Speculative Pagan

I read just about anything so long as it's good! 

An overview of reviews

The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature - Emma Restall Orr

Below are a selection of comments on The Wakeful World, as quoted on the publisher's website.


This original and lively book challenges the prevailing worldviews of materialism and dualism, outlines the alternatives, presenting animism as a radically different, yet mature and coherent philosophy. ~ Gaia Media


Emma Restall Orr explores the subject of Animism using examples from Western Culture that we can all relate to. Restall Orr takes us on a romp through history to look at the opinions of great philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle, to name a couple. A very thought provoking and insightful piece of work. ~ Tracey Roberts, Kitchen Witch School of Natural Witchery


Emma Restall Orr has accomplished a most difficult task: combining academic-quality research with an accessible and compelling narrative. The concepts of animism, panpsychism, and mind in nature are all explored with great dexterity and insight. The Wakeful World offers a fascinating and powerful vision of animism for the present day — a vision that promises to reconnect us to the living Earth. ~ David Skrbina PhD, Author of Panpsychism in the West


"The Wakeful World" sets out to map a philosophical grounding for contemporary animism, and as both an animist and philosopher, Restall Orr is well placed to draw such a map. The result is more than a provocative and thoughtful model of how philosophy can illuminate our understanding of animism: Restall Orr's animist perspective returns the favour, opening up new horizons for philosophy itself. ~ Adrian Harris PhD, Ecopsychologist and founder of the Dragon Environmental Network


This original and lively book brings back animism - a most useful range of ideas which reductivists have somewhat wildly abandoned during the last century - into focus once more just when it is badly needed to cure current confusions about mind and body. In clear, contemporary language Emma Restall Orr deploys a new vision of this distracted scene that will surely prove really helpful. ~ Dr Mary Midgley, Moral Philosopher


In a mindful encounter between herself (her self) and the wider worlds of nature and scholarly debate, Emma Restall Orr contributes philosophically, provocatively and proactively to current debates about animism and panpsychism. She does far more than survey the scenery, she leads us on a journey towards re-integration within a self-aware cosmos full of engaging subjects. New science and ancient philosophy contribute to her careful and grounded consideration of the value of being a thoughtful animist today.

~ Graham Harvey, Reader in Religious Studies, The Open University Author of Animism: Respecting the Living World. 

Of knights and hags

Kissing the Hag - Emma Restall Orr

Gawain and the Loathly Lady, Or Gawain and Lady Ragnell (various spellings available) is a classic Arthurian myth. There’s a story here about honour, a challenge, a riddle. Arthur’s knights must discover what it is that women really want, or Arthur will be in all kinds of trouble. It’s a story that, in a world where we still insist men are from Mars and women are from Venus, strikes chords. That women make no sense to men, and that men cannot expect to make any sense of women is a longstanding myth, and it is central to Gawain and the Loathly Lady, and to Kissing the Hag.


A rather hideous crone of a woman offers to answer the riddle, if only a handsome knight will commit to marrying her. Out of chivalry, and love for King Arthur, Sir Gawain offers to be the bridegroom. (Given how much time Gawain spends kissing men in other adventures, whole other interpretations are clearly available). The Loathly Lady announces that what women want is to always have their own way. Simple! Arthur’s problem is solved, violence is averted, the wedding is on.


The Lady then reveals that she can either be beautiful by day and ugly by night, or ugly by day and beautiful by night, and Gawain can choose. Of course the real question is, which is more important to him; the social advantages of a publically beautiful wife, or the sexual advantages of a privately beautiful wife. Being the courteous chap that he is, Gawain says that it should be for his wife to choose. This changes the game, and she undertakes to be beautiful for him full time.


Emma Restall Orr takes this myth and explores it by looking at aspects of womanhood that are deemed socially unacceptable, and looking at how those play out in our lives, and offering broader ways of thinking about archetypes like the bitch, the witch, the frigid virgin, the mother and so forth. It’s a book that conveys a number of interesting ideas, and brings home the degree to which all femininity has tended to be unacceptable in western culture. We pathologize both the bodily and emotional experiences of women.
Women who read this will likely find reflections of their own experiences, and of the parts of themselves they keep tidily locked away in order to be socially acceptable. I find it somewhat troubling that the book blurb contains the phrase “It is also a book written for men fascinated but infuriated by the women they love.” Is it the case that all women can only ever be alien and other to the men in their lives? Might there be more fluidity, more room for different kinds of femininity, and for more understanding between genders? How much of the unacceptable nature of womanhood is a consequence of the ways in which masculinity is constructed by our societies?

And what about Gawain, in the end? The man who respects his bride enough to recognise that it really should be down to her to decide who she is going to be and when. He doesn’t have the right to demand her to be a certain kind of person in public, or a certain kind of person in his bed. He recognises that what she gives him in this regard should be her gift to him. In returning the right to choose to his wife, Gawain transforms their relationship, and it’s worth noting that he gets everything his way because of this. Not by fighting, or any form of dominance or control, but because when there is mutual respect, things work out better all round. If the men in your life are determined to control you, it’s hard to be anything other than either a doormat, or a loathly lady. Women who are honoured can, in whatever way they see fit, be beautiful in all things.

Kissing the Hag is a powerful expression of trapped and restricted femininity. It expresses very clearly what femininity under control looks like, and why that will drive a person mad. There are some powerful lessons here.

A brief history of a key druid text

Spirits of the Sacred Grove - Emma Restall Orr Spirits of the Sacred Grove - Emma Restall Orr Druid Priestess: An Intimate Journey Through the Pagan Year - Emma Restall Orr

Spirits of the Sacred Grove was first published under that title in 1998. In 2001, Thorsons republished it under the title of ‘Druid Priestess’ and in 2014 it was re-released under the original title again, by Moon Books. At this point it became available in ebook form for the first time.


This is less a how-to book, more an experiential piece from one of the most significant figures in turn of the century British Druidry. It gives a strong sense of lived Druidry and personal experience, and is a text that has influenced a great many students of Druidry. There is an animist language and a way of speaking about sacred space and experience that has shaped the writing of many of the Druid authors who have since followed in her footsteps.


Emma Restall Orr (also widely known as Bobcat) was at the time of writing this book, a Druid with an international reputation. In recent years she has apparently stepped away from the term ‘Druid’ to explore mysticism.


 Emma Restall Orr worked for the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids and was Joint Chief of the British Druid Order for nearly ten years. In 2002 she founded the international Druid Network which, by gaining status as a religious charity in 2010, changed the legal definition of religion in Britain. She is celebrated for her uncompromising views on ethics, environmentalism and personal responsibility, and does still give public talks on occasion.


I've tagged the other incarnations of this book for clarity.

A bad witch reviews

Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living - Melusine Draco

When Lucya reviewed this book, it had been published under a different title - Mean Streets Witchcraft. It's now part of Melusine Draco's traditional witchcraft series at Moon Books, with the title 'Traditional Witchcraft for urban Living'

Source: http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2011/02/review-mean-streets-witchcraft.html

A kitchen witch reviews...

Shaman Pathways - Aubry's Dog: Power Animals In Traditional Witchcraft - Melusine Draco

Author and Kitchen Witch Rachel Patterson has reviewed this book on her blog - the whole thing is available via the link.


"Another wonderful Shaman Pathways book by Melusine Draco. Packed full of information about man’s best friend it covers the history of the dog, all sorts of associated herbs, using dog medicine in spell workings and creating amulets and talismans. Lots of charms and folklore is included too along with very interesting healing information. I also loved the section on shape shifting. Very interesting for anyone interested in utilising the power of dog energy."

Source: http://kitchenwitchuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/shaman-pathways-aubrys-dog.html

Truth from the dark side

Pagan Portals - Spellbook & Candle: Cursing, Hexing, Bottling & Binding - Melusine Draco

The 20th century witchcraft revival saw a lot of effort put into good PR - and necessarily so. As witchcraft emerged from under a shadow of mistrust to become something more socially acceptable, the idea that witches are basically good people was something we all heard a lot about.


We do good, kind, benevolent white magic, not nasty evil black path stuff.


Or as it's more often put, an it harm none, do what you will.


The truth of magical history is not as squeaky clean. There is plenty of evidence that people in the past - who may or may not have self identified as witches - did a lot of cursing. As writing it down is a popular method, there's some pretty clear and detailed evidence out there for curses. Whether we like them or not, they are part of the history of people doing magic, and for that reason alone we ought to be talking about them.


This a brave book, in that it tackles the issue of cursing head on, and pulls no punches. It looks at how, and why and when. Cursing is not as ethical simple as you might first think. When there is no justice available, seeking a bit of poetical justice by magic has, if you will excuse the turn of phrase, a certain charm. When the system is corrupt, when someone has wronged you and holds all the power, when you have no witnesses to support you, then terrible things can be got away with. There's a case to make for using curses at times such as these.


There's also a saying that if you don't know how to curse, you don't know how to cure. A person who will only deal with love and light and unicorns is perhaps not equipped to deal with everything they might encounter in this life. To understand how and when and why people resort to curses is to know something of the human condition that can serve you well, regardless of whether you want to be working with deliberate malevolence.


this is not the most comfortable book ever written - and rightly so, but if you are interested in traditional magic, it's well worth a read.

Spirituality Without Structure: The Power of Finding Your Own Path - Nimue Brown

I did this interview with Annika a while ago, she was a delight to talk to, it was a really interesting process. Annika has quite a lot of videos on youtube, it's well worth having a poke around because she'd sharing an array of stuff, and her craft work is splendid too!

A Kitchen Witch's World of Magical Herbs & Plants - Rachel Patterson

Rachel's video to accompany her book on Magical plants and herbs.

Bad Witch reviews

Pagan Portals - Kitchen Witchcraft: Crafts of a Kitchen Witch - Rachel Patterson

Lucya may claim to be a bad witch, but she's an excellent reviewer.

Blogging witch reviews kitchen witch

A Kitchen Witch's World of Magical Food - Rachel Patterson

Siobhan is a blogger who regularly reviews Pagan titles. She was very taken with this book - "This is not just a cookbook, it also has guides to eating seasonally, brewing magical recipes, and has massive correspondence list for all kind of edibles."

Commentary from Pagan authors

Pagan Portals - Moon Magic - Rachel Patterson

An array of comments from Pagan authors in response to Rachel Patterson's Moon Magic book...



Pagan Portals is, as the name suggests, a series of books (by various authors) with the aim of introducing various aspects of Paganism. Moon Magic seems a staple in this diet, as there are few branches of Paganism that don’t require at least some familiarity with the cycles of the moon. My initial concern is that this book may have little to offer the experienced practitioner. Just looking at the contents page dispels these fears instantly. Not only does Rachel (also known as Tansy Firedragon) cover what I would think of as ‘The Basic’ such as the phases of the moon, Esbats and some of the more well-known moon rituals, she also brings a fascinating amount of detail including working with cords, charms and supernatural creatures. So rubbing my hands together gleefully at the prospect of learning something new about my favourite satellite, I dive right in. Rachel writes in an accessible style that is very inclusive to readers of all aptitudes. Facts are listed in well written, easy to consume bites, and each section that stems after is broken down in such a way it could almost be used as a reference book. Each moon phase has its own correspondences and magic, so it’s easy enough to flick through to find what you need at a specific time. I would find the information on oils and crystals particularly useful. The meditations included are beautiful; someone really needs to make a podcast of these though so they can be downloaded and played at whim! We move from the phases of the moon into the seasonal moon and examine different ways of using a moon calendar including relating it to the controversial Celtic Tree calendar. I’m glad she includes this though; it shows that moon magic and timings are not just for Wicca, but for any path. I am particularly pleased with the Planting with the Moon chapter; this is such a simple aspect of biodynamic agriculture but so many people forget the impact the Moon has on plants and the soil. I’ve often used lunar agrarian principles for my own garden and others’, but this chapter teaches me things I never knew and will definitely implement myself. This book is very short and as such you really have no excuse to not read it. If you have even the slightest interest in Paganism, Magic, natural living or astrology, this book will be relevant to you. The moon affects all of us, after all! Rachel brings a wealth of information together in such a way that you can go back to this book time and again, without it ever feeling old. The style is simple and full of common sense, yet magical and wondrous at the same time. Quite an achievement. ~ Mabh Savage, http://soundsoftime.wordpress.com/


Moon Magic is a delightful treasury of lore and spiritual musings that should be essential to any planetary magic-worker's reading list. ~ David Salisbury, author of The Deep Heart of Witchcraft


Don't let its length fool you; this little book packs a powerful punch. As full as it could possibly be with useful information and practical activities, Pagan Portals Moon Magic provides a clear and direct interpretation of moon lore. Touching on a wide range of lunar-related subjects from moon-phase correspondences to astrology and Tarot, Rachel Patterson guides the reader through the practical aspects of rituals, spells and meditations based on the moon. The recipes for oils, incense and bath salts add depth and functionality to a book that is a quick read but that won't stay on the shelf for long; the person lucky enough to own a copy will page through it again and again for reference at every phase of the moon. ~ Laura Perry, author of Ariadne's Thread: Awakening the Wonders of the Ancient Minoans in Our Modern Lives


Rachel Patterson has distilled the essence of everything connected with the moon into this wonderful and charming book. Moon phases, rituals, recipes, meditations, deities, power animals, signs, symbols, charms, spells, divination and so much more are tucked carefully within its pages and through it all shines the authors love of working with the moon and moon magic. A delight for everyone who gazes upon the moon and wonders how to work with its immense power ~ Yvonne Ryves, author Shaman Pathways Web of Life

Source: http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-moon-magic

Blog reviews for Hoodoo

Pagan Portals - Hoodoo: Folk Magic - Rachel Patterson

Naomi reviews Hoodoo on her blog, with a sensitive consideration of appropriation and misrepresentation.

Charming and grounded

Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch: An Essential Guide to Witchcraft - Rachel Patterson

This book was my first introduction to Rachel Patterson's work. I self-identify as a Druid, but my interest in folklore includes an interest in folk magic, and Rachel speaks to that in ways I really appreciate. This is magic for people who need to work with what's to hand, and who want magic as part of their normal lives, not so kind of escape. Her work is grounded and accessible. There's a perfect balancing here in terms of knowing what to take seriously, what can be played with, what needs respect and what is best done with a sprinkle of giggles. I have no doubt that it is precisely this mix of warmth, light and sensibleness that makes Rachel's work so very attractive to readers. Little wonder that she's gone on to write a number of very popular titles.


I think if Terry Pratchett’s witches wrote an introduction to magic, it would look a lot like this book. Pragmatic, playful, wise and sprinkled with humour, the author covers a lot of ground and isn’t afraid to use a wooden spoon!


This is the sort of book you can sit down and read cover to cover, or dip in and out of at need. it's full of ideas, but not dogmatic - very much a book for people who want to improvise, innovate, and find things that make sense to them. Suitable for solitaries, or for people who want to share their kitchen, and particularly good for working in a witchy family where younger people want to be included.



A selection of reviews

Pagan Portals - Kitchen Witchcraft: Crafts of a Kitchen Witch - Rachel Patterson

A selection of comments on this book taken from http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-kitchen-witchcraft


The phrase 'Kitchen Witchcraft' conjures up brewing potions and hanging herbs, and while this of course can be the case, the experienced witch knows the kitchen can be the beating heart of their home, where the material and the mystical meld to create magic. Rachel approaches this topic with just such a theory in mind, and makes no assumptions about the level of skill or experience of the reader. It's important to bear in mind that as part of the Pagan Portals series, this book is intended as a brief introduction to Kitchen Witchcraft. Having said that, for such a slim volume, Rachel manages to pack in a great deal of info. She starts by introducing the idea behind kitchen witchcraft, and giving an overview of things that may be needed; tools, ingredients and attitude. Even for the experienced, this is a good reminder and also interesting to gain an insight into what another experienced witch has in their own cupboards, physical and otherwise. The eight big seasonal pagan festivals are discussed with particular focus on what kitchen crafts can be used to celebrate them. In here are correspondences, incenses and many more hands on ways to get your worship on. She also talks about how the differing phases of the moon can affect one's workings, and while this section is a little simplistic for those experienced in moon magic, again, it is a great point of reference and a good reminder of the roots of many more complex types of moon magic. She looks at working with energy, and how to utilise candle magic, from the very simple to the more convoluted spells that can be worked. One of my favourite sections of the book is the meditations in the final chapter. Each one is a different journey for a different purpose, and while each is written as a detailed journey, there is plenty of scope to make the journey your own. Unlike the narrative style which is direct and almost chatty, these written meditations have a wonderful dream like quality which is just perfect for getting you in the right frame of mind for approaching this type of working. Rachel's style is very accessible and conversational. Despite being almost a reference book at times, this short volume is a complete page turner as it is a real pleasure to read. It is as if she is in the room with you, talking you through the ideas that she is obviously passionate about. This is a very modern way of writing about a subject as old as the hills, and will make the subject easy to absorb even for the complete novice. Yet she manages this while making it a perfect refresher for the experienced witch, by including lists, correspondences and ideas from many paths. This could be my favourite point of the book, that Rachel does not assume that you are Wiccan, or indeed of any particular religion at all. Most of the practical tasks in the book could be completed by someone of no religious beliefs at all, as the main focus is on a connection to nature, the world, and one's self. There is no limit to who would enjoy this volume. The only downside is that it is so short, however as an introductory piece, as it is intended, it is absolutely ideal. I will definitely be getting a hold of her larger volume, Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch, to see if the style and themes are expanded upon. Highly enjoyable, and it has inspired me to get back in the kitchen- not something I say every day! ~ Mabh Savage, Pagan author.


Rachel Patterson lives in a city. But she also knows that her home and garden benefit from a little care and attention, on both the material and spiritual levels. A clean kitchen is one thing; a kitchen that is in tune with the seasons and used as a place in which to celebrate the seasonal round - the systole and diastole of winter and summer - is not just clean: it is happy. Rachel's book, Kitchen Witchcraft: Crafts of a Kitchen Witch - part of the Moon Books "Pagan Portals" series - is delightful. She writes with a great sense of fun and real love for the world around us. And the book serves as a sort of primer, a very gentle but effective introduction to the ideas and principles of contemporary paganism. Forget about magical oils made out of bats' wings - today, we use essential oils. They make our candles smell nice. What really works about this book is that it fits in so comfortably with the modern obsession with home improvement and that all important do-it-yourself ethos. Rachel acknowledges, early on, that the kitchen (or hearth) is the heart of the home. It is where our food is prepared and cooked - and often eaten. It is a personal space (most cooks like to work alone) and a convivial space, a place of conversations, hearts-to-hearts. No other room is quite like it. And, like the hearth of old, it needs to look and smell and feel special. We need, in effect, to love our kitchens - and to show that we love them. We need to personalise them: not out of a catalogue, but with our own arts and crafts. There are blessings in this book, and meditations, but nothing remotely "witchy" in the sense of diabolical (and why should there be? - who wants bad spirits running amok in their kitchen?). As with so much that is useful in the pagan world, much of it is just sound psychological common sense, comprising various activities which can put you in a better mood and improve the mood of your environment (the two go hand in hand). At the same time, Rachel Patterson provides quick rundowns of some of the basic elements of the pagan worldview - the regular festivals, the essential elements - and works these into her simple "recipes" for a happy home. Anyone who is offended by anything in Rachel's book has real problems. Only the worst kind of superstition, fostered by indoctrination, could view Kitchen Witchcraft as a menace to Creation. But then, that indoctrination is so often applied by mindsets that are addicted to suffering. Rachel Patterson, in her lovely, short, joyful book, implies that suffering might be natural, but it is not to be encouraged. The kitchen should be a place of life, not death. A few flowers, candles, stones and shells are unlikely to do any harm, and if they improve our relationships with ourselves, with our kitchens and with the world outside, then what's wrong with that? We need more of this sort of thing. ~ Simon Stirling, www.artandwill.blogspot.co.uk



A must have for any kitchen or cottage witch. Love all of easy to find ingredients and the down to earth feel of this book. Rachel Patterson has done an excellent job giving plenty of correspondence's to go by. The spells and recipes are east to adjust to what you have in your own kitchen cabinet. I Can't wait to read more from this Author! Happy reading...Viv ~ Vivienne Moss, Amazon

Source: http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-kitchen-witchcraft

Sleep Paralysis review

Pagan Dreaming: The Magic Of Altered Consciousness - Nimue Brown

A review of my book from Siobhan, which explores the impact some kinds of dream work can have on sleep paralysis. I found this really helpful feedback, as it confirmed a hunch that trying to get in control of our dreams may not be a very good thing at all.

Source: http://adayinthelifeofawitch.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/pagan-dreaming-nimue-brown-trigger-warning-sleep-paralysis
Letters Between Gentlemen - Tom Brown, Nimue Brown, Professor Elemental

it is, without a doubt, a very silly book.