Crafting Calm by Maggie Oman Shannon

Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation
Maggie Oman Shannon
Viva Editions, 2013

sw88 - review - Book review Crafting Calm

Review by Beth Lynch.

We are in the midst of a handcrafting Renaissance: not only are people rediscovering the value of handmade items and the handmade lifestyle, but they are also finding profound rewards in crafting as a spiritual exercise, both for meditative purposes and as acts of devotion. Much of my own work focuses on Making (manifesting the spiritual in physical form) as a spirit work path, so I was cautiously excited to receive my review copy of this book. My initial caution stemmed from the fact that the book was written by an interfaith minister, and several of the projects (such as the Biblical garden and prayer shawl) seemed to have a Christian slant to them. While I am not anti-Christian by any means, I have noticed that a large segment of the handcrafts revolution seems to lean towards conservative Christianity, and as a pagan artisan that sometimes makes me a little uncomfortable.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that while there are creativity-themed quotes from the Bible and from Christian mystics, as well as interviews with Christian crafters, sprinkled throughout the book, these are accompanied by a wide variety of interviews and quotes by crafters from other traditions such as Judaism, the “new age,” and paganism. The purpose of these quotes and first-person snippets is not to proselytize but simply to demonstrate how the practice of conscious and mindful creativity can enrich your spiritual path, whatever that specific path may be. So, while this is certainly not a pagan book per se, I would encourage pagans not to let that deter them from checking it out. In fact, after reading it I found it more relevant to my own practice than a witchy-themed crafting book I reviewed not too long ago—thanks, largely, to Shannon’s guiding premise that any crafting project can become an exercise in spiritual crafting if your focus is on connecting with Spirit (aka God, the gods, or fill in your preferred Holy Name here) through the process of creation. While some of the projects in the book are things that I already make for myself (such as power pouches, anointing oils, spiritually inspired gardens, and intention/prayer jewelry), others (such as prayer mats, personal prayer flags, and visual journals) have been added to my list of ideas I may want to try my hand at in the future. There are forty suggested projects in all, interspersed with lots of personal stories and anecdotes from a number of different artisans, and the author also includes six pages of resources for further study and reading.

The only other qualm I had about this book was that there were no photographs (only crude drawings) of the completed projects; in a few cases, such as with the prayer shawls and prayer mats, the verbal instructions were a little confusing and I wished there were some more visual examples of how the results could look. While I can appreciate that the author may not have wanted to provide photos because some people might feel restricted by them, rather than allowing their creativity to flow freely, I still think the book would have been enriched by a “gallery” section at the end showing how some of the examples discussed throughout the chapters turned out. However, this is a minor quibble, and Crafting Calm would make a worthwhile addition to the library of anyone interested in infusing their creativity with Spirit—or vice versa!

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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

sw88 - review - warrior goddess training review

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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Ask Baba Yaga by Taisia Kitaiskaia

Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles
Taisia Kitaiskaia
Andrews McMeel, 2017

wp36 ask baba yaga review

Review by Katessa S. Harkey.

Author Taisia Kitaiskaia traces her connection with the spirit of this gnarled fairytale witch to her childhood on the borderlands of a deep Russian woodland. Kitaiskaia served as mediator to the voice of Baba Yaga to querents on the website The Hairpin. This is a “best of” collection of these inquiries and the channeled responses received by the author.

The style is poetic, yet chthonic and earthy, as befits such a wild entity. The questions reveal an unusual depth of vulnerability, which strengthens the emotional investment for readers. While the poetry can be somewhat cryptic at times, seldom does one expect an old witch to give a straight answer; and thus the twisty answers only add to the mystique.

In example, to the question “How do I feel my feelings?” we get:

“Your feelings look to you like bison in the distance — stormy, powerful, & ready to charge. But feelings are not anything solid, to be killed or butchered and carried home. Walk toward yr bison; when you reach them, you will walk through them, as they aren’t bison at all, but clouds. You will feel the hue & mist of them, & then you will be on the other side.” (p. 69)

Presuming that the issue of this question that the querent is afraid to fully embrace their feelings, carrying through the visualization exercise contained in the response would act, in effect, as a powerful palliative spell. Anyone in the same boat has recourse to it by simply allowing the poetry to do its work upon the imaginal faculties.

This diminutive volume can be read in an afternoon, but it is better savored, as one would a fine wine, over many days. The book is peppered throughout with bold, tricolor artwork and design elements (black, white, and red) in traditional Russian motifs. Ask Baba Yaga is a rare opportunity to explore the traditional Russian mindset and worldview in very practical modern application.

There are other uses for the work besides as a “straight through” reader. An index of “summary questions” allows for searching topically for reference to one’s own life issues. Of course such matters are purely personal, but I have tested the work on three natural occasions for its use as a bibliomancy tool. I felt I got a “hit” two out of the three occasions. It would also be an ideal study for anyone preparing to embody Baba Yaga in ritual.

Finally, the greatest treasure of the work is the potent echo of the archetypal Crone Goddess’s voice. So much of our view of the Goddess is restricted to the beautiful Ladies of love and youth and even homely motherhood. Age has faced the world and no longer fears its phantasms.

To the question, “What’s the point?” Baba Yaga replies:

“Plow-horses carry out the duty given to them by some Master. For some-such reason, you have decided there is some other being —some Master — telling you what is to be done. & if so valiant, on whose behalf have you gone crusading?” (p. 105.)

On whose behalf, indeed, dear reader?

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