Book Review: The Balance of the Two Lands

Book Review: The Balance of the Two Lands

The Balance of the Two Lands: Writings on Greco-Egyptian Polytheism
H. Jeremiah Lewis
Bibliotheca Alexandrina; CreateSpace (June 3, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1442190337
372 pages
Reviewer: Lupa
Full starFull starFull starFull starFull star
 

Heh — the review I wrote about just before this one, incidentally, was about the blending of multiple religions! Go figure. However, whereas ChristoPaganism was about modern mixing of neopaganism and Christianity, The Balance of the Two Lands is a different critter indeed! It would seem that among some (not all!) reconstructionists and other highly scholarly pagans, there’s a deep bias against mixing traditions — if you’re a Celtic reconstructionist who happens to get a calling from one of the Lwa of Vodou and answer it, then you can’t really be a Celtic reconstructionist any more according to some folks. Worse yet, you might be considered — an eclectic! Horror of horrors!

Yet eclecticism is a very different concept from syncreticism, which is what this particular book deals with. Syncreticism is a much more deliberate and researched effort than the buffet-style picking and choosing of eclecticism (which can still work quite well for some people in its own right, for the record). Lewis (aka Sannion), over a period of years, found himself courted both by the Greek and Egyptian pantheons and their respective traditions, and spent time in each religious community independently — with each telling him that he couldn’t go to the other and still be genuine. But he found a definite precedent for Greco-Egyptian syncreticism, most famously in the Ptolemies of Egypt — and this book is the result of years of research and practice to that effect.

There’s not a whole lot about modern Greco-Egyptian polytheistic syncreticism out there, and much of what does exist has been written by Lewis himself, as well as other folks, particularly through Neos Alexandrina. If you want a good dead-tree textbook to have on hand both for theory and ideas to formulate practice, this is a great option. Lewis’ essays run the gamut from hard research about the original syncretic practices, to what it is that modern Greco-Egyptian syncretists can do in daily practice.

As with the other Bibliotheca Alexandrina texts I’ve reviewed (and you’ll find all of the current titles on my review blog except for Unbound and Echoes of Alexandria), I found this to be a breath of fresh air when it comes to the research. So many pagan texts today are based on half-assed “scholarship”; Lewis has most thoroughly done his homework, both in finding information and in interpreting it in a practical manner. You don’t need to worry about squishy-soft polytheism or claims of ancient Greco-Egyptian UFOs here. Bibliotheca Alexandrina, as a publisher, has represented itself well with its high standards of research, and this book is no exception.

In short, if you want to study and/or practice Greco-Egyptian syncretic polytheism in the 21st century, this will be an invaluable text to you. Highly recommended.

Five pawprints out of five.

Review ©2009 by Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

Book Review: Egyptian Revenge Spells

Book Review: Egyptian Revenge Spells

Egyptian Revenge Spells
Claudia R. Dillaire
Crossing Press (June 23, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1580911900
192 pages
Reviewer: Lupa
Full starFull starFull starFull starNo star
 

It’s no secret that the original pagans were no stranger to curses. From tribal shamans to priests to everyday people utilizing folk magic, part of most magic-workers’ arsenal was curses and other maleficio. The Egyptians weren’t an exception to this, and contemporary examples of magic that would make white lighters’ toes curl can still be found today. Of course, “black magic” being antithetical to the Wiccan Rede and many other neopagan ethical guidelines (or, at least many neopagans’ interpretations of said ethical guidelines), curses can sometimes be a subject that gets skirted around — or subjected to flame wars.

Kudos, then, to Claudia Dillaire, for writing a book on something new for a change! In this case, it’s revenge that’s the topic of the day, whether dealing with a jilted lover (including those with stalker-like tendencies), ruining someone financially, or simply messing with someone who has already messed with you. There are dozens of incantations, spells and rituals for multiple uses — and while some of them are most definitely for revenge, there are also some for more benign forms of protection, reflection spells, etc.

This isn’t a book of old Egyptian spells, but is instead a collection of modern Wicca-flavored spellcraft with some Egyptian influence. There’s a decidedly Wiccan feel to them, with the common inclusion of candles, crystals, common “witchy” herbs, and incense, and the fairly standard spoken portions. While they do incorporate calling on Egyptian deities, in some ways this could be any of a number of spell books.

I’m not entirely sure how the author interprets Egyptian neopaganism in the first few chapters, where she’s establishing some context for the spells. Sometimes it seems like she’s comparing “Egyptian magic” to Wicca (in particular, as opposed to general neopaganism); other times, it’s as though she’s trying to differentiate between them. Given that the spells themselves are pretty heavily Wicca (or at least witchcraft) flavored, I would have hoped she’d be a little clearer about how much Wicca and witchcraft influenced the unique brand of Egyptian magic she compiled from research and practice. In fact, if there’s anything seriously missing here, it’s a better explanation of where, exactly, she’s coming from. I was left a little unsure as to where the connection is between ancient Egyptian religious practices that spanned several millennia, and her personal practices today.

I’m also not a Kemetic pagan, and Egyptian religion and culture aren’t things I know a whole lot about, so I can’t speak too much to the quality of research. There was nothing glaringly wrong, and the bibliography had a mix of scholarly and practical source material. I could have hoped for in-text or other citations, especially for the historical information, but it’s a bit late for that now!

If you’re looking for some inspiration to unleash some wicked magic — or at least vent some frustration creatively — this is a good book. Don’t pick it up as an example of historically-based Kemetic paganism, however; it’s rather too eclectic for that. It’s a unique creation of the author, and gripes aside, I think it’s a nice change from the usual strict adherence to “Harm none.”

Four pawprints out of five.

Review ©2009 by Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

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