It may seem weird to use a Britney Spear’s song title for a book review about Zen Buddhism. However, we’re talking about Brad Warner’s latest book “It Came from Beyond Zen! More Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master”. Warner is well known for dropping some popular cultural throughout his books. (Full disclosure, I doubt he’s a Britney fan.)
As for truth in advertising, the title fits the reality. Again, Warner goes through the teachings of Dogen and breaks it down so us non-Japanese speaking, non-Chinese speaking, non-practicing Buddhists can understand the frequent twists and turns that Zen writings can take. First Warner translates the texts into a layman’s translation, then follows that with some information about other English translations and explains his personal interpretations on what each writing means. Therefore, Warner is one of my favorite writers when it comes to Zen Buddhism. He works hard so it’s accessible for everyone.
I know it’s a short review, but what more can I say? Researched, thought provoking writings presented in an accessible, fun manner.
Prepare yourselves for what you are about to see! There are loads of books on the subject of tarot and how to do tarot readings, but I think I may have come across one of the best for beginners or people with horrible memories (like me). Let me introduce you to “Tarot Made Simple” by Liz Dean.
“Tarot Made Simple” has this fantastic split page design that allows you to choose your tarot spread, leave that page open to follow along, but also lets you look up individual card meanings without losing the page the spread is on! Watch this short video of the book in action!
What more is there to say? I think it’s a great resource, particularly with its unique format.
Not to be morbid, but we’re all going to die. We generally learn this at a young age, which gives you (hopefully) plenty of time to ponder that fact. For as long as I can remember I told people that when I died to donate any parts of my body that could help others, cremate me, and toss the ashes in the garbage because they don’t really matter. I found the idea of my body being around in an urn, or with a headstone somewhere, to be kind of a burden on those left behind. Why bother? I’ll be dead so who cares what happens?
Then, thanks to the internet I started seeing articles about having your ashes put in a seed pod to grow a tree. Suddenly there seemed like there was a way for my body to still be useful! Of course that was the stuff of essentially internet legend, right?
This all brings us to the fascinating book “The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial” by Elizabeth Fournier. What an amazing resource! I got to learn about the impact our deaths have on the environment. Embalming, caskets, even cremation all have different impacts on the environment. Fournier expertly explains all these differences and how you can choose to lessen the environmental impact of your burial. Better still, she takes you step by step through the funeral process. Different types of funerals, various laws to consider, figuring out what to be buried in, cremations, and more are clearly outlined. Once you’re loaded with all this information and feel ready to act on your new knowledge, Fournier offers a bunch of resources.
“The Green Burial Guidebook” is a helpful book to read to just to learn about the after death process of legally burying someone and honoring the deceased wishes. Essentially if you, or anyone you know, is planning on dying one day, you should read this book.
If you follow me on social media and/or have been a long-time reader you know I have a big tarot/oracle deck addiction. To me there really isn’t such a thing as a bad deck, but after a while you start to seek out things that stand apart from the crowd and I have found something truly unique in “The Lunar Nomad Oracle” by Shaheen Miro.
It’s rare to find an oracle deck with so much intense thought put into its construction. “The Lunar Nomad Oracle” starts on the skeleton of the Lenormand deck, a 36-card deck of symbols that most likely evolved from a card game towards the end of the 18th century. Miro’s deck is expanded to 43 cards but holds firm to its Lenormand beginnings. The art for the deck and the design were both done by Miro, which I feel lends a grounding cohesiveness to the dream-like nature of the oracle. Miro indicates that there are three levels of symbolism in each card: archetypal, general, and personal. Personally, I feel that checks out.
All this work is to help you get in touch with your “Lunar” self, which I would sum up as your creative, magical self. Will it work for you? If it doesn’t, it certainly isn’t for Miro’s lack of trying. “The Lunar Nomad Oracle” truly stands apart from its peers.
I keep hearing that this strange season called spring is approaching. Flowers will be blooming and markets everywhere will be selling all kinds of arrangements for Mother’s Day. However, before you pick a flower based on its looks, wouldn’t it be cool to know what that flower represents? Enter “Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Hidden Language of Flowers” by Peter Loewer.
If you read my review of the “Botanical Inspirations” deck then you already know that global culture and folklore has always attributed special meanings for flowers based on their appearance or practical applications. Peter Loewer specifically takes a look at the Victorian era and their love of the language of flowers. “Loves Me, Loves Me Not” profiles 50 flowers and better yet each entry is paired with a beautiful, full color illustration by Loewer.
Obviously this book is great for nature and flower lovers. Now I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but if I was considering getting flowers for someone as a gift, I would absolutely buy this book, pick the flowers based on their meanings, and then give the flowers AND this book as a gift. But you know, you do you. “Loves Me, Loves Me Not” is a delightful and informative read that is made for sharing!
So this book has been out for nearly a year. I didn’t get to it right away, and the next thing you know, here we are, nearly a year later. However, no matter how long it sat in my “to do” pile I knew I would eventually get to it. I mean, the book is called “ Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive”, how could I resist? And although almost a year old, this book is more relevant than ever.
Kristen J. Sollee’s book is a fascinating exploration of the way non-conformist women have been treated by society historically and in modern times. There is an intricate web woven with the threads of sexuality and gender identity and the label witch that examined in great depth utilizing extensive research and interesting first person interviews. All of this makes “Witches, Sluts, Feminists” a must read for anyone woman who considers herself a witch and/or part of “the resistance” we’re seeing today.
If you want an informative, eye-opening read, Sollee’s “Witches, Sluts, Feminists” should go to the top of your “to do” pile!
At the end of January “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight” was released direct to video. It’s an animated feature based on the stand alone comic of the same name. I never read the comic, so when I learned the movie was out on DVD I picked it up, and well, I have feelings to share.
Let’s start with the film’s description from the back of the case:
It’s the Bat against the Butcher!
Gotham City, at the turn of the century, is experiencing a golden era of discovery and industry as showcased by affluent businessman Bruce Wayne’s World Fair. Down in the darkest alleys, however, there is a killer on the loose. Preying on the city’s women, this killer is precise as he is cruel. As Commissioner James Gordon tries to calm the fears of Gotham’s citizens over the butcher named Jack the Ripper, masked vigilante Batman does some detective work of his own, with the help of the sultry and surefooted Selina Kyle. Witness a world in flames as the killer’s controlled savagery meets the calculated stealth of the Dark Knight!
That relays the gist of the film quite nicely. Seriously, who can resist a dark, Victorian era version of Batman? Not this gal. However there is the weird feeling that they couldn’t convey the era without beating you over the head with it. For comic book folks, it’s generally believed that Gotham is a stand in for New York City (and Superman’s Metropolis is Chicago). Yet not only did they drop Chicago’s World Fair, complete with ferris wheel into NYC, but Batman is pursuing Jack the Ripper who we all know was a British problem. I get that this is a whole alternative universe thing, but it did feel kind of wonky.
Now let’s discuss the star of the show, Selina Kyle. This a fantastic version of the character. A shrewd business woman, a badass brawler, and a sexy show girl. Way cooler than Bruce Wayne or Batman. In the film she invents the Bat Signal and alternate universe or not, I’ve decided it is canon and that’s that.
The story, which I assume at least this part matches the comic, takes a surprise twist at the end, which I found pretty daring and well done. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it.
The film is rated R for violence, but compared to many Jack the Ripper stories, the violence if fairly tame and never feels gratuitous.
Yes I had some petty gripes, but the good definitely outweighs the bad. If you dig Batman and the whole Victorian Era Steampunk thing, “Gotham by Gaslight” is worth checking out.
When I learned that Kris Waldherr, author of the wickedly fun book “Doomed Queens”, had a new book called “Bad Princess” coming out I knew I had to read it. I didn’t care that it was intended for ages 9-12 years-old. And yes, “Bad Princess: True Tales from Behind the Tiara” is geared for younger readers, but it still has much to offer anyone interested in learning about the true nature of royalty.
In spite of its slender 130 pages of larger size font, “Bad Princess” is full of interesting and fun facts about the fate of royal daughters throughout history, folklore, and fiction. As you may surmise from the title, being a “good” princess in the past seems less desirable than the way “bad” princesses lived their lives. Along with tons of factual information Waldherr maintains her reputation for fun by also including a “Tournament of Princesses” which pits Princesses of history against Princesses from stories. There is also a cute board game called “Princess: Paths to Power”. In it you try to dodge getting tossed into dungeons, avoid bad marriages and squabbles with other Princesses, to ultimately take your place as Queen.
“Bad Princess” by Kris Waldherr is fun read for everyone.
I just read the most beautiful book, “Spiritual Places” by Sarah Baxter. Baxter is a travel journalist that has compiled an impressive list of spiritual places to visit. Some are seen as spiritual by their very nature, and other locations are spiritual because of the places of worship built there. 25 places are discussed, ranging from Easter Island to Wittenberg Castle Church. Baxter discusses the location’s history, interesting facts about, suggestions for when visiting and more!
This alone would make “Spiritual Places” a great read, but instead of stock photos for these locations someone (author, publisher, not sure who) decided to have illustrations by Harry and Zanna Goldhawk used in their place. The art is wonderful. It takes an interesting, but potentially stale, book and transports it to another level. Suddenly it feels like you’re reading a whimsical storybook or fairy tale, except the stories are true!
The writing, the art, and the hardcover format makes “Spiritual Places” an excellent gift idea for just about anyone, including yourself.
If you’re new to reading this site, you may not know that at the end of every year I do a post about 10 of my favorite things that year. I try to publish in time for you to acquire said things for gift giving purposes, whether it’s a gift for yourself or someone else. Every year I also point out that my list is WAY better than Oprah’s because all of my favorite things are affordable. Particularly when compared to some of her picks. That’s when I point out that I should just be the next Oprah. Consider this paragraph, my annual “I’m better than/or the next Oprah” rant.
The list is presented in no particular order, and everything is new to me this year, not necessarily something that came out this year. I think that covers everything, so let’s get to the list.
“Everyday Witch Tarot” by Deborah Blake with art by Elisabeth Alba. It’s no secret that I love me some Deborah Blake, but trust me when I say she really hit it out of the park with her first tarot deck. Blake’s witchy interpretation of the traditional Rider-Waite deck combined with Alba’s whimsical art created an instant tarot classic that hopefully Llewellyn will keep in print for many years to come. Learn more here.
“The Art and Science of Hand Reading” by Ellen Goldberg and Dorian Bergen. This book is the real deal. If you purchase this book you truly may never need another book about hand reading. It’s a massive text book full of more information than you may have ever thought available. For those looking to get serious with their hand reading work in the new year, look no further. Learn more here.
“The Tarot of Bones” by Lupa. Lupa is a well established Pagan author of works focusing on nature and her first self-published tarot deck is the culmination of her work as a scholar of nature and as an artist. Lupa’s use of animal bone and elements of nature create a whole new approach to the tarot and makes it a must own for tarot collectors and lovers of the natural world. Learn more here.
“Plant Magic: A Year of Green Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans” by Sandra Kynes. “Plant Magic” is a reminder that one of Kynes strengths is her ability to catalog the connections between things. In this book the focus is entirely on plants including a plant’s relationship to a particular holiday, what plants grow best each month, and what plants can be found in the wild each month. And of course the magical correspondences of all those plants! Learn more here.
“Drug Wars: How Big Pharma Raises Prices and Keeps Generics Off the Market” by Robin Feldman and Even Frondorf. Not a light, easy read, but an important one for those of us interested in how prescription drugs work in America. Learn more here.
“Secret Medicines from Your Garden: Plants for Healing, Spirituality & Magic” by Ellen Evert Hopman. Reading “Secret Medicines from Your Garden” makes you feel like the author is personally leading you on a wilderness adventure. Hopman regales you with anecdotes from her spiritual journey and herbalism training. This is easily the most engaging book about plants ever. Learn more here.
“Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm” by Varla Ventura. This book is fantastic. The author’s enthusiasm for the subject matter is obvious as she relates assorted tales from folklore. I always love how she unearths the more obscure creatures for these books. In this one you’ll find fairies, pookas, and changelings (of course). You’ll also read about bonga, trolls, coblyns, brownies, and even Rumpelstiltskin! Learn more here.
“The Book of Thoth: Egyptian Tarot” by Aleister Crowley. If you’re an occult book nerd like myself, this new edition of “The Book of Thoth” is some hot book porn. This new facsimile edition of “The Book of Thoth” is a faithful reproduction of the Samuel Weiser Inc. 1969 edition, which in turn was a facsimile of the original O.T.O. edition printed in 1944. The text is digitally restored, printed on a heavy, coated stock, and features revised color plates and black and white illustrations of the Thoth Tarot based on new photography of the original art, courtesy of the O.T.O. and The Warburg Institute. The book text block is smyth sewn, with a rounded back, and headbands. Printed endpaper reproduces the Egyptian motif from the board covers of the 1944 edition. The cover is quality cloth over boards with gold stamping on the spine, and is wrapped with a jacket which again features updated art while matching the original design. Learn more here.
“The Yogi Diet: Spirituality and the Question of Vegetarianism” by James Morgante. I love food. I love learning about religions. This book talks about both, in depth. I loved it. Learn more here.
“Botanical Inspirations Deck and Book Set” by Lynn Araujo with art by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. This deck shares folklore, symbolism, and more for each flower or plant. It features absolutely beautiful artwork by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. This is the perfect deck for lovers of oracle style decks and/or fans of flowers. Learn more here.
Assuming the comments on the site are working, tell me some of your favorites of this year! Or tell me on The Magical Buffet’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts!