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Some Useful Books

Here’s a short roundup of books dealing with various aspects of Group work. Most of the following are not particularly oriented to magical group work, as this subject has received relatively little attention.

Adair, John
Pan Books, ISBN 0-330-30230-2, 1988, £5.99

This book provides a thorough, structured approach to exploring the development of leadership skills, with many examples of leadership in action, drawn from commerce, history and the military. The author also reviews the different models of leadership and draws them together into a multi-dimensional approach to building leadership abilities, with practical exercises and self-assessment techniques. Though primarily aimed at Business managers, nonetheless a useful book.

Douglas, Tom
Open University Press, ISBN 0-335-19412-5, 1995, £15.95

Subtitled, "The Basics of Group Membership", this book presents an overview of just what participation in groups can involve. The author clearly and concisely examines the pressures and influences which can exist in groups and stresses the fact that the ability to identify and understand these processes in action can enable group members to work more effectively together. Theory, practice and examples are well-balanced and presented in a refreshingly down-to-earth style. Although aimed primarily at students of social work, nursing & counselling, this is an excellent book for both group leaders and anyone who wants to identify group processes in action - highly recommended!

Finley, Linda
Stanley Thornes, ISBN 0-7487-3636-0, 1993

This book is written for both students and qualified occupational therapists involved in group work. I’ve included it here as I gained my interest in group dynamics from my own occupational therapy training and was fortunate enough to have Linda Finley as a course tutor. This book gives a very structured approach to group work, with useful "Theory into Practice" boxes and a strong emphasis on suggestions for problem-solving with respect to the various issues and conflicts that can arise in groups. The importance of Reporting and Evaluating a group’s performance is stressed, as is the development of self-evaluation skills for leaders and facilitators. A thorough, practical book for anyone interested in setting up groups and developing group work skills.

Flowers, Stephen E.
Llewellyn Publications, 1994

This book is an overview of the Fraturnitas Saturni, their history and magical practices. In addition to providing an insight into the workings of this influential magical order, I also found Flowers’ discussion of the entity GOTOS very useful - see my essay On the Magical Egregore for more details.

Harvey, Graham & Hardman, Charlotte. (eds)
Thorsons, ISBN 0-7225-3233-4, 1995, £9.99

See contribution by Amy Simes, "Mercian Movements: Group Transformation and Individual Choices Amongst East Anglia Pagans", p169-190.

This article is a report from the author’s 2˝ year study of Pagans in the East Midlands, during which she came into contact with 13 separate local groups. She discusses the distinction between purposive/networking groups, Working or Ritual groups, and Social groups, noting that the boundaries between these categories often becomes blurred. In particular, she focuses on the fortunes and changes observed in a Druid group, and then goes on to pose the question of how to identify patterns of group formation and transformation amongst pagans. Interesting from a sociological perspective and hopefully the beginning of more research to come.

Luhrmann, Tanya M.
Harvard University Press, ISBN 067663241, 1991

An ethnographic study of the beliefs and practices of middle-class covens in the London area, this is a unique book as there are (to my knowledge) few such published studies of contemporary magical groups. It is some years since I read it so I cannot go into specific details, and can only recall the ingrained homophobia of some of the people quoted in it.

Peters, Tom
HarperCollins, ISBN 00697-1843, 1991

I read this book during a period when, having overdosed on the humanistic and social psychology approaches to groups, I began to look at magical groups in terms of corporations, and I must admit, the title attracted me! Tom Peters is a well-known business consultant - successful enough to be lampooned in Scott Adam’s "Dilbert" comic strip. Thriving on Chaos examines how successful companies in the USA have streamlined themselves to be more responsive to rapid change in both the marketplace and the economic situation. I found several ideas in this book which have magical equivalents, such as "Not Invented Here" (i.e. if we didn’t think of doing it, it can’t be any good) which turns up in magical groups as "That’s not part of our tradition"; or the idea that successful companies have a "Mission Statement" - a Statement of Intent, in other words, and the idea of a "Vision" which is espoused by leaders and shared by members of the company, which can be equated with the magical idea of a group egregore. Whilst useful for members of larger organisations, particularly hierarchies, this book is probably not very applicable to the small group situation.

Shea, Gordon F.
Kogan Page Ltd, ISBN 0-7494-0881-2, 1992, £5.99

Small but perfectly formed, this book provides a useful introduction to the theory and practice of Mentoring. Particularly useful are the exercises which enable the reader to identify instances of mentoring from one’s own experiences. Essential reading for anyone involved in magical training, either with groups or individuals.

Shea, Michael
Century, ISBN 0-7126-2390-6, 1988, £10.95, Hardback

Michael Shea is a former diplomat and was the press secretary to the Queen for nine years. This book, subtitled "How to make the System work for you - A Handbook for the Modern Machiavelli" proposes that real power seldom, if ever, exists, and that influence - the capacity to change minds and decisions without the formal authority to do so, is what really matters. Having experienced the jockeying for position that goes on in magical groups (regardless of whether they be magical organisations, pagan networks, shamanic groups or even weekend workshops), I feel that much of what Shea says is applicable. In fact, I would suggest that, from my own experience, having influence in a group without formal position is vastly preferable to having a formal position of authority. The book also covers interview techniques, public speaking, manipulating committees, and identifying figures such as the Éminence Grise in organisations. A fun read, and a worthy successor to ‘Old Nick’.

HaperSan Francisco, ISBN 0-06-250816-4, 1987, £14.50

This is an excellent book - virtually the only book I could find within the magical milieu which has a lot to say about group issues - all drawn from the author’s experience of a wide variety of groups. Issues covered include: leadership, conflict in groups, when Consensus works (and when it doesn’t), hierarchies, and starting new groups. Starhawk provides some useful exercises and ‘questions’ which help clarification of issues - both in terms of groups and how individuals feel about the group. I particularly liked the way she illustrates points by describing situations from her own experience which went ‘wrong’ - on one occasion she leaped up screaming "Fuck You" at another group member. My only ‘niggle’ with this book is that some of the conflict-resolution exercises she suggests were obviously developed from the context of particular groups, and wouldn’t necessarily work in another group setting. Having said this, they at least provide example strategies to think about.

The books outlined below are not related to group dynamics issues, but I thought they’d be worth mentioning in this context as they deal with some of the practicalities of making things and arranging events. For me, being in a group often means that I get motivated to do things - like making musical instruments, masks, ritual props etc. - that I otherwise wouldn’t ‘find time’ to get round to.


Keith Johnstone
Methuen, ISBN 0 413 46430 X, 1981

This book has been a major influence on my approach to ritual, particularly with respect to working with masks and possession-oriented events. There’s some great exercises - aimed at actors and improvisation but equally applicable to magical group work. An inspiring read.

Tony Coult & Baz Kershaw (eds)
Methuen, ISBN 0 413 52800 6, 1983, £5.95

This wonderful book is a practical handbook developed from the work of Welfare State International who, since their inception in 1968 have developed a synthesis of theatre, music, sculpture & spectacle. This book is a must-have for anyone who’s into making things - it covers a vast range of topics such as street theatre, processionals, making puppets, ceremonial food, arranging events, costumes, lanterns, fire sculptures and naming ceremonies. Excellent stuff, and provides much food for thought.


Any suggestions/contributions for expanding this list would be greatly welcomed!