As I write this, I am sitting in the midst of a hell of boxes and bubble wrap but all is not lost. The movers come soon and, by the time you read this, I will be back in Georgia, visiting with the in-laws and waiting for my household goods to arrive from New York. The New Year has brought great change into my life but I am hopeful that this change will be for the better.
Despite the chaos of the move, I’ve still managed to take a little down time and just finished reading a book titled
by the neo-pagan author who designates herself Lupa. I found the book interesting since I sometimes work in Harner style neo-shamanism but I found this author to be a little frustrating. While I have quite a lot of experience in the magical realms and could follow Lupa’s writing, I am afraid that a beginner in the Ars Magica would find this book difficult.
Part of the issue derives from something Lupa freely admits; she is very much a chaos magician. In other words, she practices a style of magic that is very much tied into the process of experimentation and is quite willing to practice in what she calls the buffet style – in other words, chaos mages have no problem with exploring magical styles and picking what they like from them. For some people this freedom works well and they find practices which really do lead to a relationship with their “Higher Selves” (or whatever they choose to call them) and an ability to hack their reality but others, like myself, like a little more structure. I found, reading this book, that the chaos side of Lupa shone through since she was quite willing to introduce a topic, make some pithy statements about it, drop a few ideas about how it could be worked with magically and then move on to another area.
For example, in her discussion of familiars (which she defines as an animal that partners with you in doing magic), Lupa makes starts off strong and then seems to tail off at the end of the discussion. She tells us something of how to locate a familiar and makes a strong case for not adopting an animal unless you are sure you can care for it (kudos to her there!) but then tells us that she spoke with her familiar to learn how it might assist her in magic and recommends this procedure for others. She does give some ideas about how to accomplish this but really does not give us any good examples of how her familiar assisted her in a magical working or workings. I, for one, would have been quite interested to see how she worked a lizard into her magic and less experienced practitioners would have benefitted greatly from such illustrative stories.
Another issue that gave me pause was her continued assumption that people reading the book were familiar with divination. She often recommends using either the pendulum, the Tarot or some other style of divination to get or check answers from totems, familiars or other animal spirits. While these methods might certainly work for a person with some experience, even flipping a coin for a yes or no answer to a question requires some basic knowledge of how to set one’s mind in the proper frame, how to phrase a question and how to establish some basic protection from outside influences. None of this is covered; the assumption seems to be, again, that the reader has some level of experience in the magical arts.
Again, with the process of invocation, actually calling an animal spirit into your body, Lupa describes why one might do an invocation and some effective ways to bring this magical act to pass (I found her description of dancing in a wolf skin to be practically invocatory all by itself) but skimps on the necessary details. This is most likely a personal bias on my part but I have always been of the opinion that you do not call what you are not sure you can banish and Lupa leaves the reader to figure out the best way to get rid of a spirit that does not want to leave. Even a very simple example of a banishing would have been better than nothing here. Additionally, given that Lupa seems to be shooting for a full on possessory trance in the invocation process, a warning that this work should not be attempted alone might have been in order. It’s all well and good to be possessed by the spirit of a wolf but quite another thing to turn such a person loose in a an urban area, for example. Someone grounded into consensual reality needs to be present to assist the person doing the invocation and help them find their way back to normal consciousness. Lupa describes doing invocation in a group setting and seems to assume that the reader will follow suit.
Lest you think that I did not like this book, let me state unequivocally that I found many new and interesting ideas and concepts in the book and plan to experiment with some of them and to another of Lupa’s books,
- DIY Totemism
If the reader is someone with a firm foundation in magic or neo-shamanic practice, then this book will provide a wealth of information on animal magics outside of the usual encyclopedia of totems construct. If, however, the reader is a beginner in the magical or shamanic arts, then I strongly recommend that this book be read as an intermediate level text with information to be filed away for later experimentation or for practice in the company of a more experienced mage.