun and enlightening experience. There was about 27 participants.  We were outside in the cold, under the moon (hidden behind a cloud of coarse cause you know Ohio weather never does what you want it to) and it help me really appreciate the timeless tradition of humans huddling around a fire and encouraging each other to be strong, be creative and be nurturing and remember ‘Spring is coming’. Most importantly every social interaction felt natural. None of my normal feelings of social anxiety crept into my brain. There was no intimidating auras, no pecking order, or performers vs. audience vibe that I sometimes get at other pagan events.

It reminded me why I first fell in love with paganism in the first place, and it reminded me of my early days when I use to claimed Wiccan. A while back I had grown disenchanted with Wicca due to trends in literature and online content back in the early 2000’s. I have just claimed Greeco-Roman pagan for the longest time. I have been thinking of  joining the ADF  because I had not found any Hellenistic groups, but the past few months I have been reconsidering that. I am not sure if it is right for me. This feeling of reconnecting with Wicca the past few days has me thinking that maybe it is time for me to come full circle in my studies and revisit Wicca beyond one public ritual.

To my readers I ask, have any of you ever left Wicca for other pagan paths and then found yourself going back to it? If so I would love to hear your story.

 

First Weeks of Fall

September is gone and October is just begun.  In those first few weeks of fall I spent my leisure time gathering walnuts from both my back yard and the woods to get enough to make walnut baklava later.  I also went paw-paw  hunting. For those that don’t know a paw paw is a tropical like fruit that grows in the Appalachian area of the USA. It can only be harvested during mid September. It is a local only treat that taste like summers’s last hurrah, with its banana /mango like flavor and custard texture.

My garden is just about done for the season. My pepper plants are still doing good, still producing hot peppers. My daughter harvested her 50lb pumpkin that she grew from the seeds of last years Jack-o-lantern. My cabbages were under the pumpkin leaves and it stunted their growth. I am hoping they will make a come back now that the pumpkin plant has been removes from the garden bed.

I celebrated Mabon with the Three Cranes ADF grove again. I don’t think they have the video of the public ritual up, but they did make a video for solitary practitioners that I am including in this post for those interested.

I came across a YouTube video called “A Tale of two Heras” that got my creative juices flowing. I am thinking about adding a category to focus on my view of the various Greek and Roman gods.  To supplement between my garden updates, and book reviews.  I have also been listing to a few other of Mirth and Reverence videos that has got me reflecting on my early days of learning about Wicca. I have been so busy with work and school and life that I haven’t focused as much as I want to on my spiritual growth as I have wanted to. (or blogged for that matter.  Been thinking on how I can fit it in to my busy schedule better. Been wanting to reread several of my books to brush up on Neo-Pagan basics. I haven’t done any proper meditating lately, let alone try trance working. I want to get more familiar with the Ogham system of divination. I also need to get through my pile of books sitting on my night stand. So I am going to make a point of trying to do more of those things between now and the spring equinox. Also still debating about whether I want to just stay as a “friend of the grove” or buy the full ADF membership. I want to join but until I finish this degree I don’t have the time to dedicate to it like I want.

So that is my summery of this part of the season, hope all is going well with you my dear readers.

Spring Fever

Well everyone is buckling down and freaking out about winter storm stella and I’m over here sipping a cup of tea patiently waiting for spring. I can’t wait to get outside and play in the dirt and plant some seeds. Last week’s temperatures were in the low 70s what a tease, but the weather gods in Ohio are bat shit crazy.

So what is a witch to do while the storm brews outside? Research plants and garden plan of coarse. I’ve read two different herb books (reviews coming soon) and about to start reading a third book on the native plants. Herbology is a subject I’ve rather neglected in my studies over the past 19 years. I focused most of my spiritual studies on history and magic theory, but now I’m trying to round out my education and spend a little more time connecting with nature.

I must confess I am far from a master gardener, this is only my third year doing it. My biggest battle have been with invasive wild strawberries and remembering to water. The Second biggest battle is with mosquitoes and what ever the hell keeps eating my cabbages. One year it was roly polys a.k.a pill bugs and last year it was cabbage moths.

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