Review copyright 2016 Freeman Presson, all rights reserved
Digging up the traditional lore of stones is hard as corundum. It’s scattered, fragmented, contradictory, and full of confusing terms. Having lost so much of it, the modern Western Magus-in-training can forget about it, try to get something useful out of New Age sources, or light up the Hermit’s lamp and research the old sources.
We’re not all suited for the latter course, though. Fortunately, like Stephen Skinner with correspondences and the magic of the PGM, Stockinger has created a tradition-based handbook for the use of gemstones with traditional astrology. This book has been a long time in the making, as I understand it, and I personally have been itching to see it since it was first announced.
I didn’t realize, until I got the book in my hands, that this does a lot more for Hermetic astro-mages than just add to the lore of what stones and metals to use for talismans. This gets into the lore of using the stones for healing, and for allowing us to acknowledge and work with the power of planets that are debilitated in our natal charts. You shouldn’t make talismans for those, but you can achieve the proper balance by wearing or carrying certain stones.
This has been a place where Indian Jyotish has an advantage over Western astrology, as India has its own similar lore, along with a lot of traditional puja (devotional practices) for the planets for various reasons. We can start to reconstruct this on a sound traditional footing now.
There is also a great deal of material about the therapeutic uses of stones, which I was extremely happy to see.
One of the vexing things about the old lore of stones (and plants) is the shifting nomenclature, which combined with the fragmentary nature of the texts, leaves us wondering in a lot of cases exactly what our sources mean. Does it mean garnet, or maybe granite? Should I play it safe and use pomegranate seeds instead? Should I take it all cum grano salis? This book, of course, does not solve every one of these problems, but it gives enough information that we can feel better forging ahead.
The book is illustrated throughout with medieval and Renaissance woodcuts and the author’s astrological charts for the various examples (you do want to see Ficino’s natal chart, yes?). It is structured as a complete handbook, with enough basic traditional astrology explained and tabulated that you can generally use this book by itself.
It’s a solidly made paperback with a beautiful cover design (I adore sans-serif fonts in applications like this), and high-contrast printing with decent page layouts that help to make it easy to use. It has appendices with extra tables, a glossary, selected bibliography, and index (my wife cracked me up when she first looked at the book: she started making love to the scholarly impedimenta).
If I had been asked for a pre-publication opinion, I would have only advised two things: the justifications of astrology as a worldview should have been either left out or made thorough and bullet-proof, and in that context, I would question David Conway’s choice of Thales as an exemplar of a materialist viewpoint, in his otherwise great Foreword. I think we can more usefully hang that on Mersenne, Descartes, and Laplace, among others (see my incomplete essay on the subject, which I will someday expand).
For some reason, I had had it in mind that this book was to be rather expensive, but I see that it is priced at £12.99 from Mandrake or US$19.99 from Amazon. Your excuses for not buying it are seeming rather thin, aren’t they?
Next up in reviews: a very special movie!
[Complimentary review copy from the publisher gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]