Sex Magic For Beginners by Skye Alexander

January 1, 2012


I was recently sent a copy of Sex Magic For Beginners by author Skye Alexander. My blog is quoted several times within the book, and I’m listed in the works cited page.

Most of the books on the market dealing with sex magic concentrate on the sex aspect, and they usually ignore the magic aspect. Some of these books are nothing more than compilations of dirty pictures, and almost all of them seem focused on increasing sexual performance and enjoyment. I’m all for increased sexual performance and enjoyment, but if that’s all you want, you might as well just buy an issue of Cosmo.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Ms Alexander’s book isn’t about how to have great sex, but how to use sex inside of a magical operation. Some of what’s in the book doesn’t even directly deal with sex, but instead focuses on theories and techniques centered around energy manipulation and magic. That isn’t to say that the book doesn’t ever talk about increasing sexual pleasure, it does, but that isn’t the real focus of the book.

The book’s cover says that it’s the ‘Easy & Fun Way to Tap Into the Law of Attraction’, and that’s really the sort of magic this book tries to teach. This is a book about manifestation magic, or how to bring things into your life, whether that be material objects like money, or people like romantic partners, or even events, like winning a court case; and as the title suggests, the book’s method of producing this manifestation is through sex.

Ms Alexander has written several dozen books on a wide variety of topics, including Wicca, spellcraft, tarot, reflexology, and erotic fiction. This has made her somewhat of an expert on a lot of different spiritual subjects, and one of the cool things about the book is that she’s able to incorporate techniques pertaining to all of these other subjects into the realm of sex magic. Often times there’ll be a few paragraphs dealing with utilizing something like the tarot, or the I Ching, or reflexology.

She’s also managed to bring together techniques and ideas from a lot of different systems, including Western systems like Ceremonial Magic, Paganism, and Chaos Magic; and Eastern Systems like Buddhism and Taoism. She’s also included a lot from the New Thought movement. The New Thought Movement is a system that even many of the most open minded Ceremonialists and Pagans want nothing to do with, but it’s also one of the best systems to incorporate into this sort of magic. Manifestation magic is the thing that New Thought is centered around, and its the one kind of magic that it’s really good at.

Being an eclectic magician, I really love books like this that don’t solely concentrate on one system, but instead take the best parts from a lot of different systems and put them together into a workable, and more efficient, model.

This review’s probably too long already, but there’s one last thing I want to bring up. A good portion of the book is dedicated to different magical acts that you can try and different exercises to improve your magical abilities. A lot of books on the market are filled with theory, morals, spiritual speculation, personal accounts, and if you’re lucky some associations. The books I like, the books I find useful, and the books I think new magicians will get the most out of are books like this, which don’t just talk about magic, but give people instructions for real things they can go out and do after they’ve read it.

I don’t agree with everything in the book, but I agree with most of it, and the theory that the magic is based on is solid. It’s a great book for anyone interested in incorporating sexual acts into operations centered around manifestation magic. The book targets beginning magicians, but it’s also a useful book for more experienced magicians that are looking for some new ideas (I found a few things in the book I really want to try). My only real complaint about the book, and it’s the book’s biggest flaw, is that like sex, although there are some things that you can do by yourself, for the really cool stuff you need a partner.


Review: The Big Little Book of Magick by DJ Conway

March 14, 2011

I was sent a free copy of this book, unsolicited, from the publisher in the hopes that I would read and review it on my blog.

When I first got this book in the mail and started flipping through it my first thought was that the book seemed disorganized. The way the book was split into different sections, and then the way the information was organized in them, seemed strange and disordered. For instance the first section contains lots of associations. But then there are also associations in the second, third, and fourth sections, sometimes covering the same subject matter. I had a suspicion about what was going on with the organization, which I confirmed on the Internet (and that was a waste of time apparently since what I found out is clearly printed on the back cover of the book). This book actually combines four different books by the same author which were written in a similar way. I would’ve liked this book better if the information had been compiled into a single edition, but instead what we have are four different books put together in a low cost collection, so I’m going to review each of these books separately and then come to a conclusion about the value of this edition as a whole.

A Little Book of Altar Magick

This is the book they decided to lead with, which surprises me because in every way this is the weakest of the four books. It’s a subject that I don’t think very many people are interested in, and even if they were it’s not something that needs to have an entire book written about it. An altar is simply a space you dedicate to something. If you want an altar, get a flat surface and put something representing what it’s dedicated to on top of it, or alternatively hang a picture on a wall. That’s really everything you need to know about altars. I guess you could talk about activating them, but half the time they activate themselves, and instructions on how to manually activate an altar shouldn’t take more than a paragraph, unless you’re an adept of the original Golden Dawn in which case you can probably stretch that paragraph to five pages.

Conway doesn’t really change my opinion either. The first dozen pages of the book deal with constructing an altar, and its all mostly filler. At one point Conway discusses dust accumulating on your altar and the need to clean it (this needed to be written down in a book?). At another point she discusses the steps you need to take to create an altar. To her this should be approached like any major life decision and involves four steps: thinking out your reasons, planning your project, acknowledging your reasons, and building the altar. I’ll reiterate my case: Flat-surface. Representation. Done. This isn’t a major life decision. It takes all of a few minutes of your time to make an altar, and if you don’t like it you can just as easily tear it down or change it. In my eyes all of this is just filler material so that the author could write at least a few pages on building alters, something that I’ve managed to break down to three one word sentences.

The second section of this book, and the bulk of it (coming in at about 75 pages) are lists of correspondences. There’s nothing wrong with that. I actually like books that are made up of lists of correspondences. Sooner or later I’m going to have to figure this stuff out, and the more sources I have to reference the better. However how good this book is really comes down to the value of the correspondences.

First of all I’d like to commend this author for realizing that the Greek and Roman pantheons are separate pantheons with different gods and not treating them as one single pantheon. Eventually the Roman empire did incorporate into itself large amounts of Greek culture which led to some gods being combined together, but prior to that these pantheons were separate, and the Greek gods were added into the Roman pantheon over a long period of time and they were not initially associated with their Roman counterparts but thought of as separate gods.

Secondly though I have to criticize this author for her beliefs that Dionysus and Bacchus are different gods. Bacchus was not the Roman god of wine, that was Liber. Bakchos was a second name given to the Greek god Dionysus, which eventually became more common than his original name. When the Romans incorporated Dionysus into their pantheon they took the name Bakchos because it was more common at the time and transliterated that name into Bacchus, which is what he was called in Rome. Oddly Conway even acknowledges Liber, but seems to have the impression that this is the same god as Bacchus. It’s a mistake regarding Bacchus I’ve seen all over the community, but when an author does it I can only attribute it to a poorly researched book.

As for the associations, I have three problems with them. The first deals with the organization. For instance there is a section dealing with herbs, with trees, with oils, and with flowers. A lot of these things appear on more than one list. For instance lavender is an oil, a flower, and an herb, and as one would assume the associations are the same. Other associations just become difficult to find. For instance if you want to know the associations for cinnamon and dragon’s blood the only place to find them is under oils. Everything would be a lot easier to find if these four lists were condensed into a single list, there wouldn’t be so many duplicate entries, and Conway would have more room to expand on each entry.

My second problem with the entries are that they’re short. Many of the sections just have a few one word associations. A few sections, such as trees and flowers, give some history, but still the associations are only a few words long with very little explanation. These one word associations are also the same one word associations given on most websites and found in most books, which makes me wonder if the author even understands these associations or if she just copied them from a source. The other issue with these short entries is that they’re too general and don’t adequately explain anything. For instance Rose, Jasmine, Lavender, and Ginger all have the association love. It’s true that all four of these herbs are used in love spells, but they’re all used for different purposes in love spells. These aren’t interchangeable herbs, they all have different love associations that do different things in spells. You’ll never be able to figure that out based solely on the one word associations given though.

My third problem is one I have with a lot of Wiccan authors who do association lists. Conway does not give the associations that would likely be used in negative spellwork, or spellwork that breaks the Wiccan Rede. I have huge issues with trying to enforce spiritual morality through ignorance, and trying to force a person to be what is perceived as good by limiting their potential to be evil. I also think anything can be used for good or evil, and it doesn’t matter what a thing does, what matters is the situation and the intention of the user. It’s a huge ethical and moral debate, one that I’m not going to fully expand upon in the scope of a book review.

More importantly though it’s irresponsible not to print this information, especially since most of these things have other harmless associations too. For instance cinnamon is associated with energy amplification. It amplifies or raises energy in a spell. It actually amplifies emotions too, which isn’t usually mentioned but is implied by the fact it amplifies energy. Because of this cinnamon is often times used as an addition to every spell in order to make them more successful and powerful. Unfortunately though many authors don’t mention the fact that cinnamon is also used to incite lust. In fact it’s really good at inciting lust and desires of the flesh. A problem arises when you add cinnamon to a love spell to strengthen it. The cinnamon amplifies all of the emotions being manipulated by the spell, not just love but also lust and carnal desires. The end result is usually a recipient that is overly obsessive and far more horny and wanton than usual. Yes it’s immoral to use cinnamon in this way, but if a person doesn’t know this association a perfectly innocent and moral love spell can turn into a very messy situation.

The last short section of this book deals with the different uses of altars, some of which are almost spells in their own right. Some of the ideas expressed in this area are interesting, and it’s definitely the best part of the book. Unfortunately it’s short, and not enough to carry the rest of the book, which consists of a bit of filler and so-so associations.

The Little Book of Candle Magic

This is probably the book they should have led with. Out of the four books, subject-wise this is probably the one that most people are going to be interested in, and for good reason too. Candle magic is not only practical magic, but its very effective and useful, and not very difficult to do either. The only problem with candle magic is that there are already a lot of really good books on the market dealing with it, and so to stand out a book has to be something exceptional.

The book opens with quite a bit of the theory surrounding candle magic, along with explanations of the different types of candles and how they’re usually used. Keeping in mind that everything discussed here is fairly basic, there is a lot of good information in this section. My big gripe about this information is that a lot of it is buried in the text and not easily accessible, which again comes back to a problem of poor organization. The text also contains quite a bit of Rede morality, and time and again the author goes back to preaching about how we must never use magic for this or that, or she discusses ways to use magic without technically, at least in her view, breaking the Rede.

Not being Wiccan, the morality aspects of this book are like someone telling me I should or shouldn’t do things because the bible says so and if I don’t listen I’m going to burn in hell. I could sit here and argue the validity of the Rede, or I could talk about how Conway’s technical loopholes are actually breaking the Rede, but I won’t because arguing Wiccan dogma is really outside the scope of a book review. To a non-Wiccan though it is at its best filler material, and at its worse a minor annoyance.

The book also again and again comes back to fire safety. To me, at least as I’m reading it, it seems like filler material that was thrown in to pad out the book a little. Unfortunately though I know first hand that Pagans, and really the entire magical community, has a very poor track record with fire safety and it’s probably necessary for a book on candle magic to state these common sense tips for not burning down your house, and Conway probably saved a few homes and apartment buildings by doing so.

The book then has some associations. Unlike the previous book though, many of these are done backwards. For instance under incense, a single word association is listed and then all of the incenses associated with that word are listed. I don’t like this for a few different reasons. First off many things have multiple associations, which means you have to read every association to make sure that what you’re using isn’t going to counter what you’re trying to do. It also uses one word associations, which are too general to fully and specifically explain what something does and what it is used for. Conway also refrains from listing any negative associations that would be against the Rede, for instance there are no associations for death, harm, or manipulation. Oddly enough though there is an association for binding, but I’m not going to start that argument here.

The book also contains a section about planetary days and hours which is poorly done. There isn’t any new information on the days and hours, and the author doesn’t explain the concept and theory behind it very well either. Normally I’d say this was a so-so explanation, but Conway makes a huge omission, she never explains how to determine the hours of the day. It’s a simple procedure that would’ve taken all of a paragraph to explain, but Conway never does. Not knowing anything about the days and hours, by her explanation I would assume that I’m just supposed to use a clock to determine what hour it is.

The final part of the book is the best part, and those are the actual spells. First off, there are a lot of spells, which is good. The spells are also sound and they should work, at least when done by a magician who is experienced enough to make spells work. I really only have two minor issues with this section.

My first issue is that I wish more time would have been spent explaining each spell and not just how it works, but why. The magic involved is fairly simple, and it’s very easy for me to figure these spells out, but as a beginner’s book I think it would have benefited a lot by having more theory about how and why these spells work.

My second issue is that Conway uses a lot of candles in her spell work. There are only a few spells that need only two candles, most need at least three, and some require as many as fifteen candles. That is a lot of candles. I really wish Conway would have taken the time to rework these spells so they use less candles, or at least so they could be done with cheap tealights. It’s not that huge of an issue, since the spells are still solid, but having to use that many candles for every spell can get expensive, and it also creates an additional fire hazard.

All in all I’m rating this as an okay candle magic book, and that’s due largely to some good beginner information and a large selection of spells at the end. Unfortunately it has some very serious flaws, and doesn’t fare well when compared to other, better, candle magic books on the market.

The Little Book of Pendulum Magick

I was cautiously excited about this book. I was excited because there are very few books available on pendulum magick, so there was a good chance this book would contain some useful and new information. On the other hand, despite what the book claims, pendulum magic is not a popular and growing form of magic. Personally I rarely use a pendulum. For the longest time I didn’t have one, and after my first pendulum broke I was in no rush to replace it, and only did so after a friend made one especially for me. I think most magicians feel the same way. It’s a neat toy for a few weeks, but most of us quickly become bored and never play with it again.

The book opens with a history lesson on pendulum magic, which normally I would like since I don’t really know much about pendulum magic history, but unfortunately the author’s Wicca shows through out. The early sections are as much about the history of pendulum magic as it is about the Catholic church persecuting and burning witches, witches who used pendulums. The more modern history isn’t much better. Part of it deals with different scientific studies and uses of the pendulum through out the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. I have an open mind and I was really interested in the scientific work Conway talked about, but unfortunately Conway is a bit too biased and open minded to accurately present the information. In Conway’s retelling there were some great scientists who did some great work with pendulums, but they were ridiculed and dismissed by their peers. Common sense tells me this is a biased view of what happened and not nearly the full story. I can probably figure out the full story of these experiments and why they were dismissed on Wikipedia, but I would like to have that information in the book I’m reading and not have to do research on the Internet to figure things out.

Pretty soon though Conway expresses her theory of pendulum magic, that it taps into your subconscious in order to get information. At this point I sort of lost interest. It became clear to me that this wasn’t going to be a book that dealt with things like pendulum mediumship or energy sensing. I figured the book wouldn’t work with divination either, at least true divination, but Conway does deal with divination under the theory that it’s possible because of a collective subconscious.

Surprisingly the book also deals with dowsing, but unfortunately this information is muddied by Conway’s belief that the pendulum taps into ones subconscious. Dowsing is actually based on the belief that energy can be physically measured with rods or a pendulum when conducted through the human body, and that certain things like bodies of water create abnormal energy conditions which can be sensed with these tools. Conway though believes that this is all a product of divination via tapping into the collective subconscious, and as such she sees no difference between actual dowsing, which is energy sensing, and dowsing on a map with a pendulum, which is divination. At one point she even talks about dowsing for energy and even how to find a nexus point with a pendulum, but she never manages to make the connection between dowsing and energy. Conway also points out that dowsing with rods is easier in many situations than with a pendulum, however she never really talks about how to use rods and instead talks about the extra effort you have to go through to make the pendulum work in the same situation. That is one of the major flaws I see in the style of all four of the books, that she focuses on techniques which are far more complicated and difficult than they need to be in order to stay on-topic.

The book also deals with divination, and a lot of other subjects which are connected to the pendulum. The problem though is that all of these other subjects are really just divination. For instance healing with a pendulum comes down to passing the pendulum over a person’s body and looking for a yes or no answer in order to diagnose the area where the person is having problems, and that’s really the most complicated of the techniques. Reading auras is similar. Instead of using the pendulum to react to the energy, Conway suggests asking questions about the aura. Finding out about your past lives involves asking questions about your past lives, when they were, and when you were born. All of this just seems like filler to me, because it is all divination. I can sum up all of these sections with the instructions: ask the pendulum what you want to know, and get an answer. The last section is the weirdest by far. At this point Conway has us asking what kind of planetary energy we need the most right now and what kind of totem animals we should concentrate on to aid us in our goals.

On the plus side, the book does have some solid exercises for learning how to use a pendulum. That’s really the best part of the book, but unfortunately it makes up less than half the book. I actually would recommend this book to someone looking to learn the pendulum just based on the exercises, and in fairness even though most of the sections are about divination, sometimes Conway does have an interesting idea.

The Little Book of Healing Magic

This is the book that I was thinking might be the book that makes this whole collection worthwhile. There are not many introductory books on healing magic on the market, and of what is available, very few approach the subject from the perspective of a ritual magician. Unfortunately though I found this book lacking.

To start, a lot of the information is just plain confusing, and this is because Conway confuses things by not adhering to established theories and vocabulary. For instance she talks about her theory of aura layers, which is fine. However she labels these auras things like the astral body, the mental body, and the emotional body. At least in terms of the astral body she seems to be talking about a person’s actual astral body (although I’d say her knowledge of astral theory is limited). Unfortunately though when she talks about a mental body or emotional body she is not talking about what most authors mean when they talk about a mental body or emotional body. She is talking about a person’s mental state and emotional state and not the actual bodies which exist seperately and independently of the physical body and usually do not occupy the same space as it. This is a problem that could have easily been fixed by Conway using new terms in presenting her personal theory on aura layers. It’s possible Conway is actually confused and doesn’t understand what the terms mental body and emotional body mean, but that doesn’t speak well for her book either.

As for the actual information, and I’m intentionally keeping the rest of this review short, there are some interesting parts and some interesting ideas. There are sections on using tuning forks, energy healing, mantras and affirmations, poppets, and talismans. Certain popular Eastern practices though, like acupuncture and reflexology, are never talked about, and this is probably because they are too complex to get into. Conway also, unfortunately, comes back to beliefs about magic being about working with a person’s subconscious and affecting it through the collective subconscious, and she even goes so far as to redefine what sympathetic magic to include the fact that it works through the collective subconscious.

My main issue with this book though is you’re not going to be able to learn a complex system of magical healing through a short book like this, regardless of how phenomenal the author may be. In order to become good at systems like reiki and reflexology, not to mention near impossible stuff like psychic surgery, a person not only needs to study a lot of material, but they also have to have a lot of hands on experience. Like medicine, healing magic is a very complicated subject, and like medicine you have to have practical experience doing it for a while before you’re able to do it well. Masters of healing magic spend years, sometimes decades, training themselves to be able to heal others with the power of their hands. Even a good reiki massage therapist is going to have several years of training in massage therapy and reiki before they ever do their first real massage. Becoming a magical healer is not something you’re going to learn how to do from a short book like this, especially one that covers so many different subjects.

As an introduction to healing magic or concepts of healing magic this book also fails. As I mentioned the book is incomplete and doesn’t cover a lot of popular forms of magical healing. It also doesn’t explain what it does cover very well and is often times confusing and incorrect.

Conclusions

On their own I don’t think any of these books are all that great. As a collection there might be just enough material to make this book worthwhile to some people. There are a few good ideas here and there, and the main selling points of this book, in my eyes, are the pendulum exercises and the collection of candle magic spells, but even the candle magic spells seem like they could be a lot better. Unfortunately I cannot recommend this book. After having read it, there’s no way I would spend money on this book. There are too many flaws through out the book and the few good parts aren’t all that great. It also constantly preaches Wiccan morality and the author is pretty much married to the belief that a lot of magic comes down to affecting the subconscious, which unfortunately makes her ability to understand and explain magical theory limited. It’s probably the only book I know of with good basic exercises for learning how to use the pendulum, but I don’t think very many people will be interested in that, and due to the flawed theories surrounding pendulum magic, and the fact that it never deals with mediumship, one of the most common uses of pendulums, it’s hard for me to recommend it even for that purpose.


REVIEW: The Faeries’ Guide to Green Magick from the Garden

October 18, 2010

I recieved a free copy of this book, unsolicited, for review purposes. This is the first time I’ve been given a free thing to review on my blog! I’m doing a fairly detailed review, if you just want to see what I thought of the book then scroll down to the section marked conclusions and read that.

Going into the book I know quite a bit about Fae, next to nothing about gardening, and a little bit about magical herbalism and herbal remedies.

As far as herbalism goes, I consider the best modern books on the subject to be Cunningham’s two works (Magical Herbalism and the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs). However even Cunningham’s two books tend to be far from complete and at times are even incorrect. I’ve yet to find any herbalism book on the market that I would consider a complete source, or one I would consider an infallible source.

Because of this, herbal research tends to be a process of cross-referencing as many works as possible, considering the validity of each source, and finally applying practical research to the gathered information to come to some conclusions about the magical properties of an herb. So I was a little excited to have a new book to use as a reference in my own herbal research.

By the book’s title I was a little worried that it might focus either on Faerie Wicca (which I know little about) or the Fae Otherkin Movement (which I know too much about). Luckily the book doesn’t seem to be directly connected to either of these movements, although it is very faerie centric.

The book is pretty much split into two parts. The first part is a short thirty three pages covering various aspects of magick, faeries, environmentalism, gardening, and herbal remedies. The second section, the bulk of the book, is a description of thirty three different herbs.

The First Section

The majority of this section deals with various ideas about fae. I was a little worried that this, like most fae-centric books, would portray fae as something far beyond their station; as great, powerful and beneficial spirits worthy of exaltation and worship. Although the book is pro-fae (which I have nothing against, I think they are mostly wonderful, amusing, and at times helpful spirits) and casts fae in the best possible light, it never tries to elevate them beyond what they really are, and at times it honestly deals with the negative side of working with fae and fae energy (like having your keys stolen). My one main gripe with the portrayal of fae is that the book seems to confuse them with the individual spirits of plants. But fae isn’t just the name used for the spirits of plants by this particular author, at times what is described is clearly a fae spirit. Fae tend to be drawn towards beautiful areas of nature, like forests and gardens (and some specific types are drawn to less beautiful places like swamps), and they tend to like and even protect these places, but I don’t subscribe to the belief that they are plant spirits.

One of my major gripes of this section is its views on enviormentalism. This is a common gripe I have about authors who infuse their spiritual books with their political beliefs. I’m not really interested in politics, and as I’ve said before my personal political beliefs tend to be in opposition to most pagans on most subjects. I didn’t find any of the environmentalism to be enlightening or insightful, it was just something I had to put up with. I suppose if I was into that I might have found it more enjoyable, but it still would have just been preaching to the choir.

The worst part is when this environmentalism starts to tread upon the spiritual beliefs being expounded on in the book. For instance the author repeats a common yet naive spiritual belief that in ancient times people were more closer and friendly towards nature, and as such were more spiritual. This goes against the historical record and it’s continued accounts of man trying to control, civilize, and adapt nature to his needs through out history and across nearly every culture. It also dismisses out of hand many theories concerning urban spirituality, and that urban life, although different, is as spiritual and natural as anything inside so-called “nature”. Later it talks about how fae dislike urban life and what we’ve done with the planet. Yes fae like natural places like forests and tend to protect them, but they also like certain urban environments too. They love theme parks and are frequently found in them for instance, and they even tend to be particularly drawn towards certain malls.

Knowing nothing about gardening, I actually found a lot of the gardening information to be interesting. There is a rather long explanation on how to make compost I found particularly enlightening. But most of it I found too short to be truly useful, rather it just opened my eyes to the fact it existed if I wanted to do further research. For instance there’s a paragraph explaining companion planting, but the book only gives one example of this (garlic and roses). I suppose if I wanted to plant roses this would be useful information, but otherwise I’m not going to be able to use companion planting in my garden unless I research it more with other books.

Probably one of the most interesting sections though is the chapter which goes over the various systems that use herbs medicinally. Not only do I think that the information is a good introduction to the different systems, but this section cites the different books and authors which these systems are based on making it very easy for someone to do additional research on these subjects.

The first section actually has some really good and interesting parts concerning practical magic. There are some cool ideas and some cool new things to try hidden in the text. My only real gripe is that there is some boring and useless stuff (like the enviornmentalist issues) that you have to trudge through to get there. I’d rather these parts were replaced with more useful information, or even cut out completely so I can get right to what I really want.

The Second Section

Here’s the best part of the book, and what I think most people are buying the book for. I think the author and publisher agree because it makes up about four fifths of the book. It contains entries for thirty three different plants. The entries are limited to things you’d realistically grow in your garden (so commonly used herbs like dragon’s blood are missing) and, as far as my understanding of various herbs go, the section seems to have omitted any potentially toxic or dangerous herbs. Even Nutmeg, a common cooking spice which is actually toxic in small quantities, is missing.

The section consists of a short description of the plant starting with a general description and then going off into other topics which usually goes on for about a page and a half. Then we usually get one or two recipes that use that plant. Most of these are cooking recipes, but there are also recipes for things like floor cleaner, deodarent, and skin lotion.

Each entry starts out with the most common name of the plant, followed by its latin name, followed by other names, and finally which parts of the plant are used. The best part is that the book lists the Latin name. This is so important in these types of books because often times plants go by so many different names that it can be impossible to cross-reference one work with another or find the plant in stores unless you know the latin name. Also sometimes more than one plant shares the same name, and the only way to get the exact plant described is to check its latin name.

Next comes a general description of the plant, and sometimes (but not always) there is some gardening information included, like what tempetures and climates the plant grows best in. What you get from there is really a potluck. It almost seems like the author is just throwing in random information about the plant in a stream of concious way. This can be folklore about the plant, mythological information, magical uses, or medicinal information. Sometimes there is information on how to make teas or baths from the herbs, and there are actually a few rituals hidden in the text (which are really cool). In fact in the Dandelion section there is a page long meditation ritual described. Sometimes the sections just go completely off on a tangent, such as the section with Basil in which several paragraphs are spent describing the goddess Bridget.

There really is no consistancy of what you will or will not get with any particular plant. Sometimes it might mention the Greek mythology of the plant. This isn’t always the case though, even in instances where I know the plant was mentioned in Greek mythology. In the entry on Fennel, some time is spent talking about its Kabbalistic association. But no other plant has a Kabbalistic association mentioned, and in fact Kabbalism isn’t mentioned in any other part of the book. With Damania for instance (a shrub native to Central and South America) there is a short descriptive paragraph and then a short paragraph talking about its traditional use as an aphrodesiac, and then the rest of the entry discusses the Norse goddess Freya.

You never really know what you’re going to get out of any of these entries. It makes reading the entries fun, like searching for hidden treasure, but it also makes them all seem incomplete, like there was so much more the author could’ve gone into but didn’t. With each entry I felt like there was at least a page or page and a half of more of information that could’ve been included. How come only certain entries list the magical uses of the plant, or the mythology, or the historical uses?

The recipes are actually one of the coolest parts of this book. It’s another thing that gives the book value after you’ve finished reading it. There are dozens of different recipes to try. Most entries have either one or two recipes following it, but a few don’t have any recipes, and if you read the entry sometimes you can find a recipe in there. I can sum this entire book up in a sentence, “What it has in variety it lacks in consistancy.”

My biggest problem with the book though is that there are no citations and no bibliography. A lot of the information comes from folklore, mythology, and herbal medicine. I know this sort of information was not independently developed by the author, they had to of gotten it from a source and put it in the book. This sort of information is the stuff that is most valuable to me. But in order to know how valid that information might be, I need to know where it came from. Also if I knew where it came from, I could easily do more research on my own by reading the original text and intepreting it for myself. Ideally in a book like this every bit of unoriginal information would have a notation that would point me to its source. I really can’t stress how important citations are in a work like this, or how they make the work infinitely more valuable.

There are also the pretty pictures accomponying the entries by Lisa Steinke. Normally I would ignore this part of the book, but these pictures seem to be an important selling point in the press release.

These pictures have no practical value (like drawings of the plants would, for instance). They’re pictures of faeries. Not real faeries though. Essentially they’re drawings of pretty women in gowns with wings, each one supposedly related to the plant. I found these pictures to be typical of the faerie genre of drawings in popular culture (not something I’m at all into), and as paintings to be rather timid and boring. Even the women depicted, although pretty, were boring.

Conclusions

I’m actually surprised by how much I liked the book. My initial thought was that I would consider it to either be a good reference book on herbalism to use as a supplement with better books, or it would be completely useless. I thought it might be a useful gardening guide, but I found it rather lacking in that regard.

As an herbal reference book, it’s an okay supplemental reference. It has enough little details that I’ll probably look through it in the future when I’m researching different herbs. However it’s so varied and eclectic and at times limited that I’d hardly say it was a must buy. In fact I’d have trouble recommending the book solely on its merits as an herbal reference.

Where the book really shines though is with its practical information. There are cooking recipes, tea recipes, how to use plants medicinally, how to make wine, how to make floor cleaner and how to make skin lotion. There are also quite a few magical rituals you can practice hidden through out this book which I really didn’t expect to see and which is so totally awesome.  These are the things you can come back to and use again and again after you’ve already read the book. And this is really where you get back your investment in a book, both the money you spent to buy it and the time you spent to read it.

Overall I wouldn’t rate it as a title you have to own, but still the book would make a positive addition to anyone’s magical library. There’s more than enough good stuff in the book to warrent spending the money on it. More importantly though there’s a lot of fun stuff in this book. There’s a recipe for making lavender chocolate truffles. How is that not totally awesome?


The Blogosphere Book Game

June 13, 2010

Okay, I’m playing Gordon’s book game. Considering the last post, this is the most ironic time for me to make a post like this. But I like games, and I want to feel included. Plus it’s a fun game and I do think books are useful and valuable tools. And this post helps me make it clear that the previous post wasn’t in retaliation to the book game everyone is playing (it was just a coincidence really, I didn’t know about the book game until after I posted the article).

Essentially the goal of the game is to create a list of ten books that a completely new practitioner (actually an unbelieving agnostic) will read in order over the course of a 1 month period while locked in a cabin alone. It’s assumed that they will follow the exercises of the book, but they will receive no other outside help, guidance, or read any other material. In the end the practitioner should have a firm grasp on magic.

Another stipulation is that the books should build a certain type of magician (aka a chaos magician or a ceremonial magician) that must be decided on beforehand. However the booklist should contain books from at least three different disciplines (this is to discourage listing one book as the end all be all in building a certain type of magician). Here is my list, with an explanation at the end:

1. The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies, and Magic by Wippler Several years ago this book was recommended to me by a guy who used to teach classes on magic. He always recommended that new students read through this book before beginning their magical careers. I have to say the book is a great introduction to the world of magic.

The book covers a wide variety of different beliefs and practices. It also contains a lot of different spells and techniques (some drawn straight from the old grimoires) so anyone wanting to jump right in can. In a lot of ways it seems to me like a modern day version of Waite’s Book of Black Magic and Pacts.

My main reason for including the book, and putting it first, is because it’s an overview of whats out there magically for the prospective practitioner of magic. A newcomer will not only learn a little bit about a lot of different subjects, it will also help them determine what direction they want to take their magical practice into, and provides a good source of ideas about what a person may be able to do and how the universe might work.

2. Illusions by Bach
This is the very first book I was told to read by my teacher, and it was one of the first books she herself had read. At the time she felt that the philosophies in the book might help to change my perspective a bit, which would help me deal with some of the emotional problems I was having at the time.

The book worked, but it provided so much more for me over time. It’s a fictional work, and although there are some different events, the vast majority of the book consists of conversations between a fictionalization of the Author, barn stormer Richard Bach, and his spiritual mentor Donald Shimoda, an auto mechanic turned messiah who eventually quit being a messiah because it wasn’t making him happy.

On the surface its a nice book (New Age with a heavy New Thought emphasis BTW). If you dig a little deeper its filled with secrets of the universe and wonderful philosophies. Deeper still and you’ll find a nearly complete beginner’s handbook to psionic and manifestation magic.

3. The Kybalion by the Three Initiates –
This book is Hermetics, which gives me my three disciplines. Hermetics is the study of the works of Hermes Trismegistus, the Emerald Tablet and the Corpus Hermeticum. Hermetics can be seen as the Newtonian Laws of magical work, it forms the basic foundation upon which just about all magical and spiritual theory is built. The theories of Hermetics form the core beliefs of Ceremonial Magic, which in turn develops into Paganism and Chaos Magick. Its an influence on many of the other forms of western ritual magick too. There’s even such a thing as Hermetic Kabalism, which joins together the teaching of Trismegistus with Kabalistic beliefs. It’s also a major influence on the New Thought Movement, which in turn influences the New Age Movement. The vast majority of western magic is based in Hermetics. And since Hermetics attempts to discuss the basic theories upon which the universe operates, it can be applied to almost any spiritual practice, even those which are not Western in origin.

Needless to say, I think understanding Hermetics is essential to understanding magic. I chose the Kybalion because its a good overview of the basic theories, thoughts, and ideas of Hermetics. I also think its a fairly easy read considering the complexity of the subject matter (although it could be better). At the very least its not a long book.

4. Have an Out of Body Experience in 30 Days by Harary & Weintraub – I’ve done lots of theory, so now I want to get into practical work. Astral projection is important. Astral projection is fun. Astral projection can give pretty quick results for a lot of people, and a lot of people will notice that they start to have more psychic gifts and a better magical understanding after projecting a few times.

There are, of course, some things I don’t like about this book. I also think astral projection is a subject where you need to find the right book or method that works for you, so this may not be the right book for everyone. But there are a lot of reasons why I like this book.

This isn’t really a book of accounts of astral projection or theories about it or any other bullshit. This is a book full of exercises, exercises which are meant to get a person from a state of having no experience with astral projection to successfully astrally projecting. And it tries to do that in thirty days, with different exercises for each day. I like the practical approach. The book, with clear instructions on what to do and on which days, provides a very structured environment full of practice which is conductive to learning.

5. Initiation into to Hermetics by Bardon – Bardon’s book actually has a lot more to do with Ceremonial Magic than it has to do with Hermetics. This book constitutes my Ceremonial Magick pick. It’s also the first book on my list to really look at the how-tos of ritual magic. I picked this book for several reasons.

First off, Bardon’s book is an introduction to the subject meant for the beginner, which is good for a list like this. Secondly Bardon’s style is very easy to read and modern with the goal of helping the student learn the subject, which is in stark contrast to the Golden Dawn Boys and many of their contemporaries. Lastly Bardon spends a good deal of time on techniques which are meant to develop psionic ability, which I believe is an essential skill in successful ritual magic.

6. Kundalini and the Chakras by Paulson – The book I want to put here is one that goes over the basics of energy manipulation with the goal of helping a novice get to the point where they can successfully manipulate energy. So far I haven’t found a book that is even close to doing that. If I do find that book, it’ll probably replace this as my number six.

The reason why I chose this book is because I like it, and it exhibits some of the things I want from book number six. It deals largely with working and balancing the energy within oneself, and doesn’t, in my opinion, focus enough on manipulating and working with energy externally. I’m in no way saying it’s a bad book though. Hopefully combining this information with the techniques from #5 and #4 along with the information in #2 is enough to compensate for not having the book I really need right here.

7. Buckland’s Complete Book Of Witchcraft by Buckland – Due to the popularity of Paganism and Wicca in the community, I felt I had to include one introductory Wiccan book. And out of all the Wiccan books out there, Buckland’s is actually my favorite.

Whether or not your Wiccan, there’s a lot you can get out of this book in terms of magic and how it works. The book is styled as a series of lessons for the beginning student. I actually really like the questions at the end of each lesson. Rather than just asking a person to look up information in the lesson or see how well they memorized what they just read (like some high school textbooks), the questions ask the reader to explore their personal beliefs, thoughts, and magical experiences which helps them develop and explore their own beliefs and spiritual path.

8. Witchcraft for All by Heubner –
This is not a Wiccan book (in fact it’s anti-Wiccan). Heubner is a Traditional Witch which is a completely different set of beliefs.

Heubner explains her theories on magic and provides a good sampling of various spells. Heubner herself is an experienced and gifted practitioner and her book is full of interesting ideas on how to use magic.

9. The Necronomicon by Simon – Usually known as the Simon Necronomicon or the Avon Necronomicon, this book is really the first published grimoire of the modern era. The Necronomicon consists of a complete system of spiritual attainment which was channeled by the magician Simon.

I’ve included this book for a few reasons. First off being a relatively new book full of mostly original information, it’s a good example of what can be achieved and developed. Secondly it’s the best selling modern Ceremonial Magic book with over 800,000 copies sold. It’s one of the those books you should buy, if for no other reason, than that everyone else practicing magic already has it. Thirdly it’s something a bit dark, and every magician should have something dark in their library and practice, if for no other reason to have some experience with that sort of stuff and to prove that they can handle working with it, even if they prefer not to. Plus it isn’t all that dark of a book, so it’s good for a beginner.

And lastly, it’s just a very good book as far as magical books go. The book is well written and the system is known to consistently achieve results. Part of the reason why the book has been so popular not just among the masses but also among experienced practitioners, even while other books looking to cash in on the Necronomicon name have failed in both areas, is that it isn’t completely fake and the system does achieve results.

10. Principia Discordia by Malaclypse the Younger – When I started this list, I knew this would be the last book on it. It’s a religious work divinely inspired from the Greek goddess of discord Eris. It’s full of some theory, lots of dogma, and no practical work. It’s also a fun read, and I figure the last book should be a fun read. Plus I feel it helps to put everything else, the other nine books, into their proper prospective so they can be viewed accordingly.

Okay, so now I get to talk about my book choices. First off, there is no book dealing specifically with tarot or Kabalah, despite the fact that I like these subjects a lot. Part of the reason is that either of those choices would take up a lot of my slots. The other reason why they are not present is the same reason why I’ve excluded Taoism and the Chaldean Oracles. All of these things are beautiful and wonderful pools of knowledge full of theoretical and practical information for the seasoned practitioner. But for the beginning practitioner, someone who has no practical experience, all of this is not only just useless theory, it’s useless theory they can’t even begin to comprehend. A person can not begin to really understand a subject like Kabalah or the Chaldean Oracles until they have some first hand experience with how the universe is made up and how magic operates. Until then all these things are is knowledge, good knowledge for sure, but ultimately without any real value.

Secondly I’ve limited myself to books that were published in the 20th century, which was done intentionally. The oldest book on my list is the Kybalion from 1908, and this book is really an exception to my rule, allowed in partially because the writing is not all that complicated (although I’d rate it the hardest book on my list). I’ve also stayed away from Golden Dawn members and their successors. I wanted my list to consist of books that were easy to read. I want books that focus on the information and teaching that information to the reader, not on books where the reader is going to be distracted by difficult language which makes basic comprehension of the text hard. I also want the reading to be easy so the reader can get excited while focused on all the new magical techniques and spells and what not they’re about to read about, and not feel as if reading the book is some sort of boring chore that they have to do in order to get to the creamy magic center. And I wanted to show that really good books are not necessarily old books. In fact newer books are more relatable to modern times and the modern reader. For example, quite a few of the spells from the old grimoires aren’t all that useful since treasure hunting isn’t the booming profession that it once was.

So what kind of magician was I trying to build? I was trying to build a well-rounded eclectic magician. For centuries the magical community has tended to move towards eclecticism anyways. Meanwhile the strongest and most versatile magicians are going to be the ones that take what they like from any given system to use in their own personal practice. I’ve never felt a need to label myself as a Ceremonial Magician or a Pagan or anything else. In fact I find the terms rather limiting. I didn’t see a need to label my theoretical game magician student either. Instead of trying to build them up into some kind of system, I just tried to teach them how to do magic.


Books of Magic, Teachers, Systems, and Personal Magic

June 12, 2010

[Warning: Rant]

For some reason, magicians of all types have been tied to books. When we think of magicians, we usually associate them with images of books of magic, spell books, libraries, ancient tomes, and the like. And a lot of magicians seem to be applying this label to themselves. I’ve seen a magician called a liar because he claimed his book collection had been in storage for the past year (because no real magician could bare to be without his precious books). I’ve seen magicians claim they can’t cast a spell because they don’t have the proper book with them. I’ve seen magicians who have claimed to be powerful because they happen to own or have access to an extensive library of books. In fact, one of the signs of a weak magician is that he or she will brag about the books they own or the books they read as if it means anything magically.

I’m not going to say I’m innocent of this either. I have lots of books. I’ve read lots more. If I had the money, I’d have a very extensive occult library to reference and read at my leisure. This is a trait that many magicians share. But then I also have a very strong background in literature so my obsession with books isn’t surprising or limited to metaphysical topics.

But I don’t need my books (well my magical ones, I need my fiction, poetry, and comic books). They are in no way a representation of my power, and if I lost them all tomorrow, I’d be fine. Likewise I can develop spells from scratch without any reference material and I would be just fine leaving my books in storage for a long period of time if I felt I had to for some reason. To be honest, I’ve gotten very little out of most of the books I read. They’re nice as a reference and sometimes I find an idea or two I really like, but that’s about it.

I’ve said this before, and most people agree, magical power and understanding comes from practical work. No amount of book reading or knowledge of theory can substitute for it. But practical work can be a substitute for book reading and knowledge of theory.

I’ve also known magicians who will act like some literary detective reading older texts (such as the old grimoires or the Book of the Law). They spend countless hours looking for some minute secret that may or may not have been hidden in the text somewhere. It’s a huge waste of time. If they had spent the same amount of time developing their own magic they would have discovered much bigger secrets than anything written in the grimoire.

And if you cannot develop your own magic, you are a weak magician. A strong magician may be weak in a particular area (such as writing spells), but they are able to develop their own magic. In fact, a strong magician’s weak points are typically areas of magic they rarely or never practice, meaning its not really a part of their personal practice. The magic they practice they can make up, on their own, as they need it.

This is one of the reasons why magicians don’t need books. A magician can develop the magic they need as they need it. They can discover any secret they want by looking for it in the universe.

The other reason is that magicians have a wide variety of sources for information. Here is a short list of some of the sources available to magicians:

Divine Communion
Evocation and Spirit Communication
Channeling/Visions/Remote Viewing
Mental Planes Access/HGA Merging/Light Channeling
Spirit Guides and Spirit Animals
Practical Experience
Intuition
Past Life Regression
Teachers
Magical Groups
Books

The list isn’t in any kind of order, but books are by far the worst source of information on the list. Magical groups and teachers aren’t much higher. Yet a lot of so called magicians cannot access most of the things on this list, and so books and teachers and magical groups become so important to them because it’s one of the few areas of information they can access.

Teachers are an issue to, and not a subject I want to go too in depth about in this article, but a lot of people, teachers included, don’t understand what a teacher is or what their role is. In the worst cases students may be taken advantage of financially or sexually or somehow abused because of the relationship. Most of the time though I just see a very poor relationship that isn’t very helpful to the student.

A lot of students come into the student-teacher relationship for the wrong reasons. Some are there for no other reason than to gain the lineage of being a teacher’s student. Some believe that a teacher will give them access to power. Some may need the structure of the relationship or be seeking approval of some kind. In any case, it is the teacher’s responsibility to tell the student no.

A teacher’s job, their entire job, is to guide a student through the current obstacles they are facing that they cannot get past on their own so that they can reach the next level of their spiritual attainment.

That is all a teacher does, and done right it usually doesn’t take very long. But I’ve seen students who have been students of a teacher for years. There’s no excuse for this. By that point either the student has achieved a level of competence where they should be set free from the relationship so they can pursue their personal spirituality, or the teacher is not able to help them get to that level.

I’ve also seen lots of students who are completely dependent on their teachers for their magic. In extreme cases the student may not be able to successfully perform even simple magics or rituals without their teacher’s help (typically this is due to a lack of psionic ability or not understanding how to raise energy). Many though simply need to consult their teacher constantly and need their teacher to develop their magic for them. For instance they can’t figure out the qualities of a specific wood or plant on their own and need to ask their teacher what it is, or they can’t write a spell and need to get spells from their teacher as needed. Many also use their teachers as a constant guide to answer questions and to tell them what is right and wrong rather than find the answer to these questions themselves.

And all of this leads right into systems. Their are systems that come with certain groups (such as the Golden Dawn and OTO systems of spiritual attainment). There are systems that come with certain magical religions. Some people get their systems directly from their teachers. Other people get their systems from books. It doesn’t matter where you get it from. If you are using someone elses methods of magic, you are a weak magician that is not reaching their full potential.

Magic is not like science. You cannot recreate an experiment under the same conditions and expect the same results. Magic is like an art, and like an artist a magician needs to infuse their magic with themselves.

Of course we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Many people mistakenly believe infusing themselves into their magic means concentrating on their strengths while compensating for their weaknesses, and this is where the power comes from. Actually its a lot more than just that.

In addition to our strengths and weaknesses, we also have personalities. We have likes and dislikes. We have anxieties and fears and insecurities. We have wants and needs and desires. All of this needs to be incorporated into our magic and our spirituality. When we incorporate all of ourself into our magic, our magic becomes much stronger and much more successful.

And the only way you can do this is if you are able to develop your own magic. You need to be able to come up with your own spells, and techniques, and rituals, and spiritual paths. These things need to be designed with your specific personality in mind, not someone elses, so that they are true to who you are.

It’s unfortunate, but a lot of the magic being done out there is nothing more than mimicry. It’s students doing exactly what their teachers taught them, and in many cases exactly what their teachers do. It’s people copying rituals and spells from books. It’s people following the laid out spiritual paths of systems under the belief that they’ll come to some eventual attainment.


Book Advice: Writing a Better Grimoire

January 28, 2010

I’m putting together a list of recommended titles that I’ll be posting on a separate page. Hopefully I’ll have that list up by the end of the month. Basically I’ve been going through my personal collection and other books I’ve read and I’m figuring out which books were either a great source of new ideas and inspiration the first time I read them, or books I’ve gone back to again and again as a reference.

Doing this, I’ve gotten a better idea of what I like in an esoteric book, what makes them valuable and worth the price, and also the books I don’t ever use. Since there are quite a few low price to free small press, self publishing, and POD options available, there are a lot more writers on the market, and really anyone can do it. They’re also flooding the market with books few people actually want and find valuable. Anyways here some things that I think really make a book stand out:

1. Keep it Short – This is the number one rule, granted there are some exceptions. If you’re doing a book on a very detailed in depth subject like tarot or astrology, or if you’re doing a compilation or overview, if it’s well organized you can have 300 or more pages. Generally though I’d say between 30-150 pages would be ideal for an esoteric book.

I mean, has anyone here actually read The Secret Doctrine cover to cover. A major work and a major influence on many of the authors who came after it, it has a strong reputation, and it’s in the public domain so it’s free, so it should be a lot stronger than a lot of new books by new and even established authors on the market. But no one reads it because it’s over a thousand pages long! At best, it maybe gets skimmed, sometimes. And it doesn’t mean that a reader is not devoted to their spirituality or lazy because they won’t read a 1200+ page book. It just means they have better things to do with their time and they’ll get the information somewhere else.

Books that are lean and concise, full of useful information, and which can be quickly read and added to ones accumulated knowledge are very attractive to a lot of practitioners, especially ones who may have money to buy books but not a lot of time to read them. And number two will help with this too.

2. Pick a specific subject and work with it – It’s a common complaint that everything on the market is magick or wicca 101. The problem is most of these books try to cover everything, and even in 500 pages we’re talking a few pages devoted to each subject, just enough space to give a cursory overview and not enough space to get in depth. But a book dedicated to a specific subject, like evocations or astral projection, can usually cover the subject completely, covering basic information and in depth information.

3. Completions and overviews can be useful –
I’m adding this because a few of the books that made my list are very long overviews of magick in general and completions of materials from other books. Done correctly, these can be wonderful collections of information. They’re great for exposing a beginner to a lot of different information, and they’re great as a single reference of many works for a more experienced practitioner. Unfortunately, due to modern copyright law, they’re very difficult to put together, unless you manage to work for a major publisher who is willing to allow the best parts of all their works to be compiled into a single volume.

4. Keep it separate and organized – You don’t want a narrative flow within your work. You don’t want a work that starts with a few ideas, and builds on them chapter to chapter, until the reader reaches a point of understanding at the end. Readers usually don’t like that book, or if they do they’re forgiving it its shortcomings. Readers will get a lot more use out of a book when they can easily turn to the information they want out of it right now. Books that can be used as a reference are a lot better than books that can’t. Some people will only want a book for one or two chapters. An experienced or even well read practitioner may already be familiar with the basic information you’re supplying and only want the book for the advanced material. To them, it’s important that they can skip to the best part of the book. When a person first sees a book, nine out of ten will go right to the table of contents and see how many chapters look interesting. Then they’ll pick a couple of interesting chapters and see if they have anything worthwhile in them.

5. Be original and speak from experience – Too many books just reiterate the information from other books. This is a common complaint from many readers. Before you even start writing a book, you should really ask yourself if you have anything new or original to add to the subject matter, or a new way of presenting it. Remember all of these subjects have already been covered by other authors, authors who are better established and more well known, and whose books have been out longer (so there’s a good chance someone interested in the subject matter has already bought their book).

6. Be positive, not negative – This is something that I see more and more with new self-published authors as opposed to established names. They’re negative. They talk about groups of people they don’t like, they talk about authors they don’t like, and they talk about how people are stupid. It looks unprofessional for one. It also alienates potential readers. No matter how good your book is, if your opening chapter dismisses Wiccans, or New Agers, or any other major group, any devoted follower of that ideology is going to put the book down and never come back. Also an established author will have a fan base, and when you bash that author, you turn his or her fanbase away from your work. A lot of times this comes down to nothing more than an author being petty or jealous of someone or some other group’s success. And this isn’t an attractive image to project. You’re supposed to be knowledgable and an enlightened guru of sorts, not someone partial to petty drama and full of teenage angst.

Instead be positive. Don’t talk about how horrible someone elses information is. Talk about how great your information is. Talk about how once the reader finishes your book, they’ll be able to practice the subject matter much better than they could before. Focus on how great your book is and what it can offer to the reader, because in the end this is what matters to someone buying your book, not how the market is overflooded with inferior work or how everything by author or group X is pure crap.

And remember, there’s nothing wrong with ignorance. If it wasn’t for ignorance, no one would need your book. If your book fails to alleviate ignorance, it’s not the fault of your readers or potential audience either. It’s because you failed as a teacher, or as an author, or in correctly marketing your work.

7. Have spells, rituals, or exercises included in your work –
Depending on what your writing, one or more of these may be appropriate. A book on general magical practices will probably be partial to spells. A book that is an introduction to a new or established religion will probably be partial to rituals. Things like astral projection and remote viewing usually are more geared towards general exercises as opposed to formal ritual work. But these are all practical information.

Practical information makes these books useful. They give the reader something they can do or try to better themselves. It’s something that makes a book valuable even after its been read. It’s something that most readers really want out of a book, and it’s usually the part of the book they value the most. Meanwhile if you don’t have any practical information, I can only assume that you don’t know enough to create it. You can’t write a spell, or ritual, or figure out exercises to help me improve a skill; and if you’re not at a level where you can do that, why should I buy anything you write?

8. Expand without fluffing – Suppose you pick a subject, let’s say astral projection. You write your little book and say everything you want to say, and you only have twenty pages. You could, at this point, publish a twenty page book (and some have). What most people do though is try to expand the twenty pages into sixty or a hundred. They don’t add any valuable information, what they do is reorganize it and go more in depth on various subjects and try to expand each section as much as they can. What they end up with is the same twenty pages worth of material, only now it takes up five times as many pages.

The fluff is usually non-valuable and useless, and there’s no reason for it. Instead try to find more useful information to add into the work. This may mean expanding the subject of the book into related topics. For instance, lucid dreaming and meditation would be closely related to astral projection, and chapters on these subjects would easily fit into a book on astral projection. Now your core information is still just twenty short pages, you haven’t fluffed it up any. Instead you’ve added new information about related subjects which will make your book even more valuable to a potential reader.

9. Mention other authors and books you like – You can do this in a few different ways. You can mention them directly in the text. Or you can have a recommended reading list. Or you can have a works referenced page at the end of your book. It really doesn’t matter, but I’m not talking about a list of other books you’ve written or a page or advertisement for other books by your publisher. This won’t so much help you sell your book, but it’s a good practice. It informs readers who like your work of other works they may enjoy. It helps promote other authors in the same field. It helps you direct people towards the good books and helps you make sure that people are spending their book buying money on good purchases, and not buying the crap books you’re not supposed to talk about according to #6. A while back this was a standard practice in esoteric works. It’s kind of fallen out of vogue (and the reason why probably has something to do with certain publishing houses too), but it was a good practice that should really be revived.

10. Concluding thoughts (time and value) – Most of what I’ve written here about good books comes down to two words, time and value. I know I don’t have time to be reading books all day long. I assume most people don’t either. Most people have a job they have to go to, they have families they have to take care of, and they have significant others they want to do fun things with. They also want leisure time to relax and watch TV, or a movie, or keep up with the internet, or whatever. And spiritual people also have to have time to practice their spirituality and deal with groups and meet-ups and rituals and what-not. It’s not that people are lazy or don’t want to read or better themselves, it’s just that they don’t have the time to wade through forty pages of crap to get two pages of something interesting. People value their time, and as a writer you should too. You should make it easy for someone to get exactly what they want out of your book as quickly as possible.

The other word is value. What is the value of your book? A lot of authors have tried to use number of pages or word count to value their work. But more often than not the smaller books are the more valuable ones, if for no other reason than the fact that they’re more accessible. The information in the book is what makes it valuable. And what may make a book worth anywhere from $5 to up to $500 in the case of some rare OOP books for someone might not be any more than a few pages or even sentences. Fill your book with new information that people will actually want and find useful and practical information and a lot more people will find it worth buying.