It’s been a long time since I found a really good book.
Nah, that’s not entirely true. There have been several good books over the last six months, but it seems like it’s been a really long time since I found a decent book on occultism or spirituality. Since reading is such an important part of my life, not having a good occult/spiritual book to read can leave me feeling somewhat…disconnected.
(To my mind, all letters have great power. Magical symbolism be damned.)
Well, a really good book has finally arrived! Three days ago I received my copy of Kali Kaula by Jan Fries. It’s good! It’s thick, it’s meaty! Jan stays true to form in this one by continuously presenting multiple points of view and refusing to marry himself to any one interpretation of the evidence (very refreshing after some of the paradoxically dogmatic Hindu books I’ve read in the past).
Now, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit I haven’t actually finished the book yet. (Yes, I know, bad form. I’ve had three days, so what am I playing at?) So in lieu of a full scale review, I’d instead like to present a couple of charming and relevant quotes.
When I was completing Cauldron of the Gods, a friend asked what I was reading. ‘It’s the Kaulajnana nirnaya’, I replied, glancing happily at the little red book, with its tattered cover and goddess-knows-what-do-they-use-instead-of-paper look so popular among Indian publishers, ‘…wonderful stuff on meditation and one of the most practical Tantras I’ve ever come upon.’
‘Not Celtic stuff any more?’
‘It’s getting on my nerves. There is far to little practical material in surviving Celtic lore. I’m fed up with question marks, medieval myths and idle speculation. At least the Kaula folk had a clear interest in things that work. And they had a sense of humour. That’s something amazingly rare in old literature.’
This, in a nutshell, sums up a large part of the reason why I spend so much time reading Tantra, Yoga and Taoism when I’m in between good Heathen books. I enjoy history but I’m not a historian, or even an academic.
The other half of the reason is covered below…
Last, let us take a look a the outcast among the gods, the dangerous Rudra…
…The original Rudra is a dweller of the solitude and the wild places, a lonely wanderer, he is a lord of wild beasts, poisons and diseases. An expert in herbal lore, he is also the healer of the gods. He is the creator, protector and killer of cattle. With his bow he takes the lives of beasts and men.
As father of the Maruts, Rudra is accompanied by storms and gales. The Maruts (winds) are usually Indra’s warriors, but their parents are Rudra and Prsni. The Maruts are celebrated as workers of marvels, bards, heroes and protectors of the divine order. The move over earth like the howling storm gales, splitting mountains, shaking forests, and releasing storm, lightning, thunder and rain. They are the patrons of poets and singers. Their common wife is Rodasi (firmament), who appears elsewhere as the wife of Rudra. Occasionally, the Maruts are addressed as Rudras, i.e. as personifications of Rudra.
In the late Vedic period we meet Rudra clad in fur, dwelling among desolate mountains, with green hair, a red face, and a blue-black throat. He is called upon by hunters and folks who have to dare the forest and by herders fearing for the health of their cattle. His sons Bhava and Sarva roam the jungles in the form of wolves. Much like the Germanic storm god Wodan, Rudra appears in a wild hunt, and is accompanied by a horde of dangerous women who a noisy and hissing, snatchers and devourers of flesh (Gonda). One of his names is Hara, meaning the Bandit, the Destroyer. Later he acquired the placating name of Siva (the Auspicious One), and today he is almost exclusively known by this title.
Get the the picture? I’ve long believed there’s a lot that Heathens and Neo-Pagans could learn from Hinduism in general and Tantra in particular. As I believe I may have also mentioned before, I highly recommend reading anything and everything by Jan Fries. The fact that this was a book on Tantra and written by Jan Fries made it an instant “must have it now” kind of item.
This is his sixth work. I own all six and haven’t been disappointed with any thing he’s written yet.
Kali Kaula – A Manual of Tantric Magick by Jan Fries
Also by Jan Fries…