I’m calling this a “notice” rather than a review, admitting that I have not read the entire work. I have examined it in enough detail for my own present purposes, and may go back to it at some future time.
There have been a number of times in history when magical and spiritual traditions met, collided, and mixed: the late 4th Century BCE in Alexandria, the period after 146 BCE when all roads began to lead to Rome (see Gordon White’s rumination on this on his Rune Soup blog), the periods when almost-lost wisdom came back into Europe from the Islamic world; and of course, the present, when the primarily Egypto-Hellenic “Occult Revival” of the late 19th Century has given rise to every imaginable kind of offshoot, from Witchcraft to Chaos Magic, and it’s all being hashed out on the global Internet.
John Michael Greer started his magical studies early on, picking up the Golden Dawn tradition in his early teens. Eventually, wanting to work more directly with Nature, he investigated various Druid systems. He now serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA). The system of magic in this book is clearly Druidic in inspiration, yet one can see the influence of the Western Esoteric Tradition in many of the details. There is much use of Ogham, and many things that come in threes, but the Empedoclean elements are there, too, in all their wondrous four- and five-ness.
So much for the skeleton; the striking thing about this book is its heart. I already had great respect for the author’s esoteric work, not to mention his energy levels, through his other books. This one is full of the ripe wisdom of practice.
I would like to see everyone read the Introduction and most of the first chapter of this book, with or without the excellent Foreword by David Spangler (Spangler gives a great personal appreciation of the author and sets the entire book nicely in context). Starting by noticing Max Weber’s 1904 dictum about “the disenchantment of the world,” and moving through a trenchant discussion of the role of the life-force, whatever one calls it, in ancient and modern thought (“It’s as though the first modern scientists decided their chests didn’t exist, and then spent four centuries arguing about what could possibly connect their heads with their bellies.” [p. 10]), Greer gives everyone a strong foundation upon which to build a magical practice, or a childhood, or an entire life.
The most obvious need for this book is if one wants a comprehensive system of working magic using a modern Druidic framework. Another would be to use it to flesh out a similar system already in use. One who already has The Druidry Handbook and is following that or a related Druid path would want this book as well. Certainly, anyone who wanted to see an excellent example of how to put a magical system together would want this book.
The Druid Magic Handbook
Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth
John Michael Greer, Foreword by David Spangler
6 x 9
February 1, 2008