Gillotte, Galen. Sacred Stones of the Goddess: using earth energies for magical living. Llewellyn, 2003. Paperback, 276 pages.

This book continues the enjoyable trend I’ve had lately of being able to recommend some of the books I review. For someone who wants to do magical work with stones or crystals, I would definitely recommend this book plus a reference guide. Then again, that may be because this isn’t actually a book about stones and crystals. This is a book about magic, and how to do it on oneself. The back cover description is pretty accurate, too. Part of it reads:

Make everyday magic come alive with the beautiful prose and invocations found in Sacred Stones of the Goddess. This one-of-a-kind guidebook incorporates crystals and semiprecious stones in talismanic magic, and includes guided meditations and prayers to the Goddess.

(blah blah stone energy blah) In talismanic magic, the stone serves as both the focus and amplifier for the desired outcome of the spell.

Talismanic magic is a good description of what’s going on here. The structure of the spells centers on guided meditations, in which the stones are received as a gift from the goddess. The general idea is that afterwards, the stones symbolize the entire experience, the energy put into it by the practitioner, and the connection with deity hopefully established, making the stone a sort of shorthand for the entire spell, a key that lets the practitioner open up and access that memory repeatedly, to draw on that work as needed in the future.

The spells that make up the majority of the book are set up with an introduction discussing the purpose of the spell and the Pagan theory, theaology, or understanding of the world that underpins this approach. Then there’s an introduction to a historical goddess who is the centerpiece of the guided meditation, a description of the stone being used (and why it was chosen), and an affirmation. The guided meditations are quite detailed, and are accompanied by descriptions of how to work the surrounding ritual, including a poem or chant to say over the stones, suggestions for timing, incenses, and candles to use. After that, there are “Practical Steps,” suggesting some real-world acts to take as well as magical and psychological approaches to the topic the spell is meant to address. Finally, there is a section called “The Priestess Speaks,” which gives a short interlude in the development of an acolyte under the guidance of an experienced Priestess in a semi-monastic situation.

Different elements of this structure have different pluses and minuses. Interestingly, the chapters/spells are listed in the table of contents according to the goddess invoked and the purpose, but not the stone used. This supports my conclusion that the real purpose of the book is the magic and connection with deity, not the stones. The wide variety of goddesses invoked means that there’s something for just about everyone here, but there’s probably also quite a few pieces that you’ll have trouble working with. The briefness of the introduction to each goddess leaves plenty of room for your imagination and an individual relationship with deity, but also opens up the possibility of cultural imperialism and oversimplification of goddesses, especially historical ones, as aspects of the Goddess. Best of all, in my opinion, is the fact that the purposes of the spells range far beyond the usual “Big Four.” The Big Four are what I call the four major types of spells that people who don’t work with magic want to learn how to do or want to have done for them: spells for love, spells for money, spells for healing, and spells for revenge. The spells in this book include plenty of inner work – connecting with your inner child, for example – but also for such practical purposes as creating and sustaining friendship, increasing wisdom, and for autonomy.

I also like the fact that the author isn’t setting forth hard and fast rules about how to use stones. For someone interested specifically in the magical uses of crystals, this might be a boring read, since it only describes the use of a relative handful of types; that’s why I suggested accompanying it with a dictionary or encyclopedic reference work. On the other hand, since this book is about magic, and not just the stones, you get a lot more useful discussion of how to use the tools – it’s not just “selenite is good for dreaming,” without any description of how to use selenite for that purpose. There’s also a decent introduction to magic and visualization, although since visualization of purposes isn’t specifically used in the spells (the affirmations sort of touch on that, but only if you are used to using affirmations that way), the intro is a bit disconnected.

Plus, there are also elemental meditations and some excellent material on building a relationship with deity through the use of prayer beads. Gillotte’s other works are specifically about prayer, so this might look to some people like a kind of tacked-on bit touching on her other expertise. Instead, I think it indicates what’s really going on in this work: Gillotte is trying to guide readers to work magic on themselves by connecting with deities for those specific purposes. The stones are tools; means, not end, and way, not destination.

If you want to use stones and crystals to get somewhere, in the context of a Pagan approach to life, this is a good book to study. If you want to play with pretty pebbles, it’ll probably seem mostly useless to you. It depends: are you here to worship rocks, or are you here to rock the world?