Bookviews Book Reviews
Rowan Gant is back, and this time it's a serial killer with
a taste for the macabre.
M. R. Sellars presents us with the fifth mystery in this
series and this one is as spooky as a mystery can get.
The focus this time is on the relationship between a witch
and the subjects they can channel. There
is a connection between Rowan and his wife Felicity and those poor victims of
the serial killer. As they cry out to be
rescued, Rowan and Felicity hear them, and are lead in a race against time and
a chase to find the killer.
Character development continues with Lieutenant Barbara
Albright, or "Bible Barb" as she has come to be known. We find her mind is still not changed
regarding Rowan or Felicity. And we have
the rest of the cast to fill out the balance of the story: Detective Ben Storm, his sister Helen Storm
the psychiatrist and FBI Special Agent Constance Mandalay. The events take place again in the city of
The interaction here is between Rowan and Felicity and their
connections with the victims. We are
lead inside the experiences of these two as they "channel" the
victim. We view first hand what happens
to these two as they experience the pain, the suffering and the hopelessness
that each victim feels as they are tortured by their captor. This gives the book the spooky, eerie
settings and feeling and makes this one a real spine tingler.
The Crone's Moon is that phase of the moon just before it
goes to New Moon. We, as witches,
associate this with the aspect of the Goddess as the old woman, or crone, the
elder who is on in years. This book
title deals with our image of the Goddess showing us that we are all mortal, we
all die. This is explained in the book, but is not obvious from the onset. And it plays a part in how Mr. Sellars
explains the different aspects of Rowan's beliefs as a witch.
This book also exaggerates some of the aspects of the Craft,
taking artistic license to provide more atmosphere to the story. We all do not channel dead or dying people,
especially at the level described in the book.
Nor do we maintain constant connections to all our friends and families
like suggested in the book. But some of
us do have such talents to varying degrees.
This is fiction, this is a scary story, and this is a mystery to be
solved. Mr. Sellars uses this very
effectively in his fictional story and makes the most of this practice to
provide us with the needed thrills and chills.
The book is a real page turner with a well developed
plot. The effects are carefully
orchestrated to maximize the terror and engross the reader in the thrill of the
Will the killer succeed in obtaining another victim? Will "Bible Barbara" successfully
shut down the involvement of the "satanic witches" and allow another
poor soul to suffer at the hands of a warped, deranged killer? Will Rowan, Felicity, Storm and
Again, I am not giving away any story line. It is up to you to read and discover for yourself. If you have enjoyed the other stories in the Rowan Gant Investigations series, then you will totally enjoy this one.
His field of specialty
is pre-Christian and medieval culture and spirituality. He is a very well known French author of over
40 books and is a specialist in Celtic studies at
It is not surprising then that Mr. Markale has written a
most profound study of the Celtic celebration of Halloween or Samhain from the
perspective of an actual historian and philosopher.
The original of this book was first printed in
I must first congratulate Mr. Graham for his extraordinary
translation of this book. Not being
fluent in French, I would never have tackled such a volume, but Mr. Graham has
preserved, in my opinion, the poetic flavor of Mr. Markale's work. It flows rather than reading dry and halting,
like many tomes on this subject. It
reads eloquently, retaining much of what Mr. Markale is noted for in his
original French, the flair to entertain and provoke images and ideas through
his unique writing style.
The book is composed of only four chapters: The Celtic Festival
of Samhain, The Fantastic Night, The Festival of All the Saints and The Shadows
of Halloween. This is followed by a
conclusion. While the number of chapters
is small, the content of each is enormous, giving page after page of facts,
religious comparisons, philosophies and supporting evidence for the practices
of this misunderstood holiday.
I believe the best way to summarize what this book is about
is to quote the author from his Conclusion:
"It is a way not of "taming death" as
Montaigne said, but of exorcising it by establishing a direct line between
before and after, which will display the permanence of life in all its aspects
and all its states. This is the
appropriate lesson to draw from Samhain and its survivals, whether the
Christian All Saint's Day or the folklike manifestations of Halloween."
His book weaves these final thoughts into understanding as
he unfolds the various aspects of this philosophy. I will only attempt to outline the book by
its chapters, as it is difficult to take any of his material out of context
without it suffering. The need to read,
meditate and appreciate the written word as presented by Mr. Markale is one of
the wonderful plus' of this book. To
read it with all the footnotes as well as endnotes intact is to grasp the full
appreciation of well researched work that pieces together the myths and stories
and history with solid evidence. He
creates a very balanced approach to defining what the origins and mysteries of
Samhain were how it survived forced evolution and he brings it all into modern
day understanding. There is a very
extensive bibliography and one worth exploring if you wish to cover this topic
The Celtic Festival of Samhain examines the Celtic origins
of this holiday. It examines the Celtic
calendar, the division of the "Light of the Year" with the "Dark
of the Year", compares the myths with evidence derived from recorded
stories and histories and supports it with the culture of the Celtic
people. He makes good arguments for the
holiday occurring at the date assigned it, and then explores the practices or
Rituals of the holiday. His conclusions
are hard to argue with, as he produces some very strong evidence for his
work. There is some wonderful material
here, quoted from some common as well as obscure sources, and is both a
pleasure to read and easy to understand.
The Fantastic Night explores the actual Celtic practices and
meanings of this holiday. This chapter
explores the philosophical aspects as evident from Celtic cultural
practices. The meanings of "Other
Worlds", or how time has no meaning on this occasion, and how this is
supported by actual recording of cultural ideas and ideals of the Celtic
peoples; all is presented here for you to savor, meditate upon and draw deeper
The Festival of All the Saints traces the evolving holiday,
how it was forced into a mold created by those who failed to understand this
holiday but could not remove it from the cultures of the areas. He traces how it was adapted and remade. But it is not a story of destruction but
rather how the origins survived, maybe a bit worse for wear, and continued to
thrive in spite of change. This is a
very good look at the Christianization of the Celtic culture and how it created
a very unique presence as "Celtic Christianity" and how it then
proceeded to influence the rest of the Christian church.
Finally, in The
Shadows of Halloween we see how this holiday has come down to us today, how it
has survived the ravages of time and continues to be a time when we remember
those things of old and incorporate them into our new. The outward signs are reminders of the old
philosophies and beliefs and we cling to them because it sparks recognition of
values that are not just Celtic, but universal ideas that cross many cultures.
His conclusions are very philosophical in nature, and are
profound in the revelations he makes regarding our perceptions of life, death,
time and rebirth. He uses many literary
examples of how we have continued, over the course of time, to experience, again
and again, the understanding of our basic need to acknowledge death and in the
same breath, life. To quote again:
"Everything is contained within the apparent
masquerades of Halloween. The sacred is
inseparable from the profane, and popular memory, still rebelling against the
dominate ideologies, has preserved within its most intimate depths and restored
on certain occasions a state of nature that was so dear to the Utopian thinker
Jean-Jacques Rousseau -- to wit, outside of time and space, the universal
fraternity of beings and things."
Probably the best book on the subject, for its ability to successfully tackle the true meaning and origins of this very often misunderstood and sometimes feared holiday. A must read for anyone not afraid to expand their understanding and give more than a passing thought to the significance of Halloween.
Published by Penguin Compass in 2000, this book follows the
same kind of format as the Halloween book by Silver Ravenwolf published by
Llewellyn in 1999. The research for the
history differs a little as is from some different sources, and focuses on the
Celts in Briton and
In the history section, the retelling of the myths, legends
and actual historical background of the holiday we know as Halloween is much
more cut and dry than other volumes previously presented. There is, however, some spin placed on
events. I did find some questionable conclusions
and some errors in facts. The mention of
a pagan deity "Muck-Olla" is not accurate, as this is a bull from
Welsh legend, not a pagan god. Just one
of many examples.
The bibliography that Ms. Dunwich draws from appears to be
quite extensive, and covers much folklore, some pagan sources and some actual
historical sources. She puts the history
together in a timeline, weaving the lore with the history. While some of it is extracted from what we
know of history and what we have from lore, such as Druidic practices, she
brings the celebration from the Irish roots to the
She covers some of the traditions of this
These areas are covered briefly, not delving into much
detail and gives an overview of the topic.
Ms. Dunwich refrains from spinning too much of this into an issue, which
is, in my opinion, good but could have been better.
The Symbols part of the book covers the usual: bats,
skeletons, jack-o'-lanterns, cats and cauldrons and more. Some interesting historical and mythical background
on the cauldron is provided, But for
the most part, it is the usual information, nothing new is uncovered.
As if not enough legend and lore hasn't already been added
to the material already presented, Ms. Dunwich includes more in a section entitled
Legend and Lore, focusing on the fire, astrological and fairy associations as
well as others. Irish and Briton lore is
included, making for some interesting stories and reading.
She then takes a brief look at some herbs. She examines some herbal associations to
flying ointments, as well as magical properties of some herbs associated with
We come to some Superstitions and Omens, which covers such
items as weather, candles, blood, cats, venturing off into old wives
tales. Ms. Dunwich retells some common
ones, and some obscure ones. It is
believed that if a person lights a new orange-colored candle on Halloween and
lets it burn until the sun rises, he or she will be the recipient of good luck. or If
the moon at Halloween is new, this indicates that the coming year will be
fertile ground for new beginnings to take place, such as the start of a new
project, a new career, or even a new way of thinking. Further examples are given.
She also covers Divinations and Incantations, or magic, such
as crystal balls, love spells, apple magic, fire scrying, nut divination (the
food) and much, much more.
Ms. Dunwich also includes a ritual which can be adapted by
both covens and solitaries and offers a list of Gods and Goddesses connected
She offers some actual spells, for everything from keeping
evil spirits at bay with garlic to blessings for the dead. And finally some recipes for food for that
day's celebrations including Colcannon, mulled cider and soul cakes, to mention
The book is a small one, pocket size, approximately 5 inches
by 7 inches. The paper is typical
paperback paper used commonly by Penguin books, and the cover is coated, giving
it texture and making the lovely print of John Waterhouses The Crystal Ball
stand out. The book is peppered with
some small woodcut prints in black and white which have associations to the
chapter contents. There are a couple of
Ms. Dunwich's poems relating to Samhain opening and closing the contents of the
book. And it has an index for easy
For a small paperback book, it is neither a bad nor a good
book. The material is fair, slanted
towards the pagan as in all these books tend to but not as bad as some. But I also did not find anything new or
exciting to talk about. The book makes a
fair presentation of the holiday of Halloween but does not generally
offend. Ms. Dunwich tells her stories in
an easy to read fashion.
The fact that it mirrors the same kind of content as the
Halloween book by Llewellyn from a year earlier makes this book almost
redundant, except for the fact that Ms. Dunwich does add some of her own
material here and there. But she covers
similar ground, and the appeal here would be if you were a Gerina Dunwich fan
rather than a Silver Ravenwolf fan you would find this book more appealing.
But if anyone wanted to go into more of the history, or
wants a book that is more substantial, there are other books that cover the
specifics in much more detail. This book
offers a simple overview on the various topics.
A good book overall, but nothing to get excited about here unless you are a Gerina Dunwich fan.
The first page in the book suggests you make a Porch
Protection Turnip by hollowing out the turnip.
Have you every tried to scoop out a turnip? It's not as easy as it seems. Fresh turnips are very solid and can be hard
to scoop out. There is some truth to
having a light on your front porch to protect against the lengthening fall
nights darkness, but not necessarily in a turnip. It is the same with the rest of the
book. There are truths and spins scattered
throughout the book, and it is up to the reader to scoop it all out, difficult
though it may be.
The introduction to the book tells of the purpose of this
book. In 1997 Llewellyn wanted to write
a book about the myths and truths of Halloween.
They enlisted the aid of their most popular author, Silver
Ravenwolf. This book Halloween is the
result of this work by both Llewellyn and Silver Ravenwolf and it also births
the first book in the very successful series of Sabbat books by Llewellyn.
Much of the reference material quoted is of works done by
mostly pagan authors. There are a few
actual historical references throughout the book. These references are footnoted in each
chapter, a very good move on the part of the publisher, which documents the
quotes and sources of some of the information.
The books and materials referenced are also noted in the Bibliography,
which is not skimpy either. And it is
all cross referenced in the index.
The first three chapters deal with the History of Halloween,
the origins, customs, myths, traditions, symbols and superstitions. While there is a lot of actual history quoted
here, there are also some minor errors.
The discussion of "Constantine the Great declaring the
But this is exemplary of much of the material presented in
the history in this book. The material
is either taken from the writings of current pagan sources, or is given a very
definite pagan spin when adapted from established historical sources. Yes, the history, for the most part is
accurate, but be careful of the spins.
Her recap of the American Halloween is good. She presents a lot of the early roots to our
holiday. She covers a lot of the myths
and urban legends that have come of late from those trying to demonize the tradition. Again, lots of facts, a lot of good research
and there is the pagan spin. She traces
the roots of many of the traditions we currently have for our holiday:
skeletons, candy, costumes, trick-or-treating and many more.
Having said my peace on the historical part of the book, I
also want to note that there are statistics that either Silver or Llewellyn
have added that have no source. In her
recap of The Burning Times, while to her
credit she does not quote the 9 million number that is so often bantered about
in regards to the number of persons murdered as witches, but she does give a
number of 1.5 million (page 17) with no source of the figure other than
It's a more conservative number than usually quoted, but it would have
been nice if the source or sources were given.
Also her count of witches (Wiccans) practicing in the
She does well with her origins of some of the symbols and
superstitions of the holiday. To her
credit she takes on the myth of the poison and razor blades in the candy, quoting
the myth's origins and pointing out that there have been no random injuries due
to food given out to trick-or-treaters, but rather the injuries and deaths were
deliberate and "Halloween Candy" was an excuse to blame others and
remove suspicion from the perpetrators of the actual crimes themselves, which
turned out to be relatives of the victims.
Excellent references here and well pointed out. There are more like this, and deserves
attention as well.
The rest of the book is typical Silver Ravenwolf material. The chapters cover Divination, recipes for
the kitchen and recipes for Halloween Magick, as well as honoring and speaking
with the dead. Emphasis is placed on
There are instructions, with pictures, for making corn
dollies, as well as illustrations to either picture what is being discussed or
to enhance the material.
The divination material is standard. Casting of lots, apple divination, water
divination, nut divinations (the food, not the fools), use of Runes for
divination, mirror magic; all of it usual material well explained.
The recipes, both for the kitchen and for magic, are
standard, nothing exceptional here, and the focus of much of the magic is
Silvers usual love spells or spells for prosperity, with a few assorted
protection spells or blessings scattered between. The recipes for the kitchen also are
usual: pumpkin bread and pie, baked
apples, roasted corn, sometimes with Silvers twist on how to present them (as
in Candied Love Apples).
The material is written in a very clear and easy to
understand manner. Ms. Ravenwolf
includes little poems, quoted from various sources, as well as her own
material. They are a pleasant addition
to the book. Some of the material is
almost cute, but that is typical Silver Ravenwolf, and her style dominates the
This is Silver Ravenwolf's Black Forest Clan brand of Wicca and her take on the holiday of Halloween. If you are a big fan of Silver Ravenwolf, this is the Halloween book for you. If you can sort through the spins of the history, there are facts presented that can be worth while. The book does what it set out to do, present The Truth about Halloween in true Llewellyn/Silver Ravenwolf style. Not a bad book, but it could have been much better if presented in a more non-bias format and the historical facts checked just a little better.