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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in fantasy

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Esoteric Secrets of Fantasy Books

Kat and I are reading Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling right now. It's a classic Fantasy story, but what I find interesting is that in the first chapter, if you know what to look for, you discover a lot of esoteric and occult practices shared with the protagonists of the story, and this sharing continues throughout the rest of the book. It's a subtle way to teach magic to readers. Given when the book was written, the author needed to be subtle about it, but what fascinates me is that even to this day you can still find a number of fantasy writings where esoteric ideas and secrets are shared if you know what to look for. And if you don't know what to look for, well guess what? You're being given an education in magic and how it works so that if you get to that point where you actually start practicing you've already got some idea of how magic seems to work.

Kat and I like to discuss the books we are reading together, so we got into a long and fascinating conversation about not only Rudyard Kipling, but some of those writers who've written esoteric secrets into their fantasy. For example, if you've read any of Michael Moorcock's writings you'll find quite a lot of esoteric secrets shared. In Elric of Melnibone, he practically spells how to evoke an entity in several different instances where the character needs supernatural aide. In the Corum series, he focuses in on the magical aspects of gift giving and the connections gods have to people and vice versa. And there's a number of other series he writes in where he shares esoteric ideas and concepts, which I recognize many years later as playing a foundational role in my understanding of magic. As a young, impressionable reader the stories I read fascinated me because of the adventure, but as a magician I can see how my evocation practice has been shaped by what Moorcock wrote, as well as some of other esoteric beliefs and practices.

Raymond Feist is another author who mixes in esoteric ideas and practices in his books. For the most part his ideas are more metaphysically oriented, but there a few magical ideas I've gotten from reading his works, especially as it relates to energy work and the nature of reality and other planes of existence. Then there's the Deathgate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, where they share some useful ideas about working with probabilities via sigils and sound magic. Admittedly those aren't standard esoteric secrets, but you can get a lot from the ideas and turn them into workable magical practices if you're willing to engage the material with an eye toward applying it to magical work. William S. Burroughs also integrates magical techniques into his writing. In fact, all of his writing is essentially a magical technique in and of itself. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Title: A Feral Darkness

Publisher: Blue Hound Visions

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A few weeks ago, I listed some of the best Pagan-authored and Pagan-friendly fantasies that I had read, to date. I am happy to report that I can now add two more titles to that list.

First is Apex Magazine. I downloaded a one hundred page sampler and was immediately hooked. Every issue -- and the publication is up to number fifty-two -- contains short fiction, poetry, essays and interviews. Many of the pieces which have appeared in Apex draw heavily on mythology and folklore, and feature Gods, Goddesses, monsters, tricksters, and heroes both familiar and strange. For example, Elizabeth Bear's "The Leavings of the Wolf" (Norse myth), "The Moon to Sappho" by Sonya Taafe, "Kamer-taj, The Moon-Horse" by Dr. Ignacz Kunos, and "Coyote Gets His Own Back" by Sarah Monette.

I highly recommend that anyone interested download the sampler issue, or browse the listings on the Apex site, Amazon or Barnes and Noble and get the issue that most interests you. Newer issues are only a few dollars a piece, with older issues are a very reasonable .99 cents. There are also collections, such as The Book of Apex and The Apex Book of World SF.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thanks for this updated list (and the original)! Jane Yolen in general is ALWAYS an excellent read, and she respects her source ma
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing! I'll check it out.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Fantasy as a genre can be tad difficult to define.To paraphrase Wikipedia, a fantasy is any story which employs magic and/or "other supernatural phenomena" as a driving force of plot, theme or setting; and, like science fiction, fantasy tales are often set somewhere-other-than-here-and-now. Fantasy has something in the neighborhood of a dozen sub genres, depending on how one counts -- high fantasy, epic fantasy, sword-and-sandal fantasy, feminist fantasy, eco-fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, et cetera and so on. It also mixes well with other genres; consider how many fantasy romances and magical mysteries are on the market. 

Fantasy is a very Pagan-friendly genre. By its very definition, it contains elements which are of central importance to our communities. Pull nearly any fantasy novel off the shelf, and you will find polytheism, environmentalism, "alternative" and "mainstream" sexualities, gender (re)construction, fantastic creatures, magic, and I could go on.

While the genre itself may be Pagan-friendly, that is not the case with every individual title.* Quite a few books treat the Gods as jokes or caricatures, tart up the female characters for the sake of titillation, engage in gross stereotyping or -- sorry -- are just plain badly written.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Over the last few weeks, some of the bloggers at the Pagan Channel on Patheos have been posting short explanations as to how and why they became Pagan. I'll tackle that question, too, but in a manner more appropriate to this column: as a life-long bibliophile, books have had a huge influence on my spiritual development. The genres, target audience, and quality of those books have varied widely; the majority were not even aimed specifically at Pagans. Nonetheless, during my formative years (say, childhood through mid-adolesence), these books contributed to thoroughly corrupting me.

Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, for instance, which I first found at the public library as a child, lost track of, then rediscovered in the tiny children's section in my college library. I adore the artwork, and I love how Foster interweaves the personal histories of ordinary people with those of major personages and important events. It was this book which first made me a fan of Cleopatra, and led me to further explore women's history and the religions of the ancient world.

Everyone should have at least one copy of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm on their shelves. At least one. I need to explain why? Magic, derring do, adventure, magic, powerful women, brave princesses, magic, villains, talking animals, and so on and so forth. Grimm collections, along with Perrault, Andersen, Lang, and others, inspire awe and curiosity. They keep alive in us a vital sense of wonder and awe without which we are blind to the mysteries and beauties of the world. 

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Title: The Legend of Bold Riley

Publisher: Northwest Press

Creator: Leia Weathington

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

In my last post, I discussed a few of my favorite nonfiction Goddess Spirituality texts; and those were only a few of the many, many books available on the subject. This time, we'll look at some of the fiction books which focus on Goddesses, the Goddess, and Goddess Spirituality. They include children's picture books, graphic novels, romance novels, fantasy, and science fiction.* 

First is the picture book, Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave, by Mariana Mayer and KY Craft. Baba Yaga is an amorphous figure from Russian lore who is sometimes a Goddess, sometimes a malevolent figure, sometimes a shamanic guide, sometimes a witch, sometimes all four and more at once. Here, she reluctantly takes in the young Vasilisa, a courageous and clever girl eager to learn everything Baba Yaga can teach her. The Russian hag is a terrifying figure, making this book an excellent way to introduce children to more frightening Goddesses, or aspects of the Goddess. 

The Books of Great Alta by Jane Yolen is an omnibus edition containing Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. In this epic fantasy, twice-orphaned Jenna is taken in by an Amazon-like community, learns to call forth her dark twin Skada by the light of the moon, makes war, takes a lover, adopts an orphaned one-armed girl as her own child, and faces death heroically. Yolen takes an unusual approach to the tale: she uses poems, anthropological reports, songs, garbled fragments of myths, and elegant prose to tell the story of Jenna and Dark Skada. This book had a huge impact on my teen self, and was definitely an influence on my later writing. 

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