Seasonal Reading: Defense Against the Dark

Even with the temporary heat spike we’ve been experiencing these past few days here in Eugene, the feeling of the heat has changed; we are now having cool days with hot afternoons as opposed to hot days with cool mornings, if that makes any sense.  Fall is definitely in the air, and will be officially here this Friday–and with it, the busiest time of my spiritual year.  (More about that in a future post.)

In addition to being my most intense time spiritually, fall is my favorite time of year in all other ways too; my birthday is in the fall (this coming Thursday the 22nd, in fact), and the season also brings with it my favorite holidays (Halloween/Samhain), weather (the return of our rainy season),  foods (mmm, apples, pumpkin, and winter squash!), clothing (warm woolens!  especially handknitted warm woolens!), colors (warm browns, rich reds, hunter greens, spiced pumpkin, deep purple), and activities (long walks in the crisp autumn woods and hibernating at home with handcrafting projects and books).

To celebrate the return of the dark half of the year, I thought I’d begin sharing some of my seasonal reading by posting reviews or mini-reviews here, and also hopefully hear about what some of you are reading.   (Because I hate to miss out on anything good!)

I’ll start out with Defense Against the Dark: A Field Guide to Protecting Yourself from Predatory Spirits, Energy Vampires, and Malevolent Magic by Emily Carlin.  I came across this book by way of my customary random browsing of the “new nonfiction” shelves at our wonderful local Eugene library, a habit that has led to many happy discoveries in the past.  Despite the fact that the author is the Grey School of Wizardry‘s Dean of Dark Arts, and that the book’s title (like the Grey School itself) seems calculated to take advantage of Harry Potter-mania, I decided it looked like fun Halloween-themed reading and took it home.

Well, my initial instincts were not entirely wrong; the book is a bit hokey, mostly because the “key to vital statistics”, assigning a rating of 1-10 for the danger level, rarity, and difficulty of removal for each of the creatures listed, makes the first half of the book–“a field guide to magical creatures and occult happenings”– read like the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual.  (Yes, years ago–back when I still had that elusive thing known as free time–I used to play D&D.)  Despite this, however, the book is fun, and even somewhat useful, if you can let go of any expectation of being able to take it completely seriously.   (Although, as someone oathed to dark entities, such as Odin and the collective spirits of the Wild Hunt, my perspective regarding so-called “monsters” is always going to differ widely from that of most people.)

Essentially, it’s divided into two parts, the first one being the aforementioned field guide and the second one a guide to magical protection techniques, from basic shielding to full-out hex-breaking and banishing. While I can’t agree with everything the author says here (grounding, for example, is not “the act of flushing out any negative energy you have”; this may be a result of being well-grounded, but is not what “grounding” means), the basic protection information is straightforward and easy to follow, and there were some techniques in this section that I haven’t seen published elsewhere, and that even some experienced practitioners may find useful.  (For example, the dimming/chameleon aura and shadow protection techniques would alone be worth the price of the book for me; although they wouldn’t be every practitioner’s cup of tea, they are very compatible with my own practice.)

In summary, even though the book is targeted mostly towards young people and magical newbies, don’t be turned off by the title with its Harry Potter appeal; there may be a gem or two within its pages lying in wait for you, too!

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2 thoughts on “Seasonal Reading: Defense Against the Dark”

  1. Hot being a relative term, of course . . .

    It’s too bad these books don’t take themselves more seriously. I’m alway so torn about the tongue-in-cheek aproaches to these topics. It’s hard enough to get other people to take us seriously, true, but more than that, we should take ourselves seriously — including the scary things we believe in (unless we don’t really believe in them?) and we shouldn’t make a joke about said scary things. Of course, it’s more common for folks to adhere to the belief that “it can only hurt you if you *believe* that it can hurt you,” so . . . grr.

    If waterwights are scary, call them scary, don’t make it cute. Treating it like a D&D manual is making it cute, even if the rest of the info is solid. Don’t let other people think they’re cute. They are NOT cute. This boils down, for me, to the whole, “don’t talk about it with people who aren’t ready to know about it, and be responsible when you DO talk about it.”

    Erm. My. I’m Miss Ranty-Pants lately. Sorry!

    1. The thing is, I’m not sure how much the people who write these types of books really do believe in these creatures and/or situations (let alone whether or not anything they’re writing comes from personal experience, or whether it’s all just drawn from folklore). For example, one of the monster profiles was given a rarity of 10 (meaning, according to the author’s system, that there was no record of anyone ever experiencing such a creature), yet the profile was incredibly detailed. Where, then, did the information come from?? It’s very similar, in my thinking, to the people who write about gods they don’t really believe in as actual entities–but don’t get me started on that one. (To the author’s credit, when she gave a short list of protective deities to call on who are generally well-disposed towards everyone, she DID stress that they were individuals and might not be able/willing to help, for any number of reasons, at any given time.)

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