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


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