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Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Time Event
9:51a
An interesting read ...
Now, here's a rarity ... a book that I just bought! This was actually a "throw in" on an Amazon order I was placing (getting an architecture book to help Daughter #1 with a report she was doing on Mies van der Rohe) ... that book came to just over twenty bucks, and I was poking around in Amazon's sale area to find something that would just nudge the total over $25 to get free shipping. Well, this looked interesting and was just $5.99 on sale. When I was looking for something to follow up that Symbol book in the reading queue, I noticed this sitting out, figured "what the heck?" and jumped into it.

Now, this is a Llewellyn book ... and a discontinued Llewellyn book at that. Back when I was in the "metaphysical publishing biz" it was an industry "joke" to see what whoppers came out from time to time from "the big L", because, frankly, a lot of their titles are pure hoo-hah, but hoo-hah that clueless newagers and witchling wannabes are all too happy to snap up as "ancient wisdom". Given this, I was ready to totally dismiss Richard Herne's (named for the Celtic horned god?) Magick, Shamanism & Taoism: The I Ching in Ritual and Meditation, after all, it sounded exactly like the mish-mash of assorted mystical stuff that rightfully makes a lot of folks snicker about their releases!

I was, however, quite pleased to find that the first half or so of the book was a very cogent look at the Chinese shamanistic "Wu" tradition, its history, its place in the various Chinese dynasties, its relationship to Tibetan "Bon" practices, how it ended up influencing Taoism, and how Taoism inter-relates with traditions such as Japanese Shinto. It then walks the reader through what appear to be adaptations of traditional Chinese exercises and rituals, giving suggestions on how to bring these effectively into a modern, Western context. I always like it when, reading one of these books, I hit something that is "new" to me ... either in a "Wow, I didn't know that!" sense or a "What a cool idea!" way. This had one of the latter, with Herne suggesting that, in workings that require one to keep a talisman/sigil on one's person for an extended stretch of time, rather than making it on a bit of paper that would have to be kept track of, drawing it on one's skin with a Mendhi kit! While not being permanent, this would allow one to have the symbol always present for an extended period. As they say in the Guinness ads: Brilliant!

Most of the second half of the book is taken up with a walk-through of the 64 I-Ching hexagrams. The "purpose" of the book is for meditations on these, so there is a lot of stuff listed for each ... it shows the "Archaic Form" of the corresponding name calligraphy (why?), the "Modern Name" (like the difference between Peking and Beijing), "Esoteric Interpretations", "Opposite Hexagram", "Polarity", "Trigram Combination", "Compass Directions", "Guardian of the Quarter", "Family Member", "Parts of the Body", "Colors", "Symbolic Creatures", "Plants and Perfumes", "Metals", "Precious Stones", "Emblems", "Ritual Tools", "Gods", "Goddesses", and "Magickal Workings". Confusingly, many of these attributes differ in particular depending on if it's the older "Fu-hsi" system, or the later "King Wen", but both are given (for example, the compass direction of Hexagram 1 - Ch'ien (Qian) - Heaven is "South" in Fu-hsi and "Northwest" in King Wen!). Needless to say, if one is not particularly looking for bulking up the info for one's I-Ching divinations, this is all "tech manual" stuff, and not particularly gripping reading.

To his credit, Herne closes out Magick, Shamanism & Taoism with some rather informative appendixes, discussing the Taoist Immortals (and their signature symbols), a very interesting list of well over 100 Chinese deities and semi-divine figures, a nice glossary of terms referenced, and assorted other bits of info. If you have an interest in taking a look at Chinese mystical practices, this would be a pretty good place to start ... and since you can get it for as little as $2.50 new (through Amazon's new/used vendors), it's a pretty good deal!


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