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Home Reviews Initiation at Beltane


Initiation at Beltane

By Tamarin Laurel
ECW Press , 2002
ISBN 1-55022-496-4
Author’s Website with Excerpts from the book

Review by Erin

Rating: ★★★★½ 

When ECW first sent me this book, I was somewhat concerned. I mean, I like a good fiction story as much as the next Priest, and I do occasionally get lost in a book and finish it in one night (like the Harry Potter books), and as much as I wanted to get lost in this one, I just couldn’t.

Don’t misunderstand me, I couldn’t because it’s too much. Reading this book is like eating REAL New York Cheesecake. There is so much and it’s so incredibly rich that you simply cannot finish it in one sitting. You can get lost in the book for hours at a time, but finishing it in one sitting is a hopeless task.

Other than that, I have absolutely no objections to the content. The flyleaf and the promotional materials say that this is a work of fiction about a Magickians Training, and one that you are supposed to get involved in, a book in which the events that happen to the main character also happen in your subconscious, taking you along for the ride and teaching you as well.

Tamarin does a really good job of doing that. She snags you with a concept or a theory in magick, has the character going through it, and takes you along for the ride as well. It’s a language of symbols, throughout the book. It can make it confusing at times, it did for me, but if you persist in reading even through the confusing parts, the next time you take stock there will be changes in your psyche that were caused by this book.

To accomplish this feat, Tamarin pulls from multiple myth and pantheons and throws them together in a school. But unlike another school of magick, which is patently fictional, there is enough plausibility that Ezmereld (the school’s name) could be real. This is simply because all the concepts in this book are real. Each and every one of the principals of magick or tradition are real and have been explored by others, in a transformative process that usually accompanies the word “initiation”.

The only objection I have is that the chapters are short. When a thought is being explored by the author and only 5 pages are devoted to it before another chapter comes around, still exploring the same thought, my personal impulse is to demand that those chapters be combined into one. I think I see the reasoning for short chapters (so the reader can take a break at an obvious stopping point), but this is a personal style issue.

One thing that is a continual irritant is that the main character constantly jumps from one tradition of magick to another to another to another, without ever mastering the first tradition. I advocate becoming a master in one style of magick first, then learning about other styles and learning from them, before moving on to a third. However, the process laid out in this book will give you tools for an improvisational style of magick eventually.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this will be an easy read as some of the other magickal fiction is, this is a weighty tome. This is only one book in what promises to be a series to rival other transformative teaching works. But I found I could only read for about a half hour before my mind went into “overload” stance, and I was forced to put the book down. If I waited about an hour to allow my mind to assimilate what I had read, I was able to read more. All in all, however, it took me about a month to read this book.

The gem is the subtlety of the teaching. Throughout the book, there are concepts like the Muse explored, along with a good explanation of Alchemy, how a chronicler works, prophesy, dream interpretation and dream work and so on, but the reader isn’t always aware of the lessons being presented. Techniques for meditation, guided meditation and so on are accurate and can be taken into any Circle and used with no changes.

Then there are the appendixes. The first one is an index to the concepts explored, the techniques learned, the questions asked and the transformation exercises performed, along with general ritual and magickal good advice. The second appendix talks about Guided Meditations, what they are and how to write them, what to do and about three guided meditations for you to use. The third appendix is talking about the need for self-evaluation. I do wish she had put more information in the fourth appendix, further information, but she may not have had time to go through the plethora of information out there.

Other than the fact that the chapters are so short (personal irritation) and that you cannot read it in one sitting, I have no objections to this book. I think it has earned 4 1/2 stars out of 5, with a recommendation to my students to buy it and read it. It’s not the same old Magick 101 book, nor is it so fictionalized that you can’t get any information out of it.

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