Studying Astrology

Studying Astrology

If you wish to study astrology the following books are useful :

Sun Signs by Linda Goodman : this gives detailed information on all the sun signs. Each chapter is divided into how to recognise them, the sun sign for men, then women, then children, then bosses and lastly employees.

Moon Signs by Sasha Fenton (or anything else by her as she explains things well)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astrology

Parker’s Astrology by Julia and Derek Parker. This is an extremely comprehensive book on astrology and will tell you how to cast and interpret birth charts.

Christian Astrology by William Lilly. There is nothing Christian in this book, he calls it so because it was written in 1646 when people were saying astrology was a tool of the Devil. This book is a very good book about using astrology to predict the future and answer questions posed by people. In days gone by it was used to divine whether the querent’s ship had arrived safely or if a women would become pregnant.


Getting Out

While I don’t hold with only observing the natural world and not reading books, it’s good to get out and about in nature and be able to identify some of the species you read about.

It would be good to be able to identify all local species; but this takes time, practice and a lot of looking at books. Plus some seemingly “wild” plants are garden escapes like Honesty and Oregon Grape, which I spent a lot of time trying to find in books about wild plants.

A friend came round yesterday and we walked through the woods to the pub. He’s seriously sporty, so for him it was a pleasant stroll, whereas for us it was a bit more of a challenge.

Just going through the old wood and seeing all the different shapes of trees which you don’t get where woods have been managed (this one wasn’t for a long time) was beautiful and something you cannot observe in books, where they show the bog-standard shape of the tree.

There are quite a few wild cherry trees and I was going to come back and harvest the fruit but it’s really bitter this summer; possibly not enough sun or something at the moment, so I’ll try again next year.

Books to Avoid

When browsing in a bookshop there are certain titles that I automatically avoid. The first is “Celtic Shamanism”. The Celts (and let’s not go into what races were and were not Celts) had druids, which is a perfectly good system and I see no need to tack Shamanism on just because it’s foreign so must be the next sexy thing.

The other one is “Real Witch”. It’s as if the writer has to validate their practice to everyone else, whereas if you’ve had a few years’ experience you can tell within a five minute skim of the book whether it’s any good or absolute rot. The “Real Witch” stuff falls into the latter.

If any readers of this blog have titles that they automatically avoid for any reason, I’d like to hear from you.

Reconstructing Folk Practices

For those of us who are reconstructing folk practices, the path is not an easy one.

We have to trawl through books trying to find crumbs of the practices that might be reconstructed. These books are books of folklore, stories or snippets that someone a century or so ago recorded.

However, it is a rewarding path that is worth doing.

Things to do

The trouble with paganism is that there’s always a lot to do and not enough time to do it in.

At the top of my list is to write the Spring Equinox ritual, research into water in Irish myths, finish the deity work I mentioned in a post earlier and write a bunch of spells which are neither urgent nor important so I haven’t done them yet. I would also like to start carving wands.

Then there’s the list of books to read. If I won the lottery I could happily spend the rest of my life immersed in witchcraft and paganism.

Reading Books

It has been said that reading a bad book is worthwhile because there is always one good piece of information in it.

I suspect this has been put around by bad authors, as why do people want to read a bad book for only one piece of information when they can read a good book which will change their practice for the better with lots of pieces of good information? I don’t have time to waste reading bad books.

I also see people saying “I’ve read X book until it’s falling apart and I’d like to know what to read next”. Most books will have a bibliography in the back and you can start with this.
Also try lists or recommendations from people you respect. I’ve done this and sometimes the lists have turned out to be filled with bad books, but I’ve found some really good lists from people.

The Importance of Texts

It’s important to read the texts your path has. Most books are derived from them, but the writer’s interpretation of the text may not be what yours is and they may miss parts that are important to you. Some of the books written by authors who have read texts will be good. Others will not be so good. This is why we need to do the work and read the texts.

I’ve found this as I’ve read The Auraceipt, which deals with ogham. Ogham is a system of marks which denote letters of the alphabet and is found in some Celtic countries, notably Ireland and Wales. According to The Auraceipt Ogham has various meanings, for example ash is attributed to weaving. I haven’t seen anything that mentions ash as weaving in the books on Ogham that I have read, so it’s probably been missed out as not many people today weave.

This is why I am going back to the texts and working from there. It takes a long time to sort out meanings, but you know that you are using the correct meanings that work and not something that will be hit and miss depending on what else you use in that spell.

For someone following an Irish path who has not read any texts before, the best text to start off with is the Lebor Gabala Erenn translated by R.A.S. MacAlister. Most of the prominent deities are mentioned there and the book contains stories of their lives. Accallam na Senorach translated by Ann Dooley and Harry Roe is about the deities after the Lebor Gabala Erenn and a good second text to read.

Other paths will have their own texts which unfortunately I do not know about as I’m concentrating on Irish books and others which have been recommended to me.

Following a Pantheon

When you follow a pantheon of deities I advise you to make notes on them from any book that’s mentioned plus a note of the book the deity was mentioned in. This means you can easily search computer notes for a deity connected with X, rather than having to wade through lots of books.

Just because deities are in the same pantheon it doesn’t mean that they get on with one another. Think about family arguments that you’ve been involved in, except with deities it goes a bit further when X has killed Y’s son/daughter, so be careful who you put on your altar.

I also advise reading up on your pantheon repeatedly. We need to understand our deities and memory degrades over time.

Learning from Nature, not Books

Recently someone has posted on Facebook, “you can learn more from nature than you ever can in a book”.

This claim is made by people who don’t want to bother with learning books, studying or putting the hard work in. They just want to wander outside for an hour or so a week and say “they’re learning from nature”.

There are some books that I have only learnt one or two things from and I would say that you can learn more from nature than reading them, but those are bad books. A good book, like J.A. MacCulloch’s Celtic Religion (available free on Sacred Texts website) has, in a few hours, taught me just as much as I’ve learnt from being outside with nature for many hours.

Go out and learn from nature, but don’t let this stop you from learning from books. Both of them have value and you can learn things from one that you can’t from the other.

The Way you Tread your Path

The other day I was reading an interview with a Traditional Witch called Gemma Gary. In it she was complaining that other witches wanted her to be sociable, when she didn’t want to socialise.
Socialising with others is only one of the ways you can tread your path. Like Gemma, you may not like socialising and prefer your own company. I have friends who have complained of wannabees and idiots cluttering up the social scene, so they don’t socialise much.

Another way is to read books, magazines, forums and anything you come across. With books I would advise you to stay away from the Mind, Body and Soul section of the bookshops as the books they have are either information for absolute beginners or usually have one or two pertinent facts and the rest is rubbish. I advise that you stick to the Myths and Legends or Archaeology sections.
Another way is to go out there and do things. Write rituals (if you’re solitary there is no-one to criticise, if you’re not there are people to help) and do spells.

Yet another is to meditate and go on shamanic journeys.

The last way is to go out into nature and observe. This can be useful if you’re following a nature-based path, but cannot be used on its own as you then have pagans who say they observe nature, but do not know that berries come from flowers.

I would advise that any witch or pagan use a variety of the methods above (and any others that seem best to them) to proceed on their path. Which you use and how much you use them are up to you. We are not required to be social animals or to be constantly observing nature, we are individuals and what works for one person will not work for another.

« Older entries