Twisted Tree

The Bookshelf is the review page of the Twisted Tree website.
Here we review books, music, magazines and other media which relate to aspects of paganism.



Stewart Farrar
Writer on A Broomstick
Elizabeth Guerra
& Janet Farrar


ISBN: 978-1-908011-84-8

Binding: Paperback
Published: Skylight Press
Available from: Skylight Press

Stewart Farrar - Writer on a Broomstick
A biography by Elizabeth Guerra and Janet Farrar

Whilst he might not have had the cache of Gerald Gardner or the notoriety of Alex Sanders, there can be little doubt that Stewart Farrar has been one of the most influential men in modern witchcraft.

Together with his wife Janet he wrote many worthy books upon the subject but it was surely his first work in the field; “What Witches Do” and perhaps his novel “Omega” for which many of us will remember him.

“Writer on a Broomstick” is a work which many will regard with great interest therefore. Detailing his life and loves and his dedication to witchcraft, this book paints us a picture of a most remarkable man.

Elizabeth Guerra tells us of his formative years; how he was brought up with Christian Science teachings and how he found its practice and approach to the world to be of great value when later immersed in magic and mysticism.

She tells of his rather remarkable role in the years of WW2 and of course how he came to witchcraft and his years therein. Of his friendship with Alex Sanders, his meeting and wooing of Janet who was to become his last wife, and on the way it puts to rest a lot of the rumours that circulated during these years and to some extent, have carried on.

As is often the case, the appendices are also worthy of note containing as they do a number of Stewart’s unpublished poems, interspersed with offerings from Janet also. In addition there is a list of Stewart’s published works which is extensive.

So, too, there is a brief biography of Janet Farrar at the end of the work, which is somewhat enhanced by a chapter within the text itself. Also there is a chapter devoted to the remembrances of other luminaries in today’s occult world: Maxine Sanders, Vivianne Crowley, Ronald Hutton, Raven Grimassi,  Raymond Buckland, R.J. Stewart, to name but a few, offer their recollections, and reading these helps give a feeling of the affection in which Stewart was held by a great many people.

I have no doubt that anyone who is remotely interested in the history of modern witchcraft will want to add this work to their collection.

 D. James 2013




Stephen Pollington

Price: £25.00

ISBN 1-898281-47-4

Binding: Paperback
Published: Anglo Saxon Books
Available from: Anglo Saxon Books

LEECHCRAFT by Stephen Pollington
Published by Anglo Saxon Books

This book is described as an “unequalled examination of every aspect of early English healing”.   Its interest for me was particularly in the examination of Anglo-Saxon use of herbs, and comparison with later uses, particularly seventeenth century and modern uses.

At the heart of the book (and consisting of about two fifths of it) is a translation of three Old English texts, with each page (the original layout has not been reproduced) opposite its translation.  This refers to, and is preceded by, a section clarifying the plant names used in the texts, using the translated name (ie the names that are familiar to us), the Old English names occurring in the texts, and a reference to where they occur in the original texts.  Each entry also includes the botanical name (as best as can be guessed – always a problematic issue), and general notes.   This section alone affords fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in plants, their history, and uses.

However, coming to this book with really little or no knowledge of Anglo-Saxon history, there are so many other fascinating aspects to it.  Just trying to read the Old English texts and gradually becoming familiar with the language is an absorbing study.  Then there are the fascinating chapters on the historical context, early English healers, the Anglo-Saxon medical manuscript tradition and cultivation herbs.  There are six appendices on related subjects, equally as fascinating as the herbal lore: the magico-medical background; amulets; beliefs about causes of disease; charms; dreams, omens, fate and well-being; and tree lore – as the writer says in his introduction, the encyclopaedic nature of the work is no accident, and the wider whole is the nature of ritual and belief in Anglo-Saxon England.

It is easy to overlook that what physical records remain are only a fraction of the information available to the Anglo-Saxons themselves – much knowledge would have been passed on orally, either because there was no one with the skill to make written records or simply because the knowledge was so commonly known at the time that writing it down would have seemed unnecessary.   Written materials over time were lost or destroyed.  The few documents that remain are tantalising glimpses of a past more rich, and a people more cultivated, than we often recognise. 

This book is thoroughly recommended not only for its main subject of early English charms, plantlore and healing, but as a fascinating addition to the shelves of plant lovers and anyone wishing to have a fascinating introduction to Anglo-Saxon history.  I can guarantee that once you have started reading this book, you will want to learn more.

S.J. 2009



A Dreaming for Witches
Stephen J. Yeates

Price £19.95

ISBN 978-1-84217-358-9

Binding: Paperback
Published by: Oxbow Books
Available from Oxbow Books


A Dreaming for Witches
Stephen J. Yeates

For those of you familiar with his previous work “ The Tribe of the Witches” (reviewed on elsewhere on this page) Yeates postulates that the Hwicce and Dubunni tribes, centralised around Gloucester were a “magical” folk having folklore, gods, goddesses and a structured belief system that extended throughout the region.

In his second work he produces further archaeological and anthropological evidence to support and extend this idea.

He concludes that Gloucester was an important centre of religious activity and that substantial tracts of works such as the Mabinigion retain folk memories and references to landscape configurations referring to the area.

Whether you agree with Yeates or not, there can be little doubt that a tremendous amount of research has gone in to this publication and for this reason if no other it is worth adding to your collection.

With a comprehensive listing of river deities, their derivations and regional variations, Sacred Places, Flora and Fauna etc. throughout not only the region but most of Europe it is an invaluable reference work and holds a worthy place on any bookshelf.

D. James 2009



Odin's Gateways
By Katie Gerrard

Price £12.99
Binding: Softcover
Published: Avalonia

ISBN 978-1-905297-31-3


Odin's Gateways
Katie Garrard

This has to be the best book about Runes I’ve seen for years.

Don’t misunderstand me. I make no claim to be an expert on the subject but like a lot of others I had made some study of the runes in my early years and even became quite fluent in runic writing. I bought Ralph Blums publication back in '84 and appreciated it’s artistic production and the very nice set of runestones that accompanied it. But it never quite rang my bell.

Odin’s Gateway on the other hand very definitely does.

It describes itself as a “practical guide to the wisdom of the runes” and Katie Gerrard proves to be a very able guide in this regard. She describes each Rune in detail including divinatory meanings, life lessons, intonation etc. She gives as a history of the runes, both in recent publications and ancient history as well as methods of divination, construction and suitable materials. Combined with meditational methods and potential magical acts this book makes a most comprehensive work on the subject.

Whether your interested in Runes or not; Buy this.

D. James 2009



Anglo-Saxon FAQs
by Stephen Pollington

Price £9.95
Binding: Softcover
Published: Anglo-Saxon Books

ISBN: 978-1-898281-50-4


Anglo-Saxon FAQs
Stephen Pollington

At first glance this would seem to be a curious work from the much publish Stephen Pollington and yet it definitely has a role to play in bringing us a better knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon people.

 As the title clearly states this is indeed a book of FAQs about the Anglo-Saxons.

Beginning with a most useful glossary of Anglo-Saxon terminology it presents in a helpful style many of the most import questions concerning the Anglo-Saxon world and answers them in a very readable manner.

 Did they have toilets?, did they make jokes? and who was king Arthur? Are just a few of the more, what might be considered, light hearted subjects while more serious questions are posed about warfare, transport, buildings and lifestyle and are answered with much detail and accuracy.

 Many illustrations are also used to good effect throughout the work and the overall impression is to make the subject of our Anglo-Saxon forebears very approachable.

 If you’re looking for an easy way to understand this subject then you’ll find this book a valuable asset.

 D. James  2009



Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic
by Bill Griffiths

Price £16.95
Binding: Hardback
Published: Anglo-Saxon Books

ISBN 1-898281-33-5


Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic
Bill Griffiths

 With a title such as this one could hardly fail to become interested in the content and this work by Bill Griffiths certainly won’t disappoint. From my perspective this is a comprehensive study of the subject.

 Set out in two sections the work discusses the origins and development of the gods in the heathen world, the role of fantastic beings, the magical world, science and divination from the Anglo-Saxon perspective in the first and deals with evidence supported charm lore in the second.

 Bill Griffiths looks at the store of knowledge from Anglo-Saxon and Norse texts and mythology but from a perspective where the Gods assume less controlling roles and other aspects of the magical lore gain more importance. Such is the emphasis of this work. While not proposing a “different” system of magic it nevertheless draws us to the conclusion that our previously accepted notions of this subject may be flawed and gives new direction and insight into this fascinating area of study.

 In the second part of the work we are presented with numerous charms and auguries, complete with their original texts and translations from the well know “Nine Herbs Charm” to a charm for “Water Elf Disease” and “Alphabet Divination” to “Weather Signs”. A comprehensive collection for even the most discerning student of the subject.

 The whole work draws you into a realm of magic of which most of us will have little or no knowledge. I would call this work “ground breaking”, and compare its impact on the pagan world with that of Brian Bates’ “Way of Wyrd”. No serious pagan library will be complete without it.

 D. James   2009



The Tribe of Witches
by Stephen J. Yeates

Price £30.00

ISBN-13: 978-1-84217-319-0
ISBN-10: 1-84217-319-7
Binding: Paperback
Published by: Oxbow Books
Available from Oxbow Books

The Tribe of  Witches
Stephen J. Yeates

With such an emotive title you might be forgiven for thinking that this book is going to be yet another fluffy “new age” analysis of the history of modern witchcraft. It isn’t. Mind you, what it also isn’t is another academic diatribe on the “old religion” belief system. No, this is a work of genuine archaeological research endeavouring to prove the belief system of two pre-roman tribes inhabiting the Cotswolds and Severn Vale from Herefordshire to Somerset.

I should say that if you’re not used to reading archaeological works then you may find this a little dry but stick with it. The subject matter is interesting and the perspective refreshing especially for followers of the “old religion” and particularly for those belonging to that group of people who have their ancestral roots in the region. The author discusses river shrines, tree shrines, hill forts, sacred groves, temples and their distribution. Also folk names, town names, river names and others are also held up for supportive examination of the subject.

The chapters are reasonably short with plenty of informative diagrams and have a most helpful résumé at the end of each. With such titles as “The Sacred Rivers, Deity and the Landscape, Tree Shrines” and “A Goddess for the Dobunni” among others, Stephen Yeates sets out to conclusively prove what Gods and Goddesses were worshiped by these ancient peoples and specifically the major male and female deity worshiped by the Dobunni and perhaps more importantly for some, by the Hwicce since he proposes a link between these and our modern day Wiccans.

This book, whilst only covering a small area of the British Isles significantly increases our understanding of the social and religious structures of our ancient forebears and is worthy addition to any bookshelf.

D. James 2008



Wicca and the Christian Heritage
By Joanne Pearson

Price £20.99

ISBN: 978-0-415-25414-4
Binding: Paperback
Published by: Routledge
Available from:
Routledge and all good retailers


Wicca and the Christian Heritage
Joanne Pearson

Joanne Pearson is a respected academic in her field and this work goes further to enhance her status. You might expect from a book with such a title an informed dissertation on the subject and indeed, supported by an 18 page bibliography, it is.

I liked the frequent use of quotations as illustrations for the various arguments put forward and although I would have found chapter résumé helpful I enjoyed (if that’s the word) most of what I read and although I might contest a couple of points I don’t feel that this detracted from the value of the work.

The subject of the history of modern wicca is currently very popular amongst academics but this work addresses the subject of Christianity in Wicca’s evolution and might therefore be considered somewhat ground breaking.

Coving such topics as sex (deviant and otherwise), ritual and magic it explores the themes of Christianity it introduces a unique perspective on their influence on the “old religion” as it was brought into present day.

This book enhances that ever increasing body of work on the subject of Wicca and its history and will sit well next to Hutton’s “Triumph of the Moon” and other important works.

If you want to buy this work then stick with paperback version. In my opinion, at £70 the hardback is over priced.

D. James 2008
My apologies for the lateness of this review



Magicfolk is produced by
Ben & Michelle Glover

£12.99 inc p&p
Available  as CD or selected individual
I-tunes from Magicfolk or as download from Woven Wheat Whispers


Debut album by Magicfolk
Written and produced by Ben & Michelle Glover 

Originally founded by Michelle and Ben Glover as a trio this now seven piece band have released their first album, and what a “dilly”. It’s as well a crafted piece of folk-rock as I come across in many a year.

Michelle and Ben have individually or in concert written every track on the CD and with Michelle’s vocals fronting the band have produced a most worthy work. In addition they have designed a most attractive cover for the album. A couple of genuine all-rounders it appears.

Classifying themselves as “psych-folk” (A new one to me. Pardon my ignorance) they have a mixture of  ‘Tull, West Coast rock & Fairport Convention with the cadences of Pentangle and a touch of Clannad thrown in for good measure and if you find that hard to imagine then go to the website and have a listen.

The lyrics, as one might guess with a band called Magicfolk are inspired by folklore, mysticism and all things esoteric. There’s a variety of different sound on offer from “ Persephone” with its more traditional folk sound to “Furies” much rockier presentation and interesting use of background speech (in Greek) reminiscent of “Friends of Mr. Cairo” from Jon & Vangelis. Then there’s good acoustic guitar work on “Little Spirit”, the richer sound provided by the clarinets on “Heliopolis”, evocative lyrics of “Egypt” and all topped off with “Sea Priestess” which brings to life that magnificent work by Dion Fortune.

This is an album worth adding to your collection and personally I’m already looking forward to their next offering.

The Magicfolk website is worth a visit too. Not least because it’s one of the ways to purchase the album, but its nice design, inclusion of bio’s, news and gigs etc. makes it a good piece of promotional work for the band and a pleasure to surf.

D. James 2008



Deep Well in the Wild Wood
 is an Inner Temple Traditions Inner Convocation production
Release number: FCR307

Available from $15.00 + shipping

Or by writing to;
CM Hallowquest,
London WC1N 3XX
£14.00 Inc p+p
Cheques payable to Caitlin Matthews
Also by PayPal to

More information about Caitlin Matthews and her works can be found at


Deep Well in the Wild Wood
By Caitlin Matthews
Produced, arranged and accompanied by R.J. Stewart

Those of you who are familiar with the works of Caitlin Matthews will also be aware of her fondness for singing. Few of us are aware that she is a prolific songstress. Her original lyrics have been performed and recorded all over the world, for example in Bruckheimer’s “King Arthur” (2004) for which she wrote “Song of the Exile”. Given that, it’s somewhat surprising that “Deep Well in the Wild Wood” is Caitlin’s first venture into the world of commercial recording. It’s less surprising that she should chose to do it with the help of her long time friend and associate; Bob Stewart.

So what has Caitlin chosen to give us on her début album ?

Here we have a mixture of traditional folk songs and ballads, religious songs and original lyrics all set to both traditional and original music performed by the redoubtable R.J.

Here are songs of magic brought to life from the deep well of the lands mystical past. Chants to work to, Rhythms to dance to, all intended to help evoke and encourage links with our spiritual ancestors.

From “Wild Wood” with it’s evocative lyrics and haunting melody through the dramatic ballad that is “King Orpheo” and the magical “Song of the Spindle” to the Shaker song of “I will bow and be simple”, Caitlin gives us a wide range of emotions and sensations, all delivered in her indomitable style on this “live” recording.

As far as the production goes; It’s a well produced CD though for me it would have been good to hear more tracks finish rather than fade. The recordings of Caitlin’s voice are live and not enhanced or re-mastered giving us a delivery in “true spirit” as it were. R.J. is, as always a master tunester and I particularly like his work on the 80 string psaltery.

It would have been nice to see a lyric sheet, especially for some of the more evocative numbers and more information about the tracks themselves although on the cover you are directed at where there is a comprehensive amount of information concerning how the CD was created though still no lyrics.

On the whole a most interesting first offering. Thank you.

D.James 2007











Now in Second edition
ISBN 0-9762422-1-4 312
Starcrafts Publishing


About the author: Maria Kay Simms, a professional astrologer o f 30 years experience and a Wiccan High Priestess, has woven together her vast astrological knowledge of lunar phenomena with Goddess mythology, meditation, ritual and the practical wisdom of Crone to provide a valuable tool for personal and spiritual development.

Moon Tides Soul Passages
Maria Kay Simms

As a general rule I don’t do book reviews and when I was asked to review "Moon Tides, Soul Passages" I at first thought; "Another astrology book ? I don’t think so." But after I had read the publishers blurb and taken a quick look at what other reviewers had said, I changed my mind.

"Moon Tides, Soul Passages" is not "just another astrology book". As its title implies, it focuses on the importance of the Moon and how its many aspects affect our lives and does not concern itself with Solar aspects which are common in other volumes.

I confess that at first, considering its title and subject, I was concerned that it might lean to heavily towards the feminist end of interpretation to be of interest to both genders and so was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case. It does have a feminine bias mainly because of its subject matter but this doesn’t get in the way. What did catch my imagination was the authors stated leanings in interpretation towards Wicca.

Maria Kay Simms marries Lunar astrology, the Goddess and Wicca in a most interesting way, giving not only the necessary interpretations of lunar aspects but also rituals based around those interpretations. She uses different Goddesses to illustrate the phases of the Moon as it traverses the various signs and houses and then introduces rituals for eclipses, the eight phases and more.

Two other things also contribute to make this book worthy of note; The inspirational artworks by Maria Kay Simms and Molly Sullivan which have been reproduced within its covers and the free computer software program which accompanies the book.

The software by Rique Pottenger is a very easy to use program and will come as a pleasant surprise to those of you, like myself who have spent years trying to get to grips with other complicated astrology programs. Key a few basic pieces of information, make the calculation and you are presented with a digest of all the relevant lunar aspects which you can then, using the book, begin to interpret.

It’s possible that some pagans and non-pagans might find the wiccan pitch of "Moon Tides, Soul Passages" a little irritating but the information contained within its pages is concise and delivered such a way that it becomes a pleasure to read.

"Moon Tides, Soul Passages" is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of any person remotely interested in astrology and a very useful tool for any wiccan reader.

D.James 2006



Available from:
PO Box 3700 Sedona AZ  86340-3700


ThunderBeat travels to many of the ancient sites around the world taking inspiration for her music from the ambient energies and the atmosphere she finds. Mayan Landing 2012 was inspired by sounds and rhythms that were experienced during her visit to the Mayan temples on Mexico.


Mayan Landing 2012

Have you ever been to Sedona, Arizona ? It’s a place worth visiting for its geology alone. Then there are the Vortex’s. Centres of energy that are palpable to us mere mortals. Is it any wonder then that Sedona seems to have become something of a Mecca for the “New Age”.

“What has this to do with a music review.” I hear you ask. Well it seems to me that a vast amount of “New Age” culture is being produced by those people who live and work surrounded by the rich red rocks of Sedona. ThunderBeat is no exception. Originally from Rochester NY she is a Native American of Shawnee & Choctaw heritage who now resides in Sedona. Best known for her drumming she has for the last 20 years worked and toured with many international artists.

 As an example of “New Age” music “Mayan Landing 2012” can certainly hold it’s own. It’s fusion of tonal and tribal rhythms and mix of exotic instruments combines with the expert drumming of ThunderBeat to produce a musical experience worthy of any collection. “The Jaguar Speaks” did it for me with its clever use of didgeridoo to represent the voice of the Jaguar and rather up tempo beat it caught my attention and refused to let it go. So much so that the first time through I completely missed the nicely spoken words that accompany the track. “The Shamen say the Jaguar is the ruler of the land. Without them, the Humans cannot exist”.  The other tracks are equally as good as their exotic sounds and rhythmic drumming draw you further into the Mayan landscape.

 “The earth will not be destroyed on Dec 21st 2012. Mayan view this as a date of rebirth”

So says the cover notes. Which is a relief because I’ll just bet that you’ll still be listening to this CD long after that…..





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