Author: Ellen Cannon Reed
Trade Paperback, 312 pages
Publisher: New Page Books
Publication date: 2002
Price & More Info: Click Here
Despite the implications of the book's subtitle, Reed's overall emphasis is not on
ancient Egyptian-based spellwork, but on dedication to the Gods of Egypt's pantheon in Circle of Isis: Ancient Egyptian Magic for Modern Witches. Then again,
Reed is known to me as an author for whom magic and religion are deeply tied (just read her book
The Heart of Wicca). She makes that view quite clear within the first chapter: "The magic
you will find here is more than ways to cast spells. It is the magic of growing closer to the
Gods, the magic of learning the Mysteries of the Universe".
While Reed shows definite consideration to revering Egyptian Deities in ways conducive to
how the ancient Egyptians viewed Them, she freely acknowledges that she and her coven have no
intentions of reconstructing ancient Egyptian religion; ancient knowledge is set in the context
of modern Wiccan practice, and she makes no apologies for that.
Most of this book is dedicated to introducing various ancient Egyptian Deities to the
reader. These introductions are fairly comprehensive in regards to more well-known Deities, e.g.
Osiris, Isis, Horus the Younger, Ra, Anubis, Amen, etc. and they include both historical
information on how They were perceived and worshipped in ancient times as well as how these Gods
have personally interacted with Their modern followers.
What originally caused me to purchase
this book was the segment on Nephthys/Nebt-Het. Although Her name is well-known, most books say
little of Her other than listing Her relationships to other Gods. I was particularly impressed
with the quality and quantity of Reed's writings about Her. The thing that especially caught my
attention was a song/poem for Her, which, in my opinion, beautifully captured Her essence. Many
of the other Gods she introduces also have song/poems to illuminate Their natures. Also included
are the names (in English tranliterations a
nd in hieroglyphs) of and very brief statements about lesser known Deities.
In order to make
sure that such knowledge of the Gods does not remain vicarious, Reed makes sure to have a
chapter which gives information and techniques on establishing a connection with a specific
Deity. This section covers such tried and true methods as meditation, rituals, songs, as well as
recipies for both food and incenses, all of which come in handy when invoking a God's presence.
Reed also discusses the rudiments of ancient Egyptian language and includes a chart of
alphabetics (i.e. phonetic hieroglyphs that represent one sound, also called monoliterals) as
well as a list of common determinatives (signs that are tacked onto Egyptian words to indicate a
word's meaning). Other topics the book covers includes common Egyptian symbols and their
potential for use in magic; a few Egyptian-inspired divinatory methods; a list of Egyptian names
one may choose to adopt upon dedication to Egyptian Gods; a calendar based on the Egyptian's
own; and instructions for making a wand, sistrum, nemes headcloth, scarab, and kilt.
I did not discover a great deal of flaws with this book either in regards to its
faithfullness in depicting Egyptian religion and culture fairly accurately, or with its
presentation of Neo-Pagan religion. The things I did notice were relatively minor. For instance,
she seems to rely on the work of E.A. Wallis Budge, a rather prolific writer and museum curator,
especially in the section on hieroglyphs. The only problem with this is that Budge's work is no
longer entirely accurate and up-to-date and so the information she based on his work is also
Early in the book she made a point about not claiming to be reconstructing
ancient Egyptian religion and that the Gods were viewed through an admittedly modern lens, but I
think in some cases adapting ancient Egyptian knowledge too much can be detremental. One
particular case of this is Reed's addition of a fouth season (which she labels "Spring" and is
symbolized by a contrived heiroglyph of what appears to be
a bloated butterfly) to Egypt's traditional year consisting of only three seasons. I think she
does this in order to make the seasonal theme work on a square divination cloth, but she could
have addressed that issue differently by using hieroglyphs that refer to months and days of the
Egyptian calendar that correspond to the duration of our seasons. In spite of these issues, I
would still recommend this book as a good beginning resource for Pagans seeking to incorperate
ancient Egyptian culture and religion into their practice.
Reviewed by Sphinxmuse