Now, it’s October, so that means it’s time for me to start thinking about what witchy books to suggest for The Arts!: Samhain Edition. However, there’s one problem: I haven’t been reading any magick books as of recent. It’s just that the books on metaphysics I have come across aren’t really good. They’re too new agey, not really well rounded, not super worth reading. I noticed that when I would come across new books on metaphysics and it would only take me less than thirty seconds to go from “Wow! What’s this?” to “…Meh.” All the books I have been looking at or referencing are books I already have.
So far, new books on metaphysics and magick are mainly following after trends. It isn’t that they never have followed trends (publishing is a business, after all) but now, it’s gotten really sappy. Like, there’s more focus on vampires and paranormal than anything. And really bad sex magick (I seriously saw a book based on 50 Shades of Gray, it was sad), that should never make it to print. Ever. This is a problem because quality books aren’t getting printed out. Or if they are, they’re hiding way too far underneath all the crap books.
Another problem is that, for me, there’s but so much new information I’m going to find on the shelves of book stores and metaphysics section of libraries. A lot of books that are in regular circulation are pretty much the basics to the intermediate of magick and metaphysics. I already know the basics and the intermediates. It doesn’t mean I know everything but it does mean that I need to move on to something a little more challenging.
Or, for now, I can move to online.
I have found better information online than I have in some of the books I have read. This is astonishing to me because usually I would rather go to books for ideas and learning but it seems as of recent, I have found Tumblrs that presented interesting and more dynamic information than the newer books I have come across. One that I can think of is TheLivingWiccan Tumblr. On this Tumblr, there is not only spell information, there is active discussion of Paganism (Yes, I know that the blog is titled with Wiccan but it is still good for Pagan stuff), and with the active imput, there’s much more to learn or at least to engage with. A couple more are kemetduasekhem and TrueRiptide. Those Tumblrs are more about Kemet Paganism, which isn’t my denomination* but is still really informative. Also there’s the Magick tag on my Tumblr.
However, I still find books crucial to learning metaphysics and magick because, frankly, it’s all been done before. We’re mostly using symbology and ideas that have already been established, some for centuries. I think, when reaching to this level, it’s good to try to examine various parts of metaphysics as separate fields such as herbalism or specific sigils traditions. That means, the more advanced the knowledge, the more extra learning is needed. That means learning old languages, reading old source material, things of that nature. This means that knowing ample research skills are a must, especially since some texts are very dated and possibly will show incredible bias (much like some texts of today).
It’s important to know how to discern what is good information and what is not. These skills can be transferable to also researching online because it is important to not take on terrible information that was painted as useful.
The basics of research is that the main game is to be objective as possible, and so does the material. While it can be true that everything has a bias, you have to find the least biased one of them all or at least material that is most biased towards what is actually the truth or reality of a concept.
For example, if there is a site that talks about Chinese mythology but the site does not seem go beyond pop topics that are Westernized (such as Feng Shui, the Chinese horoscope wheel and I Ching) and their mention of China does not reflect the vast diversity of China but instead paints the Chinese as a strongly monolithic and nearly elf-like people, then the material is not worth reading. Also, if the sources are mainly filtered through the West (that the writer got info from a British university, an American research book, a German “expert/scholar” on China, etc), then it is possibly not good since they’re not letting creators speak for themselves. It’s one thing to read a translation (although, it would be good to learn some basic Mandarin Chinese to help determine whether or not the translation is accurate). It’s important to note when orientalism and yellow peril is occurring when researching Chinese mythology because those can kill the validity of any research quickly as it is not based at all on logic but on low-intelligence concepts. Also, here’s a big one: If the writer is trying to make it sound like the material is similar to Christianity, uses Christian concepts to describe beliefs or even so much as brings in another, different cultural idea (such as chakras, which is from India, not China), the book/site is absolutely worthless.
There’s a lot to doing research but it is most important to note that there will be a lot of supplemental reading for even the supplemental reading so try to start from the basics (not Wikipedia, an actual encyclopedia) and use the bibliographies or their reference material as a jump off point.
Also, if the text is even slightly:
- Homophobic (the text seems strongly heteronormative, erases gay people, depicts them as bad)
- Misogynist (women are not really present in the text except as example of male existence)
- Too binary/sexist (uses strict gender stereotypes to discuss actions of the past, does not allow people to depict themselves, puts them in gender boxes that don’t fit.)
- Racist (a group of people are seen as magical or lowly in comparison to Western ideas of Whiteness. Consistently dehumanized and seen through both popular and subtle stereotypes)
Then the text is problematic and not worth reading or if you still would like to read, be sure to be as hypercritical as possible so you don’t mistaken bigotry for distributed fact.
However, a text is not bigoted if it talks in earnest about what happens to oppressed groups. If the text talks about how women are abused and in what ways, it’s not inherently misogynistic since that is the reality for women throughout the ages (it’s why Feminism/Womanism exists, after all). It is only seen as problematic when the women are framed as mainly objects that are acted upon and that’s it, the text doesn’t talk about women as people, reference women scholars, spotlight important women activists/leaders at the time, or use texts and quotes said/written by women in addition to men or in greater amount than men. If women are absent except as cold research subjects, the material is possibly biased because mainly men are doing the talking and that’s problematic.
Same with other oppressed groups. Even in metaphysics, there are still people involved. And people are still people, even if they don’t have the privilege to be seen or depicted as such.
Also, if a person tries to make up a new word that just sounds new agey or is a clear attempt to replace an already established thought and ideas (such as energy manipulation, chakras, meditation, etc). It’s probably not accurate or worth looking at unless you want to conduct a popcorn gallery.
And finally, if they want your money and say that they have the power of the universe, all here in a book or a downloadable file, that person is a phony, a fraud and a fake. Bar none. If it was that important to humankind, it wouldn’t be so restricted.
That’s all for this week! And since it is October, that means the start of Samhain Pickers! The rules are simple: Submit your entry to me via email (thisblackwitch[at]hotmail.com**). Make sure you have “Samhain Pickers” in the subject of the email. Winners will be picked on Samhain/Halloween to get a free divination reading from me! Make sure to include this information in the body of the email:
- Type of Divination (dream interpretation, tarot, cartomancy, natal chart):
And the Samhain Ustream Chat is on, yep, Halloween/Samhain. It will be at 9 PM EST. Be there!
Also, did you remember to click “get notifications” on the Black Witch Fan Page? Do so enable to stay up to date with new Black Witch happenings on Facebook.
* Since White folks magically become illiterate and their comprehension skills drops straight to “severely mentally challenged” when it comes to these things, I’m going to say it again: I’m not part of any African Pagan tradition. I’m fairly general with my faith, I’m not strictly part of any African Pagan tradition.
**Written out in a fashion so bots don’t stuff my inbox. It’s aggravating.