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A Conversation with Virginia Bell, author of Midlife Is Not a Crisis

Enjoy the conversation below with Virginia Bell, author of Midlife Is Not a Crisis.


What does the Saturn Return mean? You hear that term a lot.

Every year we have a Solar Return or what is commonly known as our birthday. The sun returns to where it was at birth. The planet Saturn takes 29 years to return to where it began at birth. At 29 we have our Saturn birthday or Saturn Return. Saturn is that planet of reality, responsibility, hard work, maturity; around 29 we tend to get serious and make a commitment. Maybe we go into business for ourselves, get married, start a family, get sober, or go back to school. If we’re doing it right we work hard and mature in the process. We build something that will come to define us. Our thirties are our Saturn years. It’s the first life cycle and lays the foundation for whatever follows.

How did you get involved in astrology?

I’ve always been interested in astrology; in fact I had an astrologer on staff at my restaurant (he ate in exchange for readings) but I always thought of astrology as simply a form of prediction (as in, when will this crisis be over?). It wasn’t until I read Steven Forrest’s book, The Inner Sky, that I realized it was so much more. From then on, I was hooked.

What’s the difference between a sun sign column you read in the paper and having an actual reading with an astrologer?

The sun sign columns are based on one thing—the sun. Now, the sun is the most important symbol in the horoscope so it carries a lot of weight, which is why those columns are often spot on. But it’s not the only thing in the horoscope. Your individual chart is a picture of the sky at the moment you were born and includes the sun, moon plus eight other planets. All those planets are in a sign and a house (an area of the sky). An astrologer blends all that information to give you an in-depth analysis. It’s like getting a (cosmic) DNA test, so to speak.

What about all these new planets being discovered? Does that change the chart?

Yes and no. There are lots of new planets but until astrologers have enough information about them they probably won’t include them in a reading. Chiron was discovered in 1977 and many astrologers (myself included) use Chiron. Sedna and Eris are two newer planets. Sedna was discovered in 2003; Eris in 2005. Some astrologers do use them. There’s already a great deal of information to cover and sometimes it can be confusing for a client.

There are a lot of generalizations in astrology. How can all Scorpios (for instance) be sexy and secretive?

The sun is the biggest ingredient in the recipe, so to speak, but it is flavored by other ingredients. Scorpios are intense but if someone has a moon in cozy Cancer or a gentle Pisces rising, then that will influence them greatly.

What exactly is astrology?

Astrology is a system or language that uses symbols; the sun, moon, planets, signs, houses and aspects. These symbols relate to different parts of our self as well as our past and our future. An astrologer interprets these symbols to discover our strengths, gifts, and goals as well as our weaknesses and how to heal them. The birth chart is a map of the heavens; a powerful tool for self-discovery and a guide to becoming actualized.

When did astrology begin?

Since the beginning of time humans have gazed up at the heavens in search of meaning. No written records exist to tell us the exact moment astrology began, but we do know that it was in the ancient Middle Eastern city of Sumer in southern Mesopotamia that a primitive form of astrology was first discovered. Astrology has been an integral part of every great civilization, from the Greeks and Romans to the Chinese, Egyptians, and Hindus. Today astrology is flourishing in the 21st Century; thanks to the Internet, astrology is more popular than ever.

Why do so many people read their horoscopes?

Life is challenging; I think people want to read something positive and uplifting. In a way it takes us out of our ordinary world; it brings a bit of magic and mystery, even for a few moments.

How much astrology does someone need to know to understand this book?

None at all. The book is based on the generational life cycles we all share at the same age, such as the Saturn Return at 29 and midlife, etc. I do have an overview of astrology in the beginning explaining the planets, signs, houses, and many astrological terms. But it comes with a warning: astrology is addictive. It is an ancient language; one that includes mythology, gods and goddesses who, by the way, are far more exciting than reality stars. It can be very seductive.

What about people born the same day, same year? Are those people alike?

There would be some parallels, yes, but since they aren’t born at the same exact time, there would also be differences. It’s called an astrological twin. Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born same day, same year. So were Angelina Jolie and Russell Brand.

The English Magic Tarot – Weiser’s First Major Tarot Deck in Over 40 Years!

October marks a very important month for Weiser Books with the release of our first major Tarot deck in over 40 years.  The English Magic Tarot, available everywhere books are sold, is a unique Tarot deck based on the English magical tradition.  This turbulent period of Henry VIII to the Restoration provides the perfect setting for this deck. The contributors, artist Rex Van Ryn, colorist Steve Dooley, and writer Andy Letcher provide a dynamic graphic style and plenty of twists and turns, riddles and more.

englishmagictarot_setup_web

The English Magic Tarot is Weiser’s first major Tarot deck since our involvement with Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot in the 1970s.  It has so much going for it, that’s it hard to know where to start.  What drew me into the project at first was the art by Rex Van Ryn and the coloring by Steve Dooley.  It immediately reminded me of a graphic novel, and I knew that it would appeal not only to our traditional Weiser audience but to fans of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore as well.  Then as I began reading Andy Letcher’s text, I knew for sure it was something that only Weiser could publish. Setting the cards in the Elizabethan era allows for magician John Dee to play a central role in the deck, bringing in elements of the Cabbala, Alchemy, Enochian Magic that foreshadow the work of Eliphas Levi, A.E. Waite, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and even Crowley. In many ways English magic is Weiser magic.  The Foreword by Philip Carr-Gomm is an added bonus, and I haven’t even mentioned the riddles, arcane symbolism, and hidden messages encoded in the cards — but you’ll need to discover and decode those for yourself,” Michael Kerber, president of Red Wheel/Weiser, said about the deck.

Now for a little background on where the deck originated. The creators, Rex, Steve and Andy, all reside in a magical little town called Chagford, in Dartmoor, England. Rex and Steve met over ten years ago while walking, and Andy moved to Chagford more recently. Steve describes how they all became involved with this project as “fortuitous” and they “were all bound to meet and work together.”

The English Magic Tarot has been the subject of Tarot forums and websites well before it was released. Now available, the praise continues to flow in. It’s proving to be much more than just “another Tarot deck” and claiming its spot as a distinctive deck that many admire.

Tarot has become wildly popular over the last couple of years. Many collect decks for the often unique artwork and to add to their ever growing collections, while for others, it is about utilizing the Tarot as a form of divination; performing daily readings for others and themselves.

Judika Illes, Tarot reader and author of The Weiser Book of the Fantastic and Forgotten, The Big Book of Practical Spells and many others, had the pleasure of using The English Magic Tarot deck for readings during the SIBA 2016 show.  Her experience with them was certainly a positive one.

“I recently had the opportunity to read with The English Magic Tarot in a professional setting. This was at a conference and people I had never previously met lined up for readings. Experienced card readers know that there are brilliant Tarot decks and then there are brilliant Tarot decks that work. I was so pleased and delighted to see how well The English Magic Tarot works as a divination tool. It offers new and insightful perspectives, while maintaining the reliability of its RWS roots.”

Courtney Weber, author of Tarot for Oneutilizes the Tarot for her daily practice, and teaches others to do the same.

“Tarot has always carved lines of understanding in chaotic, transitory periods. In the kind of tumultuous, uncertain times we are currently experiencing, I believe people crave perspective. I also think people are finding more spiritual fulfillment in private, personal outlets. The Tarot provides all of that, offering direction in moments of confusion.”

The English Magic Tarot is a deck for all, whether you’re brand new to the Tarot or a seasoned pro, this deck offers something for everyone.

The Black & White Magickal Dichotomy

by John L. Steadman

In H. P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition, I define black magick as simply magic performed for the purposes of gaining knowledge and/ or power, as opposed to white magick, which is centered on the goal of spiritual attainment.  It is scarcely necessary to observe that this distinction has no connection with any concepts of morality, or with simplistic notions of “good” or “evil”.  And certainly, black magick should not be understood as evil, nor should white magick be interpreted as good.  In Lovecraft’s fictional works, his view of the magickian is definitely black, but not necessarily evil.  Lovecraft’s magickal practitioners perform their craft either to gain knowledge or power; the fact that some of these practitioners end up becoming evil is largely beside the point.  For example, Joseph Curwen, in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927), performs necromancy to raise the spirits of dead persons; this activity is not inherently evil.  However, Curwen also commits wholesale murder; this, of course, classifies him as an evil man. Thus, the goodness or the wickedness of Curwen is based almost exclusively on his behavior and not on his beliefs.

Two prominent magickal practitioners have elaborated on the black/white dichotomy in magick and tried to widen the traditional views of magick by arguing that magickal practice should embrace the whole spectrum of colors.  The late Isaac Bonewits, founder of Ar nDraiocht Fein, the largest neopagain Druid organization in the world, in Real Magic (1993), Chapter Five, “Black Magic, White Magic, and Living Color,” argues that magickal practice can be defined to correspond to the psychic energies fields , or so-called auras, that are presumed to surround the human body. Bonewits’ system of correspondences introduces a variety of different “types” of magick: red magic, orange magic, yellow magic, green magic, blue magic, indigo magic, purple magic, ultraviolet magic (which he further identifies with traditional black magick), and brown magic.  But Bonewits himself rightly admits that magick, in itself, has no color and that his system is merely a series of associational devices.

The Black & White Magickal Dichotomy

As we examine the different types, it becomes apparent that such a classification is an unnecessary complication and elaboration, since each type of magick can be placed into the two categories that I identified in the previous paragraph.  Red magic, for example, involves blessings and curses; this is, obviously, magick performed for knowledge or power.  Indigo magic, on the other hand, is performed to control the weather, or to astral travel; again, this is magick performed for knowledge or power.  Blue magic, unlike the others, focuses on religion and spirituality in part, and thus, this type of magick could be interpreted as white magick.  After perusing all of the different types of magic articulated by Bonewits, it quickly becomes clear that such an elaboration is not necessary at all; the black/white dichotomy, as defined previously, is sufficient.

Peter J. Carroll, author of Liber Null & Psychonaut (1987) and Liber Kaos (1992), and Chancellor of Arcanorium College and Past Grandmaster of IOT Pact, posits a similar system in Liber Kaos, Part 2: The Psychonomicon, Chapter 4: Eight Magics.  Here, Carroll raises the issue of auric energy fields, just as Bonewits did, but then he sensibly drops this issue, seeing that auric fields are largely irrelevant to magickal practice, and argues instead that there are eight different types of “magics”, as he calls them, which can be attributed to the seven classical planets, plus Uranus, and which signify emotional states.  Carroll’s list is certainly creative: he gives us octarine magic (an instinctive drive toward magic); black magic (destruction and entropy), blue magic (material wealth); red magic (combat and aggression); yellow magic (changes to the ego or personality; illumination); green magic (love magic); orange magic (wit and intellect); and purple magic (sex magic).

All of these categories, however, can be placed into either the white or black categories and thus, Carroll’s system is, like Bonewits’ system, an are an unnecessary elaboration.  Yellow magick is clearly white magick, while the other seven colors are focused on black magick, i.e. on power, knowledge, or a combination of the two.

For more discussion of the black-white magickal dichotomy in Lovecraft’s work, as well as a full examination of Lovecraft’s connection with the great black magickal systems in the western world, the Vodou cults, the Wiccan religion, the Typhonian order, the Church of Satan and the Chaos Magick Pacts, please read H. P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition, released by Weiser Books on September 1, 2015


John L. Steadman is the author of H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition, a scholar of H. P. Lovecraft and western occultism and has been a magickal practitioner for more than thirty years. He is currently a college English professor at Olivet College in Michigan.

New Planets and Old Lore

By Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

I have a new book out called Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans, and in the last few days I have received many questions and comments at workshops and in emails on the discovery of a new planet in our solar system. Some have asked about the meaning of the new planet. Others have implied or directly stated that every new astronomical discovery overturns Astrology’s claim to wisdom. Here is an answer to these and many other similar questions. Astrology is a sacred science and there is no quick answer to the meaning of another Planet in its canon. Please note that I am capitalizing Planet to distinguish it from its usage as planet in Astronomy. This is not the first time that Astrology has added a new Planet or Asteroid into its system. The process of this addition is slow and messy, much as it is in any science sacred or mundane.

New Planets and Old Lore
© Panpipe

Once we actually know that there truly is a new Planet, so far it is just a mathematical conjecture, then the work can begin. When we know its current position, and the speed and shape of its orbit, Astrologers will begin to add the new Planet into the charts of people whose life histories are well known. By looking at many charts and at crucial periods in their lives we may begin to see clues as to the meaning of the new Planet. Astrologers who are of a more mystical bent may meditate, ask the spirits, commune with their Higher Self, etc. to gain some insight. This insight will then be tested and challenged by a very large community of practitioners. Some Astrologers will try to deduce the qualities by looking at its location in the various theoretical schemes of Astrology. In some regards this is like adding a new element to the periodic table, and some educated guesses can be made.

Here’s two examples of extrapolating upon what is known. We know that the new Planet’s orbit is very far from the Sun and takes somewhere between 10,000 – 20,000 years to complete one cycle. The established pattern in Astrology is that the closer to the Sun and the faster the orbit, the more the Planet is associated with individuals, inherent qualities, and quickly changing events. The farther out and the slower the orbit, the more that it relates to ever-expanding settings such as families, societies, cultures, and so on. Of course large patterns like societies and cultures affect individuals’ lives, but as external events that are internalized. So the new Planet is a probably a marker for very large and very slow cycles. When the new Planet is officially observed, not just calculated, many Astrologer’s will run a chart for that moment of discovery for clues about the qualities of the new Planet. Another chart will be created when it is officially named as well. My pick for a name is Xibalba.

When will we know what this new Planet means and how and where it fits into Astrology? This could take a few decades or even a century or so to achieve general agreement in the field of Astrology. There will be a plethora  of papers, talks given at national and international conferences, numerous debates, predictions will be made and tested as we know more. Finally, we’ll reach a tipping point when more and more Astrologers use the new Planet in the charts they construct and there will be enough data and real life experience to add it to the accepted lore.

For Astrologers, new discoveries in Astronomy are welcome opportunities to expand a system of sacred science that has been evolving and changing for thousands of years.


Ivo Domínguez, Jr. has been active in the Wiccan and the pagan community since 1978 and has been teaching since 1982. He was a founding member, and past High Priest, of Keepers of the Holly Chalice, the first coven of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel a Wiccan Tradition. Ivo is also one of the organizers for the New Alexandrian Library. You can find him at http://www.ivodominguezjr.com.

Ivo’s books

Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans | Casting Sacred Space