Category Archives: Reviews

Encountering the Dark Goddess – a review

Encountering the Dark GoddessEncountering the Dark Goddess, by Frances Billinghurst isn’t out until March 2021, but I saw it and I had feelings so I’m doing an early review. It was the book I needed to read, as I felt my own life plunging out of control (again).

Dark journeys happen. Dark nights of the soul happen. Sometimes we have no choice but to crawl on bloody hands and knees through some kind of personal Hellscape for a while. Working with Dark Goddesses, or The Dark Goddess as an aspect of the Goddess, is about having the tools for those journeys. Find yourself in the thick of one and you may reach for a book like this for guidance and wisdom.  Being prepared won’t save you, but it will help you make sense of things.

This is an excellent book. Frances takes us through 13 Goddesses of the dark. Each one is put in their mythological context and we get information about their cultural context, and who honoured them and when. It’s a good overview on this front, enough to give you a sense of place, people, culture and to put modern devotion into some sort of context too. From there, if you want to dig deeper, you have a strong starting position and the clarity that deities exist in contexts and that those matter.

Each section includes something personal that the author has written in response to the Goddess, and an exercise that you can do to explore that Goddess. These are guided visualisations, and they’re very good.

This is a book that will work no matter what you believe. If you’re exploring Goddess as archetype and energy, with no particular belief, then this book will work for you. If you believe that all goddesses are aspects of one great goddess, this book will work for you. If you are a hard polytheist seeing each Goddess as a specific being with their own personality and intentions, this book will work for you. It’s been written with great care and inclusivity, and there is room for all outlooks here so long as you are at least broadly interested in the subject matter.

I found it a helpful read during a hard time. There is wisdom here, compassion and life experience. I can entirely recommend getting a copy.

More about the book here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/encountering-dark-goddess-journey-shadow-realms 


Erika and the Princes in Distress

I’m a biased reviewer, this  graphic novel  is published by Sloth Comics – who also publish Hopeless Maine. The reason I’m able to review it in advance of the release date is that I did a proof reading sweep on it. The original comic is French.

Erika and the Princes in Distress is gender bending comedy fantasy that messes about with fairy stories.  I found it really funny, and delightful. All the women in this story are muscular and have swords, and all the guys are little, pretty and delicate and need looking after. That reversal allows Yatuu to do some really entertaining things around gender politics.  And really, women should be able to be big, powerful and sword wielding if they want, and men should be free to be pretty and delicate if that suits them, and gender stereotyping is shit.

This comic was surprisingly powerful for me. I’m tall and broad shouldered.  My husband, Tom is an inch shorter than me. My beloved Dr Abbey is three inches shorter than me. I’ve always tended to be self conscious about my height and build. I can honestly say that this comic helped me think differently about my identity and body shape.  It has helped me navigate and feel better about how I am, and less weird about things.

This is a funny, warm hearted book – it’s not mean in its gender swapping.  It also has the best grumpy comedy sidekick horse in the entire history of the world.

You can read Erika and the Princes in Distress for free online https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/erika-and-the-princes-in-distress/list?title_no=341945

And the paperback version will be out in September

Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/Erika-And-The-Princes-In-Distress/9781908830180

Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Erika-Princes-Distress-Yatuu/dp/1908830182

Blackwells – https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Erika-and-the-Princes-in-Distress-by-Yatuu-author/9781908830180


Pagan Portals Aphrodite – a review

Pagan Portals Aphrodite by Irisanya Moon is a new introductory title from Moon Books. It is a small book, easily read and digested and designed for the non-expert who would like to find out more about this Goddess and how to work with her. If that’s you, this is a good book to pick up.

If you’re established as a follower, dedicant or priestess of Aphrodite, this book is not for you. And that’s fine because you don’t need it!

I have a confession, and it is something I’ve not really talked about directly. I’ve had an attraction to Mediterranean Goddesses of love and sex ever since reading Jane Meredith’s excellent book, Aspecting the Goddess. I picked up this book because I am reading around this topic and actively seeking inspiration. It’s part of a personal process to try and heal. I was taken with the way Irisanya talks about Aphrodite as a Goddess of heart healing.

What affected me the most was the content in this book about beauty. There’s a lot of exploration of what beauty means and how it might manifest in our lives and how we might work with that. Not beauty in the narrow, conventional ways in which mainstream western culture defines female beauty. Something wilder, more expansive, loving and inherently magical. This book has caused me to ask some serious questions about the role beauty plays in my life and the changes I need to make. I’ll be back on this topic.

I still don’t know whose temple I would dance in if there were temples I could dance in. I’m still looking for a name, a sense of connection, a deity associated with the landscape I inhabit. I may never find that, but the looking is important to me all the same. This book has been a useful part of my journey. It wasn’t written for me, I am not seeking a relationship with Aphrodite, but even so it has given me maps I can use on my own journey, and it has taught me things about love and beauty that I really needed to hear.

More about the book here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-portals-aphrodite 


Land Songs and Master Jack – a review

Land Songs by Kris Hughes is a collection of 11 poems. For such a small collection, it manages to bring together a very large amount of myth, folklore, landscape and spiritual insight. It was a pleasure to read and is the sort of collection you can comfortably sit down and go through in a single sitting – there’s a sense of relationship between the pieces that very much enables read it in one go.

I am, I realise, always going to be excited about people writing poetry about non-exploitative relationships with the land. There are some landscape love affair poems in this collection, and that delights me. Some of the myth-based material might not make much sense to a reader who is not familiar with the Pagan heritage of the British isles, but, you can always look up the names and fill in the gaps, so it might in that way prove to be an invitation to dig deeper. There are some notes at the front of the collection to help you navigate this material, which is a good inclusion. It’s never easy to be sure whether to let work stand as it is, or to explain but in this case the notes definitely enrich the text.

I can recommend this collection for anyone interested in poetry, I highly recommend it to anyone on the bard path for both the inspiration in it and what you can learn about writing as a bard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Master Jack is a short story with strong folklore themes, and a dash of the supernatural. It’s written with deep understanding of folk tradition, and the people involved in it, and with a love and respect for living tradition that delighted me. It manages – as folk traditions often do – to square up to death and difficulty while being fundamentally warm and affirming. It’s a lovely read. As someone who has played creatures in mumming sides, I found it really resonant. I’ve never worked with a horse skull, but I’ve always wanted to.

You can find Land Songs and Master Jack on Kris Hughes’ website – http://www.godeeper.info/shop.html

 


Soul Land – a review

Soul Land by Natalia Clarke is a love letter to a landscape. It was a joy for me reading someone else’s poetry in this vein – having done something similar with a poetry collection of my own called Mapping the Contours.

Natalia is in love with Scotland, and her poems are passionate expressions of a profound love affair with place. The writing is generous, sensuous, wholehearted.  These are bardic braise poems directed at place rather than person, and I greatly enjoyed reading them.

I recommend this collection primarily for the pleasure of reading it. However, for anyone on the bard path wondering about writing love songs, love letters, and romances directed towards the non-human, this is a lovely example. For the person who feels alienated and craves relationship with the land, this collection may help you on your way.

To be a body in a landscape. To be alive and keenly feeling and in relationship with all that is around you is an exquisite thing. For me, it is a key part of the Druid path. I’m painfully aware though that many people do not have that grounding love in their lives. Alienation from land, landscape and a sense of place is a modern illness, and reading and writing can be one way back into the land. Poems can be maps, and guides to help us heal and to rebuild the relationships that should always have been ours.

More about the book here – https://rawnaturespirit.com/e-guide/


The Burnt Watcher – a review(ish)

I won’t claim any objectivity on this one. This is Keith Healing’s first novel. I know him personally, and he is the bloke behind the Hopeless Maine role play game. I proof read for him on this book because he’s a lovely chap and I want to support him.

The Burnt Watcher is set in a dark future where there are nasty supernatural things, and people whose job it is to try and keep that under control. The Burnt Watcher of the title is one such person, who is dealing with a legacy of injury from the work. So, this is a book with a disabled main protagonist, which is something we just don’t see often enough. There’s also a kickass young lady in the story, which I really appreciated.

The story is really engaging, dark, sometimes a bit funny. I very much enjoyed it. There will be a sequel, which makes me very happy indeed. Excellent writing and elegantly put together. I thought the structure of it, and how the author plays with your belief, disbelief and sense of how this world works, was really good.

From a pagan perspective, there’s some rather splendid magical stuff going on. The Watchers use rune based magic and deal with the wyrd. Keith really knows his stuff, and it shows. There’s a lot of joy in a magic system with such substantial roots, written by someone who knows what they are talking about.

For anyone local, there’s also the joy that is having Stonehouse as a place of evil activity and eldritch horror. I love reading stories set in places I know, and especially books set in Gloucestershire. I am delighted by this future Gloucestershire full of gothic ruins, terrible threats and monstrous beings. We all need to see ourselves reflected in what we read, and having our locations reflected is certainly part of that.

As with all good speculative fiction, this is a book with plenty to say to the present moment. About what kinds of deals we make, and what we think is in our best interests, and what we do when we gone off the rails…

You can find the book here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Burnt-Watcher-Fear-Book-ebook/dp/B08964Q14H/

and here – https://www.amazon.com/Burnt-Watcher-Fear-Book-ebook/dp/B08964Q14H


Persephone – a review

Pagan Portals – Persephone: Practicing the Art of Personal Power by Robin Corak is a new title from Moon Books.

I picked it up because there are a number of things that interest me about Persephone. I’m not Hellenic and this isn’t a Goddess I identify with especially. So, to be clear, I am not the intended audience for this book. It’s written for someone who want to follow, work with or otherwise devote themselves to Persephone. If that’s you, this is a good place to start with an array of meditations, historic insights rituals and tools to help you build a relationship with this Goddess.

One of the things this book offers is a re-reading of Persephone’s story. This was one of the things I was particularly looking for. Conventionally, Persephone is presented as an innocent girl who is kidnapped and raped by Hades, rescued by her mum – Demeter – but tricked by Hades so she has to go back to him for a part of each year. However, there are other ways of telling her story, and I’m interested in how different women are doing this. Robin has a Persephone story for us that is about the journey from innocence to experience, and about finding your own way when you seem to have only limiting, binary choices.

Persephone is most assuredly the Goddess of not being limited by narrow identity stories. She is both the spring maiden and the Queen of the underworld. What meaning you take from her story depends a lot on how you relate to two key scenes from it. Do you see her as the abducted victim, or do you see her seeking adventure and opportunity? And do you see her as force fed the pomegranate seeds that keep her tied to the underworld, or do you see her taken them of her own free will because there is no going back to her child-life?

Find out more here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/blogs/moon-books/persephone-practicing-the-art-of-personal-power/

 


Woodland Revolution – a review

This may be exactly the right book to read at this point in time. Stephen Palmer’s Woodland Revolution starts out seeming very simple. The main characters are a young wolf, and an older dog who lives feral in the wood. It has a mythic feel, and reads like a classic fairy story.

As a consequence I found it easy to fall into and my tired, troubled mind was soothed by the mythic cadence. The story is set in The Wood which sometimes feels like a specific location, but mostly feels like the spirit of woodland and wildness. The Wood has rules. The two characters we follow are questioning those rules and want to at least understand life in The Wood. As they go along, they become ever more in conflict with the way the rules are interpreted, and the lack of clarity. What starts out as a simple, mythic quest becomes an epic philosophical journey.

The real genius of it is that the book acts on you, it happens to you and you end up being the creature who takes the journey, not simply a reader.

Anyone who has read other fiction by Stephen Palmer will be used to the way he puts stories within stories. The stories we use to inform and guide our lives are re-occurring themes in his work so it’s really interesting to see him take this on as the main thrust of the story, not the underpinning for something else.

A fascinating read, more information here – http://www.stephenpalmer.co.uk/


Wild Spinning Girls – a review

Wild Spinning Girls is the latest novel by Carol Lovekin. It’s contemporary set and I consider it to be witch-lit – there’s magic, ghosts, a witchy character, and a world view Pagan readers will certainly relate to. It’s also a story about grief and loss – the wild spinning girls of the title have both lost their parents and are struggling to make sense of life. Heather is 17, Ida is 29 and they are unexpectedly thrown into each other’s lives as a consequence of that bereavement.

One of the things that really struck me about this book is that it is dominated by women, and none of those women could be called ‘nice’. There’s one female character whose wisdom, compassion and generosity really shines through. Everyone else is, to some degree, a mess. Hurting, flailing, angry, resentful, making bad choices, and otherwise struggling. Women who say what they think, not what they think the other person wants to hear. Women who are trying to sort their own lives out and who are not, for the greater part, focused on trying to save someone else.

It struck me how unusual this is. To have a big cast of female characters who are allowed to be selfish and self involved and living their own lives and doing their own things. By the end of it, none of them have been pressured into becoming more willing to serve others. Several of them have become better at asking for and receiving help, and you can see how this might soften them in the future.

I love the haunted, gothic qualities of this book, the sense of place and landscape and the magic that permeates it. I found the grief arc hard – that’s really a matter of timing I think. If you’re looking for catharsises and a text that gives you opportunities to have a bit of a cry, this could be helpful right now. If you’re already feeling too raw, put it on your to-read list and come back when you’re more resilient. It’s an excellent book and well worth your time.

 

You can get it as an ebook, which is no doubt the safest and quickest way to pick up new books at the moment – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Spinning-Girls-Carol-Lovekin-ebook/dp/B083PZXDQN/ 


Libation, a review

Libation is a beautiful collection by Earl Livings – mostly poetry and some poetic prose. The writing conveys a sensual experience of the physical world that I think any Pagan or Druid could connect with. As someone who is not very good at belief, I found the way this book mixes the spiritual and the rational really powerful.

This isn’t a big review because I’m struggling at the moment. It is a book that deserves a much deeper contemplation of its many merits. It was gifted to me by the author with no expectation of a review, and came in on what had been a desperately bad day. Reading it gave me respite during a week that remained really difficult, and I am profoundly grateful.

More information here – https://www.ginninderrapress.com.au/store.php?product/page/1792/%2A+Earl+Livings+%2F+Libation

Available as an ebook https://www.amazon.com/Libation-Earl-Livings/dp/1760416150