Tag Archives: Laura Perry

Creating a new genre – a guest blog from Laura Perry

Have you ever wondered where genres of literature come from? I’ve watched the birth of a new genre over the past year or two and I’m very excited to see where this one goes. The new genre? Witch Lit.
A lot of the time, a genre of literature comes into being when someone (or more likely several someones) realize there’s a bunch of writing out there that follows a common style, theme, or set of contents. That’s exactly what happened with Witch Lit.
The term started out in casual use, as a sort of witchy-magical version of Chick Lit – fiction with strong female characters and a heavy dose of magic and witchy-ness added in. Sometimes it was magical realism; other times it was fantasy or updated fairy tales. But the magical element and female characters held strong, regardless. I was gratified to realize that my novel The Bed fits nicely into this genre, since I felt a bit off-kilter trying to stuff it into categories like urban fantasy or occult fiction.
As the conversation continued, the term Witch Lit acted like a magnet. What is Witch Lit, exactly? Does it have to be fiction? What about non-fiction that helps us appreciate and encourage the magic in our lives? What about poetry and songs that celebrate that magic and witchy-ness?
Yes to all the above.
It turns out, Witch Lit answers a need/desire a lot of people have to bring some magic into their lives via the stuff they read. Especially when that stuff involves strong, relatable female characters and maybe a touch of humor.
Unfortunately, Witch Lit isn’t an official category you can search for on Amazon or anywhere else that sells books. Not yet, anyway. Those of us who write Witch Lit began to wonder how, exactly, people were supposed to find works in this genre once they heard about it.
So we started a Facebook group for readers and writers of Witch Lit and began tossing ideas around. After a bit of conversation, we settled on the production of an anthology. It would include fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from writers whose styles varied but whose works counted as Witch Lit. It would be in e-book format only to keep the price low, and all proceeds would benefit charity. That way, people could get a taste of the genre and authors could get some exposure to readers who want a little more magic in their TBR pile.
I’m amazed at how fast this genre has built up and how quickly the anthology has come together. With 23 contributors and a total of 26 short stories, essays, and poems, the anthology is quite a substantial read for quite a low price (99p on UK sites, where we started out, which converts to about $1.26 in US currency). All proceeds go to the excellent charity organization Books for Africa. The official release date is 21 June (Summer Solstice here in the northern hemisphere) but it’s available for pre-order now, pretty much anywhere you can buy e-books online. It’s titled Witch Lit: Words from the Cauldron and it is very much a community project.
I hope our daring march into the world of publishing helps get the word out about Witch Lit. It may not be a label on bookstore shelves yet, but it’s a genre full of great reads and plenty of magic. I think the world could use a little more of that these days.
LINKS
Facebook group for readers and writers of Witch Lit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1055104057875422/
Witch Lit on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WitchLit1
The Anthology:
It should also be available in the Apple iStore and on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other online sites that sell e-books. Just search “Witch Lit Words from the Cauldron.”
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Deathwalking

Deathwalking is a new anthology edited by Laura Perry. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

Deathwalking. Psychopomping. You may not have heard these terms before you picked up this book, but they mean the same thing: helping the spirits of the deceased move on from this world to the next. This is a practice that goes back millennia, if not eons, but one that is barely known in mainstream modern Western society. Our culture puts a lot of effort into keeping people alive but then many of us are left not knowing what to do when a loved one passes on, or when a natural disaster occurs and hundreds or thousands of people die. What happens to their souls? Can they find their way to wherever they belong on their own or do they need help? As it happens, many of them do need assistance. Fortunately, there are still people who know how to help them.

In this anthology, a dozen authors share their views on psychopomping in a variety of different Pagan and shamanic traditions, in terms of both personal experience and traditional ritual and myth. This book aims to educate the community about this vital practice, one that is still very much a necessary function. The word psychopomp comes from Greek roots meaning “soul conductor,” and that’s exactly what happens in this kind of work: the practitioner helps the spirit of the deceased find its way. The term deathwalking refers to the fact that shamans walk “between the worlds” and can help the spirits of the deceased journey onward as well. The actual practice goes by different names in different traditions, but the work is ultimately the same, and it’s a loving, caring endeavor.

In modern society we tend to feel a bit mystified by death and spirits, perhaps even afraid of the whole kit-and-caboodle. Spirit workers (shamans and others who do this sort of work) have developed a relationship with the spirit world, journeying among the different realms, so to them it’s familiar territory, as is death. We modern folk generally aren’t close to death anymore; we die in hospitals and our bodies are whisked away to funeral homes, only to magically reappear, embalmed and made up, as if still alive. Even if someone else takes care of the nitty-gritty material details for us, though, death is still a part of our reality, albeit a more abstract one.

We’re taught that death is off -putting and scary, but children are naturally curious about it and not generally afraid. Perhaps we adults could rekindle some of that gentle, loving curiosity and allow ourselves to learn about death and deathwalking, even if only in a small way. Some of the chapters in this collection include tales of closeness to death that the contributors have experienced in their own lives. Others share rituals, mythology, and traditions around the process of ensuring the spirit of the deceased gets to where it needs to go. It is our hope that these ideas and information will add meaning to your life and your spirituality, and perhaps lead you down new roads that you find fulfilling.

Some of you will simply enjoy the stories in this collection, learning about the various ways in which we’re able to help the spirits of the dead move on. Others will want to learn more, perhaps get some training and join those who do this kind of work. Many of the chapters in this book end with recommendations of people and programs who offer instruction in psychopomp work. If you’re interested, please investigate these resources and take your training seriously. This is one of those “don’t try this at home” kinds of things; shamanic work of any sort requires the knowledge and safeguards that come with good education.

But especially, please accept our collection of information and anecdotes for what it ultimately is: a devotional of a sort, an offering to the spirits of all those who have gone before and all those who will come after. May they journey onward well.

 

You can find the anthology on Book Depository,  

Amazon

And pretty much anywhere else that sells books!


Book excerpt – The Bed

Today, an excerpt from Laura Perry’s Novel, The Bed, which I have previously reviewed on this blog – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/witchlit-and-spiral-nature/

“I don’t know,” Liz said in a tired voice as she ran her fingers along the rim of the trunk. “I guess I was hoping for something more exciting. You know, secret treasure.” She looked around at the mess that filled her small living room. “I guess we should clean up now.”

She hefted a stack of books and rose up into a half-squat to put them back into the trunk, but her fatigued body refused to cooperate. She lost her balance and ended up flinging the pile roughly into the trunk as she fell sideways onto the floor.

“You need food,” Olivia intoned. “We should stop for lunch. It’s past noon.”

Liz nodded in agreement, glad for the opportunity to distance herself from the bizarre books and papers and the uncomfortable feelings that went with them, if only for a few minutes. But as she heaved herself up off the floor to head for the kitchen, she glanced into the trunk and stopped short. The stack of books she had thrown in now sat askew in the container, pressing down on one end of the trunk floor while the other end stuck up at an angle.

“Oh shit, I broke it.” She stooped to examine the damage and saw that the base of the trunk was, in fact, unharmed. When the books slammed into the trunk, they tilted a false floor that revealed a hidden compartment beneath. “Would you look at this!”

Olivia pressed next to her and leaned over the trunk. “And you were complaining that you hadn’t found anything exciting.” She elbowed her friend then began to lift out the tattered volumes Liz had just tossed in, setting them on the floor nearby.

With renewed energy, Liz knelt next to the trunk and pulled the false bottom out. The two women sucked air. Filling the no-longer-hidden compartment was a collection of small items of many different shapes and sizes, all neatly wrapped in white fabric.

Liz reached for the objects then drew her hand back. With narrowed eyes she gazed around the room at the jumbled piles of books and papers, then looked at her friend. “Do you really think this stuff is black magic?”

Olivia folded her arms across her chest. “I can’t believe Liz Summons is scared of a bunch of old crap in a trunk. This thing belonged to a university professor, not some wild Voodoo priest. You’re supposed to be the adventurous one, remember?”

Without thinking, Liz glanced toward her bedroom then back at the trunk, twisting her ring all the while.

“You know,” Olivia said, her voice tense, “you could take that off if you want.”

Liz stiffened, let go of the ring, and turned back to the trunk. “Let’s see what this stuff is.”

It took them just a few moments to lift all the fabric-covered objects out of the trunk and set them side by side on the floor.

More information about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed


Ancient Spellcraft – a review

Laura Perry’s Ancient Spellcraft is a really interesting read, regardless of whether you’re a spellcaster. Let me start by clarifying that I do not work spells in any kind of witchy style, so I’m certainly not the person for whom the book is intended – it is written for people who want to use it to do magic. I find books about magic fascinating, however, and as a consequence have read quite a few such along the way.

Ancient Spellcraft is one of the most interesting spellbooks I’ve ever read. Author Laura Perry draws on what we know of a number of ancient Pagan cultures, to create a way of working that is likely a much better reflection of ancient practice than anything else you’ll find in modern witchcraft.

For most of our ancestors, life was not compartmentalised in the way it is today. Healing, magic, religion, luck, and so forth were all interconnected. Divination comes from the same word roots as divine – because it is the business of the Gods. Equally, all forms of magic were an appeal to divine powers for assistance. The lines between magic and prayer were not distinct. Who you might call upon, and how, and to what effect is an interesting area to explore, which this book does well.

The concerns of our ancient ancestors were not so very different from our modern concerns, in essence. Protection, security, love, sufficiency in the basics of life and a sense of what might be coming are things people have always wanted to know about. I like how this book gives us that sense of connection with our ancestors and puts our concerns into historical context.

The spells in this book draw on historical insights, but have been adapted to be suitable for the modern practitioner. I would have loved more details about the sourcing, and the adaptation process, but that would have resulted in a very different book, probably less useful for anyone who wants to work spells.

Laura Perry has put together something readable, accessible and fascinating. If you want to develop a deity-orientated magical practice, this would be the ideal place to start.

 

More about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/ancient-spellcraft


Labrys and Horns: review

Labrys and Horns by Laura Perry is an introduction to practicing modern Minoan Paganism. The Minoans were are culture on Crete who existed before the Greeks. They were a much more egalitarian society, and while there are a lot of gaps in our knowledge about them, much can be inferred from the art and archaeology. This is not an academic-style book so there’s not much detail about how the author comes to her conclusions, but there are plenty of other books listed in the references so anyone who wants to dig deeper knows where to start. You can also pick up her other title, Aridane’s Thread, which goes into more detail on history and Minoan life.

I came to this out of curiosity rather than any intention to practice. It is a book worth reading from that basis. The relationship between the Minoans and the Greeks has much to tell us about the later culture, too. There’s a wealth of insight here about the ancient world as a whole, and much to ponder about the way sacred myths evolve and change depending on who is telling them and why.

I’m guessing that most people come to Minoan Paganism either through an attraction to the art, or via one of the deities. Ariadne, the minotaur and the labyrinth seem like the most obvious way in. If you’ve encountered the Greek story, and felt drawn but found it inadequate, this is no doubt for you. If you like aspects of the Greek myths but find the rapey patriarchal content unpalatable, you may want to check out the Minoans.

The book includes line drawings based on Minoan art and artefacts, I found this really helpful for getting a sense of the culture and concepts. In its original form, it’s a really attractive art style, with brightly coloured frescos and Laura has captured the flow and feel of it in her drawings.

This is a very readable book, author Laura Perry writes with warmth and clearly speaks from broad and long term experience of bringing an ancient culture into her life. Her writing is permissive and encouraging rather than dogmatic, it’s very much a book about how to go about finding your own path, and where to start. There’s enough material here on rituals, symbols, deities and devotionals to enable a person to start experimenting.

 

Find out more about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/labrys-and-horns


Magical Realism: Contradiction in Terms?

A guest post from Laura Perry

I’m a writer, and a portion of what I write is fiction that qualifies as magical realism. My most recent novel, The Bed (http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed), definitely qualifies. I’ve had a few people question that term, suggesting that it’s a contradiction. After all, according to mainstream society and “common sense,” magic isn’t real.

I’ve written before about Pagans who practice magic but don’t actually believe in it, a habit that can lead to very unpleasant side effects (http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/single-post/2016/02/10/Pagans-who-dont-believe-in-magic-but-use-it-anyway). Mainstream society puts a great deal of pressure on us to conform to the materialist viewpoint that anything that can’t be experienced through our five physical senses or detected via scientific instruments simply doesn’t exist or is, at best, some sort of hallucination. So it’s an uphill battle against cultural pressure just to consider the possibility that magic is a real thing.

There’s a sizeable portion of the Pagan/alternative/New Age community that explains magic as some sort of psychological effect, which is fine as far as it goes. There’s plenty we don’t know about how the psyche works, so chalking magic up to psychological thingamawhatsies is tantamount to invoking a version of Clarke’s Third Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_three_laws) with the human brain in place of some sort of constructed technology. That, too, is just fine, since no one really knows why or how magic works.

The thing is, magic does work. It produces effects—sometimes unexpected or unpleasant ones—in the material world. Whether that’s through the forces of the human mind or the workings of Nature or the intervention of divine beings is up for discussion.

If magic works, then it’s reasonable to write stories about it and say that those stories are examples of magical realism. Bear in mind that fiction, even fiction that’s based on “true life” stories, is still a made-up thing. But good fiction is a believably made-up thing. I’ve seen the results of magic, both good and bad, enough times to be willing to slide it into the underpinnings of my stories. I don’t write about people flying through the air on broomsticks or shooting flames out of their hands. I write about the kinds of magic I’ve experienced myself: dreams and visions, rituals that go well or that get out of hand, customs that are designed to safeguard the practitioner and that can result in disaster if they’re ignored.

These things aren’t fantasy, though not everyone experiences them. And of course, even people who’ve experienced them may choose not to believe in them since mainstream society still says magic isn’t real (I’ve seen that happen—cognitive dissonance is a powerful and frightening thing). That’s another useful bit for my fiction: the conflict with friends and family members who think you’re crazy for even considering the idea that magic actually works. But in real life, it can be less than fun to deal with.

So no, I don’t consider “magical realism” to be a contradiction in terms. I enjoy writing it and I enjoy reading it. But more than that, I enjoy living it.


Witchlit and Spiral Nature

The Bed, by Laura Perry.

Oh what a glorious read this was! A witchlit novel full of magical realism, strange occult happenings, supernatural beings and … haunted furniture! I read it over a couple of days, immersing myself in the world of Liz – upcycler and folk artist – whose world is sent spinning into chaos by the purchase of an antique bed. The writing style is utterly engaging, the characters complex, the situation intense. It’s great reading occult fiction from someone who really has a feel for the traditions of both writing and practice – it feels real. It feels like someone could really have been through all these things (assuming your reality accommodates the supernatural). There are some serious messages in the book about knowing what you’re up to, and not assuming that any spirits you might interact with are inherently benevolent. Alongside all the supernatural shenanigans, Liz’s family, friends, and the man attempting to become her fiancée are portrayed with skill and depth, making it all feel very rooted in this world, this life. For me that’s a key part of the genre – the real world stuff has to be persuasive to ground the magical aspect of magical realism. The magic has to be real enough to not stretch credulity too far, while also feeling genuinely magical. For witchlit of course the magic has to make a certain kind of intuitive sense, and this absolutely does.

This ticked all the boxes for me – a heroine who isn’t fresh out of school, and who has as a consequence a more developed life and character, with real life issues, and a nice mix of independence, and cooperativeness. A surprising story, that keeps you guessing right up to the end. Loved it!

More about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed

I recently reviewed Lupa’s book Nature Spirituality from the ground up for Spiral Nature. This is my first Spiral Nature review, and also my first time reading a full length Lupa text, although I’ve been following her blog for a while. It’s a great read, and the full review is here – http://www.spiralnature.com/reviews/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up-lupa/

More information about the book here – http://www.thegreenwolf.com/books/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up/

 


When Is a Reconstructionist Tradition not a Reconstructionist Tradition?

A guest blog by Laura Perry

When Nimue suggested the idea of a guest blog post, I asked her what aspects of modern Minoan Paganism might interest her fellow Druids. Her response was enlightening:

“Probably the main point of commonality with Druidry is that this is a tradition with scant but tantalising evidence, parts of which was recorded by its oppressors.”

I hadn’t really thought about Druidry in that light before, but of course it’s true. Caesar wasn’t exactly a warm supporter of the Druids, was he? And the Hellenic Greeks weren’t terribly fond of the Minoans either, except when they could scrape up a few bits of Minoan mythology to give their own culture the patina of age.

Let’s start with the basics. The ancient Minoans were a civilization that spread across the island of Crete, just south of Greece in the Mediterranean, beginning in the Neolithic era, about 6000-5000 BCE. The main run of Minoan society flourished during the Bronze Age from about 3500 to 1400 BCE, with the heyday (the big temple complexes, colorful art, and so on) from about 1900 to 1400 BCE. This puts the Minoans contemporaneous with the New Kingdom of Egypt and the Mesopotamian cultures of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon. The first stage of Stonehenge was built during the early phases of Minoan society and it was completed during the height of civilization on Crete. The Minoans were a wealthy mercantile society of accomplished seafarers, trading all across the Mediterranean and as far up the Atlantic coast as Cornwall, from where they brought back tin to make bronze blades.

One issue that confuses many people is the ethnicity of the ancient Minoans. In modern times, the island of Crete is part of the nation of Greece. However, the Minoans weren’t Greek. Their ancestors came from Anatolia in prehistoric times, a part of the westward wave of pre-Indo-European peoples that eventually spread across most of Europe. And while the people and culture are called Minoan after the mythical King Minos who purportedly ruled the island at one time, there is no such place as Minoa. The homeland of the Minoans is called Crete.

You’re probably familiar with the Minoans thanks to their art: the colorful frescoes of bull-leapers and priestesses, the figurines of the goddess with writhing snakes in her hands, the seal rings depicting complex ritual scenes. Much of Minoan art focuses on religious acts: sacred games, offerings, animal sacrifice, sacred dance. As with much of the ancient world, the Minoans felt no divide between everyday life and religion, the ordinary and the numinous.

So what was Minoan religion like and why would anyone be interested in reviving it, even in a modified form, in our times? The initial appeal for many people is the prominent place of the goddesses in the Minoan pantheon. Rhea, Ariadne, Diktynna, Eileithyia, and others may be familiar to most people from the Hellenic Greek pantheon, but they all were born, so to speak, among the Minoans. We can deduce a lot about Minoan religious practice from their artwork – the offerings, dances, sacrifices, and so on that I mentioned above. But we can only get just so far by looking at pictures.

The Minoans were a literate culture. In fact, they had two writing systems, a hieroglyphic system and a syllabary known as Linear A. The problem is, we can’t read either one. Now, the Mycenaean Greeks came into contact with Crete during the last few centuries of Minoan civilization. Either they or, more likely, some Minoan scribes altered Linear A to write Mycenaean Greek. The ensuing syllabary, known as Linear B, was translated in the 1950s and we can read it pretty well. That’s how we know so many of the Minoan deity and place names, what kinds of offerings the temples accepted, and the fact that women owned property. But we still can’t read the native Minoan language. And that’s a problem, because our main source of written information comes from the Mycenaeans, who weren’t exactly the Minoans’ best friends.

Though we can’t be sure of the Mycenaeans’ specific aims, it’s apparent that they did their best to take over Minoan society, first by infiltration and then by force. They may have wanted the island as a hub for naval activity or they may have coveted the Minoans’ wealth, gained from extensive trading activity. In the process, the Mycenaeans borrowed a great deal of Minoan religious practice, including large chunks of the Minoan pantheon. The Hellenic Greeks later incorporated the Minoan deities into their pantheon but altered the myths and even the characteristics of many of the deities to suit their own cultural values.

The main activity in Ariadne’s Tribe is figuring out how much of what we know about the Minoans (mostly through Greek mythology) was recorded accurately and how much was purposely changed. The Mycenaeans, like the later Hellenic Greeks, were a profoundly patriarchal society, in contrast to the egalitarian Minoans. So the Greeks ‘demoted’ many of the Minoan goddesses (Ariadne became a mere human, for instance) while they forced others, such as Rhea, to submit to husbands who ruled over them when these goddesses had been stand-alone, unmarried deities in Minoan religion. Then the Greeks invented Theseus, a culture hero, to show that they were superior to the backwards, human-sacrificing, Minotaur-worshiping Minoans.

So those of us who practice modern Minoan Paganism spend a lot of time teasing out the original myths from what amounts to a political smear campaign. There are some aspects of ancient Minoan religion we’re not likely to revive: huge mystery plays attended by hundreds or thousands; drug-induced shamanic journeys; animal sacrifice. But we use the same symbol set the ancient Minoans displayed in their temples, shrines, and homes: the labrys, the horns, seashells, the sacred serpent. We’ve taken a page from the modern Norse Pagans and are working with multiply-corroborated gnosis to fill in the blanks where necessary, along with a lot of ritual experimentation. And of course, we listen to the gods. They understand that life changes with the passage of time, and whatever we can do to help them remain relevant while respecting their underlying nature is a good thing.

 

References:

Though I’m often wary of Wikipedia, the page about Minoan civilization contains generally undisputed information and is pretty comprehensive:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_civilization

 

Max Dashu’s Suppressed Histories Archives has 5 pages of good examples of Minoan art, focusing on the religion of ancient Crete:

http://suppressedhistories.net/Gallery/crete/crete.html

 

The writing systems mentioned above:

Cretan Hieroglyphs http://ancientscripts.com/cretan_hieroglyphs.html

Linear A  http://ancientscripts.com/lineara.html

Linear B  http://ancientscripts.com/linearb.html

 

Ariadne’s Tribe – Facebook discussion group for modern Minoan Paganism:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1502335483312496/

 

The Minoan Path blog, an exploration of modern Minoan paganism:

http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/the-minoan-path.html