Talking Stick, Talking Sense

Amanda Prouten and Caroline Robertson. Talking Stick Magickal Journal. Issue 1, volume 2. Talking Stick Publications, 1998.

Talking Stick magazine has transformed into a substantial large-format paperback book, which it is planned to issue twice a year - an increasingly popular format, similar to The Anomalist or Fortean Studies. But why should a magazine which describes itself as "a modern anthology of paganism and the occult" be of interest to the hard-nosed sceptical types who comprise the majority of readers of Magonia (don't they?).

Talking Stick organise regular meetings at a number of venues in London, usually consisting of a presentation on a particular occult or paranormal topic, followed by an extensive question and discussion period. I gave a talk on abductions some years ago, and found the questions and discussion afterwards to be of a higher standard than at almost any UFO lecture I have attended. More than anything I was impressed by the depth of knowledge of the individuals involved.

A similar depth is to be found in this collection of essays. The topics covered range from reviews of magical belief in Mesopotamia, Greece, and New Zealand, to descriptions of walks around places of magical interest in London, Lancashire and, of course, Mortlake. Two historical studies reassess the origins of the twentieth-century witchcraft and occult revival.

Melissa Montgomery examines Margaret Murray's controversial role in recovering a history for modern witchcraft, and Steve Wilson's account of 'The First Pagan Revival' reveals the part played in the rediscovery of a magical sensibility by the Kibbo Kiff and early ecological and environmental movements.

Gareth Medway and Mark McCann's review of accounts of UFO-type sightings to be found in 17th century pamphlets is reprinted in this issue of Magonia, so readers will get some idea of the level of research into original sources which appears throughout this collection.

In most of the essays here, the writers are aware of the wider cultural and social ramifications of the topics they are writing about, and show a familiarity with topics outside their immediate area of research. It is the lack of this broader cultural awareness which limits much of the writing and research coming from the 'UFO community', which seems to be without any sense of its own history, and is constantly reinventing itself in its former image.

Even if you have little interest, or even sympathy, for the topics discussed, it is difficult not to be impressed by the levels of scholarship displayed in this fascinating book. -- John Rimmer, from Magonia 66, March 1999.

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