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Pagan Portals – Gods & Goddesses of England, by Rachel Patterson

Pagan Portals –  Gods & Goddesses of England, by Rachael Patterson
Moon Books, 1789046629, 128 pages, July 2023

I was drawn to Pagan Portals – God & Goddesses of England by Rachel Patterson because as the wife of an Englishman, I’ve traveled there quite a bit. What I love about my travels is that we don’t visit as tourists, we settle in as family and then branch out and explore the countryside. It’s a place that shares its land with small villages, larger cities such as York and Bath, and also ancient markers, all of which cohabitate beautifully. Thanks to Patterson, my knowledge of the deities of England has greatly expanded. I’m looking forward to seeing the sights with the lens of the gods and goddesses next time we visit!

Pattern is the perfect guide for this trip through the landscape of England’s deities. Her website titles her an “English kitchen witch and author” 1 Her list of other published works is impressive, including Pagan Portals – Kitchen Witchcraft, Pagan Portals – Moon Magic, and A Witch for Every Season. She is listed as one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine.

Now, diving in, this book is divided into two broad sections: “Part I, The History of Humans” and “Part II, Gods & Goddesses”. To start the book, Patterson presents what she describes as a “very brief outline” of Britain’s timeline from Paleolithic Britain (700,000 B.C.) through the Noman conquest of 1066 A.D. She also introduces the reader to the various invading forces who settled in Britain and put their stamps on the people and the land – from the Romans to the Germanic tribes, to the Vikings. This laid the foundation for delving into the deities of England in this book. 

In Part II, before recommending how to connect with the deities, Rachel profiles numerous deities, referencing whether they were a god or a goddess, and the location where reference to these deities was found. For some she is able to share a lot of information, while for others all that remains is a reference to their name on an inscription or relic or reference in a manuscript. She covers the whole of England, though, in a concise manner. 

Of course, Britannia shows up. This time inscribed on a statue base in York. Britannia eventually became the symbol of Britain and of the resiliency of its people. She provides a lot of information on Sulis, a goddess found in Bath. As she writes, “a great number of altars, dedications and curse tablets have been found in Bath along with a large temple dedicated to her.”2 While worshiped during the Roman times as a goddess with whom they equated their goddess Minerva, Sulis seems to have been a local goddess long before the Romans invaded.

I was intrigued by the curse tablets that had been thrown into a spring. Each was made of metal and mostly all rolled up before being thrown into the spring. “All of them seem to be requesting return of stolen items, asking for revenge, or the righting of wrongs. Most of them involved what would seem to be today small items such as a stolen towel.”3 In all fairness, though, one needs their towel in Bath.

She offers ways to engage with the deities, whether one is local to you or whether you were drawn to one in the book. Ways include researching the deity, setting up an altar, connecting with the land, and, one of her favorite ways, researching food local to the area. She feels that these local recipes help her “align with the energies of the area”4 while also providing good food. 

Rachel also writes extensively as to how she connects with specific deities, Belisama, the Three Mothers/Matres, and Sabrina.  For each, she writes on myths and origins, invocations, rituals, meditations, and of course, recipes including chorley cakes (Belisama), Gloucester pancakes (The Three Mothers/Matres) and shearing cake (Sabrina). She concludes with offering further readings, if interested. 

I highly recommend Pagan Portals – Gods and Goddesses of England. It encourages one to connect with the deities rather than just providing copious amounts of information on each, helping readers to create their own relationship with these gods and goddesses. Realizing that all might not be able to visit England to connect with these deities, Patternson offers ways to do so if one feels drawn to a particular deity. I loved her final recommendation as she sent me on my way:

“What I would recommend you do is to connect with the energy of the land you live on. Research the history for your own area and get to know the land beneath your feet.”5

Pagan Portals – The Norns, by Irisanya Moon

Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magick, by Irisanya Moon
Moon Books, 1789049105, 112 pages, August 2023

From the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the three witches in Disney’s 1993 cult classic Halloween film Hocus Pocus, the Triple Goddess of Fate haunts pop culture, bewitching the masses in the form of three meddlesome hags. Fate’s commercial success in such unflattering incarnations betrays how terrifying the concept of predestination is to contemporary Westerners who tenaciously cling to the secular cult of Free Will, despite the audacious philosophers and neuroscientists like Sam Harris who have declared that free will is an illusion. According to Harris, the conscious mind may believe it’s in control, but it only acts out decisions that have already been made by the subconscious mind. 1 Some people may even become enraged by the idea that there is no such thing as free will, because our culture places such high value on accepting personal responsibility for our successes and failures in life. There is a deep collective fear of not having control over our destinies.  

In Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magic, author, witch, and priestess Irisanya Moon reveals that the ancient Norse had a more holistic view, and saw Fate, or Wyrd, as an intricate web that both includes and transcends us. The Norns, the trio of mysterious goddesses who personify Fate in Norse mythology, are ubiquitous spirits, unseen yet all-pervasive, ever weaving the fabric of space and time. They occupy the liminal spaces, moving through us and around us, forever spinning the wheel of the Cosmos, and their spindle of Fate pricks the thumbs of both gods and mortals alike.

Because of their ubiquity, the Norns can be difficult to define. There are the primary three, named Urd, the Norn of What Was, who is associated with the past and creates the thread of life; Verdandi, the Norn of Becoming, or the present moment, who measures the thread of life; and Skuld, the Norn of What Shall Be, who cuts the thread at the end of life. The Norns also include a collective of female ancestral spirits called the dísir, who watch over humanity. Additionally, Moon points out that “a common meaning for norn in modern Icelandic is ‘witch’ or ‘hag’.”2

Instead of rehashing Norse myths that can be found in other books, Moon guides readers to discover who the Norns are by fostering intimate relationships with them. She encourages personal gnosis of these divine beings through a variety of exercises, such as “Stepping into the Worlds of the Norns”3 through trance.

As Moon invited me to travel in spirit to the World Tree and visit the Wyrd Sisters, I was flooded with vivid imagery. In an eldritch forest, I saw the World Tree Yggdrasil towering above the other trees, its evergreen boughs silvered by moonlight, dripping lunar dew over the Well of Fate, pooling in an earthen basin formed by the vast network of knotted roots. Three shadowy maidens rose from the depths of the lake, shifting shape. They coalesced into a trinity of spiders, weaving the elastic web of the Multiverse in the boughs of the World Tree. Infinite worlds were reflected in the dewdrops of their infinite eyes. I began to think of Yggdrasil as a human body, my body. My spine became the tree’s trunk, a ladder of bone that could take me up to Asgard, the realm of the gods, or down into the depths of Hel, the Norse Underworld. I realized that all the trees in the forest around me were other people’s World Trees. We live in a Multiverse where everyone is their own Yggdrasil. 

“Everyone has a part of the wyrd, like a web, like a large woven tapestry,” Moon says. “My wyrd intersects with yours, perhaps. Yours intersects and pulls on mine. And all of this is what creates fate and destiny.”4

Together, we all shape Fate as a collective. 

I was drawn to this book because I’m a fatalist. I believe that free will is an illusion, but I think that we should behave as though we have free will, and make responsible choices to the best of our abilities, even if our subconscious mind has already made them for us. It appears to me that there are too many external factors limiting any supposed free will that we mortals may have, from mental programming imprinted upon us as children by our parents and the culture in which we were raised, to societal limitations that limit our mobility as adults. I think that when we act out what we believe is our free will and pursue our dreams, we are in fact acting out our soul’s true purpose and what we are destined to do. We are coming into alignment with our True Will, which is the will of Fate. 

I believe the excessive praise of individualism in Western civilization is harmful to the collective. The emphasis on individual free will and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps blinds us to systemic abuse and allows the continued oppression of large swathes of people. Everyone’s fate is connected. The focus on individualism creates the illusion that individuals are struggling alone. In truth, their struggles are shared with other people in similar circumstances, but in isolation, they are tricked into believing they should shoulder the burden of circumstances beyond their control all on their own. 

I appreciate how Moon compassionately addresses the ways that Fate encompasses circumstances beyond one’s control.

“Dismantling the structures of oppression requires the commitment to uncovering and understanding that people do not all have the same opportunities,” Moon says. “Many are born into places that limit and seek to continue to hold them back.”5

This thought-provoking book had me pondering the shared Fate of the collective, the interconnectedness of people’s individual threads, and how great an impact any word or action, however small it may seem at the time, can have on so many people. I can recall times when the actions of others have inadvertently shifted my path, and I am sure I have had the same effect on other people as well, in ways which I am not aware. Just as Moon says, “I can choose to meet my fate in a way that is honorable and respectful of the collective versus just being out for myself.”6

My sole criticism of this work is that the author’s well-meaning efforts to be all-inclusive were superfluous to the point of distraction. For example, Moon spells the word “gods” with double ds (“godds”), to make it more gender inclusive, which I don’t feel is necessary, because I read the word “gods” as gender neutral without a second thought, and my inner editor kept flagging it as a spelling error.7 

Moon also suggests that the gender of the dísir, who are traditionally female ancestors, may make some people uncomfortable, and “it might be more inclusive to expand this to those who birth or those who mother without being attached to gender.”8 I don’t understand why seeing the dísir as female matrons would be offensive, and I feel that we can learn more about their true essence by examining the traditional perceptions of these ancient spirits instead of projecting modern gender politics upon them. It would be far more interesting to explore why the dísir were perceived as female instead of dismissing their femininity and assigning them whatever gender feels more comfortable. I personally think the focus on female ancestors is beautiful because it emphasizes matrilineal descent, as opposed to our patriarchal society, which frets over paternity and erases the maternal line by only giving children the surname of the father. I feel that dismissing the female gender of the dísir only reinforces these patriarchal views. 

It’s no accident that the maternal line is also known as the distaff line. 9 The word distaff is derived from the Old English, dis, meaning “bundle of flax” and stæf, meaning “staff,” so the distaff is a staff on the spinning wheel that was wound with flax in preparation for spinning. Meanwhile, the strikingly similar Old Norse word dís means “goddess,” and the plural form of dísir means “goddesses.”10 Spinning was traditionally women’s work, and the dísir are the spinning goddesses, the collective ancestral mothers. They are inherently feminine, and I think it would be disrespectful to change that just because their gender might make some people feel uncomfortable.

I see the Thread of Fate as the umbilical cord, which nourishes the fetus in the womb and connects the unborn child to the well of ancestral memory (the well of Urd). When the baby is born, the umbilical cord stretches out and is measured by Verdandi, in that precious and fleeting moment when mother and child are still connected. When the cord is cut by the midwife Skuld, the neonate takes their first breath of spirit, and accepts the destiny that has been gifted to them by the Norns.  

I gained some wonderful insights into my personal perception of the Wyrd Sisters by experimenting with Moon’s exercises. While I prefer a more traditional view of the Norns, I feel that my disagreement with some of Moon’s progressive views produced creative tension that helped me further clarify my own relationship with these potent spirits.

Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magick is a book that shifts one’s perspective from fearing Fate to embracing the mystery of how our individual fates intertwine with the world’s collective Fate and the greater destiny of the Multiverse. The exercises contained within encourage developing a personal connection with these transcendent powers through journaling, self-exploration, and trance work. For those who love journal prompts and guided meditations, this book can facilitate a deeper relationship with the mysterious spirits of Fate who watch over us all and guide us towards our destinies.

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie, by Melanie Godfrey

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie: Stories of the Celtic Sidhe and how to Connect to the Otherworldly Realms, by Melanie Godfrey
Moon Books, 1782794778, 136 pages, September 2022

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie: Stories of the Celtic Sidhe and how to Connect to the Otherworldly Realms by Melanie Godfrey is a brilliant and enchanting book that transports readers into the mystical realm of spirit beings known as “fayerie,” distinct from the popularized fairies of Disney tales. Inspired by the renowned British folklorist Katharine Briggs, Godfrey’s heartfelt and personal account takes us on a captivating journey through her intimate encounters with Faery and the Elemental Kingdoms.

The book not only weaves captivating stories born from the author’s experiences with sacred landscapes but also serves as a profound guide for readers to deepen their connections with nature beings and the mystical places they inhabit. Divided into two sections, the book’s first part focuses on connecting with the heart of ancient fayerie, encouraging exploration of the landscapes around us and communication with the spirit guardians residing in trees and stones.

Godfrey skillfully introduces valuable techniques, meditations, and ceremonies that enable readers to access a higher state of consciousness and engage with their imaginative faculties. Through these meditations, readers encounter different types of fayerie, who offer guidance and wisdom in life’s journey.

The book further delves into the “Clair Senses,” such as Clairaudience, Clairsentience, and Clairvoyance, providing various ways to perceive and sense the fayerie world. Meditation emerges as a potent tool to connect with the subtle energies of the earth and the diverse fayerie races that inhabit it.

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie sheds light on the significance of the four elements—earth, air, fire, and water—associated with different types of fayerie beings, such as gnomes, sylphs, dragons, and merfolk, respectively. Additionally, the book emphasizes the importance of understanding oneself and exercising discernment when interacting with the fayerie realms, especially during times of emotional imbalance.

Godfrey’s authoritative and delightful narration empowers readers to explore their own psyches, unlocking a deeper understanding of the multidimensional world we inhabit alongside these ancient and original nature spirits. Through dreams and visions, she guides readers on connecting with various spirits and energies in the parallel realms of the Otherworlds, intricately intertwined with our reality.

Furthermore, the book imparts a Fayerie Code of Ethics, advocating for kindness towards nature, reciprocity, belief in magic, and mindfulness of environmental impact. It beautifully reminds us of the magic and beauty surrounding us, often unseen and underappreciated. It encourages readers to open their eyes and hearts to the wonders of the fayerie world.

The second section of Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie treats readers to captivating tales from the Celtic Otherworld, derived from the author’s pilgrimages across the ancient lands of Albion (Ireland, Scotland, and England). Godfrey’s respect for the wisdom gained from the guardians of our world shines through the pages, instilling a sense of warmth and appreciation.

In today’s world, this book’s relevance cannot be overstated, as it encourages readers to embrace the complexity of nature and engage with its profound wisdom. With passion and dedication, Godfrey significantly contributes to our understanding of the interconnectedness of all life forms.

Each page offers a treasure trove of insights and inspiration, urging readers to cherish and learn from the intricate fabric of our world. It is a rich and immersive exploration of the spirit world, providing readers with meditative practices, enchanting stories, and ethical considerations to connect with the mystical beings that reside beyond the human eye.

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie is a masterful work that captures the magic and wonder of the fayerie realm. Godfrey’s writing is captivating and illuminating, offering readers an opportunity to embrace the ancient wisdom of these elusive and powerful entities. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to deepen their connection with the natural world and explore the mysteries of the unseen realms.

Pagan Portals: Demeter, by Robin Corak

Pagan Portals – Demeter, by Robin Corak
Moon Books, 1789047838, 128 pages, October 2022

At first glance, Pagan Portals – Demeter by Robin Corak seems like a straightforward book. The story of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, is one that has been used to illustrate many variations of the mother-daughter dynamic in a variety of different contexts. Corak is taking that story and exploring various other themes that aren’t apparent at first glance.

A long-time practitioner of paganism, Corak is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon where she currently serves as the Board Secretary and is the author of Pagan Portals – Persephone: Practicing the Art of Personal Power. Honestly, there’s no one more perfectly positioned to write the book on Demeter than Corak and her prose is both insightful and informative.

The book is sectioned off into specific areas that deal with Demeter’s background, specific rites and rituals, and other topics I didn’t expect to find. At the risk of outing myself as not being all-knowing about the goddesses and gods of the Greek pantheon, I had to look up two aspects of Demeter that I was not aware of that were referenced in this book: Demeter Chthonia: Grief and Loss and Demeter Chloe: Manifestation Magick. Blown away, completely and totally. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that Demeter was associated with grief (her daughter being taken away from her) and abundance (Goddess of the Harvest), I just didn’t know there were actual aspects devoted to these attributes. 

There’s so much information in this book and all of it is both relevant and timely. The astonishing realization that Demeter was still subject to patriarchy despite being a goddess was something I hadn’t considered. It was my understanding that Demeter’s power would ensure her personal agency. When Demeter is told by Helios that Hades abducted her daughter, Demeter’s opinions are not even considered as she is told that Hades would make a fine husband for her daughter. Because Demeter is dismissed, she then decides that nothing on Earth will grow until her daughter is returned to her. Her actions eventually see the return of Persephone to her, and it’s interesting to note that Demeter is the only goddess to make Zeus give in to her demands, and in a short amount of time. Underestimate an abundance Goddess at your peril!

A surprising aspect of this book is the focus on balance, something that most who identify as feminine struggle with due to the numerous stresses experienced through jobs, home, relationships, and other factors. Corak addresses this in the introduction, saying:

“Working with Demeter can facilitate a powerful journey of self-discovery resulting in a re-envisioning and reclaiming of our potential and our own lives. For those of us who may not have had a positive relationship with our own mothers, Demeter empowers us to access our own nurturing abilities so that we may provide ourselves with the quantity and quality of love that we feel we didn’t receive.”1

It took me a few days to process that, I will be honest. I do not have a good relationship with my mother and as she ages, I have had to come to terms with the very real fact that there will never be apologies or clarity around why certain events were allowed to happen. I found this book to be immensely helpful in navigating my personal grief around this, although I would be lying if I said I was able to completely resolve the anger. I took solace in a powerful sentence from Corak:

“The mother archetype is not just about loving and nurturing, it is also about protection and advocacy to ensure that that which has been given life will survive and thrive.”2

I sat with that for a moment, and realized that’s what I had been doing for myself by not engaging as deeply as I wanted to with my mother. I intuitively knew that this was something I could do to protect myself from additional harm, and this book opened my eyes to all that I have been doing for myself in this realm. 

There is so much healing in this book depending on what is required. For me, I chose to go through “Chapter 3 – Healing the Mother Wound”. Corak includes a definition of mother wound as “the loss or lack of mothering which can include abuse and neglect. Those who experience the mother wound don’t receive the love and attention they need as children and have mothers who seem to be distant and less attuned to their emotional needs.”3

This section in particular really hit me hard, as I thought I had dealt with my issues around this through extensive therapy. Clearly that was not the case, as I often found myself curled up in a ball with my cat gingerly offering me head butts and consoling licks. That is not an exaggeration, by the way. This book is excellent and devastating in a way I didn’t expect but am so glad I experienced. 

If any of this resonates with you, I would highly recommend picking up Pagan Portals – Demeter. If you have a therapist, I would also highly recommend enlisting their help for this journey because working with Demeter calls up all sorts of childhood trauma that needs to be brought out so that it can be healed.

One of the best parts of this whole process was learning that I could mother myself and did not need to rely on my emotionally unavailable mother to provide that. While seemingly heartbreaking, releasing yourself from unrealistic expectations of those who cannot possibly meet you where you need them to is freeing in a way that could potentially allow you to move on. Who wouldn’t want that?

Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries, and Spirits

Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries, and Spirits: Faery Magic from Story to Practice, by Halo Quin
Moon Books, 178535941X, 104 pages, August 2022

Halo Quin takes us on a journey into the world of Folktales, Faeries and Spirits. She has a deep connection to the magic that resides in Wales and adores the wilderness there and the stories and tales that come from that landscape. Her love of faeries has been apparent since childhood, when she would greet them everywhere she went. She is keen to educate us on the practices of the faeries, how we can find and respect their ways and bring them into our lives. 

There can be mixed greetings towards the faery folk. Some people regard them as beings or spirits who can bring us good luck, wisdom, and beauty; others may view them as mischievous, malicious or even dangerous. Quin tells us that we should view them just as we would people. Each with their own personalities, feelings, values, and nuances. They can be found the world over, in woodlands, forests, rivers, lakes, and streams.

“Another debate among humans who talk about faeries is whether they are nature spirits and spirits of the land, or simply an otherworldly race of humanoids.”1

Personally, I like to believe they are the latter, an ‘otherworldly form of humanoid’. Because how wonderful would that be? Faery folk coming to visit us from another dimension. I can certainly get on board with that idea.

In Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries, and Spirits, Quin asks for you to keep a journal alongside as you drink in the wonders of these tales and the connections you can find. She also encourages you to make notes within the pages of this delightful little companion. 

My knowledge of faeries is, I’m ashamed to say, almost non-existent, unless we can count Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell in Hook (1991), and I don’t think we can. And so, honestly, I was entering into this world not really knowing what to expect.

Yet I was pleasantly surprised. I was welcomed with open arms immediately.  I felt looked after from the first page, nothing was pushed or forced upon me. I felt like I belonged, I wasn’t intruding on an unknown world, more like visiting an old friend. 

The book is to be used as a practical guide for you to approach and interact with the fae, using the New Age model by Doreen Virtue, which relies on the traditional lineage stories of faeries and their elementals, more commonly known as: earth, air, fire, and water.

Quin advises that when looking to work with the faeries you choose those that are close to you regionally or locally. She has researched and worked with the folklore of Wales, Edinburgh, and Spain. Although her work tends to focus on the Nordic Fae, the Alfar, as they are found worldwide.

Faery cultures vary from region to region, so it’s wise to do your research. Much like you would do if you were visiting a foreign country for the first time.

We are given an enigmatic insight into the world of faeries. I live close to where the Cottingley Fairy pictures were taken, and although these photos were proven to have been faked by the children, who’s to say we don’t still have them living there?

It’s a beautiful fairy-like landscape, something we’re not short of in Yorkshire. And now that I know how to approach and how to show my respect to these spirits, it’s something I will be more mindful of.

The book lays out steps for you to begin your connection with the fae. How to build your altar, where you’ll be able to communicate with them, and where you need to look in nature. There is also a handy guide which will give you trees and plants to look out for to bond and meditate with.

Quin also takes us deeper into the Fae folk, sharing who to call upon, who to thank, and who we can be inviting into our homes. 

Each chapter takes you on an easy-to-follow path, starting with an introduction to Faery history, how to begin, who you can find, and where to find them. You are then carefully taken, step by step into a new world. A world that is waiting not far from you now and may be closer than you think.

Learning to open the pathways, cross the rivers and enter Faery land. Invite these beings into your world, integrate your roots, call upon the already familiar elementals and encourage yourself to delve further into what they have to offer. 

Whether you have just discovered a spark of interest, you’ve been dabbling for a while, or you’re still on the fence about the whole idea, I think Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries and Spirits can offer a new insight into what you might have already learned. And isn’t it always good practice to keep an open mind?

Pagan Portals – Abnoba, by Ryan McClain

Pagan Portals – Abnoba: Celtic Goddess of the Wilds, by Ryan McClain
Moon Books, 1803410248, 112 pages, October 2022

Not much is written or known about this eclectic deity. But what we do know is captured here within these pages, beautifully written by Ryan McClain.

Before discovering Pagan Portals – Abnoba: Celtic Goddess of the Wilds, I had never heard of Abnoba, but I now realize why I was drawn to this particular title. McClain speaks of how he was guided to Abnoba:

“Little did I know that I had been receiving subtle messages all my life. The voice that told me to stop on a hike and just absorb the divinity that surrounded me”1

So, if you are ever “called” by something but have never been able to figure out who or what was doing the calling, maybe the universe is trying to show you your pathway to the divine. It could be that you just need to allow your mind to open to a little more. Invite the signs in and embrace the energy

Reading about McClain’s journey with religion was an eye-opening experience for me. It has helped somewhat, with explaining the connections I feel towards certain places, objects, and especially churches or ancient sacred places; it never occurred to me that this connection might also be a sign. These feelings have always fueled my intrigue but never enough to follow any one religion exclusively. And it never occurred to me that it could be a singular Goddess calling to me.

McClain takes us on a spiritual journey of receiving the signs. It is a perfect reminder for us to be open to them and to practice mindfulness on a regular basis. The world and our surrounding universe are always talking. We just need to be open to listening.

It was refreshing and quite unexpected, to relate to something so closely, when, prior to reading this, I had never even heard of Abnoba.

There is so much more to learn about the many facets of Abnoba – her connections with children, slaves, healing, the homestead, boundaries, and transitions.

The traits she shares with other Goddesses and the connections that McClain so delicately lays out for us here.

McClain speaks of a peace that he feels –  in nature, mostly when he is in the woods – and how the words to describe it eludes him. It’s a personal connection with the earth, one that shouldn’t be put into words. I feel this on another level. Some things are just not made to be verbally expressed.

I was surprised to learn that Abnoba is the Goddess of hunting, amongst her other many areas of expertise, as the author did not strike me as the hunting type, and he does admit he has zero affinity with the hunting aspect.

McClain makes it clear however, that Abnoba’s connection with hunting is merely a symbiotic relationship. Nature and herself working together. It is a respectful connection. Humans need food and sustenance, as long as you are respectful, grateful, and your need for hunting is a worthy one, Abnoba will be the Goddess you call upon to aid you. 

We learn briefly about the polytheistic religion of Gaul, although not much can be said, as the recorded history of their Gods and worship has been lost to time. These types of religion are important to be reminded of though, as many places can be linked to the Gods and Goddesses who call to us now.

The myths and legends that we have for the likes of Thor and Loki in Norse mythology just do not exist for the Gods and Goddesses of Gaul. Although there are several inscriptions which bear the name Abnoba, we have nothing of significance to encapsulate her. Even the only known statue of her is missing its head.

With much of Abnoba’s history missing or simply never existing, you could be wondering how an entire book can be written about such a person. Well, most of what we read here is from McClain’s own interpretations. He has painstakingly compared and contrasted Abnoba to other Goddesses who share her assets, Goddess Diana, a Roman deity, holds a heavy comparison throughout.

And since McClain has dedicated himself to Abnoba, she speaks to him in many different ways. Through his prayers, meditations, and his dreams. It is with this that he is sure his interpretations have been correct. She leads him on the right path in order to give others an insight.

This may be difficult for some to understand, and McClain is absolutely not preaching here. His journey is for himself, and he strongly encourages others to seek out Abnoba for themselves. See what she shows them, see what she shows you. Each person will experience her differently.

There may be so much more to learn about Abnoba. It’s a difficult prospect when so much has been lost, but we can search within ourselves to know her better and ultimately share our discoveries with others.

Pagan Portals – Abnoba is a great starting point for this journey, there is just far too much to be said and to learn about Gaul, Abnoba’s ancient connections, where she was first represented, and to whom she calls. It cannot all be crammed into this book. I urge you to start your own research into this intriguing deity and see where the Goddess Abnoba visits your life. 

Pagan Portals – Dream Analysis Made Easy, by Kystrina Sypniewski

Pagan Portals – Dream Analysis Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know to Harness the Power of Your Dreams, by Kystrina Sypniewski
Moon Books, 978-1-80341-178-1, 101 pages, April 2023

Coming from a holistic healing and spiritual background, I have always had an interest in the secret, mysterious world of our dreams. But when I started exploring dream work, there was much less information to find, being pre-internet times. Back then only certain writers and researchers had worked with dreams. Carl Jung became my first port of call, with him being so well known and having written a wealth of information on the subject. Sadly, I found his work lacking the spiritual element I desired. I was then led to the work of Denise Linn and that is where my dream work began.

However, more recently, I have been pondering this question: in today’s climate of information overload, if people wished to start from scratch and enter into the realm of dream research, where would they start? Feeling that it’s necessary for them to start with the basics, Pagan Portals – Dream Analysis Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know to Harness the Power of Your Dreams by Kystrina Sypniewski is a great book for beginners. Sypniewski has touched on most of the basics and the foundation of dream analysis quite well.

Sypniewski rightly begins with an introduction into sleep and sleep patterns. I feel this is very important, as without this background understanding of sleep and its stages discovering much more about dreams would be lacking. We need to understand REM sleep and when it occurs to better know our dream cycles. I found her research fitted with my own understanding.

She then quite rapidly (this book is only 100 pages) moves onto the potential meaning behind our dreams and their use to our own wellbeing and understanding of ourselves. She covers these topics in a holistic way. Sypniewski writes how dream imagery and messages may help us process past experiences, provide insight into our current life situation, as well as be potentially prophetic, giving us clues and guidance toward potential future occurrences.

Sypniewski then moves into the basics of dream discovery. In this section she covers methods of recall-what you remember happened in your dream and benefits of dream diaries and dictionaries. A basic dream diary is a journal that is placed on the bedside, so it is quickly accessible, in order to be able to note down dreams before they slip away. To me a dream diary is vital for recall, and Sypniewski instructs on how to make these diaries more structured and detailed. She covers this well and gives advice on how to format one, which I think is very helpful.

As the book progresses, Sypniewski moves on to dream symbology.  She covers the deeper symbology, as in, what a house or car commonly represents.

“The house represents the dreamer. If the house is a specific dwelling with which the dreamer has a very strong and unique past association, then the house represents either the fear of, or possible recurrence of the situation the dreamer associates with that house.”1

However, Sypniewski does stress that it is crucial to see the process as one of self-discovery. A fleeting symbol to one person may mean something very different to another. Her method of self-discovery provides a very different take than a dream dictionary. Dream dictionaries tend to take a “one size fits all” approach and although she does offer some symbols and interpretations later in the book, she does say they are just potential meanings and it is so important to find your own.

“Although it is essential you interpret your dreams in a personal way, there are a few symbols which are pretty accepted as having a universal meaning.”2

The concept of discovering what symbols mean to you for yourself is reiterated throughout the book. It can be repetitive at times, but I think she just wishes to stress the importance of taking the personal approach and to teach readers not to view dreamwork as superficial.

As the book progresses further, she expands on what we can learn from our dreams and the messages and warnings they can impart. She also reflects on the vital process of healing and insight from working with our subconscious and the benefits of potentially prophetic dreams. 

Having worked in many ways to discover more about myself and the subconscious mind, I turned to lucid dreaming, especially in my youth. Lucid Dreaming is covered in a very brief chapter, which I was a little disappointed about, so if you are looking for detailed information on this topic then you’ll need to do more research. However, she does give enough detail for a beginner and provides great advice for a starting point. I had not read her take on lucid dreaming before, so I did learn something from it, and I am now using the method suggested by Sypniewski.

The latter portion of the book focuses on mythological and archetypal characters and images and what they can represent within the collective consciousness of humanity with questions to ask yourself. She cites many dream examples and teaches how they might be interpreted. Many of these examples prove the healing and beneficial effect of our dreams, which is good for those learning the art of dream work for the first time.

Sypniewski does a great job throughout the book of helping the reader gain the building blocks for interpretation, covering how to almost dissect your dreams and showing the reader the methods of structuring your dream recall in a way that you can learn most from it. These methods are covered thoroughly and re-iterated for clarity as the book concludes.

Overall, I do feel Pagan Portals – Dream Analysis Made Easy is a very good book for beginners into the realm of dream analysis and self-discovery. Sypniewski covered all the basics and more, and I was heartened by her approach to self-interpretation of symbols along with her guidance and structures for really getting to know yourself through your dreams.

Polytheism: A Platonic Approach, by Steven Dillion

Pagan Portals – Polytheism: A Platonic Approach, by Steven Dillon
Moon Books, 1785359797, 96 pages, August 2022

In Pagan Portals – Polytheism: A Platonic Approach, Steven Dillon presents a deceptively simple argument for the position that the existence of any god, even the God espoused by one of the monotheistic religions, entails the existence of many gods. To put it simply: “theism just is polytheism.”1 What’s more, Dillon intends to do this by drawing upon classical platonist philosophy? I was immediately sold on this book. But, reader be warned: Pagan Portals – Polytheism: A Platonic Approach is not the easiest reading. It is a true work of analytic philosophy: its main argument appears easy to grasp, but the proof of each step is rigorous and highly theoretical. With two master’s degrees in philosophy myself, this book still demanded great focus and concentration. And was worth the effort!

Dillon’s main argument has massive implications – not the least of which is that belief systems based around monotheism are fundamentally self-contradictory. And a similar problem would also arise for any theistic beliefs which include a hierarchy of gods: e.g. Zeus would be no more metaphysically important or fundamental to reality than Hephaestus; or beliefs which consider one group of deities (the Norse pantheon) greater or more real than another (the Egyptian pantheon). To put it lightly: this argument has very wide consequences for religious thinking. 

Dillon attempts to make all these arguments and disagreements over different gods, detities, etc. a thing of the past. Dillon puts this all to rest by – very basically – arguing that any particular god is a revelation of the ineffable subject of divine being (which cannot be a particular thing, cannot have definite properties, cannot be quantified at all). As such, any particular god contains/implies all other gods. When the implications of this position are taken to their conclusion, Dillon finds that “all things are divinely constituted by a plurality of polycentric henads.”2

Naturally, in order to understand the intricacies of what Dillon means, you’ll have to read the book to get all the nitty gritty details yourself. But for our purposes here, I’d like to point out a couple of the major ideas underlying Dillon’s argument. 1) Dillon’s starting premise, “To be divine is to transcend Nature,”3 means that the precise notion of “transcend” is going to be extremely important. 2) One of Dillon’s key strategies in formulating his argument is relying upon the analogy between (Indo-European) grammatical structure and how beings (any entity, object, mind) possess their properties. Beings have properties like subjects have predicates.

These two points will turn out to be critical in evaluating the soundness of the main argument. While Dillon has much to say on both, it’s the reliance upon these two ideas which leaves an opening for potential problems to creep in. I am not presenting a refutation of Dillon’s argument, but I wish to raise concerns so that readers can conduct their own examination. Uniting the two issues is my overarching concern that Dillon’s interpretations of theistic ideas (e.g. the transcendence of divine being) may be overly simplified, derived from commonly-held beliefs rather than deeper theological understanding. It’s completely reasonable to rely on common notions of course, but when they are so important to the overall argument, it’s worth being extra cautious in how they are borne out.

As for (1), Dillon relies on a notion of transcendence that is fairly common: to be beyond, above, or outside of Nature. Yet, this description does not fully coincide with the notion of transcendence found in many of the mystical traditions within Abrahamic religions (which were heavily influenced by neo-platonism), for instance. The transcendence of the divine may be a transcendence into the ever-rising moreness of Reality (including Nature’s part in it), rather than transcendence above or beyond.

Secondly, Dillon gives very short attention to the consideration of immanence, which is often taken as being just as important as transcendence to the divine mode of being. Dillon requires his notion of transcendence in order to later defend his position from accusations of pantheism – if the divine is completely beyond Nature, then pantheism cannot be true. It’s unclear why he is resistant to the pantheist position, as the whole argument seems to be leading there (apart from the problematic premise I’ve indicated); but if Dillon’s interpretation of “transcendence” is put into question, it would be much more difficult to avoid the pantheist conclusion.

For (2), this grammatical analogy has been a long-standing philosophical position, especially in western analytic traditions, it is not above question. Some Asian philosophical and religious traditions would not necessarily assent to this analogy; nor do all languages function in the way described in the analogy. Process theories of Reality (e.g. those of Whitehead or Buddhist traditions), or those which hold relationships as prior to the relata (particulars, objects, henads), would likely also reject this idea.

But using this analogy will force oneself into a position where “divine being” (which should not be considered some kind of being, among other beings, as Dillon also agrees) must be considered a “thing” of sorts: an entity which plays an analogous role as the subject of a sentence, but conflicts with the ineffability of the divine. Dillon argues for the polycentricity of divine being to avoid this problem (even gesturing toward Process theories, or the divine as a mode of being), but I would suggest that the analogy may ultimately trap the argument into trying to use language to express what language cannot capture.

All that said, Pagan Portals – Polytheism: A Platonic Approach is a courageous and intricate work of philosophy seeking to bridge the differences between theistic systems regarding divine being. The book is extremely well organized, clearly leading the reader through the main argument and its implications to reach the final conclusion. Each of the early chapters is dedicated to explaining and supporting just one of the main premises, so it’s easy to keep track of where we are within the argument, as well as how we got there.

Although I have drawn upon my background as a philosopher to take issue with a few of Dillon’s points, it would require a much more thorough analysis to provide any substantive objection to his position. Despite being a challenging read, I heartily recommend Dillon’s book to anyone with philosophical-theological inclinations, and I eagerly await further developments in this line of inquiry from Dillon and those responding to his great work.

Pagan Portals – The Art of Lithomacy, by Jessica Howard

Pagan Portals – The Art of Lithomancy: Divination with Stones, Crystals, and Charms, by Jessica Howard
Moon Books, 9781789049145, 104 pages, May 2022

A few years back, I had my first lithomancy reading without even realizing it. I sat down with a  woman at a psychic fair reading small pebbles and stones, who then accurately shared insights about my past, present, and future. Even since then I’ve wanted to learn more about this art form, but there was scarce information I could find about it. Therefore, I was absolutely thrilled to discover Pagan Portals – The Art of Lithomancy: Divination with Stones, Crystals, and Charms by Jessica Howard, which has completely sparked my interest in developing my own lithomancy practice.

Howard is an eclectic witch, blending Water, Kitchen, Celtic, and Green Witchcraft into her practice, adding to the well-rounded approach to this topic. She explains to readers how lithomancy is the art of divination done by reading stones, crystals, charms, or even seashells. A caster, who is doing the divination, tosses the stones and then interprets the reading based on where everything falls, noticing patterns, geometric designs, and even the texture of the stones.

“So, what exactly can lithomancy tell us? Like many forms of divination, lithomancy can help us understand our past and our present. It can help us divine the future, uncover ancient knowledge and wisdom, connect with our higher selves, and unlock the secrets of our subconscious.”1

Step-by-step Howard lays out all the reader needs to know to begin their practice, prepare for a reading, and then perform the reading. There are so many little details she covers, such as how to choose your stones, followed by how to cleanse them and later ascribe meaning to each stone. I learned all about how the casting can be done with either a personal stone, imbued with your own energy, or simply by observing the stones that fall closest to the querent.

What I like about Howard’s approach is that she provides the foundation to begin a practice but emphasizes how individualized one’s lithomancy practice will be. She leaves a lot of room for the budding lithomancer to develop their own style, interpretations, and intuitive guidance along the way with just the right amount of support to make one feel confident this is a divination style they can learn to use successfully.

For instance, one of the lithomacy sets described is an “Astrological Correspondence Set” based on the planets. Howard goes through all the planets and provides readers with their keywords and meaning to help discern which stone might be best to use to represent them in a set. She also covers the additional stones included in this set, which are stones for place, love, luck, magic, life, and commitment. As an astrologer, I was fascinated by this set and felt it was one that could bridge my knowledge of astrology with lithomancy. Howard even describes how the diviner could divide the casting circle into houses for further insight – pure genius!

Another section that I found very insightful was the chapter about performing a reading. Howard covers how to cast the stones, the use of casting boundaries (or not, depending on the reading style), and reading with segments, where you divide your casting space into defined areas, such as months, seasons, or past-present-future for more insight. I loved being invited to think about all these little nuances and have options to explore as I develop my practice.

Most helpful to me as a beginner was all the information about interpreting one’s reading. Howard shares a bunch of things to take note of when determining the reading’s message, such as the distance between stones, where they fall in relation to the reader/personal stone, the meaning of various patterns and shapes (ie. square vs. circle vs. straight line), and the stone’s physical characteristics (if a jagged or smooth part of the stone is facing upward, if a pointy edge of the stone is facing a certain direction, etc). Her thoughtful details make the reader feel a lithomancy practice is quite accessible, and this section serves as a great reference when casting one’s stones for the first time.

One of the final chapters, which Howard claims she just had to include due to the good results she’s had with this type of reading, is called “The Chakra Stone Set for Healing”. Just how Howard greatly expanded my perception of what was possible with lithomacy in regard to astrology, she did once more in this section where she teaches how lithomacy can be used in combination with energy work as well. This stone set is really unique in that it has one stone for each chakra, plus one for each element, and a personal stone. She teaches how to read the stones to determine where one should direct their energy or where there is an energy blockage. The mixture of the chakras with the elements yields really interesting insights about how to realign or direct one’s energy, making this a reading that can be done daily for energy attunement.

Overall, Pagan Portals – The Art of Lithomancy is the perfect start to developing one’s own practice. Howard provides the foundation needed to get started while also empowering the reader to trust their intuition to discover for themselves the stone’s messages. After reading this book, I am feeling very inspired and eager to begin creating my own stone sets. There are so many neat directions this form of divination can take that regardless of your magical style you’re bound to find a way that lithomancy can be used to enhance your current practice.

Pagan Portals – Aos Sidhe, Meeting the Irish Fairy Folk of Ireland, by Morgan Daimler

Pagan Portals – Aos Sidhe: Meeting the Irish Fairy Folk of Ireland, by Morgan Daimler
Moon Books, 9781789049374, 85 pages, August 2022

Journeys have not been easy to come by for me this summer. However, although the pandemic kept my physical travel plans on hold, I was able to journey to the Emerald Isle with Morgan Daimler to visit the land of the Fair Folk through the pages of Pagan Portals – Aos Sidhe: Meeting the Irish Fairy Folk of Ireland.

Ireland is one of my favorite places to visit but I do remember being warned not to disturb the places where the fair folk dwelled. I was surprised by this warning as we are living in the 21st century. Did people still believe in the fair folk? This book answered my question with a resounding “Yes!”

In the Author’s Note, Daimler indicates that she is “writing this book because of an aisling, a vision, I had and because I feel like this book is a necessary thing to help people sort out Irish folk belief from pop culture and fiction.”1

Aos Sidhe (pronounced Ace Shee) means “people of the fairy hills” or people of the Otherworld. According to Daimler, “They are the beings who interact with our world but exist in and come from a place that is foreign to our world, and that is the realm of the sidhe, beneath the earth, also called an Saol Eile, the Otherworld.”2 The English term for Aos Sidhe is fairy. 

Although short in length, the book is packed with various sources of information on what Morgan refers to throughout as the Good Folk or Fairy Folk which “do not exist within one cohesive grouping.”3

The book is divided into six chapters. Chapter One investigates just who the Aos Sidhe are by looking at folklore and myth. Chapter Two, “Across Belief”, provides sources of accounts with the Fairy Folk, including anecdotes of people who have had experiences with the Aos Sidhe over the last hundred years or so that they have chosen to share.

There are certain times and places, liminal points, where one could have a greater chance of encountering these beings or as Morgan writes “running afoul of the Fair Folk.”4 Samhain, the month of November, and Beltane are the strongest times. Various traditions grew around these times to appease or avoid bothering the Fairy Folk through offerings or ways to protect one’s self from the Fairy Folk. To make matters worse for us humans, the Fairy Folk cannot be seen except by choice, only manifesting in physical form if they so desire. 

Chapter Three focuses on Changelings, “a fairy surreptitiously put in the place of a human being.”5 Typically, those taken are infants, young children, newly married adults, and new mothers. They are taken to increase the number of the Fairy Folk, or for entertainment, or on a whim. She recounts four cases from 1826 – 1895 of people who were accused of being changelings and the treatments they suffered at the hands of friends and family, all of which ended in death. To aid in protecting against being taken, iron and Christian holy items were used, such as pinning a safety pin to a baby’s clothing or by the sacrament of Baptism. 

Descriptions of the types of Fair Folk are covered in Chapter 4. A few favorites stand out in this chapter for me. Having grown up watching the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People. I was scared at a young age by the screams of the Bean Sidhe (banshee) in the movie.  This “woman of the fairy hills” is probably one of the best-known of the Fair Folk, as being one who predicts death. I was surprised to learn that there are Cat Sidhe and Dobharchu or water dogs. Other Fairy Folk include Maighdeana Mhara, or “sea maidens” or mermaids, Puce or goblins and sprites, and Ronata, seal folks who the Scottish refer to as Selkies.  The Ronata use seal skins to transform themselves. 

Of course, everyone has heard of Leprechauns whose name is thought to come from the Old Irish word, luchorpan which means a very small body6. According to Daimler, there remains debate as to whether Leprechauns are part of the ranking order of Aos Sidhe or are separate, distinct beings.

Chapter 5 is titled “Safe Dealings with the Fairy Folk or Good People” to ensure people responsibly interact with these folks. As Morgan warns:

“Throughout recorded accounts of the Aos Sidhe there have always been humans who have encountered or interacted with these beings, sometimes with good results and sometimes with bad results.”7

She cautions that there are rules to interacting with the Good People in order to promote safety but that there are “real risks of encountering or dealing with these beings.”8 The chapter covers etiquette, offerings, and protections that include things to carry on one’s person in those liminal times (such as salt or a red thread) or hanging an iron horseshoe above one’s door. 

Chapter 6 and the Conclusion deal with common misconceptions of the Good Folk. Morgan reminds us that “stories of these beings have been woven into Ireland’s very earth for well over a thousand years.”9 Daimler notes that the book is meant to be an introduction not a tome. 

Also included at the end of the book is a much-appreciated Terms and Pronunciation Guide. Though, I would have liked to see this at the beginning of the book, as I spent the entire book mispronouncing the Irish terms. 

I highly recommend this book by Daimler, an author with many books on subjects such as Fairies, Brigid, and Irish Paganism to her credit. I learned a lot in reading Pagan Portals – Aos Sidhe: Meeting the Irish Fairy Folk of Ireland, but I have to admit that it left me with an uneasy feeling. I do not want to cross these beings, or inadvertently encounter them. I avoid conjuring them up. I recently resisted the temptation of staring too long at a fairy garden because as Morgan reminds the reader,  the Aos Sidhe are “always leaving but never gone.”10