Back in the 1990s when I first started getting into neopaganism, the pagan publishing world was glutted with countless books on spells, rituals, how-to-do-X-type-of-magick, and other compendia of brief and not particularly deep explorations of assorted topics. This book is a throwback to that time, for better or worse.

It does have its good points. The information that the author includes in conjunction with the rituals is often pretty sound. She talks about standing up to bullies, a topic that needs much more coverage, and doesn’t just throw a spell at it. She also uses anecdotes and discussion to illustrate how not to deal with disruptive members of magical groups, how to tell a psychic vampire with good ethics from one without, and setting one’s boundaries more firmly, the latter of which is absolutely essential to staying safe on all levels of being. And the rituals and spells associated with the various topics can help to solidify the lessons in the reader’s mind.

However, there are also some major issues that severely deplete the effectiveness of even the good points. For example, early in the book she gives symptoms of a psychic attack, such as the feeling of being watched, or a heaviness about the shoulders. What’s sorely lacking, though, is a healthy application of Occam’s Razor—“the simplest answer is the most likely”. The feeling of being watched is a remnant of us being mammals, and we are aware of purely physical cues on a not-entirely-conscious level that can still create reactions we are conscious of. And she completely ignores any other potential internal source for these feelings.

In at least one case this could lead to someone not getting proper treatment for a mental condition: she states that having “Vivid, recurring dreams that are especially violent or disturbing” (p. 39). This is a classic symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and can also be associated with other anxiety disorders, and nowhere does she suggest going to a counselor or other professional to rule out any potential diagnoses.

She also sets people up for self-pigeonholing by offering up a set of criteria to determine whether one has one of four psychic “powers”—clairaudience, clairvoyance, empathy, and intuition (the latter of two are actually found in any healthy human being and are products of our evolution as social mammals based, again, on subtle unconscious cues and responses). Some of the criteria are pretty weak:

“I always pay attention to my inner voice or my inner monologue.” Yes, that’s called thinking.
“I can hear it when someone is lying to me.” Welcome to nonverbal communication.
“While being taught something new, I do better by being shown as opposed to being told.” There are lots of people with a more visual learning style as opposed to an auditory learning style.
“I mistrust people who will not look me in the eyes or who look away while speaking to me.” There are some cultures in which it is considered rude to look at someone directly while speaking; additionally, some people even in American culture are just shy.
“I am easily influenced by other people’s moods and emotions.” So are a lot of other people with really permeable boundaries; this is not always healthy.

I wanted to give a few more examples, but this is all I could stomach. Needless to say, the majority of these criteria are just plain human being traits, and I foresee this book making people, yet again, treat these normal human traits as “I’m soooooooo special!”

Overall, I really cannot recommend this book to anyone. The shaky and questionable parts far outweigh the benefits.

One and a half pawprints out of five.

~review by Lupa

Ellen Dugan
Llewellyn Publications, 2011
218 pages