Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: Book by Nancy Vedder-Shults

The World is Your Oracle: Divinatory Practice For Tapping Your Inner Wisdom And Getting The Answers You Need by Nancy Vedder-Shults, Quarto Publishing Group USA 2017,240 pages (Also available as an e-book.)

This short interview is meant as an introduction to Nancy Vedder-Shults’ book, The World is Your Oracle. For the interview section of this review, the reviewer is using the name she usually writes under, Judith Laura. Her blogger name for this blog is Medusa, and will appear at the end of the review

Judith Laura: How does The World is Your Oracle relate to Goddess spirituality?
Nancy Vedder-Shults: The book is a compilation of 40 different techniques for accessing your deep knowing, 1/3 of which are visual, 1/3 auditory, and 1/3 kinesthetic. It comes directly out of my work in feminist spirituality, although it certainly could be used by men as well.

Judith Laura: In what way(s) do these techniques come out of your work in feminist spirituality?

Nancy Vedder-Shults: I was in a deeply magical coven of seven women in the 1990s. Since there were 7 of us, we decided that for a year and a day each of us would be responsible for one of the 7 chakras. We put colored slips of paper into a hat and selected one a piece. When I picked indigo, signifying the 6th chakra, I must have blanched. The sixth chakra, also known as the third eye, is the site of intuition and psychic awareness. I didn’t consider myself very psychic at the time and wondered why I had chosen that chakra. What this experience began was an intense exploration of intuition and ways of tapping into our inner wisdom. The World is Your Oracle is a direct result. I don’t think I would have researched and written it if I hadn’t been in that coven.
Judith Laura: Are there any other ways that your approach in this book grew out of your work in feminist or Goddess spirituality?
Nancy Vedder-Shults: I discovered divination as a Goddess woman, so for me it’s obvious that these techniques are a part of my spirituality. If I had remained in my birth religion, I would never have encountered them. I practice Wicca, and I’m also a Unitarian Universalist. This second religion may be THE most tolerant religion in the world. There are no dogmas or beliefs that we ascribe to, so there are UUs of many stripes — Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, agnostic, and even a few Muslims. As a UU, I wanted my book — which comes out of the magical practices that Goddess feminists perform — to be accessible to any open-minded person. Molly Remer in her review called it "not a specifically pagan book, but instead is markedly (and enjoyably!) interfaith in approach, while also being culturally respectful.” That made me feel great, because it meant that I had not imposed my beliefs on others, but allowed them to realize how the techniques could be useful to them, whatever their beliefs.

And now for my review:

Beginning with the first chapter, “Preparing, Interpreting, and Honoring your Oracle,” the book contains a wealth of helpful material. In addition to being a look at oracles through the author’s lens of feminist spirituality, The World Is Your Oracle is a fascinating book on a metaphysical topic that the author bases strongly on science. For example, Vedder-Shults writes in the 2nd chapter, “… Science has recently demonstrated a number of techniques that can make our divinations even more successful.” Some of these techniques, the author writes, are smiling, replacing worry and anxiety with trust, broadening your attention but also letting your mind wander. In addition, in this section the author discusses 5 other ways for aiding divination based on scientific research.
While maintaining a focus on science, Vedder-Shults includes light touches that keep the book from bogging down. The title of the book itself is one of these for me. “The World is Your Oracle,” to me is a play on the saying “The world is your oyster,” (an expression originally from Shakespeare), only in the case of the book we are looking for answers to questions, or help from what some call “psychic” perceptions, whereas in the common maxim, we are giving a new meaning or an expanded role to oysters—that an oyster represents enjoyment or simply that we have some type of ownership of the world . Another light touch is use of the term “brain blink” in the chapter discussed above on science. The author gives four recommendations for encouraging “brain blink.”
Both the cover (which shows what I assume is a world egg breaking open and releasing a bird, and which surrounds the main title with the subtitle), and the interior illustrations are by the author’s daughter, Linnea Vedder. They add greatly to this book. Most of the chapters begin with a color illustration. Beginning with the chapter sections of “Visual Techniques” the chapter sections also have color illustration. For example, the section on air begins with a color illustrations that seems to me to illustrate the displayed boxed text for “winds of change: this modern form of wind divination (austromancy) allows you to read your oracle in the movements of an object blown by the wind.” This chapter section and those that follow on visual techniques connected with air (ashes, balloon diagrams, books, candles, creatures, dreams, mirrors, numbers, scrying, spirit guides, stars) also contain further instructions titled “Steps” and “Continuing the Journey.” Similar color illustrations, accompanied by boxed explanatory quotes, as well as separate sections with instructions are included in the chapters on Auditory Techniques and Kinesthetic Techniques, each of which have at least 14 sections each on various techniques.
The Back Matter contains Works Frequently Cited; References; Endnotes, including those from the works of Layne Redmond, Gerina Dunwich, Robert Graves, D.J. Conway, James Lovelock; Resources, with sections on “chanting and other music” including material on Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, “Om Tara,” featuring Chants for the Queen of Heaven and Songs of the Earth: Music of the Earth; and Pagan, Wiccan, or Native American. Also, “drumming,” “gods, goddesses, saints, and power animals,” whose material includes work by Ted Andrews, and Patricia Monaghan; and “birds, animals, and insects.” There is also a 6-page index, whose citations include Alpha brain wave activity, Sigmund Freud, Gaia theory, Guided meditation, Carl Jung, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Trance state. The Appendix section has spaces for the reader to fill in personal meanings and includes topics of “Creatures” with 3 charts of Associations with Common North American Bugs, ….Animals, …Birds’. The topics of “Numbers” and “Body Sense” have one chart each.

The World Is Your Oracle is a down-to-earth description of how to use mysticism and mystical techniques to achieve excellence in oracular practice. Well thought out and organized, it is appropriate for the person first starting to use oracles as well as those who have been involved in this form of divination for quite some time.

According to Vedder-Shults’ biography at the end of the book, she participated in the Women’s Studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1975-1991, received a Ph.D, and is “a storyteller, writer, and musician.” She has written for SageWoman magazine and Tikkun Daily blog and has recorded Chants for the Queen of Heaven. Her website is Mamasminstrel.net

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