While in Vancouver, I stumbled on a little book called A Brief Guide to Secret Religions: A Complete Guide to Hermetic, Pagan, and Esoteric Beliefs by David Barrett. Barrett has a PhD in the Sociology of Religion from the London School of Economics. On several nights, after an exhausting day of sightseeing, I’d settle down to read Barrett’s work. I know I’m weird, but I found this to be a fun, little history book. For years I’ve skirted the edges of the New Age movement, am happily surrounded by pagans, and lately I’ve been taking classes on Hermetical beliefs so the book interests me on several levels.
Barrett divides the book into three parts (the New Age: Hermetic, Occult, High Magic: and Neo-Paganism), but he freely admits that when examining the interrelationship of these groups, the lines blur quickly. So he imposed this structure knowing it’s arbitrary. Interspersed throughout the book are interview responses from different followers of these groups which illuminate their thoughts on various key issues, expressing commonalities and differences. It’s a fascinating read and you begin to understand that these alternative paths have a rich history and a dynamic future. In a culture where we are fast becoming a people who identify as “spiritual, but not religious,” understanding the depth of the roots of New Age (don’t think for a second that Hippies started this), Hermetics, and Paganism become more important. Many of the ideas of these groups are moving mainstream led by new scientific theories, continued interest in environmentalism, and an era supporting individual spirituality. Barrett’s writing reflects that he is a scholar, open-minded and even-handed. Highly recommended!
In an effort to satisfy my hunger for a good ghost story around Halloween, I stumbled on two firmly planted in the horror genre. Read at your own peril. Spoiler alert.
Beyond- A Ghost Story by Graham McNamee
Seventeen year old Jane was born dead and revived. In her short life she has escaped death four more times, but her shadow is after her. While Jane wrestles with these issues her best friend, Lexi, provides necessary comic relief. As the “Creep Sisters”, Jane and Lexi have to deal with being outsiders at school. Jane must find out why death haunts her before it’s too late and the opportunity comes when a skull is unearthed on the edge of town. Solving that mystery brings her face to face with a serial killer and reveals why her shadow is after her. McNamee successfully incorporates the idea of a dark, lost region that contrasts sharply to the bright light bliss of near death experiences. It’s a nice twist making it a unique ghost story. Sufficiently creepy, fast paced, and satisfying.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Cas Lowood has inherited the job of ghost killer from his dad. Armed with a powerful knife, he seeks his prey. His next case draws him to Anna, a girl killed in 1958 on her way to a dance. Anna has the nasty habit of killing anyone who enters the house where she resides. This is a fairly well-crafted story, but not as original as Beyond. It has garnered quite a following seemingly attracting the Twilight crowd because of the romance between Cas and Anna. That part didn’t resonate with me. Cass witnessed a kid being ripped apart by Anna and yet he falls for her. The most unique aspect of the story comes from the idea of the Obeah- a creature seeking power and the Wicca traditions brought to the story by some of the lesser characters. This is a fast read, entertaining, but a bit familiar.