The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett

The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life
Robin Rose Bennett
North Atlantic Books, 2014

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Review by Rebecca Bailey.

In The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life, author Robin Rose Bennett sets a high goal: to write a 21st-century herbal that is practical for both rural gardeners and urban foragers, complete with a scientific look at the working systems of the human body and a thorough introduction to the concept of soulful healing. This book admirably and compassionately succeeds.

Bennett’s credentials for writing such a book are impressive. During her younger years, she studied with many well-known herbalists. Her biography states that she has been working as an herbalist in private practice since 1986, and that she has guest-lectured at prominent medical colleges throughout the United States.

The book’s organization is logical and systematic. The first four chapters cover the concept of healing, beginning with the statement that “All healing is spiritual healing,” and include the importance of ritual and ceremony in the healing process. The third chapter covers soulful healing. Bennett explains that “Soulful healing asks, while you are healing your body with herbs from the Earth, that you look for meaning in what is happening within your body as it related to your whole being . . . . The questions are: ‘What is the deeper teaching in this experience?’; ‘What is here for me?’; and ‘How can I make this experience an ally for my growth and transformation?’” (10). She goes on to stress the point that while we may see illness as keeping us from our path, “you cannot be off your path; your path is always under your feet” (11).

The largest, middle section discusses each of the body’s systems (the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the respiratory system, and so on) and the herbs which are most nourishing to each of those systems

What are generally considered the most powerful healing herbs (hawthorn, nettles, dandelion, burdock, lavender, oats, slippery elm, etc.) are discussed at length with reference to the body system to which they provide the most benefit—for example, mullein with the respiratory system. Bennett’s approach to using herbs focuses on the “pro” rather than the “anti”; for example, she prefers terms such as pro-digestive and pro-circulatory to terms like antiparasitical or antifungal. “I think that affirming what the herbs can help us with is more in keeping with the energy and spirit of herbal medicine!” she writes (17).

Many examples of healing remedies are given throughout the book, case histories, if you will, almost all given from Bennett’s decades-long experience as a practicing herbalist, including how she has used herbs in support of her own health. If an herb is traditionally cited in the literature for a particular treatment but she hasn’t used it in that capacity herself, she says so, and gives a reference for the information.

This is definitely a North American herbal, specifically of the eastern United States. The majority of the herbs are common in the wild or easily nurtured in a garden; most can be bought dried in health food stores. Endangered plants, such as American ginseng and goldenseal, receive less focus here than in many herbals, which I find a respectful way of honoring the plants.

The last section of the book is called “Everything is Medicine,” a chronicle of the many common foods in our kitchens can be used to strengthen and tonify specific body systems.

I especially enjoyed some of the less-expected information, such as herbs for treating tick-borne diseases, herbs for dental health, and how to make an herbal electrolyte replacer with two very common ingredients. I learned more about my life-long ally dandelion, and found some great ideas for additional ways to use her flowers. The author’s recipe for mullein cough syrup is similar to the one my grandmother used, and even though I once loudly proclaimed that I’d rather be sick than swallow it, I’m thinking that it might at last be time for me to make some myself.

The book is readable and rational, spiritual, creative, and inspiring. It’s fun to read. The section on making herbal preparations is clear and easy to follow, references plentiful, stories well-told and to the point. If you’re in the market for a new herbal, to update or begin your library of traditional medicine, Robin Rose Bennett’s The Gift of Healing Herbs is an excellent choice, not the least because the author obviously loves people as well as plants. This readable and useful book is very highly recommended.

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Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves

Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing from Your Authentic Wildness
Judy Reeves
New World Library, 2015

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Review by Rebecca Bailey.

What is a wild woman? What is her wild voice?

Judy Reeves is a writer and a writing teacher who has recognized “twin urges” in women: to reclaim the true (or authentic) nature that is usually kept below the surface of everyday life and to give it voice. In Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing from Your Authentic Wildness, Reeves presents in book form her most popular writing workshop. The book is a thoughtful and inspiring read full of beautiful tools to help women “write to celebrate, heal, and free the wild woman within.”

“By nature we are creative,” Reeves affirms. “Creativity flows through us like blood in our veins. In our natural state we are writers, dancers, singers, poets, and makers of art, even though in our daily lives we may not practice our art or even acknowledge this part of ourselves . . . . Try as culture, politics, religion, or families might to eradicate it, this knowledge of our innermost Self—intuitive and rich and wild—is always with us,” even if we stutter when we attempt to express ourselves.

In her workshops, she brainstorms with participants to tie into words what nearly all women feel when we pair the words women and wild: the color red, earthy smells, nature-connected, creative, fierce, brave, wise, undomesticated.

The wild voice, as Reeves defines it, “is untamed and unbounded and holds the possibility of great beauty . . . Wild voice can be dangerous; it can be outrageous.” This book is not about editing and grammar or placing any restrictions on word-flow, but instead invites women writers to tell their stories and their truths from a place that is deep and true. It’s not about making nice.

The book’s chapters provide “explorations” (rather than writing exercises) of several arbitrary stages/cycles of a woman’s life, not only chronology (being a child, becoming a mother), but the geography of our lives, the illumination that can be provided when we are courageous enough to face our shadow-selves, our quests and life journeys, dreams and death. Offerings from professional writers and workshop participants are presented throughout; each and every one is worthy of contemplation.

I did many of the “explorations” as I read through the book; some I skipped, although there were things that felt like they would be fun to do. An example: write messages to yourself about your wild woman qualities with lipstick on your bathroom mirror! (I am not a woman who owns lipstick, or else I certainly would have done it.)

As a long time writer and writing teacher, I was more drawn to her writing prompts. My real name is . . . Yesterday my name was . . . Secretly I know my name is . . . My mother never told me . . . I never told my mother . . . Pick one, light a candle to acknowledge your move into the space of the wild, and write without stopping for five minutes. I paired the last two, and was surprised by what emerged.

I also found the writing selections evocative and inspiring. In thumbing through the book, a poem title jumped out at me, “If Death Were a Woman.” A lightning bolt struck something inside me, and I grabbed paper and pen. “If Death Were My Grandmother” poured out—rather than a skeletal spectre with a blade, I imagined Death coming to me as my beloved and much-missed Grandma Crisp, who would give me time to feed the cats before I joined her and my mother; in death we three would be the same age and be best friends for eternity. I can’t imagine ever again personifying Death as a clanky old mean man. That’s the kind of power the tools in this book can provide.

Appendices include suggestions for creating a Wild Woman Writing Group, chapter end notes, recommended reading, and an index (which always makes me happy). Definitely I’ll be using ideas from Wild Women, Wild Voices when I teach a writing workshop again. Highly recommended, especially for women who want to express themselves through writing but don’t know how to begin, or for those who find themselves bored by their own writing. When our writing begins to contain surprises, we know we’re writing in our wild voices. When it’s fun, when it’s exciting. Our stories, our truths, are all valuable. Judy Reeves provides a trusty roadmap for this introspective part of the journey.

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Warrior Goddess Training by HeatherAsh Amara

Warrior Goddess Training: Become the Woman You Are Meant to Be
HeatherAsh Amara
Hierophant Publishing, 2014

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Review by Pegi Eyers.

In contrast to the external demands on contemporary women such as perfectionism in the workplace or conforming to a “beauty ideal,” our best self is found in living our personal truth and authenticity, in whatever shape and form that takes. With over 20 years’ experience developing circles, programs and trainings that empower women to realize their full potential, HeatherAsh Amara has identified our liberatory calling as “The Path of the Warrior Goddess.” Finding her greatest joy in opening others to their “entelechy” (the unfolding of inherent talents and personal mythology), her dedication to the flourishing of each woman and the energy of the Divine Feminine shines through on every page. As a fan of The Four Agreements teachings, I found it incredibly exciting that HeatherAsh is an apprentice of Don Miguel Ruiz, and has advanced The Four Agreements into the sphere of women’s empowerment!

Based on Goddess Spirituality, contemporary self-help and her Thirteen Moons program, HeatherAsh has synthesized research and experience with diverse streams of spirit and knowledge to create Warrior Goddess Training. Deeply grounded in the earth connectivity of ancient European traditions and informed by indigenous mind, she guides us to take flight through the uncovering, unlearning, and healing of “old stories” to the freedom of self-actualization in the physical, emotional, intellectual and energetic realms. The book holds ten lessons, beginning with a commitment to self-acceptance, unconditional self-love and personal power, followed by a rejection of the binary thinking, false identities and illusory “agreements” we all carry, to the embrace of natural cycles and the impermanence of life. Letting go of the need to control is key (we all struggle with that one!), as we learn to surrender with love and grace to each unique experience and gift.

Building on each lesson like jewels on a string, energetically clearing body, mind and emotions to form the “sacred temple of self” is next, followed by the grounding that provides a base for transformation, finding our anchors in self-love, earth roots, connection to divinity and honoring the Ancestors. HeatherAsh guides us through a re-evaluation of our beliefs on sexuality, and shows us how to deconstruct old patterns in favor of sacred expression, positive body image, healing the sexual flow, and channeling the life force into creativity and joy. Instead of giving away our personal power by people-pleasing, distraction, isolation or over-controlling, she shows us how igniting our own will and focus is the path to freedom. Accessing the wisdom of the heart and practicing lovingkindness nourishes us, and brings us to a place of balance in our relationships with others. Finding our authentic voice and speaking our truth at all costs, paying attention to intuition and embodying the deep awareness of Toltec “silent knowledge,” honors the feminine archetypes of Oracle and Crone. And lastly, we can move beyond traditional roles to re-define ourselves and expand our paths, reclaim our Goddess Warrior Energy, manifest our true purpose, and become our most powerful beautiful self!

HeatherAsh reminds us that our happiness is not found in consumerism or aligning with superficial power structures, but by releasing layers of old habits and claiming authentic treasure. “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” and the paradigm shift to the Divine Feminine today means moving away from other-focused to inner-focused. Embracing the wisdom and guidance in Warrior Goddess Training can empower us to transcend the domestication and negative influence of the patriarchy, and more importantly, to transform the internal limitations we have placed on ourselves.

All around the world, women are stepping forward to invite back their authentic, creative, wonderfully unique selves. We are shedding the old, faded clothes of war, domination, competition, jealousy, and repression. We are rising like the sun, shining big and bright as the full moon. We are saying yes to the power of fierce love, compassion, constant authenticity, and vulnerability. These are the attributes of our warrior focus and our Goddess joy. (HeatherAsh Amara)

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The Witching Herbs by Harold Roth

The Witching Herbs: 13 Essential Plants and Herbs for Your Magical Garden
Harold Roth
Weiser, 2017

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Review by Rebecca Bailey.

A plant is a sacred text,” Harold Roth writes in this wonderful book. The description, the plan, the story of the plant’s spirit,” he continues, and when you tend that plant and cultivate it and groom it, you indicate to its spirit that you are receptive to its contact.” (pp. 12-13). This book’s ambitious — and largely successful — goal is to marry the art of growing plants as a gardener with using plant magic as a practitioner of the Craft.

The thirteen witching herbs selected by the author are: poppy, clary sage, yarrow, rue, hyssop, vervain, mugwort, wormwood, datura, wild tobacco, henbane, belladonna, and mandrake. Roth relies on common names and does not emphasize the scientific binomials; in my reading, this is the book’s only significant flaw. While this is not a scientific text (although much good science is included, especially about plants’ chemical compositions), readers need to know exactly which species the author means. In this aspect, as well as others, the book’s primary audience is the intermediate to advanced practitioner.

His chapter “Cultivating Your Witch’s Garden” is a thorough introduction to establishing plants in your garden. As a lifelong gardener, I appreciate his emphasis on the spirituality inherent in bonding with plants we choose to cultivate. Roth’s self-deprecating humor shines when he confesses that although he can grow datura, he can’t grow a zucchini!

I like the way the author does not shy away from what he calls “the baneful plants,” especially those in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. He presents information on just what exactly makes them baneful, largely tropane alkaloids that can produce sinister hallucinations and behaviors and can even kill. “New Age approaches to the natural world have meant that many no longer expect plant spirits to have anything but calm and wise personalities” — in contrast, “datura gets a bang out of messing with people” (p. 178). The chapter for each baneful plant contains copious, explicit, and vivid warnings about their effects, from merely smelling the flowers to touching their leaves with ungloved hands.

This unique and well-written volume includes lore, cultural history, growing tips, instructions for magical uses of each plant and a comprehensive bibliography. A worthy addition to a green witch’s library.

I’ll give Harold Roth the last word: “No one can gainsay healthy witching herbs that you grow yourself. They are there as proof of your hard-won expertise. I hope this book leads you to experience the satisfaction, confidence, and knowledge that are born from the serious practice of growing the witching herbs and devotion to their spirits” (p. 245).

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Pagan Consent Culture

Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy & Autonomy
Edited by Christine Hoff Kraemer & Yvonne Burrow
Asphodel Press, 2016

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Review by Hecate Demetersdatter.

This is a hefty book crammed with essays by and a few interviews with Pagans from a wide variety of traditions. Many of the essays would make excellent starting points for discussions or workshops about consent culture. The issue of consent has been of interest to Pagans for a few years now, especially in light of complaints about the behavior that is sometimes tolerated, ignored, or dealt with imperfectly at Pagan gatherings, festivals, and conferences and within some Pagan groups. Those who organize, run, and work at such events or groups will likely find this book a useful resource.

The essays are grouped into three parts:  Part I: Developing Pagan Philosophies of Consent; Part II Responding to Abuse and Assault; and Part III:  Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy. Appendices at the end include a list of additional resources, a sample handout for a class on consent culture, and the Pagan Community Statement on Religious Sexual Abuse (2009).

Part I includes discussions of consent from the perspective of Druidism, Thelma, Heathenry, Feminist Paganism, Wicca, the Anderson Faery Tradition, Animism, and Polytheologism. Essays discuss consent as it relates to sexual initiation, BDSM, mythology, and being a god spouse. Part II includes chapters that recount personal experiences with abuse and assault, discuss how to respond to and prevent abuse, consider how to deal with consent, boundaries, and ethics in a sex-positive religion, and provide guidelines for being in community with those who have survived sexual abuse and/or assault. The essays and interviews in Part III range over wider territory, including discussions of how to raise children who understand their own boundaries and respect those of others, using mindful touch, dealing with sky clad practices, and Pagans with Asperger’s Syndrome.

As in any collection of different authors, some of the writing is quite good and some leaves a bit to be desired.  But the book is better-edited than is, sadly, true of much modern Pagan writing.  Raven Caldera’s discussion of what the BDSM community can teach us about consent is particularly well-written, as is Jason Thomas Pitzl’s essay on exploitation and initiation. Shauna Aura Knight contributes a clear and well-argued discussion of the difference between a Pagan community that is sex-positive and one that pressures members into relationships and acts to which they may not freely consent. A. Acland presents a fascinating discussion of whether the ballad Tam Lin is a rape story. At first glance, that may appear to have little to do with modern consent culture, but the author uses the ballad to make the larger point that much Pagan mythology comes from times and cultures that saw and valued consent quite differently from modern Pagans. I found it a valuable lesson in how to interpret and re-vision mythology that, while rich, can also be troubling. Mythology, as Acland notes of ballads, is a living, breathing, changing thing.

The issue of consent is one best dealt with before problems arise. This book is a valuable tool for Pagans who interact with other Pagans and parents raising Pagan children.

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Esoteric Empathy by Raven Digitalis

Esoteric Empathy
Raven Digitalis
Llewellyn Publications, 2016

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Review by Natalie Zaman.

Some books explore the nature of the Divine; reading them enhances our understanding of deity. Others are filled with means and methods to infuse magic into day to day living; practical manuals for building a lifestyle. Both are valuable and needed depending on where you are in life and on your path. Every now and again, however, there are books that manage to do both of these things: Offer techniques for a day to day practice with the end goal of looking deity straight in the eye.

Raven Digitalis’ Esoteric Empathy is an owner’s manual for our times. Our world(s)—magical and mundane—it seems like it’s become all too easy to judge, frustrate anger and offend. We need empathy, desperately, achingly. Empathy, Raven says is, “an emotional experience… the ability to feel what another person is feeling… taking place on numerous levels simultaneously.” If only we could really understand one another. Trying out the practices in this book just might get us there. To open yourself to your empathic abilities (everyone has them) unlocks the potential to see the face of god/dess in the faces of your fellow human beings. I caught a glimpse of this, thanks to Esoteric Empathy.

My initial thought on my first read (This is one of those books that’s destined to be dogeared, marked up and filled with personal notes—a note for the reprint, if space allows) was that this would be an excellent road guide to navigate the social/economic/spiritual/religious/political/etc. etc. etc. terrain we’re all trying to traverse every day. I expected to put some of what I read into practice (Favorite chapters were the necessary and detailed, “Grounding, Shielding and Energy Management,” and “Approaching the Mundane World.”) at my own pace and in my own time, but the universe (and perhaps Mercury Retrograde) had other plans. It was one of those days where everything went wrong. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say most of it took place at the Division of Motor Vehicles and what should have been a one, maybe two hour trip max turned into a full morning and afternoon affair. About half way into it I was drained, exhausted, and at the end of my patience. We’ve all been there. But I had a secret resource to draw on—a simple series of hand meditations—mudras—that I’d committed to memory after reading Esoteric Empathy (I’d read the book on a plane, and being a nervous flier, practicing these mudras helped me get through that as well).

In the chapter, “Balancing the Self,” Raven offers a series of four mudras for balancing, Prana, Rudra, Prithvi and Anjali, with accompanying breathing techniques and a mantra at the end. Mudras must, as Raven says in “Balancing the Self,” “be practiced with the utmost precision and focus,” and they lend themselves to this because of their simplicity. Practicing the mudras (which I was able to do discreetly in public) not only got me through what could have been a really terrible and stressful experience (17 year old’s birthday where he *almost* didn’t get his driving license), it boosted my energy and helped me remember that I was dealing with folks who were just trying to do their jobs, and who were as probably as tired and as frustrated as I was. Admittedly, I didn’t say the mantra exactly as it was written in the book (each of us brings our unique energy to all we do)—but it worked, and I will certainly be using it again.

Esoteric Empathy explores the nature of empathic ability (everyone has it) through analysis, anecdotes, exercises and meditations that draw on personal experience, pop culture, multicultural practices and world religions—empathy is, at its heart, a study of understanding. I would recommend reading this from cover to cover, but you can just as easily turn to any chapter (maybe even with a bit of bibliomancy—what form of empathy is needed today?) to, “open the window to the soul.”

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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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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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