Interviews & Reviews

Book Review: The Witches’ Ointment – The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic by Thomas Hatsis

November, 2017

The Witches’ Ointment

The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic

By Thomas Hatsis

This is a fascinating and unique offering! And a book I will definitely recommend to others, especially colleagues and students. It is well-researched and written in a scholarly yet very accessible way.

In this book the author Thomas Hatsis embarks on a quest to research and tell the (until now largely) untold story of a magical substance called “witches’ ointment.” In this book you will also encounter other names for this mysterious concoction.

Along the way he provides a detailed, thought-provoking account of witchcraft, magic and the use of hallucinogenic herbs. This book is underpinned with many footnotes and references to old manuscripts and publications in various languages.

Psycho-magical ointments had many uses, ranging from the dark end of the “magical spectrum” (bewitching, poisoning and murder) to healing, providing pain relief (such as anaesthesia during surgery) and divination or prophecy.

Psychotropic salves and ointments can trigger powerful hallucinations and surrealistic dreams or even facilitate direct experience of other realms and the Divine. (Your own conclusion will depend on your personal interpretation of this material!)

For me personally the most fascinating and valuable part of this book is the candid (well researched) history it provides of both the ancient art we call witchcraft today and the witch trials. Hatsis also describes in great detail (as the process unfolds over several centuries) the role the Church played in reframing the ecstatic experiences certain people have always sought (often using entheogens) into a satanic experience.

This is crucial information because this perception still casts a large shadow over our culture (and our cultural perception of healing and all things magical) until today. A fear of witchcraft and magical remedies (and my own profession: shamanism) lingers. People involved in such things today encounter that shadow (and the misperceptions that go with it) all the time.

This book is honest and scientific. It neither glorifies nor demonises witches ointments or flying ointments (or other magical remedies) It makes a distinction between the real undeniable shadow of this phenomenon (poisoning being an obvious example of these practices – one 21st equivalent would be the use of a date-rape drug) and a “satanic” layer or dimension deliberately imposed by the Church -that some people accused of witchcraft only confessed to because they were tortured (and told that if they confessed they would regain their freedom – which turned out to be a gross deception as most of those people were subsequently executed despite saying what the Inquisitor wanted to hear).

This book explains why witches are associated with broomsticks and toads and also what role village or folk healers played in European culture long before “mainstream medicine’ became accessible or affordable for most people. This book also makes it very clear that certain herbs (and other ingredients such as toads or mushrooms) have always been used in magical work, right from antiquity up to the present time.

This is an important and unique book. It has the power to shift some of our cultural perceptions – assuming enough people read it. Thank you Thomas Hatsis!

Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, 21 October 2017

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.


www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

Nikki Sleath’s Book Explains Witchcraft to the Unfamiliar, for PaganPagesOrg She Talks About Her Magick to the Familiar

November, 2017

 

 

Just in time for Halloween, Nikki Wardwell Sleath self-published “You Might Be a Witch.” It provides a simple overview of the Craft, defining what modern day witches think and what they practice, dispelling myths along the way.

In the first half of the 103-page book, she talks about her own life, going from a child with no magickal exposure to a woman in her 40s who is the founder and High Priestess of the Society of Witchcraft and Old Magick.

The second half of the book covers such topics as the general belief systems of a witch, the ethics of magick and how to speak to skeptics. It ends with a twenty-question, multiple-choice quiz to see if you’re “Cautiously Curious,” “A Witchlet in the Making” or ready for a coven.

 

 

It’s totally just for fun; the questions are stereotypical,” she said.

Sleath hopes her book will increase public acceptance of earth-based spiritual practices and will help readers see the magick in themselves so they can be more accepting of it in others. Although she expected those who might be curious to purchase it, she said she’s also had many witches buy copies to give to their family and friends.

I think a lot of people are maybe a little more witchy than they think,” she said, noting that magick often exists in ways that may not be recognized.

For instance, when she was six and in the first grade, she wanted to win a raffle for the angel her teacher had made. It would go to the first student to guess the number the teacher had selected.

I knew the number was 11. I felt the same sense of disorientation that I would have when experiencing déjà vu, except that I also felt a surge of adrenaline, knowing I would win and that it somehow felt like cheating to have known the number ahead of time,” Sleath wrote in her book.

 

 

She did win, and 11 was to become a determining factor in many decisions and superstitions.

I still have to look away after seeing 11:11 on a clock out of superstition that if I look back again at it before it has changed to 11:12, that my wish will not come true,” she wrote.

Another form of divination she relied on as a child was to get the answer to a question by kicking off her shoe. If it landed face up, the answer was yes and if it landed facedown, the answer was no. If it landed on its side, she took it to mean there was continued uncertainty.

For a high school genealogy project, Sleath learned her eight-times great-grandfather was Samuel Wardwell, one of the “witches” hung in Salem. While she thought it was cool, that’s where it ended.

Prior to finding witchcraft, she said her big ah-ha moment was when she acted on psychic impulse.

I had been dating the same guy in college for three and a half years and I loved him. I thought we’d have a life together, I really did. But I didn’t know any better because I hadn’t had a higher quality relationship yet than that one. I didn’t know that all of these things that were weaknesses in it, I didn’t know them to be real problems.

 

 

Then, just one day, all of a sudden, the way that he spoke to me, I kind of realized it all and I made a snap decision: ‘You know, I think we’re done. I can’t do this any more.’ That was just an intuition in the moment. I wasn’t planning on breaking up with him that night,” she said.

The big moment came the next morning when she threw away his key.

I knew that once I did that, I would never go back to his apartment. As it’s going up in the air toward the giant hole of the Dumpster, I had images of myself, like flashes of myself forward through my life in various adult stages. Just me. No other people involved. And I saw myself confident. I saw myself professional. I saw myself rocking it out. I saw myself enjoying my life in all these different decades. And in my moment, I was at the age of 21, I was gifted with this big revelation that I am the one. I don’t need any guy for me to define happiness in my life. I knew I didn’t need a man for me to be happy. And I decided that I didn’t care at all. … It felt really incredible.”

It was only looking back that she realized how magickal that moment was.

As it turned out, the next day she was introduced to the man she later married.

That same year, she recognized a pattern that had been occurring. Each fall, she would become more psychic and have more instances of deja vu, “knowing exactly what someone was going to say before they say it, knowing what people’s thoughts were.” Then, come winter, she would go back to her normal intuitive level.

That started her researching.

I stumbled upon some good websites about the Craft and that hit me over the head. Everything I ever believed and didn’t know that it was all there as a practiced religious and spiritual way. When I was a kid going to a Protestant church, I just thought I wasn’t a spiritual person because I never had a spiritual experience there. And that couldn’t be anything further from the truth.”

Sheath got her degree and became a physical therapist, but the structure of the healthcare system burned her out quickly. She started to study holistic practices beginning with meditation, yoga and Reiki and going on from there.

 

 

While practicing the Craft on her own, in 2012 she opened Nikki’s Nature, offering energy healing, aromatherapy, auriculotherapy and hypnotherapy. She did past life regressions and Reiki. She also began attracting students who wanted to learn witchcraft.

The coven in which she had trained moved back to New Orleans, so she began her own.

Then it just started snowballing, she said. “Since then I have been teaching the classes to an ever-increasing number of people.”

She moved her practice into a bright, airy space in an old ax factory in Canton, Connecticut.

When she had only a few students, lessons were individual. As more people came, she began groups that met weekly, together moving through her year and a day progressive curriculum. As one group completed its training, they were initiated. With night now open, she’d begin a new group.

 

 

It’s a magical religious practice and I take it very seriously as do all the people in my coven and my community. It’s a large community. Right now we have 41 active members in the coven and I have nine or ten new people starting in a couple of weeks, so it’s going to be 50 people. … It’s an awesome community. I keep it 100 percent drama free. I won’t allow anyone to stay if they make it ‘all about me’ or if they can’t hold themselves together.”

Of all she does, the magickal training is most in demand. The ninety-minute classes cost $20. Groups are about six to nine people – nearly all of whom are women.

It is really hard to find, and even sometimes when you do find it, it’s not great,” she said of training in the ways of the Craft. “It’s random. I have people in the coven who have been in other covens and a lot of them are more social and they don’t get organized, learning and deep magick done. They get together because they all identify as witches and they want to celebrate the full moon and do things like that, but I think there has to be structure in order to see routine, progressive growth,” Sleath said.

In my coven it is a true occult order. We teach ceremonial magick and so people have to learn the Golden Dawn style traditional ways of establishing sacred space, but then of course within that, the ritual varies depending on what it is. It’s different if it’s a moon or a sabbath – different things are done, but the whole casting and setting up of the space is very ceremonial in nature. It’s amazing because obviously, everyone can do whatever they want outside of the large group gathering that we have, if they want to experiment with other things. You do what you want, but by doing that routinely in a coven, they just wind up with such strong skills. They know that they can command energy and focus their words and their thoughts at a moment’s notice when they need to, and that’s an amazing thing that a lot of people can never get from a book. So that’s one of the big benefits of structured training and practices. The confidence in your skill set is just so much beyond anything that I could have achieved when I was a solitary, for sure.”

In their own practice, “what each individual person does can vary greatly depending on what their passions are, what their talents are, what makes them feel spiritually connected. And one of the cool things about witchcraft is there isn’t just one way of feeling connected to the divine. There’s so many ways and I think that’s one of the reasons people love it,” Sleath said.

Some people simply are into the nature and earth-based energy parts of magick in the Craft. Some witches find a lot of gratification in working with various deities, mythologies, spirits, angels. I do both of those things. I work with nature very closely, but I also have a lot of guides and deities that I have very personal relationships with. It’s intensely gratifying on many levels.”

After years of practice, dreamwork became a large part of Sleath’s magick.

 

 

Dreaming, I believe, is every person’s spiritual birthright, but … [it] is important for me as a witch. I get a lot of insight, a lot of precognitive information, a lot of direct energetic and communication experiences with the divine through my lucid dreaming practice that you would never be able to experience in waking.”

It was after about seven years into her dream work – journaling every day – before, she said, “my lucid dreaming ability blossomed to the point where the deepest magick I could ever imagine happens in that space. For me, that’s a big part of my practice.

A lot of times when I start talking about lucid dreaming, and some of the really deep magical stuff that has happened, people want to know if their dream was lucid. The thing is, if you have to ask that, it was not. Every lucid dream has a very intense tangible ah-ha moment when you go, ‘Oh my god, I’m dreaming,’ and your whole sensation changes and you’re aware that you’re in your bed. It’s not astral travel.”

In lucid dreaming, she said, you’re in a different reality, a dream reality but you’re aware of real time in ordinary reality while experiencing the dream. “In that state, because we’re not limited by the physics here and our physical body, you can practice magick in ways [you can’t in this plane]. You can actually shoot lightning out of your hands and make a banishing pentagram and watch it dissipate. You can do all of the things we do here symbolically and energetically, but see, as if you’re in Hogwarts, the effects. And it’s amazing. But the deep magick is not just that energy stuff and the flying and all of that, it’s how I’ve been able to actually experience goddesses directly and that’s something that I can’t even make someone believe. No one can ever really believe or know what I’m saying unless they experience it for themselves. … It’s unimaginable.”

By setting her intention in the dream time and then again in the morning, she feels “in the flow of what I want to get done in my life.” If there is something urgent, she’ll do a spell. However, she said, most of the spells she does are on behalf of others.

The hard part of doing spell work is really knowing what you want and understanding the underlying motivations and getting the statement and the vision in your mind super clear. Most people never get that far. They have a vague idea. And then it’s hard to manifest. Doing a spell for money is not a great idea. People do it all the time and it doesn’t usually work that well, and the reason is that money is an abstract concept. We don’t need the money. We need the things that money affords us in our lives,” Sleath said.

For that reason, she tells people, “If you can’t afford a new car, do a spell for a car, because you don’t know by what means that may end up becoming available to you.”

Spells must have a crisp vision and a clear understanding of the goal. Lining up the correspondences – colors, herbs, gems, astrological timing – give the spell energy.

 

 

I think many witches nowadays are very, very ethical. We talk about ethics all the time and how to appropriately point your thoughts and your goals so that it is always as well-intentioned as possible,” Sleath said. “I think many spells done by witches are actually much more ethical than a lot of prayers being done by good-intentioned Christians. For example, I don’t think it’s ethical to pray for an outcome for someone else. … You don’t even know that’s the best thing for that person. That would be the same as me doing a spell for someone without getting their permission.”

In addition to ethics, karma is another topic that comes up.

It’s a bone of contention with a lot of groups online right now; everyone’s arguing about it. I absolutely believe in karma. I absolutely believe that you will attract what you put out there. … I teach that to my students, that you have to be aware that your thoughts are very powerful and what you think about – and especially what you put out there magickally in sacred space – will also return to you, possibly in an amplified way.”

While some people may poo-poo karma, calling it an Eastern concept that does not fit with their tradition, she boils it down to energy and ethics, saying there’s a reason all religions subscribe to that.

You do attract what you give off. If you do magick at all, the things you put together are sympathetic magick; you’re operating under the assumption that like attracts like. Well, if you’re thinking about revenge, that attracts revenge. To me it’s that simple. Our thoughts absolutely draw circumstances to us.”

When crafting a ritual, she encourages an escape clause, explaining, “If you’re not positive that there won’t possibly be an ill effect on somebody or on yourself in the act of conducting this spell, then you need to have a statement in there such as, ‘As long as it be for the highest and best good of all involved.’”

Witches need to be able to work with both the light and the dark, she said.

Given that light and dark are balanced in the world. Everyone has light and darkness within themselves. … I never intend people harm and I make sure I’m super ethical in any magick that I do, but I teach people to do shadow work. I help people to not fear death and to understand the affect of their consciousness that exists on beyond the body so they don’t fear moving on. I’ve worked in hospice. … I work with a goddess who is very closely tied to death and so it’s actually been given to me as a mission, to help people not fear the dark [and how] to conduct themselves responsibly.”

Sleath intends to write a book about dreams.

 

 

People that have excellent dream recall often have magickal tendencies because – and I did my entire master’s thesis on this, on dream recall,” she said.

Her survey-based research correlated a person’s rate of dream recall to how well connected to nature they perceived themselves to be.
“It was off the charts, statistically significant,” she said. “People who rated themselves as feeling like they were very closely connected to nature have much higher dream recall than people who say that they’re not.

In the act of doing that project I read every study about dream recall that exists. All of the factors come down to mental clarity, so all of the things that make you better at remembering your dreams are things that increase your mental clarity [such as meditation]. … A lot of pharmaceuticals ruin your dream recall and it’s because they have an effect on your mental clarity.

If you have a general belief that dreams are worth remembering, you’ll remember more. Your open-mindedness to the metaphysical enhances your dream recall. There’s even political ones, like Republicans have worse dream recall than Democrats. People who exercise more recall dreams better. People who do creative stuff, like music or painting, they also have better dream recall.”

That book, however, will come after she complete the one she’s already started that puts together two different magickal approaches. Unlike her first book that was meant to be accessible to everyone with an open mind, this book will be for magickal practitioners to augment their own practice and their relationship with deities.

Her message to witches is: “You can’t just leave your magick for your gatherings, your moons and when you’re standing in front of your altar. You have to bring it with you into what you perceive as the mundane, otherwise, how is it really helping you? You’ve got to trail those sparkles with you through your work, through the things [you do]. … I think that’s where the depth of experience really comes from – when you can maintain and live in your enchanted world view all the time, even when you’re not literally standing in front of your altar or gathering together with your friends to do magick. That’s like immersion. That’s really your Craft. And there’s a lot of ways to do that.”

For more information, visit nikkisnature.com, email her at nikki@nikkisnature.com or call 860-212-0055.

 


 

***

About the Author:

 

 

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Book Review – Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion by Kenaz Filan & Raven Kaldera 

November, 2017

Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion 

by Kenaz Filan &Raven Kaldera 

This book by Filan and Kaldera explores the value of (so called) UPG and PCPG in Neo-Pagan traditions and in reconstructionist work done to recover ancestral faiths and religions.

When I first came across the abbreviation UPG years ago, I assumed it meant “Unique Personal Gnosis”. That was optimistic! In reality it is an abbreviation for “Unverified Personal Gnosis” – in plain English: information you receive from the spirits that has not been backed up (at this time) by lore or the findings of other people.

In contrast PCPG means: Peer Corroborated Personal Gnosis and this refers to the phenomenon where the same information is received from the spirits by several people (or even whole groups of people). The authors painstakingly explain how several (or even many) people consistently receiving the same information from Spirit allows a case to be made for gradually accepting that information as part of a tradition or pagan religion.

The flip side of this process would amount to saying: “absolutely anything that absolutely anyone receives from spirit goes” – but guidance received may well contradict what others get or even cause controversy within communities. For that reason some kind of consensus-based protocol is desirable – which is why the authors wrote this particular book.

Filan and Kaldera also, rather bravely (!), tackle related issues such as “signal clarity” and “mental health issues”. Signal clarity refers to the fact that not every spirit worker has the perfect hotline to the spirits 24/7. Issues such as exhaustion, personal preoccupation or stress and emotional baggage can all get in the way of being a clear channel for spirit. Such things can and will cloud the issue even for very experienced spirit workers (and indeed this is what I teach my own shamanic practitioner students and I teach them ways or running checks on themselves and their own process). Spirit workers themselves need to arrive at their own code of ethics and a set of personal boundaries around this.

Even more importantly perhaps, the authors also discuss the dimension of mental health. On a popular level we all “know” that mentally ill people sometimes “hear voices” – are those spirit voices or other voices (perhaps internalised voices from a dysfunctional childhood?!) In reality “hearing voices” isn’t as simple as this (or as popular culture portrays the phenomenon) and distinctions can definitely be made between the feel and energetic signature of different messages.

The authors do an excellent job raising and mapping this issue and they also invited some spirit workers with mental health issues to contribute – those people are quoted by means of lengthy passages written in their own words. Excellent approach! This helps make this text a good reference book for other spirit workers.

What else? I am teacher of both Norse Shamanism and Core Shamanism. From my own teachers (in core shamanism) I have always learned that shamanism is “the path of direct revelation” – meaning we seek guidance directly from spirit wherever possible. If signal clarity is poor (inevitable at times) we seek second or even third opinions from colleagues we trust.

Personally speaking I do not really feel that such guidance and information shared in circles causes controversy – actually it usually brings many beautiful points of resonance, confirmation and bonding in groups. Then again, I am not a religious leader keeping my congregation on a steady path for years – I train groups of people to the very best of my ability and then I release them to their own calling and spirit guidance. Let me also point out here that shamanism is not a religion but shamanic techniques can be used successfully in reviving extinct or obscure ancient faiths and traditions (because in shamanism we step outside time and we communicate with beings more powerful and knowledgeable than ourselves).

All in all this is a brave and welcome book that opens up great points of discussion and gives a useful framework for future work and other groups. It describes candidly where neo-pagan/reconstructionist traditions are “at”, the challenges they encounter but also ways of moving forward with integrity. It is bit less “extreme” than some of Raven Kaldera’s writings – which I take to be the influence of co-author Kenaz Filan. The result is a balanced book that attempts to look at tricky issues from all possible angles without getting stuck in just one way being “right” or “wrong” for all.

This is a very useful book to read (and return to) for anyone who makes themselves available for doing spirit work on behalf of others (in any capacity).I will definitely recommend this book to my own students as various issues come up in class!

Imelda Almqvist, Philadelphia, 1 October 2017

**

About the author:

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon on 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. 

For her courses in Norse Shamanism (in both Europe and soon coming to the USA as well) please visit the following webpages

FORNSED IN SWEDEN

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=211324

2 YEAR PRACTITIONER OF NORSE SHAMANISM PROGRAM

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=224450

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

YEAR OF CEREMONY

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86

Book Review: The Reiki Sourcebook 2008 Revised Edition by Bronwen & Frans Stein

November, 2017

The Reiki Sourcebook 2008 Revised Edition by Bronwen & Frans Stein

Hello PaganPages readers. I go by Jadaja Talios on the Internet and in the pagan community. I just finished reading ‘the Reiki Sourcebook’ by Bronwen & Frans Stein. At first I had trouble getting into the book but then I did.

One thing that caught my attention was confirmation of something that I have been saying for sometime now due to my experience with magick, especially after I had learned to center and ground. That something is that “All things are made of energy,” as quoted on page 6 from the source, ‘Chinese Medical Qigong volume 1’ by Professor Jerry Alan Johnson( paraphrased on my part).

I’m a solitary, eclectic Wiccan and specialize in healing and protection. The first time I heard of Reiki was when I came upon a book by Christopher Penczak called ‘the Magick of Reiki’. I learned quite a bit about Reiki that I didn’t know before.

The creator or originator of Reiki, Mikao Usui, lived from 1865-1926 and was 61 years old. On May 9, 1926 Mikao Usui died of a stroke. Actually I should use the proper Japanese naming convention, surname first, then first name last which would make it Usui Mikao. Usui was a Tendai Buddhist lay priest, he didn’t live in a monastery, and had martial arts training.

Usui sensei (his students called him sensei not himself for it means teacher amongst other things) traveled around the world and had some training in china, possibly even in Qi gong.

Reiki originally was the name for the healing energy that the ‘Reiki’ healers used not the name of the healing modality itself. Usui sensei only called it a healing method.

In April 1922, Usui started teaching Reiki after spending twenty-one days on Kurama Yama, in meditation during the month of March. Also in April of 1922 Usui created the Usui Reiki Ryhoho Gakkai (which means Society of the Usui Spiritual Energy Healing Method) and was it’s first president.

Usui Sensei had twenty-one teacher students. One of the more famous was Hayashi Chuijiro (Japanese convention). Hayashi taught a Japanese woman that was born in Hawaii in 1900. That woman’s name was Hawayo (named after Hawaii) Takata. She was the first person born outside of Japan to have been taught Reiki.

Hayashi and his daughter went to Hawaii with Hawayo when she went back home. Hawayo taught twenty-two teacher students herself, including at least one of her sisters.

In 1980, Hawayo died and her grand-daughter, Phyllis Lei Furumoto, invited the other twenty-one teacher students to a meeting one and a half years later. Not all of the teacher students showed up. Of the teacher students that did show up, it was decided by those there that Phyllis Lei Furumoto be Hawayo’s successor. They didn’t know that there were still traditional practitioners in Japan and decide Phyllis was the grandmaster of Reiki.

From 1980 on, there have developed many ‘traditions’ of Reiki and there are too many even to try to talk about in a simple book review.

The Reiki Sourcebook has a decent bibliography and lists of various Reiki associations, centers, newsletters, and Internet sources.

The Reiki Sourcebook was a pretty good book, albeit a bit too textbook like for me to truly get into like I have many other books. I think the authors have done as thorough a job as they can and they continue to do more research. They publish revised versions when they find sufficiently new information. The first edition of this book was in 2003 and this is the 2008 edition that I have reviewed. Since I haven’t read the first edition, I can’t give a comparison of the two editions at all in this review.

Book Review – Instant Tarot: Your Complete Guide to Reading the Cards by Monte Farber and Amy Zerner

November, 2017

 

Instant Tarot: Your Complete Guide to Reading the Cards by Monte Farber and Amy Zerner, published in 2017 by Weiser , Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, Newburyport, MA 01950, soft cover, 259 pages. Instant Tarot is published as a paperback, with a color cover printed on typical soft-cover stock, measuring 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches. The interior pages consist of black and white card images and nicely-sized typeface printed on white paper.

Instant Tarot is different from most of the how-to-read-the-Tarot books available to students and enthusiasts of the Tarot. This book uses a system for understanding and interpreting the cards in a traditional Tarot deck that is based on the card positions of the Celtic Cross spread. This system is generally described in the Introduction and the Frequently Asked Questions About Tarot Readings sections at the beginning of this book, written by the authors, and in more detail in the Three Step Process following the Introduction. The Celtic Cross spread is also explained, and each card position of the Celtic Cross spread is given a keyword or key phrase and a description. A sample reading is offered showing actual card images in the eleven positions of the spread, along with the seeker’s question and interpretations of each card in the spread.

Like other books that focus on understanding and exploring the cards of the Tarot, the main part of this book showcases the individual Major and Minor Arcana cards, beginning with an image of the card (based on a traditional Rider Waite deck), the name and number of the card, and a keyword. But the similarities end here. Instead of upright and reversed meanings, explanations of symbolism, and lists of correspondences, the reader is given eleven interpretations of each card based on the meanings of the eleven card positions of the Celtic Cross spread as explained in the beginning of the book.

Instant Tarot provides interpretations for every card in a traditional Tarot deck in every position of a Celtic Cross spread. If you would like to become comfortable with the Celtic Cross spread, this book is for you. Each of the card positions in this spread are explained via each of the cards in the deck, offering an in-depth tutorial for what for some Tarot readers is an intimidating spread. If you feel frustrated by card descriptions that seem difficult to adjust to the focus or style of your readings, the multiple focuses offered in Instant Tarot could allow you to see each card in a fresh new way. If you understand the cards themselves but are having trouble telling the story of a spread, the multiple interpretations could help lace together the meanings of the cards. The book is easy to use, the cards in the sample spreads are all cross-referenced with their individual descriptive sections, and the instructions for use of the system are clear and easy to understand.

Also included in Instant Tarot are some suggestions for performing one-card and three-card readings using this Celtic Cross system, as well as some suggested questions for one-card and three-card readings that are easily personalized or adjusted by the reader.

This book is well-named for it does provide a system that allows a novice to provide an instant reading. Instant Tarot does not offer a detailed history of the Tarot, or detailed description of the meanings of the individual cards, and it does not make reference to the multiple disciplines, such as astrology, numerology, or suits and the elements, that are some of the foundations of those card meanings. If you are looking for that kind of background information, you will not find it here.

What the system found within the pages of Instant Tarot does provide, however, is a method for creating smoothly flowing interpretations of the multiple card positions within a classic Celtic Cross spread. For many aspiring readers, it is the combining of the cards and their meanings into a coherent story that is the true challenge of a Tarot reading. If this is your challenge, Instant Tarot could be the answer you are looking for.

 

 

 

 

***

About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot reader and teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

 

 

Book Review: Minerva’s Owls by Mary Petiet

October, 2017

“All of the Darkness, while we are created by Light.

“Minerva’s Owls” tells the story of where we came from and how we got to where we are now; of how we came from the Goddess, the world-wide worship of the Mother and matriarchal, women-affirming societies to a war-like God and technology driven societies.

It tells the story of how the balance of the world, and our own individual balance was disrupted, while the Feminine was buried within, and by the Masculine. It is why the balance is disrupted still.

Using her personal experience with yoga and what it has taught her, along with individual chapters on each chakra, Ms. Petiet explains the early matriarchal cultures and how they were taken over and destroyed, changing the world, as the masculine supplanted the feminine, which is where we are, still, to this day.

As she describes both feminine and masculine archetypes, she touches on Native American Spirituality and Eastern thought to explain that not only do we all need, and seek, connection, but why it is necessary.

Ms. Petiet has given us a guide on what we must be done to return our planet and ourselves to a balance of both energies, something that is needed for our survival.

We must return to the Wisdom, return to the Feminine, return to the Source.

If you have an interest in how we have gotten from there to here; if you have a desire to find a way back to personal balance and a deeper consciousness; if you have a wish to help the planet move forward in an evolved, more connected way, then by all means pick up “Minerva’s Owls”. You will be glad you did.

***

About the Author:

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, WriterTeacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess, as well as Mago Publications She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Womens Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is MysticalShores@gmail.com

Children’s Book Review : Who is a Witch by Rowan Moss

October, 2017

 

Who is a Witch is beautifully written by Rowan Moss. The illustrations are also beautifully done by T.S. Lamb. This is the first book in the Pagan Children Learning Series.

 

This book covers the topic of who is a witch and what witches do. The book explains everything in easy to understand language. For words that may be harder to understand, the writer included a glossary at the back of the book.

 

Who is a witch explains that almost anyone can be a witch, and that you cannot tell just from looking at someone. It shows that witches come in all shapes, forms, colors, and backgrounds. It shows that witches are not someone to fear because they do the same kind of stuff that the readers do! It goes on to explain that witches practice magic and what magic consists of. The book does a great job of explaining the types of things witches do like keeping a garden, being in nature, and practicing magic with a coven.

 

One of my favorite parts of this book series is the activity in the back of each book. The activity this time consisted of making a bird feeder. This was one of my favorite things to do as a kid and I was excited to see it included. I feel that this activity is perfect for teaching children about witches because the book is showing children that witches are helpful to nature and care about the environment.

 

I shared this book with my son and he gave it a big thumbs up. We spent one afternoon discussing who in our community may be a witch and what they did in their free time. That evening we sat out and watched the sun set and the moon rise. We talked about the book and what witches might be doing at that time of the day. The next day we completed the activity in the back of the book. We discussed how witches take care of the Earth and what else we could do to support witches and nature.

 

This book comes highly recommended from me. If you have small children and are struggling with how to explain who witches are, use this book! It not only explains everything in an easy to understand way but the activity is a lot of fun also!

 

 

 

***

 

You can read Deanna’s Review on What is an Altar HERE.

Book Review: Spells for Self Improvement by Lauren White

October, 2017

By Lauren White

© 2000 by MQ Publications Ltd.

ISBN: 0-7407-0552-0

112 pages

 

This is a fun little book and I mean “little” literally. The book is roughly five by five inches. However, this little book contains a considerable amount of information despite the small size

 

I really liked the first part of the book which is a discussion on how to use the book. Each spell has a key included with it. This key list difficulty which ranges from easy or the author puts it, “a piece of cake”, to requires concentration. The second aspect on the key is for the amount of time it takes to perform that spell. This range goes from instant, to overnight, to needing patience. Finally there is a rating for reliability. For this the range is from a rating for it might work to it will work.

 

The next chapter covers the tools needed. The author doesn’t just list the tools needed but includes ideas on how to pick or create just the right tool

 

The spells in the book come under the headings – “for winning friends and influencing people, the secrets of success, beauty or the beast, having it all and emergency spells.” Each of these has several spells for each topic. Under winning friends and influencing people are spells for shining, a way to stand out from the crowd. This spell could be of great use for those looking for work and wanting something to add a little extra to an interview. Add to this the spell for a life buoy which is found in the success section. This spell is rated as one that is guaranteed to work to make any event go smoothly and greatly enhance your chance at success.

 

Other spells in the book cover gaining luck, gaining funds for a financial emergency, confidence, motivation, beautiful hair, getting your way, a fresh start and more.

 

This book is full of fun illustrations and drawings. At first glance it looks like just a fun little book full of colorful illustrations that brings to mind a children’s book. A further inspection shows this book is a whole lot more. It holds some amazing spells carefully detailed on how to create each one what is needed in the way of time and effort and the chance of success. I am looking forward to trying many of the spells found within the pages of this amazing “little” book.

 

 

Book Review: Modern Machiavelli 13 Laws of Power, Persuasion and Integrity By Troy Bruner & Philip Eager

October, 2017

MODERN MACHIAVELLI

13 Laws of Power, Persuasion and Integrity

By Troy Bruner and Philip Eager

I will start off by admitting that when I was asked to read and review this book I very nearly said no, because it had “Machiavelli” in the title. At a second glance I noticed that it also has the word “integrity” in the title. That got my attention: how on earth do these things sit together? My curiosity made me say: sure, send me the book….

It arrived. From the first page I was gripped! Now I actually wish I had read this book a few decades ago. There are so many scenarios in this book I recognise completely: have been there… have done that… have expected others to respond a certain way …. they have responded in a baffling or hurtful way…. a way that makes no innate sense to me.

Over the years I have spent hours (and drunk many a cup of tea) unraveling such “case studies” (scenarios) with close friends. Over time I have learned many things the hard way. I realized (slowly, painfully) that we project onto others the way we are ourselves. Example: if someone does me a favour I would always remember that and actively look for an opportunity to do something in return for that person. For that reason I expect others to follow this principle of reciprocity too. Over the years slowly discovered that some people do not think like that at all – they think a person like me is a pushover, or “once the goods have been received, don’t give it another thought!”

This book joins up the dots. It explains why people behave the way they do and essentially claims that for all of us to be truly effective in life, we need to actually master a degree of strategy. There is no other way! We need to learn about managing conflict and understanding both the overt and covert behaviour of other people. We also need to get some kind of handle on the dynamics of (what the authors call) “interpersonal power”.

Earlier I said that I wish I had read this book a few decades ago. The only problem is that my twenty-something year old self (less experienced, more idealistic even than I am today) would not have believed what the authors wrote. “She” would have considered this a slightly depressing and cynical book and put it aside. And then she would have ended up learning ,many of those lessons exactly the hard way I actually did. On reflection… I would definitely have been ready for this book 10 years ago, perhaps even 15…

Reading this book there were so many occasions when a penny dropped and I thought: AHA!, So that was the dynamic at work when X,Y or Z occurred. The authors describe the situation perfectly – even if events unfolded in baffling or upsetting way for me.

My verdict is: if you repeatedly encounter dynamics that undermine personal or professional relationships – and you are ready to try a different approach – get a copy of this book! Even if just one key relationship improves, or one professional disaster is avoided because you will be more aware of meta-communication (unspoken messages conveyed) and baffling rules of the social game – it will be well worth the purchase!

This is a book I am going to keep at hand and return to. I would say: read the whole thing (so you know what is covered) and then start again trying the author’s suggeestions for some scenario that persistently causes you difficulty or stress. Often a change in behaviour will change the whole “tango” because people can no longer suck you into the same old way of doing things. That is where greater awareness and more effective communication and agreements can occur.

Oh and just to be crystal clear: this book advices you to act within the parameters of your own integrity at all times! This book actually deals with ethics. But ultimately it tells you that to live a life where intregrity is a core value (and not be disillusioned into giving up on fellow humans or becoming a recluse in the desert) you actually need to master the issues of healthy personal and professional boundaries, strategy, perceiving the true motivation of others and having an arsenal of effective methods for handling common situations occurring in the work place (and even our social circle or families).

Highly recommended!!

***

About the author:

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon on 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. 

For her courses in Norse Shamanism (in both Europe and soon coming to the USA as well) please visit the following webpages

FORNSED IN SWEDEN

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=211324

2 YEAR PRACTITIONER OF NORSE SHAMANISM PROGRAM

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=224450

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

YEAR OF CEREMONY

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86

Book Review – The Magical Art of Crafting Charm Bags: 100 Mystical Formulas for Success, Love, Wealth, and Wellbeing by Elohim Leafar

October, 2017

The Magical of Crafting Charm Bags: 100 Mystical Formulas for Success, Love, Wealth, and Wellbeing”

 

 

by Elohim Leafar

Published by Weiser

Published: 2017

Pages: 235

 

We all have them – stones, botanicals, charms, claws and other objects that we consider precious and that we protect. Our ancestors in all cultures and magical traditions the world over had them, too.

 

These talismans go by many names: charm bag, mojo bag, medicine bag, conjure hand, gris-gris bag, trick bag. They come in all shapes and sizes, can be used for almost any purpose, are fairly easy to make and offer powerful magic.

 

Elohim Leafar – a shaman, diviner and traditional magician who lives in New York City – is descended from a Venezuelan family of spiritual and magical practitioners. His book goes into great depth about this practical magic that other books may cover in a few pages or perhaps a chapter.

 

The first portion of the book introduces readers to the basics of creating a magic circle in which to create talismans for specific purposes. The most important one you’ll make is to represent yourself, Leafar says. He then talks about how to charge, recharge and cancel a talisman’s powers.

 

Part two describes charm bags, how to make them and how to consecrate them. Many of the energies that can contribute to the power of these bags are presented, including phases of the moon, colors, plants and herbs, oils and essences, and gems and crystals from agate to zoisite. This information allows the user to gather up energies from multiple sources when crafting a custom bag. More information, including the magic of each weekday and incense magic, is given in the appendix.

 

Leafar states in his book, “Charm bags derive their power from the spells that are stored in them. All their energies are channeled through their different components.”

 

I’ve long made mojo bags both to use and to give. There’s something special about a little pouch full of intent and energy. This book gives me more ideas on how to use them in daily life.

 

There’s nothing supernatural about charm bags, Leafar writes, explaining, “You work directly with the forces of Nature to crate an entirely natural effect that arises from the combination of various elements, aspects, and moments linked fully with certain forces of Nature.”

 

The third part of the book gives 100 magical recipes for abundance, attraction, success, health, love, protection, power and more.

 

Magic exists everywhere around us, and Leafar draws on many cultures and traditions when showing how to tap into it. This manual can take readers from novice to expert. It provides references that can be used with any forms of the magical arts.

 

Leafar is also a palm reader and a dowser; he is dedicated to teaching the principles of spirituality and practical magic.

 

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

 

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