Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling has had a huge cultural impact.  Since the first book was published in 1997, they have quickly become the best-selling book series in history.  Children and adults alike have eagerly followed the magical adventures of the wizard Harry Potter and his battle of good vs evil.  The series contains real-life references to mythology, folklore, and alchemical principles.  However, some religious groups claim Harry Potter is more than just a fantasy story, saying it promotes evil, even Satanism.

There are several occult concepts discussed in the Harry Potter series.  The students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry take classes in spells, charms, potions, herbalism, planetary correspondences, and the history of magic.  They study divination such as crystal ball scrying, tea leaf reading, dream interpretation, and reading runes.  Students use wands, wear robes, use ‘familiar’ animals, and even dance at the Yule Ball.  Creatures from mythology, such as hippogriffs, basilisks, boggarts, and centaurs, are also mentioned in the series.  The books even contain references to actual historical figures, such as alchemists Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Ptolemy.

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The books also mentioned Nicolas Flamel, the medieval French alchemist who supposedly concocted the Philosopher’s Stone, the key to eternal life.  It is even said that the journey Harry Potter goes though in the series follows the process of creating the Philosopher’s Stone, called The Great Work or The Chemical Wedding, the three process Black Phase, White Phase, and Red Phase.  The long Black Phase, representing Harry’s growing knowledge and sorrow about his past, ends with the death of his godfather Sirius “Black”.  The White Phase, when Harry becomes the man he’s supposed to be, ends with the death of Albus Dumbledore (‘albus’ being latin for ‘white’).  The final Red Phase involves Rubeus Hagrid carrying the ‘slain’ Harry in a death march, where ‘rubeus’ is latin for ‘red’.  The end of the series represents the end of the Great Work, when conflict is resolved and the subject of the work is perfected, and Harry has completed his quest.

But because the Harry Potter series contains occult references, does that mean it is anti-Christian?  J.K. Rowling herself has said she is Christian, but did extensive reading on alchemy and other occult themes during the writing of the books.  She mentions The Iliad, the Bible, and even Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Chronicles of Narnia as influences on her work.

 

I like the Harry Potter books/movies, even if I think they contain some pretty dark themes towards the end of the series that may or may not be suitable for all age groups.  But I suppose saying that Harry Potter is a gateway to children exploring the occult would be like saying that any other fantasy book, such as Lord Of The Rings, Snow White, or Peter Pan, would do the same.  I think J.K. Rowling summed it up nicely by saying “You have a perfect right… as every parent does… to decide what your child is exposed to.  You do not have the right to decide what everyone else’s children are exposed to.” (Wiki)

About.com – Harry Potter
Alchemical Symbols in Harry Potter
Harry Potter Alchemy
Wiki – Harry Potter Influences
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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Grimoire

A Grimoire is a book of magic, often containing spells, conjurations, charms, divinations and other occult wisdom.  Grimoires have ancient origins and are thought to have influenced many societies worldwide.

The term grimoire is thought to come from the French word ‘grammaire’ (grammar), which historically was used to describe any book written in Latin or that was hard to understand.  It was only in the 18th century the term gained recognition specifically as a book of magic.

Grimoires have been found worldwide, including the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.  Some grimoires describe how to make protective talismans and amulets, charms for healing illness, finding love, warding off evil, or how to summon and dismiss supernatural entities or beings.  However some grimoires contain information on how to control people or call up evil entities, leading to the negative connotations associated with these books of magic.

It is also thought that due to the powerful language and symbology used within, the grimoire itself contains magical powers.  Historically, the church banned these books of magic, and very few authentic grimoires from history have been preserved.

The Key of Solomon

Some popular grimoires include:

The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses
Originating in the 18th century, this grimoire has spread from Germany to America, influencing Pennsylvania Dutch, African American, Vodou/Hoodoo, and Rastafarian folk-magic cultures.  It contains some Kabbalistic or pseudo-Hebraic mystical symbols and sigils, spirit conjurations and psalms.  Interestingly, the first five books of Moses are traditionally the first five books of the Bible.

The Key of Solomon / Clavis Salomonis
Several books thought to have been written by the biblical King Solomon have been around since at least the first few centuries AD.  The Key of Solomon was thought to have been written in the 14th century, and was translated in the 19th century by a man who heavily influenced the Golden Dawn occult movement.  This inspired the Lesser Key of Solomon, co-written by the famous Aleister Crowley.

The Sworn Book of Honorius / Liber Juratus
This grimoire is attributed to Honorius of Thebes, and is second only to Solomon in terms of notoriety.  A collection of work by several magicians in 13th century Germany, it contains prayers and invocations to receive visions and gain knowledge and wisdom.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage
Written in the mid-15th century, this grimoire was later translated to English and became heavily influential in the Golden Dawn movement and Aleister Crowley’s Themela.  A collection of magical and Kabbalistic secrets, it contains spells to find love, become invisible, and contact one’s guardian angel.  An important source of ceremonial magic.

Sefer Raziel Ha-Malakh Liber Razielis Archangeli

Picatrix
Originally written in Arabic, this grimoire was one of the first books on astrological magic.  It was thought to have been written in the 10th or 11th century, and translated into Latin in 1256.  It became heavily influential on Western magic and was used by many Renaissance mages.

The Three (or Four) Books of Occult Philosophy by Agrippa
Written by German occultist Cornelius Agrippa, these grimoires deal with elemental, celestial and intellectual magic including astrology, Kabbalism, numerology and alchemy.  It is thought that the first three books were written by Agrippa, however the fourth book on spirits, written after his death, is still attributed to him.

Grand Grimoire/The Red Dragon/ Dragon rouge
Considered to be one of the most dangerous grimoires in existence, this book of black magic claims to have been written in the 16th century, but more likely originated in the grimoire boom in 18th century France.  Its main purpose is summoning Lucifer and other demons of hell, and was circulated as far as the French colonies of the Caribbean.

The Magus
A rare grimoire of ceremonial magic, it was written in 1801 by British occultist Francis Barrett.  The Magus discusses alchemy, astrology and the Kabbalah, focusing on 17th century occult science.

Book of Shadows
Probably the most influential grimoire for Wiccans is Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows, originally named Ye Book of Ye Art Magical.  It was thought to have been written by Gardner with his High Priestess Doreen Valiente and perhaps occultist Aleister Crowley.  Gardner claims to have received a copy from a secret coven of witches which he believed to have survived through the centuries.

Originally, there was only one Book of Shadows for every coven, however now that solitary Wicca has risen in popularity, most witches keep some sort of Book of Shadows.  It was also thought that a witch’s Book of Shadows should be destroyed upon their death, protecting their secrets from others.  Today, most Book of Shadows (BOS) contain rituals, spells, magical history, rules and reference, as well as a diary of your own magical workings.  Some suggest the BOS should be divided into spell book and magical diary.  It is also suggested that the BOS should be handwritten, as it is thought to imbue personal energy into the text.

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The Grimoire, or Book of Shadows, has achieved cultural recognition and media exposure through shows like Charmed, The Craft, Buffy and Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle.  And while the depictions seen on TV are fictitious, real-life grimoires have preserved the magical and mystical traditions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, influenced the development of science, and had cultural impacts throughout most of the Western world.

Wiki – Grimoire
Wiki – Book of Shadows
Owen Davies Article
Sacred Texts
Top Ten Historical Grimoires
Top Ten Grimoires

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Pagan Paths

Pagan Paths: A Guide to Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, Shamanism and Other Pagan Practices
Pete Jennings

“Paganism, which has its roots in the ancient nature religions, is one of the fastest growing movements in the West today. As such, it is a collection of “spiritual paths” that express their beliefs in subtly different ways, explored here in this illuminating guide. Discover the natural beliefs and practices of Wicca, Hedgewitch traditions, Druidry, Shamanism, Asatru, Mystery Groups, and Eclectic Paganism—as well as the Pagan approach to magic and the significance of sacred lives. Learn how to lead a Pagan lifestyle, and explore the growing role of Paganism in today’s world. Whether you’re setting out on a Pagan path for the first time, or have been committed to one for many years, this informative book will help you in expressing your own beliefs and understanding those of others.” (Amazon)

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I had not heard of Pete Jennings before picking up this book, but I learned he has a strong presence in the UK pagan community.  A High Gothi of his Odinshof group, as well as the retired President of the Pagan Federation, Jennings describes the various pagan paths in an interesting easy-to-read tone.

Chapters include: Festivals of Rites of Passage, Sacred Sites, Hereditary &Traditional Witchcraft, Gardnerian Witchcraft, Alexandrian Wicca, Seax & Progressive Witchcraft, Hedgewitch Traditions, Druidry, Asatru & Northern Tradition, Shamanism, Male & Female Mystery Groups, Electic Paganism & Foreign Traditions, Magical Theory & Ethics, Using Magic, Where Do We Go From Here, and the Future of Paganism. Each chapter ends with a ‘Things to Do’ section with ideas and thoughts.

I thought the chapter on magic was great, describing the types of magic like sympathetic, transference, intuitive, ceremonial, chaos magic, etc.  The chapter on ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ was also interesting, such as living the pagan life, coming out of the broom closet, and the future of paganism in a modern world.  I didn’t particularly like how he’s divided Wicca into different chapters, and I sometimes found the content to be a bit lacking in some chapters.  However I would say this was a worth-while read for a beginner or someone who would just like to learn more about pagan paths.

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways

Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways
Edain McCoy

Sabbats

“Celebrate the eight sacred seasons of the Witches’ year. Mark the passing of time and honor each season with sacred ritual and seasonal craftwork, ancient stories and traditional treats. Create a colorful mask for Samhain, make a honey cake for Imbolg, fashion a chaplet of flowers at Bealtaine, bake a Brigid’s Blackberry Pie for Lughnasadh, even accompany your sabbat festivities with music from eight traditional musical scores – it’s easy with Sabbats as your guide.  Learn how to combine old customs with new expressions of your beliefs and your chosen tradition. Deepen your connection to the turning of the wheel as you celebrate the eight sacred seasons of the Witches’ year.” (Wiccan Way)

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McCoy’s Sabbats is full of information on history, traditions, songs, craft and recipe ideas for every Sabbat.  Her writing style is informal, enjoyable, and easy to read.  There’s also a reference section in the back that goes into more detail about ritual construction, correspondences, pagan merchants and more.

However one main drawback I found is that there is no verifiable data or sources/footnotes for much of what she says.  I found a lot of her comments and descriptions were based on opinion or inferences, rather than fact.

I think this book would be good for a beginner or someone who would be interested in craft and recipe ideas for running your own Sabbat or seasonal party, but for an in-depth study on the Wheel of the Year, you could probably find a more complete (and verifiable!) source elsewhere.

© A Year And A Day (2013)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft

“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft”
Denise Zimmermann , Katherine Gleason

This guide offers a beginner’s look at the history of paganism, Wicca, and
witchcraft, from the Druids and Celts to the witches of today who practice an
earth-based religion, cast spells, and perform natural magic. The book, written
by a practicing witch, reveals details of the witches’ sabbats, ceremonies, and
altars. (Amazon)

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I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book, however after a recommendation from a friend, I had a look and decided it was worthwhile.  Packed full of information, the Complete Idiots Guide is a complete ‘how to’ of beginning your wiccan path.  It includes sections on the history and basics of wicca, wiccan deities, witches code of conduct, magick, ritual, esbats, sabbats, and even astrology, correspondances, divination, crystals, herbs, oils and spells.  The last chapter includes a ‘year and a day’ study structure to follow.

I feel that while this book is all-encompassing, it might be too much so, in the way that very beginners might be confused by the amount of knowledge.  New witches might think they should be able to create notions, potions and powders easily, and know by heart whether to summon, stir or call the different entities.

I wouldn’t say it was my favourite ‘wicca 101’ book, and some of its content was quite dry and sometimes questionable, but I will definatley hold onto this book as a reference.  A worthwhile read.

© A Year And A Day (2012)

Circle of Three – Merry Meet & Second Sight

Merry Meet – Circle of Three (Book 2)

Joined together, hand in hand, our circle gathers round, to work our magic, weave the web, and dance on sacred ground. By the Goddess we are called, witch to witch and friend to friend, to merry meet, and merry part and merry meet again.

A book of spells brought three unlikely friends; Kate, Annie and Cooper together. Now the three of them are compelled to learn more, and the door is opened with the stirring ritual of the Vernal Equinox.

Second Sight – Circle of Three (Book 3)

Show me places cloaked in secrets, pierce the gloom of darkest night.  Reveal that which has been hidden, let me see with second sight. 

Kate, Annie, and Cooper are Wiccans-joined together by magic, bound to nature. Their dreams have turned to visions of a missing girl who is presumed dead, and is now calling for their help. Can the three of them solve mystery surrounding her kidnapping.

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The Circle of Three series, starting with So Mote It Be, are enjoyable quick reads.  So its no surprise I finished the next two in quick sequence.  And that makes sense because they are for young adults.

Merry Meet, the second book in the series, was a very good follow-up and almost better then the first.  It follows the three unlikely friends, popular Kate, shy Annie, and rebellious Cooper, through their discovery of Wicca.  This time they meet up with a coven and learn more about the Craft, meeting new friends along the way.  It definately has a high school feel, with the ‘he said she said’ drama, but as they ARE high schoolers, I will let it go 😉

The third book, Second Sight, sees the three friends contnue on their journey, but takes on a darker feel as a girl at their school goes missing.  This is the first book written in the point of view of Cooper, not Kate.  Which was good because I felt I got to know the ‘mysterious’ Cooper a little better – and found that I probably related to her most of the three.  To be honest, I didn’t like this book as much as the first two, not because its darker, but because it seems a bit far fetched in the kidnapping/investigation ‘thriller’ theme.  But I am not a huge fan of the thriller/mystery genre to begin with.

All in all, I will continue to read the Circle of Three series, as they are quick enjoyable reads.  And after Fifty Shades of Grey, its time for me to read some G-rated fiction!

So Mote It Be – Circle of Three (Book 1)

So Mote It Be – Circle of Three (Book 1) ” Isobel Bird

Kate Morgan, a 16-year-old, popular basketball player, is assigned a term paper on the witch trials of the 17th century.  Amongst the pile of books she checks out of the library, she finds an actual spellbook.  Skeptical at first, she decides to try a love spell to attract the football-playing senior of her dreams.  When the spell goes haywire — earning her the attentions of every guy in school and the ire of all their girlfriends — she begins wishing that magic wasn’t real after all! (Witchy Books Network)

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“So Mote It Be”, Book 1 of the Circle of Three series for young adults, was a quick and enjoyable read.  Although it dealt with actual wiccan practices, it was told in a ‘real world’ type of teenager environment.  No talking cats or flying broomsticks.  The wicca itself was fairly basic, which is to be expected of a young adult book.  The main character Kate, a popular jock, finds herself becoming interested in wicca for reasons she can’t explain.  Along the way she befriends the unlikely, a shy bookworm Annie and rebellious (riot grrrl-esque) Cooper.  Together they form a friendship that takes them through their spiritual journey and the trials and tribulations of high school.

Even though the books are now out of print (I have an eBook version), I plan on reading the rest of the series.  A very enjoyable read.

© A Year And A Day (2012)