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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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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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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Tree Girl by Julianne Skai Arbor

Tree Girl: Intimate Encounters With Wild Nature
Julianne Skai Arbor
Tree Girl Studios, 2016

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Review by Lupa.

There are certain books that are pagan without expressly using that label; this is one of those. Part field guide, part photography book, it beautifully weaves together science and art while being spiritually viable.

The author, Julianna Skai Arbor, aka Tree Girl, has spent the past several years photographing remarkable individuals from fifty different tree species around the world. Many of these photos feature her or other female models in the nude, embracing the trees in sensual communion. Sometimes the models appear to be sleeping comfortably amid great roots and branches; other times there is a playful exploration. But always the human is only one part of a greater ecosystem, something that this book cannot emphasize enough.

For it is more than pretty pictures. Tree Girl shares in detail the natural history of each species she profiles, as well as the relationships humans historically had with it, to include medicinal uses. More importantly, she is quite clear about how our current actions are threatening many of these great plants and the many other beings who rely on them for food, shelter and more. But she also gives many excellent suggestions for how to reconnect with nature and become a better advocate for the beings we share this world with, for the benefit of all involved. This book is a bold combination of ethereal beauty and hard reality.

If this all isn’t overtly pagan enough for you, check out the titles of some of the photos: “Silver Beech Root Fairy”, “Cathedral Fig Dryad” and “Sequoia Meditation” are just a few of the animistic names Tree Girl has given her works. It’s a divinely feminine book, celebrating women’s bodies without heavily sexualizing them, and placing women in the context of the natural world around us. And within the very first chapter, she details the way in which she connects with the tree physically and spiritually. Her process should be familiar to anyone who has worked with nature spirits embodied in wood and flesh.

Whether you be naturalist or feminist, artist or environmentalist, witch or Druid or animist, this is a deeply inspirational book that you may draw deeply from again and again. As there are fifty trees, perhaps you could spend a week meditating on each one’s unique spirit, with a week on either end to prepare yourself to enter this great work or to bring it back out to share with the world. Or simply let it be something you enjoy paging through when you feel the need to live vicariously through a passionate artist’s works.

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Invoking Animal Magic: A Guide for the Pagan Priestess

Invoking Animal Magic: A Guide for the Pagan Priestess
Hearth Moon Rising Moon Books, 2013

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Review by Leslie Linder.

I admit, I was expecting this book to be the usual information about communicating with your magical kitty. While I enjoy that type of material too, Hearth Moon Rising gave a very academic and experiential accounting of several types of animals that I might not have thought of on my own. The book offers an in-depth study of nine animals: snake, bat, mouse, bear, owl, toad, spider, rabbit/hare, and dog/wolf. Surprised by some of them? I was. She also touches on other animals and insects of all sorts —including the noble cockroach!

“Magic” is defined in the text in two ways: as spell casting and also as connection to the divine. The author works with both types of magic when she gives us rituals to follow as well as pagan lore about each species. For instance, she goes into a great deal of detail about the difference between hares and rabbits.

The book is a mix of dense academic research, varied personal exercises, and well-written personal anecdotes. I was drawn in very early in the book by Hearth Moon’s description of a time when she lived in an earth-home. Three snakes slept by or under her bed (including a rattler). Her fear and curiosity culminated in a magical experience where she connected with one of the snakes while trying to remove it from her home. Instead, the two of them formed a spiritual bond. The way she came to co-exist with the snakes and intuitively connect with their magic is a good indication of the tone you will find in the rest of the book.

This author has really spent time researching the Pagan historical context of the chosen species. She has also interacted with living animals and done her work to connect with them. She has designed rituals, meditations, and journaling prompts in each chapter. These make for motivating individual study or for fun group work.

The historical or scientific aspects of each chapter may feel a little dense at times, but the material is well-paced, with personal stories and a humorous writing style. For instance, my favorite sentence in chapter eight (dealing with transformation and shape-shifting) is, “if it looks like a duck, it could still be a witch.”

I would recommend going through this book if you are a Pagan and an animal lover. You will deepen your understanding of the creatures around you in some very interesting ways. Even if it looks like a pest, it may also be a messenger from the Goddess. This book can help you discern the difference.

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