Thursday, July 26, 2007

How To Churn Out Another Book -- a book review by John Morris

Elizabeth Barrette Composing Magic: How to Create Magical Spells, Rituals, Blessings, Chants and Prayers Franklin Lakes (NJ): New Page Books, 2007. 240 pp, $14.99.

Any of us who have been thrown, kicking and screaming, into the task of preparing and leading a ritual for one of our groups would appreciate a how-to book like this, with clear instructions on each of the many details that go into making an effective ceremony. This is one of the things we were taught back in theological schools, but there has been little available to the leaders of our contemporary magical groups. Elizabeth Barrette here attempts to fill this need with her new book, which may be the only instruction book yet produced to guide the neophyte practitioner.

If you read this book, I'd advise you to start with the last few chapters, which provide a number of hints for actually preparing a ritual outline and leading the ritual itself. There are also some hints for getting your bright, new ritual prepared for publication, and, with luck, actually publishing it.

Unfortunately, there is little warning to the would-be author about the very poor odds you face with any commercial publisher, who has already been faced with a flood of amateur authors eager to hit the high road to fame and fortune with their new book.

Elizabeth Barrette is at the other extreme, an author who has written many books and who is fairly well-assured that they will be snapped up by the publisher. But fame and fortune have their own dangers. In this case, Barrette has thrown together a variety of topics, many of which are only marginally relevant to the ritual writer.

Most unfortunate is a long section, taking a third of the book, on how to writer poetry,
together with page after page of well-known poems, mostly aging poetry from the well-known poets of the distant past. There is no hint of the exciting new work that appears in such journals as Poetry or American Poetry Review, where contemporary poets often experiment with many new forms, happily discarding most of the rules that we learned in college classes many years ago.
Sadly, too, when Barrette includes two or three of her own poems as examples, the results are pretty miserable.

When you're faced with the job of preparing a ritual, then, it's certainly best to begin with what you know and love, concentrating on sharing this love with your own group, what we used to call the Beloved Community.

JMM 7/25/2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Meditation for late summer -- John Morris

Meditation for late summer
by John Morris

The summer flowers are here in full play: bright colors, unlike the pastelsl of spring or the purples of fall. Brown leaves from the sycamores, but the maples and oaks are green, tributes to the Green Man and to the green life around us.

A pair of robins built their nest last year on top of my burglar alarm box on the side of my house. Today they are gone, but their whole family has been off searching for worms and seeds in my yard. A bunny comes hopping along, and the birds fly noisily into trees. In one of our dark corners, a scruffy cat, imagining that he's back in the wilderness. Everyone is living his own small life, watching out for others, but every other species is competing, definitely to be acknowledged and avoided if necessary. ...

Although we can sing "Welcome sweet springtime, We greet thee in song," our greeting to summer is likely to be more subdued. We're not likely to be jumping about like spring chickens, and we're much more likely to be sitting hens or lazy roosters simply enjoying the sun's warmth on our feathers, waiting for the eggs to hatch or the grass to turn brown in the summer heat.

What do we do with these lazy days of summer? We can lie in the grass, we can wait to feel the grass growing under us, we can wait wait wait 'til the cows come home, knowing they return to the lovely nest of the summer.

For our lunch we take only what the earth brings to us, tomatoes ripening and softening in the sun, lettuce crisp and fresh out of the garden, carrots that we pull up just before lunch, a zucchini, bright green and raw, with its bitter skin intact. No need for a recipe today. The sun is working his magical cookery for us. We're having freshly baked bread full of coarsely ground wheat and fragrant with honey. All of these are among the pleasures of summer.

It is a time to relax, to soak up the sun, to play jokes on the squirrels as they take our peanuts to their own secret hiding places in the lawn. It is a time for feasting and rejoicing.

It is late summer.