Author: Elisabeth Goldsmith
Trade Paperback, 220 pages
Publisher: Ibis Press
Publication date: 2003
Price & More Info: Click Here
This book (and its companion Sacred Symbols in Art) has been around for
nearly eighty years. It is concerned with symbolism from the Middle and Far
East and, due to the early date of original publication (1929) predates many
of the more common conceptions of New Age interpretations.
The perceptions of the past, and the language used to express the
perceptions will seem (at the least) impolite or (at the worst) downright
denigrating to modern readers (e.g. "...later still these
ceremonies...degenerated into wild orgies as notorious as they are indecent."
Page 20), Still, the book offers some insights into the widespread nature
of some of the symbols as well as into the attitudes prevalent before the
The symbols discussed in this book are not just the expected ones like the
pentagram, the circle, the triangle and so on; but include the lotus, the
tree of life, the cross, Chinese trigrams, and more. Although this is a
small book (only 41/2" by 6 ½") it contains a wealth of information and
speculation. It may take some effort to overcome the obvious bias and
preconceptions of the author, but the effort will be well worth it.
This is another of those books I occasionally get for review which I do not
recommend for the person who is new to the study of Paganism, nor does it
belong in the library of the average Witch. It could prove to invaluable in
the coven library, or in the library of one who intends to be teaching
symbolism. Even after all my years of experience I found interesting new
lines of thought.
One serious failing, in my opinion, is the lack of a bibliography. Although
it would, undoubtedly, be difficult to obtain copies of the works used for
reference, it would (at least) make it possible ton track down original
sources for some of the illustrations and quotes.
A great number of the references are to images drawn from Near, Middle, and
Far Eastern traditions, with a corresponding de-emphasis on Western
imagery. This will be of benefit to those who follow traditions other than
the more common Wiccan or Druidic paths.
The arrangement of the illustrations throughout this book leaves a lot to be
desired. Illustrations are frequently unrelated to the topic(s) on the page
where they appear. While that is a bit disappointing, the sheer number of
line drawings, and the variety of topics they illustrate make this an
interesting book to read through.
The final 57 pages of text comprise an alphabetical listing of "Some General
Symbols and Symbolic Figures Found in Early Art." For many readers, this
will be the most valuable part of the book, since it is the easiest place to
find basic information.
Reviewed by Mike Gleason