Northern Soul

Nigel Pennick. Practical Magic in the Northern Tradition, Aquarian, 1989.
Clive Barrett. The Norse Tarot. Aquarian, 1989, (Book and Tarot Deck)
Nigel Pennick continues his retrieval of neglected aspects of northern European folk and religious lore, Firstly he examines folklore survivals of calendrical traditions, time recording, and perceptions of direction and orientation which helped to structure the framework within which the northern peoples (here basically considered as non-Latin northern and western Europeans) perceived their environment and the natural changes within it. He then considers nature lore; the nature and attributes of plants and places, particularly as revealed through surviving traditions and folklore, In the chapter 'Magic of the North' he looks at what is known of the Northern mystical and religious beliefs and an interesting section compares the warrior tradition of the Viking berserkers with the better known oriental martial arts, perceiving a common thread between them.

In the final chapters of the book he looks at the possibilities of reusing some of these traditions as part of a modern system of mystical and magical practice, and proposes a set of rituals that a latter-day practitioner might use, However, I think most readers will find the book of greatest value for its recovery and recording of the wealth of popular belief that has survived, albeit precariously, to the present day. It is particularly rich in the lore of East Anglia, the author's home territory.

Generously illustrated, and with useful appendices and glossaries (I was pleased to discover Belisama, the Goddess of the River Mersey) the book is a most readable account of fast disappearing beliefs, rituals and survivals, and it tells you how many beans make five!

Norse gods and Viking life form the basis of the illustrations on Clive Barralt's tarot cards, The quality of the illustrations is excellent: firmly yet delicately drawn, and using to the full the rich visual imagery of the Northern traditions a contrast to some other recent decks from the same publishers, which have been weakly illustrated, The traditional tarot trumps have been very well interpreted to aspects of Norse mythology, sometimes so appropriatly - the "Hanged Man as Odin suspended from the sacred tree, for instance - that one is tempted to ask if this may have been the source of the original image! The suit cards show aspects of secular Viking like rather idealised but are also good, strong images. -- John Rimmer, Magonia, 1989.

No comments: