A history of India from an Indian perspective, that is what the author wanted to present. His little book (218 pages) has short chapters, mostly about noteworthy Indians. From Chandragupta Maurya (around 340 BCE) to Mahatma Gandi (1869-1948).
The author is of the opinion that the West is misinformed about India and its history and wants to correct these flaws. Also he wants to present figures of India’s glorious past. I must say that I do not really have the idea that I read anything radically different from what I already knew. Perhaps this is due to the fact that what I know about India mostly comes from people who were ‘India-friendly’, or perhaps it is simply so that us Westerners are not so badly informed as Bhatt thinks.
Not unexpectedly the book is filled with praise for India and his ‘big names’. Bhatt tells us about Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims alike; a bit about spiritual currents such as Bhakti or Jainism; spiritual leaders and politicians; conquerers and freedom fighters. Quite a few pages are dedicated to the time in which India fought British colonism. Nor does he shy to say -for example- that Gandhi was not favoured by everyone and he has a few things to say about Hindu nationalism, a current which was recently in the news.
“India’s Glory” does not hold any big surprises, but it makes an alright read and it never hurts to see things through the eyes of an insider.
2014 Numen Books, isbn 0987559869
I am not completely sure how Numen Books came to publish this book. It is a collection of interviews that Peleckis did, mostly with musicians. I cannot say what period the interviews span. Initially I had the idea that Peleckis was a youngster interviewing band for some website, but the man is actually as old as myself and he has published more books. Peleckis is from Lithuania (but lives in London?) and this is his first book in English. I think there are other interviewers whom I would prefer to collect their interviews and publish them in a book.
Most interviews are not too interesting. Peleckis tends to ask the same questions over and over again. This is perhaps not so noticeable on a website, but when you read a book with interviews, it can be quite sad. “Could you please tell me about your main influences. What books, music, films and other things impress you?” Almost every person, no matter from what background gets the question: “What do you think about the thousands of World Music / Neofolk / Industrial / Ambient / Tribal / Electroacoustic / Avant-garde bands/projects? Is it a kind of trend, or just a tendency toward better music?” Or what about: “When I first heard your music, it impressed me so much I still can’t forget the impression.” Every person’s who is interviewed who has written a book, this book is “revolutionary”. And not to forget: “The sound is magic. You’ve proved it. But what ends when there’s no sound?”
With just a handfull of questions, the length of the interviews depend on how much effort the artist put in it. Some only give two-line answers, some complete epistles. This does result in a few nice to read interviews. Patrick Leagas gives his view on the early days of Death In June. Robert Taylor (one of the few non-musicians in the book) a nice lecture on Asatru. Peter Andersson (Raison d’Être) gives a peek into his soul.
There musicians that I know, but many that I never heard of. Many of them seem to be “sound artists”, others doom or stoner metal artists, even a group that makes music with vegetables. The variety of people involved is a merit to the book. The biggest surprise to me is Alexander Dugin, the controversial Russian thinker, who does not really come out too well from the interview. I do not know if the interviews are presented chronologically, but the last artist, Z’ev, is about the only person who has an answer to the “when there is no sound” question. What what answer. What a guy!
“Written In Blood” is an alright read, but not much more than that. If one of the artists involved interests you and (s)he happens to have been in the mood to give some proper answers, the book could be a good buy. More out of general interest, I could say that you can just buy it, put it somewhere and read an interview every now and then like you would when you follow Peleckis’ website.
2015 Numen Books, isbn 0994252560
Not too long ago there was a buzz going around in ‘the heathen world’, something new… On American and Dutch fora I read about “Urglaawe”. Now what would that be? Some sort of þheodism perhaps?
Then I ran into this little book with “Urglaawe myths”, subtitled “Old Deitsch Tales for the Current Era”. Another new term “Deitsch”. I knew that the “Pensylvania Dutch” are not really of Dutch descent, but rather German. Descendents from those Germans are now called “Deitsch” as is the area they inhabit. These emigrants/immigrants apparently kept some of their language and folklore and the author has set out to write down some of those tales before they die out.
This book is full of German-sounding, but not quote German, words and sentences. “Braucherei” and “Hexerei” are forms of the old ways, a “Lumbemann” is a scarecrow, a “Butzemann” a “spiritually activated scarecrow”, a “Wassernix” a “watersprite”. A short sentenced that is used in this book appears to be some sort of Bavarian (from Bavaria in Southern Germany).
The 60 pages are mostly filled with retellings of tales which can be about the “Ewicher Yeeger” (‘eternal hunter’), friendly beavers or Til Eileschpiggel. Small stories about man interacting with nature and its spirits.
This little book makes a nice read of about an hour, but will not teach you much about this contemporary Urlaawe that the internet seems to be full of nowadays.
2014 Deitscherei.com, isbn 9781500790226
A book about Count Cagliostro (1943-1795) and his Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry. I knew that Cagliostro was a controversial character and that his Rite is considered irregular. His Egyptian Freemasonry would later become the Rite of Misraïm which later merged with that of Memphis (1881) to the Rite of Memphis-Misraim which is still practised here and there. It all seemed interesting enough to get the book.
The best part of the book is the fist one about “the life and time of Cagliostro”. The authors portray a man that loved humanity, healed the sick for free using his capacities. Also he was a gifted fortune teller and general esotericist and magician. People not happy with Cagliostro’s rising star started to spread rumours about him being a fraud, saying he is actually called Joseph Balsamo and generally holding down his star; rumours that follow the name of Cagliostro to our very own time while nobody really seems to know what is true and what is not. Cagliostro does not receive the benefit of the doubt. Not often that is, since Faulks and Cooper try to rehabilitate the good man.
In this first part we also follow Cagliostro’s Masonic carreer and how he came to create a Rite that he thought would not only supplement (not replace), but also perfect Freemasonry. Initial praise later became ridicule and Cagliostro’s Rite never grow very large.
The second part is about “the origins and history of Freemasonry”. Most of what you can read here is known, but the authors have a slightly different angle on the early days of Freemasonr when they bring William Shaw (1550-1602) on stage, a man who brought Western esotericism to Masonic (“operative”) lodges.
Better known history, persecution, etc. is all dealt with in this chapter.
In part three we get a translation (the first in English) of an early French transcript of the largest part of Cagliostro’s Rite (including the first three degrees). This proves to hold the middle between Rites of Freemasonry and ceremonial magic. The authors also analyze the Rite making some rather swift conclusions about sources, but this chapter does make Cagliostro’s Rite a bit alive and some explanations are worth considering.
There is a lot to say about the colourfull Cagliostry and that is exactly what Faulks and Cooper do in their 300+ paged book. It makes a nice read about an interesting time in history and interesting developments in Western esotericism.
2008 Watkins, isbn 1905857829
“Hendrik Bogdan teaches in te Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Göteborg University in Sweden.” Apparently he has an interest in the new field of Western esotericism on universities, because he refers to scholars such as Antoine Faivre, Wouter Hanegraaff. In this book Bogdan describes Western rituals of initiation, which are (almost by definition) Masonic, Masonically related or derived from Masonic ritual. Or the other way around, Bogdan places Freemasonry and its rituals in the larger context of Western esotericism and that makes an interesting starting point.
The first chapter is dedicated to Western esotericism in general and the scholarly investigation thereof. The author refers a lot to Frances Yates, the first to approach the subject scholarly, but who is not taken too seriously in the current scholarly milieu I have the idea. Bogdan gives her the credit she deserves.
Towards the end of chapter one, the author explains what he means with rituals of initiation, contrary to rites of passage. Here he uses Mircea Eliade.
What follows next is an introduction into the subject of Masonic rituals of initiation (chapter 2), a history of Western esotericism (chapter 3) and then he starts to analyse some Masonic rituals, linking elements to Western esotericism and seeing if there is continuity. Bogdan does not differentiate between “regular” and “irregular” Freemasonry, neither does he touch upon the subject if iniation in any of the organisations that he describes is valid in the ‘Guénonian sense’. Bogdan is only interested in the texts of the rituals. He makes purely textual comparisons.
After Freemasonry we get two other ‘organisations’, the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn and Wicca. The rituals of initiation, the degree system, etc. of both groups heavily lean on Freemasonry, so naturally Bogdan finds a lot of similarities.
The book makes a nice read. I like the approach to place Freemasonry in a larger (scholarly) field which peels off the myths that Freemasonry created for itself, but still places it in a ongoing ‘current’. The book might not be a recommended buy for people who intend to join any of the discussed organisation, since he does not shy to quote texts with grips and passwords and he describes the rites in quite some detail here and there. This will decrease the element of surprise if you want to undergo such an initiation.
For people interested in the growing field of scholarly investigations of Western esotericism, here we have one that places the largest organisation within the field within that very subject.
2007 State University of New York Press, isbn 0791470709
“Jennifer Snook is an Instructional Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi”. Raised as “a college-bound army brat”, first in Germany, later in the USA, Snook became interested in “paganism” and later “heathenry”. When she started to study sociology, she wrote her dissertation on contemporary heathens. She remained both a practitionar and an observer ever since. 15 Years of fieldwork resulted in this 200+ page book on “American Heathens, the politics of identity in pagan religious movement”.
The author gives a very personal look into her personal path here and there, like on how she rolled into the pagan world (a term that she uses quite generally including various sorts of paganism) and later “heathenry” (which is more a specific German-centered kind, say “Asatru”, “Odinism”, “þheodism”, etc.). The book interweaves personal accounts of gatherings and rituals that Snook attented, interviews, musings of her own and of course her sociological considerations.
The author gives an idea of the history of American heathenry and writes about a couple of ‘big subjects’ at length. Identity, ethnicity, race, whiteness, ancestry as one group, gender roles as another subject. There have been quite some investigations linking heathenry to white power. However Snook shows herself as a very left-leaning thinker, she shows that these subjects are much less black-and-white as often portrayed. The same with conservatism and the role of women within heathenry. Snook makes it clear that she finds but a few allies in her particular line of thought within the heathen world, but at least breaks a lance to look at these subject in a more nuanced way than her predecessors often did.
“American Heathens” shows well the difficulty of subjects such as that of (perceived) racism, subordination of women and the like by giving quotes from interviews and her own thoughts. Unfortunately Snook looks at a subject from so man different sides within just a page that it hard to figure out what way she exactly tries to lead her readers. Both her gender study and her chapters about racial exclusivity elude me frequently, especially when her (apparent) own ideas are bluntly stated as facts (the difference between man and woman is automatically oppressive for example). The concluding remarks fortunately make up for a few of these indistinctnesses.
What is interesting for a European is to see how some things in the USA are very recognisable while other developments are entirely alien to heathery in Europe. A little strange is Snook’s (apparent) idea that heathenry in Europe is imported from the USA though.
So, perhaps not “a standard text for scholars and teachers in the emerging field of Pagan studies” as Michael Strmiska states on the back, but likely the best in the field so far; interesting for scholars and heathen alike. It would be interesting if the investigation would go on to include Europe.
2015 Temple University Press, isbn 1439910979
Dan McCoy wrote a lengthy essay, or a little book, of about 100 pages about “the Sacred and the Profane in Germanic Polytheism”. The text contains a ‘contemporary heathen theology’ such as represented in The Journal of Contemporary Heathen Thought. It might have fitted in that journal, since McCoy’s text is about as academic as the texts in JOCHT.
McCoy mostly speaks about the difference between monotheism and polytheism. The terms get a very specific meaning in this book. Monotheism is not just the form of the three Abrahamistic religions, but the author also applies it to science which he calls the religion of our time. He spends a large part of his book (the first chapters) showing the flaws of monotheism, it duality and rigidity. The text gets a thick ‘monotheism is bad, polytheism is good’ tone and like the “French theologian” that McGoy refers to in the beginning (Alain de Benoist), the author spends more pages on showing what is wrong about ‘that other philosophy’ than elaborating his own.
Just as with the terms monotheism and polytheism, McCoy has very specific explanations of other terms, such as “myth”, which is anything ‘above human’ that ‘just is’. This can be just as well mythology as scientific hypothesis. Other terms (also Icelandic) get very simple explanations and translation.
It takes the author until the last chapter before he turns towards the “destiny” of his subtitle. This does not really concern more than a very free retelling of the Balder myth though.
The above sounds quite critical, I know. I do recommend this book for people interested in ‘contemporary heathen thought’, though. Like for reading the mentioned journal you should not be afraid of scholarly language and moderns ways of reasoning. There are not too many contemporary heathens not just trying to show how things were in the past, but writing about ‘heathen subjects’ from a contemporary viewpoint, hence describing a paganism for the world of today. Or the other way around, McCoy shows a contemporary heathen’s perspective on things.
There are things in this little book that I would have described differently and things that I simply do not agree with, but by reader other views I have to reconsider my own, so this is never a bad thing. Besides, I am happy to see another articulate comtemporary heathen writing about ‘heathen things’. That alone
2013 CreateSpace, isbn 1492761559
Not long after I read Angel Millar’s book in which he claims it is the first about Freemasonry and the Middle East, I read about this title about: “The Hidden History of the Islamic Origins of Freemasonry”. The author’s name sounds a bit wild and so does the backcover so I did not have very high expectations, but I still wanted to read it. Just out of curiosity.
In a nutshell the authors (or rather, author, since it is written in the I-form) claim that the real origin of the Knights Templar is Muslim, that the last retreat of the Templars was Scotland and that around the time the Templar order faded, Freemasonry rose in… Scotland. From there it spread to France, returned to Brittany and then conquered the world.
The book opens with chapters about early Christianity, Jerusalem, early Islam, Muslim rule in Western countries and then several orders, including that of the Knights Templar. The tone is somewhat annoyingly ‘Islam is great and Catholicism is not’. Too much praise on one side and too much criticism on the other made a bit of a strange balance.
After a few chapters about the Templars the authors describe the downfall and after this the rise of Freemasonry.
The authors refer a lot to authors such as Laurence Gardner, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and the like which makes it easy to add this book in the genre of popular science with its wild theories. Indeed, I reviewed a few of such books back in the days and this kind of out-of-the-box literature may be usefull to find new (possible) leads, but it is more usefull for amusement or a more ‘free’ view on history in order to get another way of looking at things than as reference book. I can say the same about the current title.
The book is only about 200 pages but chapters are quite in depth about different subjects, sometimes running too far off the red thread. The overall story is not really new, but the authors seem to think to have new information to back up the claims. All in all the details seem to be more on parts of the story and not really evidence substantiating the thesis of this book.
Like the books of the mentioned authors, “The Knights Templars Of The Middle East” makes an amusing read with a few things to think over, but does not rise above the level of amusement.
2006 Weiser Books, isbn 157863346X
While in the Grassi Museum in Leipzig during the 2015 edition of the Wave Gotik Treffen, my eye fell on this massive book about Death In June for what seemed to be a very reasonable price. However I am not a huge fan of Death In June, I was curious enough to bring back home the book to read the story of Douglas Pearce and his friends.
The book was originally written in Italian. The German translation was published two years later. The original edition has the notorious ‘death’s head’ logo on the cover (the ebook version even more clearly). My guess is that that cover on the German edition would lead to the book being banned like some of Death In June’s albums. It looks like there is no English translation. This immediatly makes me wonder: did Douglas give his interviews in English and were his answers first translated to Italian and then again to German? I certainly would have preferred to read the man’s answers in his native tongue. What is more, the German in the book already does not always seem too good to me, but some Germans confirm this. This already starts with the title. The Italian title is Death In June, a l’ombre des runes which (I think) means “in the shadows of the runes” rather than “hidden below runes”. Perhaps the German title make a little wordplay with the Hagakure that Pearce seems to love.
Chimenti proves to be a big and longtime fan of the band. This is often quite annoying, because everything the band does is brilliant and everything that can be explained negativelly is incorrect. (Towards the end the publisher of the German edition felt to need to correct Chimenti on a few occasions.) Even everything people did who at some point worked with Douglas Pearce seems to be idolised. This makes the book too praising and uncritical to me. Continue reading Death In June, Verborgen Unter Runen * Aldo Chimenti (2012)
Forbes presents a whole new approach to the elusive Pictish symbols. The title of the book gives away that the author is of the opinion that the Picts were a Celtic people. This is not the most eyecatching hypothesis of this book though.
The author found the so-called “hunting scene” on the Shandwick stone (not the one of the cover, this is the Hilton of Cadboll Stone that is displayed in the museum of Scotland in Edinburgh) looking somewhat odd. He goes at great length to show that the strange arrangement of characters refer to stars and constellations that appear in a period of time at sunrise, ‘peaking’ at Midwinter. Thus the author discovered that the Picts had an interest in astronomy or astrology and were well acquainted with the night sky. The theory looks a bit forced since Forbes has to reckon that the Pictish astronomical system was not entirely like ours. His findings are quite striking nonetheless.
Then the author goes on to other symbol stones to test his theory. He comes to original conclusions and perhaps most striking is that a lot of gaps and questions can be answered by looking at Hindu astrology. When a picturing of a star and constellations seems rather off compared to what we know, Hindus appear to have to come similar conclusions. Even the strange “Pictish beast” has an Indian counterpart in the Makara.
So what about the abstract symbols then? Forbes also connects these to stars and (parts of) constellations and here these connections are even less obvious than with the more recognisable images. He does come with some noteworthy thoughts on the rods, mirrors, combs and the like.
His conclusion is that the Pictish stone are markers that refer to specific dates by showing the position of (mostly) two stars or constellations. This can also help to date the stones. I find these conclusions not always convincing, but this is certainly a new approach that needs further investigation. Forbes continue to work out his theories at LastOfTheDruids.com. There you can also get an idea of the book of course.
2012 Amberley, isbn 9781445602301