Balancing Light and Shadow
by Ann Moura (Aoumiel)
Llewellyn Publications 1999
As I said in my previous review, this set of books is not for the beginner. It is for those who have the basics down as described by Cunningham and Buckland in their seminal works.
What this book does do is show how to harness the energy of the Dark side of nature. While I personally object to anything being listed as “dark” since it is all of nature, the author does have a point in that anything in the universe has a negative side to it. This negative side she lists as the “dark” side. Such as, doing spells for benefit during the New Moon.
That’s not something that many Craft teachers are willing to go into in any depth. So once again, I need to restate that I don’t believe that these particular books are good for the rank novice, but rather for the intermediate student who is looking to further their education.
This dance in the shadows can be a tricky one to not only do, but to write about. It’s too easy to dwell upon the dark aspects of nature and to only look at the destruction that these aspects are prone to. But Ann does a good job keeping the dark part of nature in perspective. She points out that this is only one facet of the whole, and that you must be acquainted with the whole before “sectioning” it out into light and dark parts. She does an exceptional job of keeping just inside the realm of acceptable rather than focusing on how nature can be a bad thing.
She gives many different ways of working this darkness into one’s rituals, with many spells and meditations and “how-to”s. She gives ways of integrating this dark into your standard ceremonies and also good meditations on some of the darker mythologies. I think one can even be adapted into exploring some of the myths of the Gods where they descend into the underworld to rescue friends or knowledge from the afterlife. It has been my experience that no other author does this.
One of the complaints that I have about this book, once again is that the rites and rituals are too long, in that they are anywhere from 5 to 10 pages long, with stage directions and things to say. Now, while the author does say that it is acceptable to change the rituals to fit in to what you want it to be, for a novice, or even one who has been studying for some time, it would be hard to do so without destroying the ceremony itself. In my opinion, it would have been better for the author to come up with a general “opening the temple” or “casting the Circle” ceremony, a short ceremony for “Cakes and Ale” and one last one for “Closing the Circle” and only changing the contents of the specific rite itself. Letting the person studying the ceremonies use the same “shell” like this would allow one to really learn the basic parts of the rite rather than having to follow along in the book by rote.
Now, there is nothing wrong with going by rote. I myself did this for a long time, and in some cases still do. But over 10 pages, with the “stage directions” and the explanations interspersed into the rite itself could cause a relative newcomer to Wicca to get lost and give up. It would definitely make the “spirit” that one is trying to create with the Opening and Meditation ceremonies to become lost in the intricacies of just reading the rite and trying to follow it.
However, this complaint is minor. Any Priest or Priestess who (I think) would be using this book would know enough to be able to make the necessary alterations to the rite itself to make it more personal and immediate to them.
Other than that, the author takes a subject that most would not touch and treats it really well.
I was particularly impressed with the Dedication of a Familiar ceremony that is one of the last things one comes across as you read this. It is a ceremony that has been missing for a while and it is needed. So too, I was impressed with the observations on the Tarot and making the interpretations more Green, to go along with her style of Witchcraft. I was also impressed by her descriptions and thoughts on the Sforza Tarot Deck. Insights like this are needed in a more general sense. Too often, authors focus on the “how-to” of the Craft and not enough on the Spiritualism.
The meditations presented throughout the book are very good, even if they are a bit elaborate for my taste. I plan on using some of them in the future. So too are the ceremonies well written and coherent. These also I plan on adding to my Book of Shadows in the near future when I have a chance to use them.
There is one section that concerns me, and that is the Celtic Divination with the Ogham set. While I do not find it objectionable in and of itself, the problem I have with it is that there is no reference to other books on the meanings of the Ogham symbols. I have seen a few things, and they are very hard to come by, but to not even reference them in the sections where she talks about using the Ogham for divination and meditations is a gross disservice because the seeker is left with no one else’s interpretation except hers.
All in all, however, this is a very good reference to use to further your studies. And once again, I give this book 4 stars out of 5. Well done.
Stars light your path.