Book Review – Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States by Thomas Hatsis

February 1st, 2019

Book Review
Psychedelic Mystery Traditions
Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States
By Thomas Hatsis
271 pp. Park Street Press

Although it has been the subject of great speculation and demonetization by various religious and political bodies, psychedelic mystery tradition remains one of the great buried seeds of Paganism, hidden under mythology, misinformation, and religious and political oppression — not to mention suppression of information. In “Psychedelic Mystery Traditions,” Thomas Hatsis uncovers a vast history of psychedelic spirit plants in Western tradition and ritual, focusing especially on Greco-Roman tradition and the early days of Christianity.

the earliest prehistoric discoveries of psychedelic plants and their
spiritual potential to the conflation of their use with Satanic
witchcraft, Hatsis delves deeply, weaving together the political
scenes in which each stage of pharmaka* use developed, while
following a coherent narrative through the years. For those who were
hoping for a more international subject matter, it’s useful to note
that Hatsis doesn’t verge far from the focus of Europe and the Near
East — you won’t find information here about the use of ayahuasca
in Peru, or psilocybin mushrooms in China.

you will find is an extensively-researched, academic approach to a
controversial subject that synthesizes herbalism, ethnopharmacology,
entheogenic practice, ritual, mythology, politics, religion, and
linguistics. This may make the book a bit slow going for those who
lack the context for the work, but anyone with a good familiarity
with Western mystical traditions, herbalism, early Christianity, or
mythology will probably find something to enjoy here.

book boasts a treasure trove bibliography. Hatsis occasionally cites
and refers to his other book, called “The Witches’ Ointment: The
Secret History of Psychedelic Magic,” where the subject matter
overlaps, but he also taps an impressive number of primary sources,
as well as many modern authors. In a few cases, he points them out
only to call them out, diverging at several points to argue some
misconceptions, such as the popularized idea that ergotism poisoning
is similar to the LSD experience (it’s actually much more dangerous,
poisonous, and unpleasant), or that the origins of Santa Claus lie in
the historical shamanic use of Aminata muscaria (a
popular theory for which there is little evidence). It is clear that
Hatsis has great love for this subject, but he also preserves respect
for the academic process. In exploring the controversy surrounding
the historical use of pharmaka, he has an even hand and doesn’t
play favorites on the basis of his own bias, pointing fingers not
only at those who dismissed or vilified these spirit plants, but also
at those who misused and abused these plants for nefarious purposes,
such as poisoning, manipulation, and rape.

rare glimpse into the mechanisms and mythology of mystery traditions
is also peppered with humorous observations, as Hatsis refers to bad
trips as “what we would call a bummer,” relates amusing
historical anecdotes, and makes the occasional pun. But where the
book shines the most is in those poetic moments when Hatsis explores
the narratives of mythology and ritual that weaved together the
experience of pharmaka by exposing and bestowing new cosmological
understanding. In these stories, the relationship between humans and
spirit plants takes on a life of its own, illuminating both the dark
recesses of the human psyche, and the strange roots of spirit plant

Mystery Traditions can be found on Hatsis’
along with many other writings and YouTube videos as well.

Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants, Magical Practices, and Ecstatic States on Amazon

all-encompassing Greek term for the various plant-derived substances
whose uses included theogenesis, medicine, recreation, aphrodisiac,
poison, and more.]

those whose interests are primarily herbological, here’s a short
list of some of the spirit plants and pharmaka mentioned in this

amanita mascara, barley, cannabis, haoma, hash, hemlock, henbane,
kykeon, laurel, LSD, mandrake, mushrooms, opium, solanaceae
(including but not limited to Atropa belladonna), and wine.


About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is
an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork,
trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at

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!

For Amazon information, click image below.

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 Books 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.

For Amazon information, click image below.

This author works with a technique called sacred (or ecstatic) trance postures. He draws on the work of Felicitas Goodman, Thomas Berry, Ervin Laszlo and others. The idea is that one uses specific meditation postures to access information from the resulting altered state of consciousness. Many of his postures are taken from resources all over the world such as statues, rock art etc.

I reviewed another book by him in this same magazine a few months ago: Baldr’s Magic, The Power of Norse Shamanism and Ecstatic Trance. From my point of view that book had a number of serious (structural) flaws and I sincerely hoped to write a more positive review for this one (because no one enjoys writing very critical reviews but writing reviews is a pointless process if you are not going to honest).

The good news is that this book makes many valid points, for readers who relatively new to shamanic work. He invites people to derive inspiration from old earth-based religions. He does not attempt to fill in the blanks in the Poetic Edda or another sacred text – that is a relief. Neither does he overdose on lengthy descriptions of his own personal trance experience – which is a blessing and makes the book a far more engaging and interesting read than Baldr’s Magic.

On the less impressive side there is a lot of general information on repeat (including the pictures of various trance postures which appear all over again – that is a quick way of filling a book! And in all fairness I can see why the author would do that, for reasons of producing a complete text. Then again, perhaps he could have left that segment out and simply referred readers to his other publications (or a webpage perhaps) allowing space for more fresh material, making the book a more rewarding purchase for people who follow his work?

This is a basic book for beginners. Just as many teachers of shamanism write a basic book inviting people to use shamanic journeys to connect with Earth and land spirits, the animals and winds etc., this book offers the same material through the lens of trance postures.

If trance posture work speaks to you and you are new to shamanism, you may get good results from working through this book!

For Amazon Information Click Image

Imelda Almqvist, 25 November 2017, London UK


About the author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently working on her second book Sacred Art.

For Amazon Information Click Image  (website)  (blog)  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

Magica Sexualis, Sexual Practices for Magical Power







By Paschal Beverly Randolph and Maria de Nablowska and translated by Donald Traxler

© 2012 by Donald C. Traxler

ISBN: 978-1-59477=418=8

174 pages

Paperback $16.95 (U.S.)


Magica Sexualis was a pleasant surprise. I expected a book written in modern times that was basically a sex position and sex manual. Instead I found a comprehensive and in depth study of sexual practices originally complied in the 1800’s by the occultist Pashal Beverly and later translated and possibly augmented by Maria de Nablowska. This work was originally written in French, to be translated again by Donald Traxler who added an introduction to the book.

Paschal Beverly worked within a system referred to as the Brotherhood of Eulis. The brotherhood believed in an army of beings and powerful intelligences from other worlds which know the higher mysteries and that the true power of spirit is acquired in conjunction with the power of sex.  These mysteries are referred to as the mysteries of Eulis.

The first steps in this process are listed as four principles. The purpose of these principles was to develop the mental, magnetic and psychic forces; each is described along with directions on development.  The principles are listed as “Volantia”, or the ability to exercise diverse capacities calmly without exhaustion. The next is “Decretism”. This is the capacity to give orders, to impart desires, thoughts, feelings and more.  Third is the principle “Posism” is the science of gesture, which includes passive reception and active passions. Finally there is “Tirauclasirism” or the power of evocation, which is described as communication with those absent, dead or invisible.

Once the student has mastered the four principles, the student is ready to work with the magical aspects. The third section of the book covers astrology, perfumes, colors and sounds as they apply to sexual magic. When properly calculated and applied they can help with the realization of personal goals and magical operations. There are a number of tables to aid the student in establishing these goals. This is followed by rules and sexual positions. Additional chapters cover preparations, how to produce the sex of a child at the time of conception, and a type of talismanic magic for what the author refers to as the charging of the “volts”, through fluid condensers. The final section of the book deals with magical mirrors, first in theory then in practice.

This book is both informative and practical. It contains a wealth of information on sexual magic as conceived by Paxcahl Beverly Randolph and presented by Maria de Naglowska and Donald Traxler.


Coloring Book: A Colorful Book for Adults Featuring Beautiful
Witches, Magical Potions, and Spellbinding Ritual Scenes

Coloring Book Cafe, 2018

recently received this awesome coloring book to try out & review.
It is a book of 24 single sided coloring pages, and it has 2 copies
of each picture (48 pics total to color). This is great because if
you mess up or if you and a friend want the same picture to color you
have a spare! It is 8 by 10 inches so standard size for a coloring

title is Witches and appropriately so. This book is filled with all
things witchy themed, cauldrons, cards, black cats, potions, candles,
etc. I love it! I am an avid colorist and a witch so this is my
favorite kind of coloring book! I only had time to complete 2 pages
so far, but I am looking forward to finishing them all!

paper quality is great and the images themselves are beautifully
drawn and printed. I used colored pencils and a little gel pen on
mine, but any markers would work with this paper.

coloring book is available on Amazon for $7.99. I highly recommend
this coloring book to anyone that is interested in coloring and also
likes witch or occult themed pictures. It would also be fun for
anyone around the Halloween season. I have thoroughly enjoyed this
book so far! Here are my 2 completed pics I’ve been working on this

personally know many people who would love this coloring book and if
you are into the witchy look or looking for gorgeous pics to add to
your grimoire or book of shadows I think you will be very happy with
this book. I think I’m going to frame a few and hang them on my
wall, that’s how much I love these images!

You to Coloring Book Cafe for sending me a copy to review!

Witch Coloring Book: A Coloring Book for Adults Featuring Beautiful Witches, Magical Potions, and Spellbinding Ritual Scenes on Amazon


About the Author:

Retha N. Lent
has been married for 17 years to her husband Mark & they have
four cats that are their life. She lives in Norristown, Pa. Retha has
her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Behavioral Counseling Sciences
from Drexel University. She is the owner of “Retha’s
” & sells sterling silver unique crystal jewelry &
specimens on her FB business page. She has a FB group for her
customers and those interested in learning more about crystals &
all things magical called “Retha’s
Crystal Circle
“. She is also an advisor in the Sage
She has her Holistic Healing Certificate and Pillars of Priestessing
certificates from Sage Goddess. She is also an Ordained Pagan
Minister from the Universal Life Church. Retha has a passion for
crystals, nature, astrology, working with moon cycles, ritual
practices, tarot and oracle cards, runes, essential oils, herbs,
manifestation work, ancient cultures, magic & music. Her favorite
place is New Orleans, La. Retha has an extensive personal crystal
collection and loves sharing her love of crystals with the world. She
has been a practicing pagan since she was 16 years old. 

You can reach her at
[email protected]
or on her business
page on FB

Or in her
FB group

Her Sage
affiliate link is:

Or follow her on Instagram
at @spookygirl16

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this timely book and was thrilled to be able to interview Ms. Murphy-Hiscock….

The Interview

Robin Fennelly (RF): What brought you to the Craft? and Can you tell us a little about the Black Forest Clan and your work as High Priestess. 

Arin Murphy-Hiscock (AMH): I discovered the Craft in my twenties when I did research for a collaborative storytelling project. I was invited to join BFC in 2000, and have been working with them ever since. We have a small coven here in Montreal that takes self-care very seriously. I don’t teach workshops as much as I used to; writing books has taken the place of in-person teaching. I reach a lot more people this way!

RF: You’ve crafted a very comprehensive book, chock-full of information and ideas. Were there any specific events that inspired you to write this book? 

AMH: Not specific so much as a general theme that kept surfacing in my life. I have a tendency to work very hard and I am bad at taking time for myself or seeing that I’m headed for a collapse. That has a lot of repercussions. My publisher suggested I write something along the spiritual self-care line, and I was struck by how timely it was in my own life. I got to examine my coping mechanisms and isolate the ways in which I handled stress, and explain them in a way that helped me as well as could help others. It also had the associated consequence of a divine two-by-four, the effects of which I’m still handling.

RF: …..” The practice of magic seeks to establish or balance connection between an individual and the environment. If a spiritual aspect is added, then magic also seeks to balance or maintain the connection between the individual and the Divine.”.. You speak of magical practice and spiritual practice. Do you see these as two separate streams? How do you see these as part of healing the disconnect we have to self-care?

AMH: I do see them as separate streams. You can practice magic without involving deity at any point, and of course you can have a spiritual practice without magic. We bundle them together a lot, but they can absolutely be practiced independently of each other. As witches, we can and should address both aspects in our self-care. Nourishing only one part of your connection—to the world around you or to the Divine—limits you. And being able to access both aspects enhances the effects of each.

RF: You introduced us to the Danish concept of Hygge and its benefits for self-care. Could you tell us a little more about this?

AMH: Hygge has been a buzzword for a couple of years now. When I started reading about it in media back then, a lot of it was kind of a “well, duh” moment for me. The concept of hygge resonated with me and reflected so much of my existing outlook. I’m very home and hearth-based; my personal practice is rooted in comfort, simplicity, security, and caring for others. In self-care, those concepts are underlined, but with the primary subject being yourself. In North American culture we tend to perpetuate a martyr-like ideal, sacrificing the self for the good of others. That’s very noble on paper, but it’s terrible from the point of view of self-care. And it’s absolutely not sustainable. Hygge self-care suggests that caring for yourself has benefits beyond just making yourself feel better; it suggests that if you are feeling better, stronger, rested, more content, that spills over into the rest of your life, too, affecting those around you and your spaces in a positive way.

RF: Being a mother, HPs, wife and author and the stresses that come with all of those roles can you speak more about how to find the balance between self-care and maintaining the pressing responsibilities that require more of you?

AMH: It’s a constant juggling act. It’s important to step back and take stock regularly, probably more often than you already do, to catch problems before they become severe issues. And when you take stock, you have to be as objective as possible. I’m… not very good at that part, to be honest. I’m a work in progress. It’s one of the reasons why I try to fill my cup when I can, and look for the serenity and small pleasures of self-care in daily life. Ongoing maintenance is easier than a full-scale repair.

It’s wonderful to have a support network that keeps an eye on you, too. You can think, “No, I’ve got this, I can totally do this,” but good friends will haul you into their kitchens and say, “Look, you’re working yourself into a dangerous place, and we are going to intervene so you have a bit of time in which you can disengage and clear your head.” Sometimes that intervention is coffee, sometimes it’s supper at their place so you don’t have to think about what to make, sometimes it’s an impromptu playdate at their house so you don’t have to think about the kids for a couple of hours. I wouldn’t be as sane as I am without my in-person network, or my online network. Or my family, come to that. My husband will up and take the kids to a friends’ house and leave me alone for the morning, or my kids will randomly bring me cups of tea or chocolate because they know I enjoy them.

My coveners are amazing. They are all about the low-impact practice, bless them, and a lot of our spiritual work happens through food or arts and crafts. Weather or illness or overtime means we don’t get together as often as we all wish we could, but the bond is there regardless. I’m so grateful for them being the people they are.

RF: I loved the idea that we often fear having “more agency and control over (your) life than you may be comfortable accepting.” What have you done to break through and push back when confronted with this?

AMH: It’s really scary to accept responsibility for what happens in your life. It’s so much easier to believe that you’re a victim. But there is strength that comes from recognizing that you made a mistake somewhere, and acknowledging that hey, that wasn’t the right choice to make at the time. The moment you take responsibility, you open up the possibility that you can change, and you can effect change. That’s a powerful move. People can be uncomfortable with power. It’s easier to let someone else make the decisions.

RF: What is your favorite part of the book and/or exercises?

AMH: The arts and crafts, I think! I love uniting creativity and spirituality, and I’m a big supporter of using art to express or explore your relationship with the Divine. It encompasses keeping your hands busy and disengaging the overactive mind, has the benefit of producing something tangible, and works to stimulate different areas of your brain.

RF: Having completed your book, what other piece of wisdom would you offer about self-care that wasn’t included?

AMH: I really want to hammer home the idea that you are worth taking care of. I know how hard it can be when you’re in a crappy situation and you feel like there’s no way out. Even if you can’t throw it all out and start again, you can make small changes to remind yourself that you are worth it, and work on it incrementally; it can be a long road, and it’s an ongoing pursuit. Mistreatment by others (casual or otherwise) doesn’t mean that’s the kind of life you merit. Everyone deserves respect, health, and happiness!

is a book I will return to frequently to savor the experiences and
remind myself that self-care begins with the self. Thank you, Arin,
for so seamlessly integrating practical advice and magic that is
healing and restorative.

The Witch’s Book of Self-Care: Magical Ways to Pamper, Soothe, and Care for Your Body and Spirit on Amazon


the Author:

Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

Inner Chamber Volume One on Amazon

Written in the Stars


Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

of the Spheres (Volume 2) on Amazon


Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

the Paths on Amazon


Year With Gaia on Amazon

Eternal Cord

of the Sun and Moon on Amazon


Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1) on Amazon

Collection of Esoteric Writings

Elemental Year on Amazon

the Parts of SELF

Enchanted Gate on Amazon

on the Magick of the Natural World

with the Goddess on Amazon

of Devotion

Weekly Reflection on Amazon

for the Year

books are available on Amazon
on this website
her Blogs
be found at

Instagram & Facebook.

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