Archive for the Magick by Trial & Error Category

My thoughts on Edred Thorsson’s The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on February 12, 2019 by Occult Detective

rune-coverI’ve been reading Edred Thorsson for something akin to thirty-five years. My first introduction to his writing came by way of Weiser’s 1984 publication of Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic.

With The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic, we find what is essentially an amalgamation of the author’s previous works under one roof, so to speak.

I have found Thorsson (Stephen Flowers) to be a competent writer, knowledgeable and persistent in his worldview.

I have not always agreed with him and his interpretations. The simple truth of the matter is, so very little is known about Norse culture, so little has survived. While Gods remain, the ways in which they were worshiped, how their magic was practiced, is lost to the mysteries of time.

As such, when investigating the runes and Norse culture it is always wise to do so with the foreknowledge that there is no true “authority”.


Thorsson approaches the subject with an almost split personality. On one hand he’s an academic forthright in his pursuit of the truth, plumbing historical records with an anthropologist’s thirst. On the other, Thorsson is an erstwhile explorer, experimenting with the bits we’ve collected and trying to make practical sense of it, not as a reenactment but as a way to move it forward while honoring what has gone before.

It’s a tricky business, and I’m not always onboard, but his scholarship is such that I am compelled to take notice, to take from it that which rings true.

I find this edition from Red Wheel/Weiser to be comprehensive, which is its crowning feature. They were able to collect a broad selection of Thorsson’s scholarship and put it all in one place, which is both handy and makes for a more complete journey.

You can pick up Edred Thorsson’s The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic wherever books are sold, or you might pick it up directly from Red Wheel/Weiser to help ensure books like these keep coming our way.

My thoughts on Water Witchcraft by Annwyn Avalon

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on February 8, 2019 by Occult Detective

waterwitchcraftI was rather pleasantly surprised by Annwyn Avalon’s Water Witchcraft: Magic and Lore from the Celtic Tradition. Maybe the book caught me in a good mood, or maybe it just appealed to my Piscean nature, but for a someone new to the craft, it’s pretty thorough and has a voice that will appeal to most readers, especially those hungry for a fresh start into water-based magic.

It is literally packed with useful tools, meditations, and spellwork. Just the sort of thing a beginner is looking for.

If it has a shortcoming, it’s that it is rather plain. I would have fancied some artwork sprinkled about or some clever trappings, but that’s probably the graphic designer in me talking.

It’s ultimately the content that matters and Avalon has delivered in that regard. The work is very intuitive and feels natural, as it should, and some things I found to be variations of things I’ve been doing for more than thirty years, so good on her.

With Spring approaching, this is a stellar book to shake off the last gasp of Winter, to head out into the wilds and find yourself by a secluded stream or pond, and have a go at it.

I suspect it will speak to you as readily as it spoke to me.

Water Witchcraft: Magic and Lore from the Celtic Tradition by Annwyn Avalon will be available the first of March, my birthday no less. Preorder yours from Amazon today if you’re of a mind to. I think you’ll fancy it.

Embrace the N.I.G.H.T.

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, N.I.G.H.T., Occult Detectives on December 17, 2018 by Occult Detective


We’ll be launching a new venture come spring. We hope you’ll join us on this journey of discovery… More details to come.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on December 4, 2018 by Occult Detective


This makes for a pretty good summation of what makes me tick. I could decipher the lot of it, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, it’s not really all that deep… just accurate.

In Defense of ‘Fakelore’

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on November 19, 2018 by Occult Detective

“And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But that’s just me”

— Dr. Bennett (Robert Guillaume), Big Fish

Let me preface the following by stating categorically that there is no place for physical, emotional, or sexual abuse within any community, let alone the greater, so-called, ‘pagan’ collective. We should strive to be better, to one another and to those outside our circle. The age old adage that ‘we are all in this together’ is more than just a platitude or affirmation — it is grounded in the reality of our place in the universe. While I believe you will discover that I am no great friend to ‘reality’ as perceived by the masses, some truths are irrefutable, regardless of the cut of your jib.


If you’ve not already been treated to their words, I direct you first to a lengthy essay by Sarah Anne Lawless titled For Sale: Neopaganism “As Is”, and a response from anthropologist Amy Hale found under the heading On Paganism, Fakelore, and Tired Conversations about Authenticity.

Both are erudite and thought-provoking. Do I need to add my proverbial two-cents? Absolutely not, but then, that’s never stopped me before.

I watched the movie Big Fish this past weekend. Are you familiar? Based on the book by Daniel Wallace (which I’ve not read, but need to), the film was packed full of star power — Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Ewan MacGregor, Helena Bonham Carter, and on and on.

Of the film, director Tim Burton said, “Big Fish is about what’s real and what’s fantastic, what’s true and what’s not true, what’s partially true and how, in the end, it’s all true.

My own faith, which stems from my interpretation of heathenry, is founded on the tall tale in many respects. Anyone who has taken even a cursory stroll through the Sagas can readily see this to be true.

Boasting around the campfire is a time-honored tradition. Tales often grow in the telling, but if they’re well told, then more’s the better.

The truth can be overrated, and more often than not, elusive.

Sometimes building a mythology, a legend, around one’s beliefs heightens the narrative. It becomes a part of the ritual, entering that headspace where reality is warped and blended with the supernatural to create a magical truth that transcends the reality of the mundane.

Looking at Thelema, for instance, does it really matter if Aleister Crowley fictionalized his account regarding the transmission of the Book of the Law?

What of Gerald Gardner or Alex Sanders? Do their backstories make their traditions any less potent if they are fabrications?

The Golden Dawn was founded on so-called fakelore as is nearly every ‘secret society’ born under the sun, moon, and stars. I’m looking at you, Freemasons and Odd-Fellows, and all the rest.

Entire nations are founded on twisted versions of the honest to goodness truth.

And why not?

In a sense, all of reality is false, memory is unreliable, and we all build mythologies around ourselves, altering the past to suit our chosen narratives.

Everything is fictive.

When looking for the truth, well, which version of it do you want, because we all see things from different perspectives. There’s a reason why eyewitness testimony is largely unreliable.

Psychologically, we reinterpret events so that they make sense to us all based on numerous cultural and biological factors.

Truth is what you make it.


Now, if you’re creating fakelore to manipulate and control people to feed your ‘cult of personality’, to use and abuse members of your ‘tribe’, well then, we have a problem…

But, if you’re building a mythological narrative to elevate and uplift, to pass down a fable that fosters a sense of wonder and importance, well then where is the harm in that?

We’re on a spiritual journey, each and every one of us. What matters is our evolution going forward. If your reimagined backstory propels you up out of the mire into the heavens, then so be it.

In the end, it’s all about intent.

At least, that’s how I see it.

My thoughts on Dee’s ‘Fortune Telling with Playing Cards’ & Marin’s ‘Monsters and Creatures’

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on October 31, 2018 by Occult Detective

A lot happening today. It’s Hallowe’en, after all. A cold rain is falling on my haunted heartland and Jimmy Page’s Lucifer Rising is droning away on the turntable. Magic is, as they say, in the air.

playingcardsI thought I’d share with you some quick thoughts on a couple of new releases, the first being a re-release of Jonathan Dee’s Fortune Telling with Playing Cards.

I was quite fond of books such as this as a child. My parents were not the most tolerant when it came to the occult, so learning to read playing cards as opposed to the Tarot was an important stepping stone in my early development.

Therein lies the beauty of it. Most any household has a deck of cards handy, so you have a readily accessible divination tool within easy grasp.

You’ll find some rather generic card interpretations and a wealth of various card spreads to choose from and experiment with. It’s a solid enough introductory lesson in cartomancy, more than useful enough, especially for those just dipping their toes in preternatural waters.

You can snatch it up here, if you’ve a mind to.


The second book I’d like to shake a stick at is Gabiann Marin’s Monsters and Creatures, part of Rockpool Publishing’s ‘Supernatural Series’. Now, I reviewed one other installment in this run, Lucy Cavendish’s Witches and Wizards, and found it wanting. Monsters and Creatures is less offensive, but still feels a bit light.

monstersLike its predecessor, Monsters and Creatures is a lovely book. The graphic design folks at Rockpool are rock solid. These little hardcovers are crammed full of pictures, wingdings, and all the little bells and whistles and tricks-of-the-trade that make for a top-of-the-line reference book.

And I simply adored these ‘occult encyclopedias’ as a kid. This would have been 8 year old me’s favorite book, I’m sure. I would have carried it and the Witches volume around like the Old and New Testament.

53 year old me, however, is a little more jaded, and a little more learned. Is it a fun book? Certainly, and it’s a far cry better researched than Witches and Wizards turned out to be. My qualms about this is there’s nothing really new to be discovered between its covers.

I suppose that says more about me than it does about Monsters and Creatures.

Still, it’s a pretty package, and if you’re new to this sort of thing, or have young ones about, it’s well worth the price of admission, which you can easily do right here.

My thoughts on ‘A Book of Pagan Prayer’ by Ceisiwr Serith

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on October 30, 2018 by Occult Detective

Weiser Books was kind enough to send me a review copy of A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith. Originally published in 2002, I was very familiar with that earlier work, and its companion, A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book, published in 2011.

aboppA few years back I reviewed A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book stating, “Lyrical and inspirational, I cannot imagine a pagan who would not be enchanted by this book.”

The same could be said for the re-release of the book that started it all.

While this edition maintains the pocket-size format of its predecessor, it is now bound in trade paperback fashion. An unfortunate but cost saving move, I’m sure. But it’s the content we’re after, no? Well, Pagan Prayer does not disappoint.

If I were to sum up this book it a single word, that word would be ‘uplifting‘.

While some of you might be finding this work for the first time, for those of you who might already have it, why would you want to pick this edition up? Quite simply there is a wealth of new prayers added. Prayers for Midsummer that were not present in the original edition, as well as Lammas prayers that didn’t find their way into the work.

They alone make it well worth making a place for it on your shelf.

For first time purchasers, you will discover deep, meaningful words that seek to make a causal connection between the material and the spiritual; words that are meant to create a relationship with the gods of our forebearers.

No matter the path you’re on, A Book of Pagan Prayer will move you and inspire you. Ceisiwr Serith delivers a beautiful collection of devotions and invocations that honour the gods.

I cannot recommend this work highly enough. If you are inclined to speak with the higher powers, A Book of Pagan Prayer is for you.

A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith is available November 1 via Amazon, or in your favorite brick & mortar.

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