Beyond the North Wind

When I requested a review copy of “Beyond the North Wind: The Fall and Rise of the Mystic North” by Christopher McIntosh I thought I was getting another general overview of the Norse religion and maybe some rune talk. What I got is so much more!

McIntosh discusses “the North” from every perspective imaginable. Its physical locales, its mystical realm, its past populations and current residents, and their belief systems.

“Beyond the North Wind” spends a lot of time discussing Hyperborea, a land from Greek mythology that was home to a race of giants who lived “beyond the North Wind”. The Greeks thought that Boreas, the god of the North Wind lived in Thrace, and therefore Hyperborea indicates that it is a region beyond Thrace. Unbeknownst to me, Hyperborea is much like Atlantis. There’s much discussion of whether it was a real place, if it is a real place, was it the same as Atlantis and/or other ancient mythological lands, etc. It’s interesting to see all the theories, far-fetched or not, about a land that’s entirely new to me.

McIntosh bookends the ancient past and mythological with a nice survey of the resurgence of the North in popular culture: television shows, comic books, music, and of course everything Thor. Not to mention the adoption of many of their spiritual practices among modern citizens around the globe. Vikings and runes of old, now new again.

Christopher McIntosh has presented a thoughtful overview of the North that I would encourage anyone to check out.

The author has a short video for the book you can watch below.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore <--- This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book I will make a small commission.

Self-Love and Compassion

By Lama Palden Drolam

Love on Every Breath is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana meditation from the Shangpa lineage that combines breath, awareness, imagination, and an energetic transformation process. The meditation brings all these components together in a powerful way in order to open our hearts, to reveal and cultivate our kindness, love, compassion, and wisdom. In Tibetan, this is called the Extraordinary Tonglen, since it uses special techniques of Vajrayana to transform suffering. The Tibetan word tonglen is composed of two words — tong means “giving or sending,” and len means “receiving or taking.” First, we open ourselves to receive and feel the suffering of ourselves and others, breathing it into our heart center. This is the “taking.” The suffering is then instantaneously and effortlessly liberated in the heart and transformed by a special method into unconditional love. At this point, on the out-breath, love and healing energy are sent back out to whomever you are doing the meditation for at the moment, whether yourself or another. This is the “sending.”

The primary purpose of the Love on Every Breath meditation is to cultivate our love and compassion, to transform and liberate our heart. When we come from a place of love, everything shifts for us. This book gives you the tools to transform and empower yourself and come to a place of creative engaged freedom.

The Love on Every Breath meditation is not an exotic Himalayan practice, but it is something that emerges out of us spontaneously and naturally. It is inherent in us to want to remove suffering — others’ or our own. The problem for many children (and adults) is that we absorb the suffering of others, and then it stagnates inside of us. Love on Every Breath gives a way for the suffering to be liberated in the body and the psyche and emerge as compassion. There is a felt sense as this happens.

Developing Self-Love

Traditionally, in Tibet, Love on Every Breath involves first developing compassion and love for ourselves before we do so for others. In the West, many people do not experience self-love, but rather self-criticism and self-hatred. We tend to be overly self-centered and often feel that something is wrong with us. Therefore, it is important that we start the Love on Every Breath meditation by generating compassion and love for ourselves. One of my students, a serious meditator for over thirty years, found that meditating on Love on Every Breath for himself healed a deep psychological angst that had not been touched by many years of quiet sitting meditation. It powerfully liberated wounds he had been carrying for many years.

Without love and compassion for ourselves, we cannot sustain love and compassion for others. Love and compassion can arise spontaneously in certain circumstances for all of us, but to fully actualize love and compassion, we need to work through our anger and hurt and have compassion and love for ourselves. Then we can authentically have more compassion for others. Otherwise, it is like living in a home where we behave with harshness and cruelty and then expect to go outside and be open and loving. If we do not include ourselves in our love, our love is not whole, not complete. This is essential. As Aristotle wrote (in Ethics, book 9), “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” It should be noted that self-love and compassion are not to be confused with self-centeredness or narcissism.

Developing love and compassion helps us to grow spiritually and emotionally by lessening our ego fixation and self-centeredness and helping our relationships with others. When we generate compassion, we do not excuse or condone our own or others’ negative actions. Likewise, awakened love does not enable our own or others’ negativity or destructiveness. Awakened compassion understands that everyone is trying to be happy. We often try to be happy in all the wrong ways, such as when we think that money, prestige, and power will bring us happiness. Some people think they will be happy by stepping on, cheating, or destroying others, but we can have compassion for them in their ignorance. This does not mean we endorse or in any way condone their behavior. We need to stand up to their destructive agendas. Our compassion means that we wish for them to be authentically happy and free of suffering — in other words, awakened.

About Lama Palden Drolma:
Lama Palden Drolma is the author of “Love on Every Breath”. A licensed psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and coach, she has studied Buddhism in the Himalayas with some of the most preeminent Tibetan masters of the twentieth century. Following a traditional three-year retreat under his guidance, Kalu Rinpoche authorized her to become one of the first Western lamas. She subsequently founded the Sukhasiddhi Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist teaching center in Fairfax, California. Visit her online at http://www.lamapalden.org.

Excerpted from the book “Love on Every Breath”. Copyright © 2019 by Lama Palden Drolma. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

Shop your local indie bookstore <--- This is an affliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book I will make a small commission.

Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England

I was honestly not prepared for how amazing “Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England: The Magic of Toadmen, Plough Witches, Mummers, and Bonesmen” by Nigel Pennick turned out to be. I was expecting a scholarly text, or perhaps some fantastical legends, but what I ended up with was a perfect mix of both.

Pennick paints a vivid image of an earlier time in rural England. A time when magic and daily life coexisted seamlessly. The line between trade organizations and magical societies were blurred to make the average person’s difficult life a little easier. Millers, gardeners, people who worked with horses, and more, all had their own trade guilds that also functioned as secret societies. Tricks of the trade, as well as beneficial magic, that would aid them in their craft were shared. Entrance into these groups was harrowing and the price of betrayal was potentially quite high.

“Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England” pulls on extensive research as well as the author’s contact and participation with the modern-day remnants, and revivals, of these groups and practices. “Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England” is a fascinating read that I cannot recommend enough.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore <--- This is an affliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book I will make a small commission.

Brave Ecstatic Woman

Today we’ll be discussing “Brave Ecstatic Woman: 7 Steps to Ignite Your Feminine Essence for an Audaciously Luscious Life” by Merav Richter, an interesting format for self-discovery.

Richter posits that there are 7 archetypes that apply to women: Earth Mama, Wild Woman, Wonder Woman, Love Goddess, Story Teller, Wise Woman, and Enlightened Mystic. No one woman is all one archetype, they’re just more of some than others. She provides a 48-question quiz to help you learn your dominant archetypes. (You can find a short version of the quiz at www.BraveEcstaticWoman.com.)

Once you know where you fall in the archetypes, you learn more about them. Their strengths, weakness, therapies associated with, examples from history and fiction, and more. Of course, Richter also provides loads of exercises to help you examine yourself and your relationship with each of the archetypes.

Richter’s “Brave Ecstatic Woman” is an entertaining book for any woman curious to learn more about herself.

You can learn more here.

Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of goddesses, and so I’ll admit the main reason I wanted to check out Jo Jayson’s “Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine” was because the cover art was beautiful and the subtitle is “A Guide through the Paintings & Channelings of Jo Jayson”. I figured a book full of art like what was on the cover was worth a look.

“Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine: A Guide through the Paintings & Channelings of Jo Jayson” is a thoughtful exploration of what it is to identify as a woman. Jayson explores the lives/folklore and wisdom of Guinevere: The Queen, Mariamne of Magdala: The Magdalene, Brighid: Mother Goddess of Ireland, Isis: One Who is All, Mary: The Mother, Jeanne D’Arc: Maid of Orleans, Miriam: The Prophetess, Guan Yin: Mother of Compassion and Mercy, Morgan Le Fey: The Water Spirit, Artemis: Maiden of The Hunt, Kali Ma: The Dark Mother, Inanna: Star of Heaven and Earth, and Grandmother Spider: The Weaver.

First and foremost, the artwork is BEAUTIFUL! The book is hardcover with full color glossy pages, perfect for showcasing Jayson’s work. Each entry includes a brief history lesson and what we can learn from them. There is also a prayer and then some exercises you can work through. “Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine” is equal parts artbook, workbook, and history lesson. It’s wonderful book!

You can learn more here.

The Secret History of America

When you see a title like “The Secret History of America”, you might perk up at the thought of nefarious, conspiratorial plots. And although secrets abound in “The Secret History of America: Classic Writings on our Nation’s Unknown Past and Inner Purpose” by Manly P. Hall, you’ll be hard pressed to find sinister actions. That’s because through Hall’s account of history America, the literal land the country exists on, has been preordained to be a utopia, or as close to one as humanity can create.

As editor Mitch Horowitz says in his introduction, “Hall’s view of American history could be called transcendental.” He goes on to explain, “Within Hall’s writings on American history, particularly in his essays and book called The Secret Destiny of America, appears the principle that the U.S. serves – at his finest hours – as a vessel for primeval ideals of democracy, self-development, individual searching, and personal liberty. Hall located these ideals, in their earliest form, within ancient esoteric traditions, and he believed that such principles were preserved within the work of illuminated intellects, like Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh, as well as covert fraternities, including Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism, and enacted, albeit imperfectly, by America’s founders, many of whom were either Masons, such as Washington and Franklin, or were intimately steeped in ethical and individualistic philosophy, such as Paine and Jefferson.”

Hall profiles a colorful cast of characters including George Washington, Albert Pike, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He shares stories of mysterious strangers at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and potential identities of Quetzalcoatl. All the while Hall paints a picture of an aspirational America. An America living up to its fullest potential.

Entertaining, inspiring, and informative, Manly P. Hall’s “Secret History of America” is a must read.

You can learn more here.

Tarot for the Fiction Writer

So darn many of you expressed an interest in this book when I shared it on social media, and you were all right to be excited. “Tarot for the Fiction Writer: How 78 Cards Can Take You From Idea to Publication” by Paula Chaffee Scardamalia was I book I had been anxiously anticipating.

First off, Scardamalia has been featured on our website in the past. Obviously, this makes me partial to following her projects. Also, I had the pleasure of having dinner with her once where we talked shop. Let me tell you, she is intelligent, supportive, and brimming with inspiration and ideas for others. She is one of the few personal coaches I’ve ever met that I think could truly make a difference in their client’s lives. She’s an amazing lady.

Then I get my grubby little hands on “Tarot for the Fiction Writer”. It is a beautiful, full color, hardcover book featuring images from Ciro Marchetti’s “Legacy of the Divine Tarot” and “Tarot Grand Luxe” decks as well as Robert Place’s “Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery” deck. It even has a built-in ribbon bookmark! This is easily the most attractive book I’ve seen from Schiffer Publishing.


Now here is the truly delightful surprise of “Tarot for the Fiction Writer”. You don’t need to be a fiction writer to get something out of this book. Let me clear, this book absolutely and clearly shows the similarities of the tarot and a story, and how you can use the tarot to inspire and navigate the storytelling process. The surprising twist is, in doing that you learn more about the tarot itself. If you love stories, Scardamalia’s methodology brings a new angle to learning the tarot cards.

You can learn more here.

Crafting Love

Way back in 2013 I introduced you to Maggie Oman Shannon through her wonderful book “Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation”. Fast forward 5 years and now we have “Crafting Love: Sharing Our Hearts Through the Work of Our Hands”.

“Crafting Love” explores 7 categories of love: romance, friends/teachers/mentors, family, nature (places and animals), self-love, others in the world, and the divine. Just reading her thoughts on the different ways we experience, express, and share love is gratifying and could have been a nice little book in and of itself. However, just like with “Crafting Calm”, Shannon offers loads of ideas and inspiration for things to create.

Kindness cards, family trees, edible love notes, goddess rosaries, and much more are offered up as suggestions. The wide variety of craft projects suggested cover ideas for beginners to experienced DIYers. Her ideas are sure to inspire some original projects of your own! “Crafting Love” by Maggie Oman Shannon challenges you to put some love out into the world.

You can learn more here.

Witchbody

I remember looking through the Weiser Books catalog and seeing “Witchbody” by Sabrina Scott. It was described as a graphic novel about everyday magic. I’m a fan of comic books, particularly in their collected form, commonly referred to as a “graphic novel”, so I had to check it out. Simply put, it’s amazing.

“Witchbody” is a beautiful and poetic exploration of ecology, magic, the environment, spirituality, and ontology. Scott’s art and prose combine to create not only a book, but a true magic item. Reading it changes you.

I don’t know what else to say. In my opinion “Witchbody” by Sabrina Scott is a must read and instant classic.


You can learn more here.

One Truth and One Spirit

Early on in my interest in magic and religion I was given the advice to steer clear of Aleister Crowley. Essentially that he, and his work, was not for beginners or dabblers. Since I am nothing if not a dabbler, I have basically remained mostly ignorant of Crowley and Thelema. I can say that “One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy” by Keith Readdy has changed all that.

Readdy approaches Thelema as a new religious movement, which may seem odd to those of us on the outside looking in, but he lays out a compelling argument for its inclusion as one. And as with all new religious movements, things always getting interesting after the passing of its founder, since this is when you learn if a religion is sustainable. That’s why “One Truth and One Spirit” focuses on the years following Crowley’s death in 1947.

Readdy quite adeptly summarizes Crowley’s Thelema in enough detail for the novice such as myself without getting too bogged down as to become tedious, particularly for those versed in the practice. He outlines the framework for the O.T.O and AA (two intertwined, sister organizations within Thelema). Readdy also takes on the daunting task of trying outline the succession and evolution of the O.T.O. and AA following Crowley’s death. He utilizes a myriad of sources including some previously unavailable to the public.

It should be noted that Readdy is a member of the O.T.O. The author makes it clear when he is expressing his opinion, and overall, I feel he offers a balanced look at the subject matter. Of course, those involved with the organizations may feel differently.

“One Truth and One Spirit” by Keith Readdy is an excellent introduction to Aleister Crowley, Thelema, the associated organizations, and their past and future.

You can learn more here.