Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral by Erick DuPree

Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral: Men in Ritual, Service and Community to the Goddess
Erick DuPree
Immanion Press/Megalithica Books, 2016

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Review by Hugh Eckert.

What is a positive and healthy expression of masculinity in spirituality? It’s a valid question for today- just skim the news and look at the reports of crimes stemming from toxic masculinity; you don’t have to look too deeply to see that all too many of them are rooted in the patriarchal structure of Abrahamic religions. Goddess-centered spirituality can (and has) provided a counterbalance, but sometimes devalues the masculine (if not casting the male as an outright enemy). This volume attempts to remedy that problem by showing paths many men have taken in revering the Divine Feminine while still honoring their own masculinity.

Despite the promise on the back cover copy of “a diverse tapestry of sacred masculine stories, rituals and poetry,” I was unsurprised (although disappointed) to find that the vast majority of selections in the book are written by followers of Wiccan, Wiccan-derived and other Goddess-centered Neo-Pagan paths. Since I’m Polytheist, there’s little of direct personal relevance to me here, but I think I can use my thirty-plus years of experience in the larger Pagan community to judge it fairly.

Much of this book consists of a series of heartfelt spiritual autobiographies- deeply personal stories of how the authors “came to the Goddess” out of stifling, unpleasant, even actively abusive backgrounds. I started to get annoyed at the repetition, but then I recalled my own past experience. This “conversion to Paganism” story is a powerful myth in and of itself, ringing changes on a litany of change and self-discovery. This is the core of the book: tales of faith and how the writers came to it; stories of hope that can bring hope to others in need of it.

There are other things to like here, as well. In his introduction, Ivo Dominguez (one of the most thoughtful and interesting writers in Paganism) give a useful exploration of the more “technical” aspects of the Powers and our interactions with them. Roxie Babylon’s poetry is intoxicating and lyrical. Puck DeCoyote and Blake Octavian Blair both had thought provoking pieces about gender fluidity and the Divine. I also found the rituals presented by Eric Eldritch and Matthew Sawicki to be powerful and inspirational (although the latter’s Hekate ritual is definitely not beginner material and should be attempted only by a well-trained group with deep existing connections to that Goddess). Similarly, Ian Allen’s work with the Magdalene was fascinating, but it’s powerful stuff and shouldn’t be done without grounding, centering and shielding.

Unfortunately, this book has its flaws. Many of the essays needed sourcing if not footnoting (and in at least one case, there were footnote numbers in the text but no notes provided). The level of writing is uneven and some pieces seem to be unedited blog posts. Many of the essays in the book were too short and compressed; I found myself wishing that Erick Dupree had limited his selection of authors and instead encouraged them to write longer and deeper pieces. And not all the contributors had entries in the “Biographies” section- this may seem like a quibble, but I find such material provides helpful context for reflecting on an author’s work.

Even so, this book is a passionate and informative exploration of the role of masculinity and masculine energy in Goddess Spirituality. Anyone teaching courses or workshops on gender and spirituality should be able to find valuable material for readings here. It’s also the kind of book I hope that young men in spiritual crisis will stumble upon or be given. With that in mind, I plan on donating my copy to a prison chaplaincy in ardent hope that it may help where help is most needed.

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Clearing Spaces by Khi Armand

Clearing Spaces: Inspirational Techniques to Heal Your Home
Khi Armand
Sterling Publishing, 2017

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Review by Barbara Ardinger.

This is a beautifully produced book that will be useful to experienced practitioners of the magical arts and newbies alike. Though it’s not as encyclopedic as, say, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn, 1988), its eight chapters tell us how to diagnose and clear the spaces that we’re going to use for rituals or simply live or work in. “The history of energetically clearing spaces is probably as old as the earliest human-made dwellings,” the author (who is a “spirit-initiated shamanic healer” and a frequent blogger) writes in the introduction, “Rather than being complex ritual acts, these practices were most likely quite similar to ones found in traditional folk magic around the world today…” (p. ix).

The chapters cover the following topics. Chapter 1: the “core tenets of animistic cosmologies, the doctrine of signatures, plant spirit consciousness,” and commonalities of magic around the world. Chapter 2: the materials and methods to be taught in the book, including African-American rootwork traditions. The chapter also gives a lesson in shamanic journeying. Chapter 3: the work of cleansing and clearing, from floor washes to smudging. The author also gives an annotated list of herbs and other materials. Chapter 4: protecting the home, finding out why some home are more naturally protected than others. The author lists tools for warding and guarding spaces. Chapter 5: the issues of hauntings and “intrusive sentient entities and how they can be addressed and protected against through acts of exorcism” (p. xi). Chapter 6: the spirits of place. The author writes that “this is one of the least-explored topics in space resolution” (p. xi). Chapter 7: divination and how Tarot cards and other tools can be used to “accurately diagnose energetic disturbances.” “Effective acts of remediation” are also given (p. xi). Chapter 8: “possibilities from around the globe for working with saints, angels, and other helping spirits to help maintain protection, peace, and prosperity in an environment” (p. xi). In addition, the book has a glossary, a good list of resources, a very brief bibliography, and an index.

Khi Armand’s writing is clear and calm (calmness is useful when dealing with the invisibles), and shows that he knows what he’s talking about. The illustrations are beautiful. My only quibble is that I’d like to know what herbs those are in the photographs. And is the photograph on page 17 a shamanic drum? What are the stones arranged around the smudge stick and abalone shell on page 20? Is the illustration on page 72 an altar? And who is that on the back cover? Perhaps readers can go online and ask the publisher.

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Plant Magic by Sandra Kynes

Plant Magic: A Year of Green Wisdom for Pagans and Wiccans
Sandra Kynes
Llewellyn Publications, 2017

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Review by Rebecca Buchanan.

I love to garden and I love to bake, so I was very excited to lay my hands on an advance copy of Sandra Kynes’ new Plant Magic. I am happy to report that Kynes’ book is well-researched, easy to understand, and would make a great addition to the library of any witch, gardener, or baker.

The book is divided into two main sections: a lengthy introduction, followed by entries for each individual month. In the case of Plant Magic, it is vital to *not* skip the Getting Started section. Kynes lays out the importance of scientific names (“meadowsweet” for example, is colloquially applied to two very different plants), defines some basic botanical terms, discusses the role of the planets and stars and moon in plant magick, and analyzes the symbolism of the various parts of plants.

Each month, in turn, is divided into four sections: On the Calendar (sacred days and the plants associated with them), In the Garden, In the Wild, and In the House. January, for example, includes entries on New Year’s, Epiphany, and the Celtic Month of Rowan, witch hazel, eucalyptus, spider plant, and a winter wellness rite with thyme. The entry on witch hazel is further divided into a discussion of its common and scientific names, a description of the plant, its magical uses, its astrological influences, and its link to the ogham Emancoll.

I definitely recommend Plant Magic. It is one of the easiest-to-use manuals on the subject that I have ever seen. I do have a suggestion, though: if you buy a physical copy of the book, also grab a blank journal. Use it to take notes, jot down garden plans, and, especially, include photos of the plants. Aside from a lunar chart and illustrations of ogham and runes, there are *no* pictures in Plant Magic. (In the case of a digital copy, it should be possible to copy/paste and attach images in the margins, or create hyperlinks.)

Recommended, especially in conjunction with texts such as Roth’s The Witching Herbs, Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Riotte’s Carrots Love Tomatoes, and Culpepe’s Herbal.

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Christian Animism by Shawn Sanford Beck

Christian Animism
Shawn Sanford Beck
Christian Alternative, 2015

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Review by Katina Haaland-Ramer.

Christian Animism’ by Shawn Sanford Beck is a curious and brief (52-page) treatise on the titular topic by a Canadian Anglican Priest with Pagan leanings. The author cites as his two greatest sources of inspiration activist/theologian Walter Wink and Starhawk. The work could roughly be called an apologetic, as a great deal of the text is taken up with explaining how such a thing could exist in the first place.

While he claims full faith in Christ, his alternative theology recognizes the influences of Buddhist, Cree, and the aforementioned Pagan traditions. Internal to the Christian heritage he recognizes Celtic faith and classic apocryphal Enochian literature. He contests that while monotheism may be at odds with pantheism and polytheism, there is sufficient Biblical support for an animistic worldview as to make it not incompatible with the Christian faith.

I believe it [an apple tree] to be a fellow creature, a being both physical and spiritual, as I am. But I don’t worship it, and I don’t consider it a god. It is simply a neighbor. Now, while you may think me a bit off my rocker for holding this belief, you cannot accuse me of being a heretic (14).

Beck’s vision is one in which the world may be treated as the body of the triune God: Creator, Word, and Holy Sophia. At the same time, he sees it populated by the spirits of individual living things (including rocks, plants, and even natural features) under the jurisdiction of presiding spirits (such as all vegetables, the sky, and so forth). He also references the fictional worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth as parables of his world view.

Beck contests that adopting this paradigm is theologically beneficial in the areas of creating an ecologically-aware Christianity that treats all beings of the earth as “neighbors”. This is to correct for the other Biblical models of relatedness to the world which are anthropocentric. His work is very carefully progressive, and he seems to suffer much over the past and present errors of the traditional Church.

It is unfortunate to see such a brilliant thinker apparently girding himself for attack expected from all sides, but understandable. He is attempting to syncratize traditions that have much hatred to overcome if they are ever to coexist peacefully. The second benefit he cites is the potential for creating the interfaith dialogue required to make such a future a reality.

Finally, he hopes to revitalize the faith by encouraging personal awakening in the faithful:

Christian animism can give us some tools so that we might begin to open our hearts and minds to the “spirit world”, not as a realm far removed from day-to-day reality, and not as a synonym for heaven (as an eschatological reality), but rather as the world of energy and consciousness intricately bound to the physical creatures whom we encounter in our real lives (18).

If there be any criticism, this is a highly intellectual and academic work thick with jargon through which those unfamiliar with technical religious study might find it tedious to pick. However, it may be the best piece of literature possible for someone from a deep Christian background seeking to reconcile that faith with a magical awakening.

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Runes for Beginners by Alexandra Chauran

Runes for Beginners: Simple Divination and Interpretation
Alexandra Chauran
Llewellyn Publications, 2016

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Review by Rebecca Buchanan.

In this handy and easy-to-use introduction, those new to the runes are taught their basic meanings, useful alliterative tools, daily practices for increasing their knowledge of the runes, and casting patterns, among other techniques.

Chauran, a Wiccan high priestess and second-generation fortune teller, writes in a friendly and conversational style; almost like pulling up a chair around a table with friends, where we could all chat and laugh and cast runes together. She opens with a short history of the runes, explaining what they are, where they came from, and the various terms which will be used throughout the book. She then moves into a discussion of the runes themselves, listing them, and offering a very helpful alliterative technique for remembering their names and basic meanings (e.g., thurisaz links to thorn, Thor’s hammer, and thistle). This is followed by longer sections on how to divine with the runes (charts, castings, et cetera), things which people will want divined (love, money, career), and how to tap into the power of the runes (kennings or knowings, bindrunes, and so on).

I am still a novice when dealing with the runes; and I have the feeling that no one ever truly becomes an expert with them, considering their complexity. As such, I found some of the techniques recommended by Chauran to be either helpful or, at the very least, interesting. For example, while I can’t see myself trying runic yoga any time soon (not bendy enough), chanting the runes during meditation or making use of bindrunes is right up my alley.

My only complaint regards Chauran’s inclusion of the blank rune. As she notes, there is no historical precedent for a blank rune, and she leaves it up to the individual as to whether or not to include it in their practice. I think it would be a lot less confusing for beginners if the blank rune was excluded entirely from books on the subject; just a quick note that there was no such thing in the past, and move on.

Overall, I enjoyed Chauran’s Runes for Beginners. It was easy to understand, laid out well, and filled with useful techniques — some of which might serve as touchstones even for those who have been reading runes for many years.

Recommended for those new to the runes, especially when read in conjunction with other titles, such as Krasskova’s Runes: Theory and Practice and Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

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The Awakened Psychic by Kala Ambrose

The Awakened Psychic: What You Need to Know to Develop Your Psychic Abilities
Kala Ambrose
Llewellyn Publications, 2016

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Review by Barbara Ardinger.

When we first enter the world of psychics, mediums, card readers, and invisible entities, we are often amazed at what we see, hear, and feel. When our innate psychic abilities begin to manifest, we are often bewildered. What’s going on here? we ask. Kala Ambrose, a teacher and the author of four previous books, has some answers. She’s been there, done that. “From training for years as a psychic medium,” she writes in the introduction,

I’ve learned how to create boundaries and to set the pace and tone for when I’m available to speak to the other side…. I’ve also learned how to set the intention for spirits to come through from a higher plane of existence only and how to banish the lower-level astral plane spirits. I also now interact with ghosts and understand the different types and how to communicate with them (p. 7).

Two pages later, she adds

As a psychic consultant and teacher, I enjoy helping people understand what is happening in their life from a spiritual perspective so that they can find solutions to their problems and live a better life. … For more than twenty-five years, I’ve offered my psychic services in almost every type of situation possible to clients around the world… (p. 9).

Ambrose, who grew up in Louisiana as a member of a family that “knew” things, opens The Awakened Psychic by describing one of her earliest psychic experiences: her grandfather was dying, and her dead great grandmother came to tell her about it.
The eleven chapters are chock-full of insights, lessons, and advice for readers who are stepping into the psychic universe, possibly for the first time. In Chapter 1, “Discover Your Hidden Psychic Talents,” she defines terms: clairvoyance (seeing “clearly”—the clair syllable means “clear”), clairaudience (hearing), clairsentience (“to see by feeling”), clairtangency (the “ability to read an object psychically by touching it, what we usually call psychometry), claircognizance (which includes both precognition and retrocognition), clairgustance (psychic tasting), and clairalience (“being able to smell death [or decay] on a person”). Chapter 2, “Empathic Abilities,” tells what empathic abilities are and how an empath, one who feels what everyone else is feeling, can operate in the world by learning to dissipate negative energy with white light. In Chapter 3, “Premonitions and Intuitive Hunches,” Ambrose writes that the “best way to begin understanding [how to use premonitions] is by following the hunch and then gaining further clarity through your psychic skills” (p. 59). Chapter 4 explains reading auras and Akashic records, mediumship, mother’s intuition (another form of premonition), postcognition and precognition, and telepathy. The exercise at the end of Chapter 4 is consulting your spirit guide. In Chapter 5, “Divination Techniques,” Ambrose says to start a reading by getting “in the zone,” i.e., relaxed and receptive. We can use many divinatory tools: crystal balls, tea leaves, seashells, gemstones, even dowsing with rods or a pendulum. Chapter 6, “Psychic Adventures,” is basically about astral traveling, remote viewing, and lucid dreaming. In Chapter 7, the author discusses possible conflicts between the logical mind and the creative mind, the law of attraction, and how we sometimes sabotage ourselves. Chapter 8 is about psychic self-defense and cleansing using white light again. (Do non-Caucasian people use white light?) Chapter 9 is about ghosts and spirits; the author says that seeing ghosts can be like watching a movie. The major difference between ghosts and spirits is that ghosts remain bound to the earth plane, whereas spirits go someplace else. Exercises include visits with loved ones and ancestors.

In Chapters 10 and 11, Ambrose addresses ethics and professionalism. She begins Chapter 10, “Ethics, Protocol, and Responsibilities with Readings,” with this tip:

Listen to your intuition, trust the process, and have the courage and fortitude to find the reading style that is right for you. Create a list of guidelines based on the wisdom of your experience…and write your own psychic handbook. My handbook is focused on always asking for the highest and best guidance from the other side when delivering information, so that it is only helpful and never hurtful for the person I am sharing information with (p. 181).

The question of ethics has been faced by every reader of cards, crystals, hands, natal charts, auras, and [complete the list yourself] who takes the work of divination seriously. We ask questions like Should I share this information with my querent? Are there questions I shouldn’t ever answer? Do I really want to be a psychic reader? As we answer these questions, we should keep the concept of “highest good” in mind. She opens Chapter 11, “Standards and Challenges of Being Psychic,” by stating that “one of the toughest challenges of reading for people…is that you are held to impossible standards. … People expect psychics to be 100 percent accurate, 100 percent of the time” p. 187). Hundred percent accuracy is unreasonable, of course, and Ambrose presents her ideas for successfully living the psychic life. The book ends with a bibliography of sixteen books we should already have read—Alice Bailey, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, H.P. Blavatsky, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Cayce, Dion Fortune, Manly P. Hall, Louise Hay, Carl Jung, Paramahansa Yogananda, and a few others.

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The Path of Paganism by John Beckett

The Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice
John Beckett
Llewellyn Publications, 2012

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Review by Rebecca Buchanan.

John Beckett is a well-known writer and speaker, and a member of the OBOD, CUUPS, and the ADF. In The Path of Paganism, he offers practical, heart-felt, hard-earned advice on how to be Pagan in the world. Not just offer lip service to the idea of Paganism, but how to actively honor the Gods, live their virtues, and find our true purpose.

Beckett divides the book into four sections: Building a Foundation (the origins and purpose of religion, the different types of Paganism, the place of nature in Paganism, the nature of the Gods, and so on); Putting It Into Practice (the importance of prayer and meditation, piety, how to build an altar, ethics, and so on); Intermediate Practice (individual and group practice, sample rituals and circles, initiation, and so on); and Living at the Edge (the importance of continuing to learn and experience and grow our Paganism, whatever tradition it may be). Most chapters end with questions for contemplation or suggested rituals.

Following his proposal that life, experience, and learning are helical or cyclical, not linear, each section builds on the last, returning to previous discussions and ideas with new insights and information and suggestions. For example, in the beginning Beckett discusses growing up in a fundamentalist Baptist church; the seeds of doubt planted in his childhood continued to plague him until he really began to take his Paganism seriously; when he finally answered the calls of Cernunnos and Danu and the Morrigan (or maybe, began to hear the calls for what they were is more accurate), everything fell into place and he came to understand why he was here and what he was meant to do.

It has been a long time since I underlined anything in a book. I underlined a lot in The Path of Paganism. The pages are filled with both practical advice and real wisdom. I found myself pausing more than once to wonder how this or that line could apply to my own life, or how would I react in this situation, or gee, I should really try to incorporate this into my practice because it sounds useful! Beckett is a Druid and he does honor the Celtic pantheon; if you’re not, don’t let that scare you away. Much of what he discusses — how to answer the call of the Gods, how to live faithfully in troubled times, how to care for the world and the people around us — can be applied across any tradition.

One element that I found particularly compelling was Beckett’s emphasis on science. More than once, he notes that “bad science makes bad religion.” This, in turn, ties into the over-emphasis we place on literal truth and scientific validation. “When we misuse and misunderstand science we are doing exactly the same thing Christian fundamentalists do when they insist the Bible is inerrant [….] The foundation of their proof has crumbled, and they are forced to deny established facts to pretend otherwise. [….] Science has become the arbiter of truth in our materialistic society and we want science to bless our religion. At the root of this desire is the idea that the only truth worth having is the kind of truth science can validate, that the only knowledge is literal, material knowledge. This is why fundamentalists insist the Bible is literally true — if it’s not literally true, they think it’s worthless. They ignore the value of mythical and mystical truth.” (pp. 32-33) For Beckett — a Druid, an engineer, and an environmentalist — science and religion are the twin branches of a helix, twining together to create a life of virtue and knowledge, a life worth living.

Highly recommended to both those new to Paganism and those already far along their chosen path, especially when read in conjunction with Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up by Lupa, The Earth, The Gods, and the Soul by Brendan Myers, The Earth Path by Starhawk, and A World Full of Gods by John Michael Greer.

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Godless Paganism

Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans
Edited by John Halstead
Lulu.com, 2016

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Review by Holli Emore.

Most of us think of 1964’s “most hated woman in America,” Madalyn Murray O’Hair or, scientists like Stephen Hawking, when we hear the words atheist, agnostic or humanist.  And yet a new volume paints a beautifully-nuanced picture of today’s non-theistic Pagans.  In a crowd of recent years’ anthologies of Pagan writers on various subjects, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans, edited by John Halstead, stands out as a significant contribution to the field of contemporary Pagan theology.

Nearly seventy-five essays are organized under inviting sections like Non-Theistic Pagans: “Yes, We Exist!”; Analyzing with Apollo: Rationality, Critical Thought, and Skepticism; Dancing with Dionysus: Emotion, Passion, and Mysticism; Not Your Fathers’ God: Non-Theistic Conceptions of the Divine; Who Are We Talking To Anyway?: Non-Theistic Paganism and God-Talk; Just LARPing? Non-Theistic Pagan Practice; Bringing It Down to Earth: Non-Theistic Paganism and Nature; Origin Stories: Becoming a Non-Theistic Pagan; Looking Back: Non-Theistic Pagans in History; and Looking Forward: Non-Theistic Pagan Community.

Unlike common stereotypes, the writers presented in Godless Paganism choose to call themselves (if they choose a label at all) by names that illustrate the variety in this growing segment of the Pagan world – Atheopagan, Humanistic and Naturalistic Pagan, Buddho-Pagan, or Gaian, for example. Many of them share their personal stories in the anthology. The reader may be surprised to find familiar names among the contributors.  That’s because their spiritual trajectory has often moved from beginnings in one modern Pagan tradition or another into a personal understanding of existence which has left theistic belief behind, even when the outer practice is maintained. In this, the contributors reflect the most common pattern for most of today’s Pagans, that of being raised in a more-or-less mainstream religion before embracing some path of Paganism.

At a time when many are being loudly vocal about what they call hard polytheism, Godless Paganism is refreshingly non-dogmatic. By telling their own stories, the writers show that just as in any religious/spiritual group, there are infinite shades of gray in both experience and practice. Nowhere did I encounter a writer insisting that Pagans who believe in or otherwise honor a deity or pantheon are wrong. In fact, I was struck by the authenticity of this passage by Halstead:

“It is probably true that not all questions can be answered by the scientific method.  Many issues which concern Naturalistic Pagans may fall into this category.  In such cases, humility is what is called for, not faith.  The paucity of scientific evidence is not a justification to believe whatever one wants.  Naturalistic Pagans believe that, when science has yet to answer a question, we must place the question in the category of the ‘as yet unknown’ and suspend judgment. In the meantime, though, our condition of ‘unknowing’ may be enriched by our individual subjective  experiences. But we should remember that we can submit even our own experiences to the scientific method: experiment, observe, draw tentative conclusions, compare with others, and then repeat.” (page 48)

From philosophical, to poetic, to science- and environment-focused, the essays of Godless Paganism thoughtfully address many current Pagan topics: place-based practice, reciprocity, mystical experience, devotional practice, transcendence as a lateral phenomenon rather than horizontal, Jungian archetypes, the gods and the chthonic forces which underlie them.

I heartily recommend Godless Paganism as an enjoyable read, a complement to personal devotion and practice no matter what one’s beliefs, and a volume which will be useful to many who are pursuing Pagan academic studies.

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The Hearth Witch’s Compendium by Anna Franklin

The Hearth Witch’s Compendium: Magical and Natural Living for Every Day
Anna Franklin
Llewellyn, 2017

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Review by Sharynne NicMhacha.

This book is a true magical compendium, and an absolutely delightful volume to own! Every detail has been well thought out, from the cover art to the graphics inside, from the inspiring contents to inviting open spaces where the reader can mark down their own notes or experiences.

The main sections of the book include: The Witch’s Kitchen; Wine, Cider and Beer; Preserving; The Witch’s Home; Personal Care; A Witch’s Guide to Natural Beauty; The Witch’s Garden; Herbs for Healing; Home Remedies; Essential Oils; Magical Herbalism; Incense; Vegetable Dyes; and appendices containing information about color correspondences, planetary influences, and magical herbal correspondences.

One might expect a book of this type to contain just a few of these sections, or a number of sections that contain just a few recipes. This book is a cornucopia of knowledge, and the information is solid and plentiful. Each section contains excellent foundational information as well as unusual and enticing recipes.
The chapter on The Witch’s Kitchen contains daily food recipes as well as traditional foods for the eight holidays. The chapter about Wine, Cider and Beer cider provides brewing information and many truly magical recipes, including Rowan Wine, Hawthorn Berry Wine, Hedgerow Wine, and Honeysuckle Wine, to name just a few.

This is followed by a chapter on preserving, which provides guidance on making jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit curds (I grew up in Canada where lemon curd was spread on toast or crumpets). There is also information on making fruit cheeses and fruit butters, as well as fruit syrups, pickled foods, chutney and sauces. In addition, instruction is given for drying foods, making fruit leathers and other methods of conserving food. I was especially happy to see a section on non-alcoholic cordials, as not everybody wants to partake of alcohol before or during a rite (and children can partake as well!)

The chapter called The Witch’s Home contains alternative and natural home and cleaning products which are very useful indeed; good for you and your loved ones, and good for the planet as well! The next chapter is on Personal Care and provides the reader with recipes for bath bombs, bath teabags, milk baths, bath powders, natural shampoos and coloring rinses, amongst many other wonderful products you can create.

In the chapter entitled A Witch’s Guide to Natural Beauty, we learn about the uses of herbs and how to make facial scrubs and masks, facial cleansers such as Elderberry Cleanser or Cucumber and Honey Cleanser, skin toners like Violet Milk, moisturizers, skin treatments and more.

The next chapter brings us to The Witch’s Garden, with suggestions for creating gardens based on magical uses, winemaking, healing products, natural cosmetics, dyes and more. The author gives many ideas and tips for moon gardening and indoor gardening as well.

Next is Herbs for Healing, in which we meet the plants and learn how to make traditional herbal preparations. Home Remedies follows, with many useful and unusual recipes such as making a Meadowsweet Compress or a Castor Oil and Juniper Rub. This is very useful section, and different elements are listed with associated recipes and herbs. Perhaps you think you’ve already seen this type of book, but the information in this compendium includes tried-and-true recipes as well as many unique and alluring ones.

The chapter on essential oils is arranged alphabetically and contains information about magical virtues, deities, planets, elements and sun signs, as well as how to use the oils for health. It also describes how to make and charge magical oils with useful charts for different purposes.

Finally we come to Magical Herbalism, and teachings on gathering ritual herbs, identifying herbs, planetary correspondences and magical uses. In addition there are recipes and instructions for making potions, teas and herbal inks!

The chapter on incense making was very interesting and covered different categories like resins, essential oils, woods and barks, roots, dried berries, dried herbs, dried flowers, and seeds and pods. A wide range of incense recipes follows, some of which are associated with particular deities or elements, holidays or moon phases, and specific purposes like cleansing, banishing or abundance.

The last chapter discusses vegetable dyes and how to make a wide variety of dyes and colors from plant materials. This is a book you will return to time and time again, one of those books that you keep for a lifetime and in which you continue to discover new magic and marvels every time you open it up. Highly recommended!

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The Wolf of Allendale by Hannah Spencer

The Wolf of Allendale
Hannah Spencer
HarperCollins, 2017

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Review by Rebecca Buchanan.

The wolf has returned. The cysgod-cerddwr is a fearsome monster of deep legend, a creature of darkness and hunger. Bran, the Pennaeth of the Pridani, is the only one who can save his people. But he may not be powerful enough to defeat the wolf, face down challenges to his position as Penneath, and protect his land against invaders from across the sea …. Millennia later, change is once again coming to the land and people. Bert is the last in a long line of sheep herders, content with his quiet life. But his young grandson, the lone male family member available to succeed him, is more interested in the railroad cutting across the countryside. Now sheep are disappearing and a cold winter has set in, and the lore passed down by his ancestors may not be enough for Bert to defeat a fearsome wolf who has returned, hungrier than ever…

The Wolf of Allendale is a tale of slowly creeping dread and terror, with the wolf becoming more terrible and more real with each encounter. The story moves back and forth between the first century BCE and the mid-nineteenth century and, though Bran and Bert are separated by millennia, they share a common fear for the future of their people and way of life. Bran understands immediately the nature and danger of the cysgod-cerddwr, while Bert is less certain, reluctant to believe and reliant upon knowledge that may have been corrupted by the passage of time. Each man does his duty as best he can, depending upon his own strength and his faith.

The Wolf of Allendale is an historical fantasy; as such, while some of the historical aspects may be inaccurate, the faith displayed by both men is sincere and deeply moving. Bran reflects often on the nature of the Four-Faced Goddess and of the dying-and-rising God of the Green. In her wintery aspect of The Cailleach, she is not to be trifled with, but she is not unreasonably cruel, either. In  his first serious encounter with the wolf, Bran draws upon that faith and the power of the Goddess:

He raised his rowan staff [….] He felt the sacred sigils carved beneath his fingers. Of the Goddess, the One. With her son, as One became Two. Of her triple aspect as One became Three. And of the totality as All became One. (p 66)

Millennia later, when Bert first faces the wolf at the Well of Saint Bride (another Goddess reference for those who remember, and few do), he relies upon the power of the pentagram and the elements and the ravens, but he doesn’t know why. That knowledge only comes much later.

A writer and sheep farmer in England, Spencer pours her love for her land and its folklore into her work; little details, such as the way sheep will pull down branches to reach the few remaining leaves, and the sounds and smells of the fell where they graze, and the brightness of the berries against the snow, permeate her story. The result is a tale which is beautiful and terrible, life-affirming and heart-breaking.

Highly recommended to fans of Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series, Nina Milton’s Shaman Mystery series, Strange Magic by Syd Moore, and the Green Men series by KJ Charles.

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