Title: Pagan Portals: Reclaiming Witchcraft
Publisher: Moon Books
Author: Irisanya Moon
True to the spirit of the Pagan Portals series, Reclaiming Witchcraft serves as a concise entry point for understanding the background and structure of the Reclaiming tradition. In nine short chapters (84 pages), Irisanya Moon summarizes the history and central tenets of the Reclaiming tradition and provides an overview of some of the key classes and group dynamics (including the “Witchcamps” and other ritual activities) that constitute the practice: in other words, what it means to be a Reclaiming witch, and what a Reclaiming witch does as a member of that community.
The text itself is very readable, and Moon’s prose style is clear and accessible to the general reader. Knowledge of the Reclaiming tradition is not assumed, though a basic understanding of witchcraft, Wicca, and Pagan / Neopagan practices should help the reader to appreciate the book in essence and outline. Indeed, the book reads as a kind of guided tutorial for the curious reader and for the reader interested in exploring more of the Reclaiming tradition, particularly its activist and social justice aspects, which are part and parcel of the tradition. In addition to the background the book provides on the Reclaiming tradition, Moon also provides a helpful list of resources for further reading: authors, books, and websites. The book also includes a helpful “Ritual Outline,” which is clarified by the chapters especially on “Ritual” and “Core Classes” (chapters 5 and 6).
Reclaiming Witchcraft is the third book I have read by Irisanya Moon. After reading her books on Aphrodite and Iris— and with an aim towards reviewing those books — I decided it would be helpful for me to have a greater understanding of the tradition in which Moon is working and to which her books stand as a performative, and devotional, contribution. This has proven to be a wise move, I think, because it is entirely clear that that is the most important element to understand about her books. Irisanya Moon is a priestess, witch, and teacher in the Reclaiming tradition. To understand and appreciate her work, it is essential to understand something about what it means to be a Reclaiming witch. I will even confess that before reading Reclaiming Witchcraft, I wasn’t very clear what that meant. Indeed, I wasn’t entirely sure how to read the title. What I understand, now, from reading the book, and from getting myself a bit better informed from outside sources (many indicated helpfully by Moon’s book), is that the Reclaiming tradition is just that: a tradition that is “reclaiming” something vital at the heart of religion and spirituality, which is to say respect for the Mother Goddess and the Divine Feminine, and all the social and ethical issues that follow from that respect, and reverence. Protection of the living Earth and the environment, social justice and more equitable treatment for all peoples and particularly for women and minorities and peoples of color, indigenous peoples, peoples of diverse gender backgrounds and other identifications — these are basic, and central, concerns to the Reclaiming tradition. Situated in the Feri tradition and Dianic Wicca particularly, the Reclaiming Witchcraft tradition has been active, politically, since the 1980s, though its roots stretch back through the earlier Wiccan traditions of the 20th century, and indeed extend in the minds of many Reclaiming witches as far back as the Neolithic and Palaeolithic cultures of the very ancient world, in Europe and Asia and to the very dawn of humankind.
The book itself is not particularly heavy on the history or even theory of the Reclaiming or other Wiccan traditions. It is, on the other hand, very systematic and structured on the group ethos and practices of the tradition (the Reclaiming “Principles of Unity”). Moon does provide a brief overview of the history in the introductory chapters, which helps to situate the reader in the basic origins and ethics of the tradition. Again, in a book of this size, it is not expected to be a comprehensive account, but it does serve as a very good introduction, a primer of sorts, a stimulus for further reading.
It is for these reasons an important and useful book and not to be missed. It is a particularly helpful book for those actively interested in learning more about the Reclaiming tradition, and those who are looking for further practical guidance. Irisanya Moon has provided a fine service to the Reclaiming tradition, and another excellent addition to the Moon Books Pagan Portals series. I highly recommend this book, as well as the other books by Irisanya Moon. She is a clear writer and a gifted guide — and truly cares deeply about the lifeforce of the tradition, which is to say the people and the community that constitute all that it works to reclaim and sustain, which is to say: Magic(k).
Title: Pagan Portals: Aphrodite: Encountering the Goddess of Love & Beauty & Initiation
Publisher: Moon Books
Irisanya Moon’s Aphrodite: Encountering the Goddess of Love & Beauty & Initiation opens with a Homeric hymn to the goddess and ends with a blessing of love. The book that emerges between these ritual acts of love and magick is one of devotional worship and practical praise for this complex and multifaceted goddess. Moon’s account of Aphrodite is personal and devotional in many respects, but it is also relatable and pragmatic. Indeed, it is the relational aspect of Aphrodite that serves as the energetic center and focus of the book. Cultivation of relationship in the most intimate and sacred sense is, in fact, the essence of Moon’s encounter with Aphrodite — an encounter that she shares with the reader, in a guided tutorial of sorts for how the reader might more intimately and meaningfully engage with the gifts of love and beauty in relationship, which is especially Aphrodite’s province. Aphrodite emerges from this book as a complex personality, decidedly divine though by no means removed from ordinary mortal concerns. Where love and beauty are called forth and present, embraced and sustained through devotional practice, there is Aphrodite.
More than merely an abstraction or remote, divine figure, Aphrodite “is a love spell. She is the intention of bringing forth that which is your birthright — to know yourself as love and in love.” Throughout the nine chapters of this book (90 pages), Irisanya Moon provides practical advice and suggestions for altars and chants and other devotional activities that can bring the reader in closer and more intimate relationship with Aphrodite. As with any relationship, human or divine, “the more you get to know Aphrodite, the more you see.” Aphrodite, vitally, is also an initiator. This aspect of the goddess I found to be especially fascinating, and Moon’s account of the ways in which Aphrodite functions as initiator is by far one of the most instructive parts of the book.
Every reader will come to this book, as any other book, with a unique lens and particular ideas or expectations about Aphrodite. I know that I did. And I know that my understanding of Aphrodite has deepened and expanded and changed with every reading. Aphrodite invites that deepening of understanding and opening to the transformative power of relationship. As a goddess of initiation as well as a goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite challenges us to find acceptance of our bodies and talents and visions, and lives. Aphrodite, in Moon’s account, is a goddess of many attributes, and many names, and many faces, and many ways of knowing, and ways of revealing knowledge and love and beauty, the knowledge of love and beauty, and the beauty and love that is knowing.
Moon’s book might be read in the spirit of other devotional records, as in the medieval mystics, for Moon’s orientation is indeed in many respects mystical, and even ecstatic, as is the core spirit of the Reclaiming tradition. As a priestess, initiate, and teacher of the Reclaiming tradition — a tradition that has deep roots in Feminism and the Goddess Movement — Irisanya Moon celebrates the divinity and sacredness of the Goddess in all her many and varied aspects, and Aphrodite is a perfect embodiment of that spirit and ethical orientation. Readers familiar with the Reclaiming tradition will find this book of particular practical value. For those encountering Aphrodite or the Goddess for the first time, there is wisdom to be gained, and certainly charm and practical magic.
If I had one unmet desire in reading the book, it is a lack of images and pictures that might have more beautifully illustrated the points established otherwise soundly in prose. Perhaps this was an editorial decision. Nevertheless, this is a very good and well-conceived book, and one that should appeal to pagans and practitioners and otherwise non-committed but curious readers alike (poets, one might think, especially). Aphrodite, certainly, has something for everyone, for whose life has not been touched by beauty and love?
Aphrodite: Encountering the Goddess of Love & Beauty & Initiation is an excellent devotional account of this complex and always-charming goddess. Irisanya Moon has written a wonderful and very practical addition to the Pagan Portals series. The book can stand alone or lead to many points and indeed portals for further exploration. A reference list is included and the book itself abounds in fruitful food for thought. Did I mention there is also poetry? Aphrodite herself could only be pleased with the result.
Title: Pagan Portals: Iris: Goddess of the Rainbow and Messenger of the Godds
Publisher: Moon Books
Irisanya Moon’s newest book in the Pagan Portals series is, like her earlier book on Aphrodite, a devotional portrait of a goddess who offers enchantment, beauty, and inspiration in relationship. Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods, perhaps somewhat lesser known than other goddesses, presents in this book as an intercessory figure, a mediator of sorts, and one who travels between earthly and divine realms to promote healing and the working of magick. Iris, in this book, emerges as an attendant particularly of liminal states and rites of transition; “Iris is the connection point, the transition between, and the instigator of transition. … She is the one whose actions cause things to happen. Things that need to happen.”
Iris, in this reading, can be seen as a kind of shamanic figure, whose purpose and province is that of healing, a psychopomp of sorts, like Mercury, who guides souls between realms during rituals and times of transition — from the earthly realm to the underworld, between the two and back and beyond.
The book is concise, and though it rings in at just eighty pages, the substance is absolutely there. It is a very well structured book, very focused on the relational aspects of Iris and the power of her magick in devotional work and practical application. The reader will learn much about who Iris is, her origins and background and place in the mythological pantheon, her relationship with other gods and goddesses, and will find many practical tools and suggestions for devotional work with this goddess of the rainbow.
As with the Aphrodite book, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of pictures and images to illustrate Iris and her place in the pantheon. I think that particularly in the case of a goddess who works so intimately with the visual aspects of our experience — as what could be more visually or sensorially stimulating than the rainbow? — a more multimedia approach might have been taken in the design of this book. The cover art, however, I will note, is very beautiful and captures one aspect of Iris in a powerful picture. The colors and tones mesh very well and invite the reader at once to engage with the text. Perhaps future books by Irisanya Moon and others in the Pagan Portals series might add a more stimulating visual dimension to the excellent writing between the book covers.
All that said, I think Iris: Goddess of the Rainbow and Messenger of the Godds is an excellent and charming book, very practical and informative and a useful addition to any pagan or witch’s library. I very highly recommend it, either singly or, better, as a companion volume to her book on Aphrodite. Irisanya Moon has proven herself a prolific and enthusiastic advocate of the goddess movement and Reclaiming tradition, and one certainly looks forward to whatever other projects she is working on or has on the horizon.
[Christopher Greiner is a writer and poet. He has a Masters degree in English and completed graduate work in Anthropology. He has published previously in EHS and has published other work on indigenous poetics and cultural ecology. His interests are diverse, though seem to converge upon shamanic concerns and literature of the fantastic. He blogs occasionally at druidsdharma.blogspot.com and posts various writer-type things on Facebook. He will likely publish other work and might even venture to the realm of a full-length book. For now, he does poems, short prose pieces, essays, and reviews.]