Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “Anatomy of a Witch” by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Full Title: Anatomy of a Witch: A Map to the Magical Body
Author: Laura Tempest Zakroff
Published: June 8, 2021 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Witchcraft, Magic, Self-Discovery, Wicca
Edition Details: 216 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – requested via NetGalley
Rating: {3.5/5 stars}

First Glance

I’ve used lots of sigils created by this author, pulled from her blog at Patheos called A Modern Traditional Witch. When I saw this book and the premise of connecting to your body as the most magical tool in your possession, I figured it was worth taking a good look. Based on her writings elsewhere, I trusted that she’d consider health and mobility issues with kindness while taking us on this exploration of the physical self.

Positive Bits

First of all, I was right to trust this author to handle physical issues with a gentle touch. Time after time, we are reminded that our body does its job by holding a space for our spirit to exist. Illness and age come for us all, and that isn’t an inherently bad thing! The tone throughout this book encouraged people of all ability levels to work with their bodies and reconsider the relationship they have with different parts of themselves. I imagine for some, the idea of radial self-acceptance and self-compassion would be mind-blowing.

One section I particularly liked was where we looked at consumption and how it affects our magical body. From what we eat to what we read, the things we consume feed us at some level. This means the meals we eat can be eaten with intention, be they a smoothie bowl full of nutrients or an energy drink to get us through a long work shift. Awareness is key in both food and media consumption. If you know that your diet of media doesn’t include much variety, you can choose to diversify your content sources and pop your own media bubble. Stretch the mind, learn, and grow!

In another chapter, there was a beautiful explanation of why we shouldn’t tie our reproductive organs, gender, or sexuality to our magic. This is something I struggled with earlier in my path, as so much of that time’s magic was binary (or else!). As someone who’s fought infertility for years in hopes of starting a family, it’s always important to remind myself that my body’s ability to carry a child isn’t the start and end of its value. That might seem obvious to some, but it took embracing the idea of nonbinary magic to really internalize not being a failure over infertility struggles.

Less Enjoyable Bits

I’ll start with something that bothered me, though I’m having an issue with why. One of the sections of the magical body we look at is the Serpent, and I knew going in that I’d likely find some pause here depending on how it was handled. The Serpent is essentially kundalini energy from Hinduism, but rebranded. There’s nothing actively wrong with it or the chapter describing it, but it felt borderline appropriative in a way I didn’t jive with. Kundalini is mentioned in one sentence of the chapter on the Serpent, and then we continue on to other serpentine representations in mythology and religion. I would’ve liked more acknowledgement of the source code here, I guess?

[Update on 4/15/2021: After some discussion with the author herself, I’d like to temper my thoughts on the Serpent. My interpretation of the chapter on the Serpent was based on my experiences and personal biases, particularly in anything that feels too much like a practice from another path. While I was initially left feeling as though the Serpent was Kundalini energy by another name, the author intended for us to pull from various mythos and the deeper societal symbolism of the Serpent itself in order to experience it as part of the magical body. As I reread the section, I can see how her intent and my understanding of it diverged. It still doesn’t speak to me, but it may resonate with you.]

As a poet, I’m always hesitant to review poetry books the same way you might review fiction or nonfiction. I feel that poetry and poetic prose are highly subjective. That said, I didn’t connect to the charms and poetic chapter introductions. I tried slowing down, reading them out loud, and counting syllables – all to try and figure out why I wasn’t connecting with them. I think they were just a little too wordy for me personally, but your mileage may vary.

I really wanted to find something in this book. A connection between my magic and my body strong enough to help override years of body shaming. A new look at the magical body that approached the topic outside of borrowed systems. A toolkit for some serious magical maintenance on my meat mech? While this book uses some interesting and unfamiliar focuses, it didn’t speak to me. Some references included:

  • the Cauldron of Poesy – a medieval Irish poem listing three cauldrons that control the body and spirit in different ways
  • Tarot – the first ten cards of the Major Arcana are tied into the chapters
  • Kundalini energy – while renamed as the Serpent, those familiar with Kundalini will likely understand and enjoy that connection
  • dance – as the author is a dancer and artist, she makes many references to joyful movement that may resonate with those similarly inclined

Tidbits Worth Repeating

For as the Moon affects the ocean tides with its phases, we too wax and wane, ebb and flow. We are essentially mobile oceans, and we too have tides. – 31%

It is an act of revolution to believe in yourself. To believe in the power and beauty of your own body is a riot and an act of radical self-love. – 68%

You are not always going to be successful in every change you seek to make, but if you infuse your practice with compassion and vulnerability, you will definitely become more in tune with your path. – 95%

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – if none of my “less enjoyable bits” make you reconsider, then this book is for you. It wasn’t for me, but I enjoyed reading it enough to be glad I finished it.

Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “Cord Magic” by Brandy Williams

Full Title: Cord Magic: Tapping into the Power of String, Yarn, Twists & Knots
Author: Brandy Williams
Published: May 8, 2021 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Magic Studies, Witchcraft, Folk Magic, Cord Magic, Knot Magic
Edition Details: 304 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – requested via NetGalley
Rating: {4.5/5 stars}

First Glance

I’ve been in a mood for simple magics, so I requested this book on a whim. I’m not much of a yarncraft person, as I can barely crochet and never really caught onto knitting as a leftie. With string, I’ve done some mundane cross-stitch and considered whether I enjoyed it enough to add into my magical practice… and never did. It’s one of those topics I wanted to connect to badly, but it never seemed to resonate.

Positive Bits

This book is extremely approachable! From page one, I found myself drawn in by the author’s story of how and why she felt the need to write this book. I connected to her story myself, having practiced various forms of magic for a couple of decades now. The examples of cord magic in action were all familiar situations and reasonable solutions… that just happened to involve magic! From story to finish, the author manages to treat the reader as both novice and equal as we’re guided through various activities involving cord magic.

As a deep lover of simple magic, cord magic speaks to me in the same way that candle magic and color magic both have. There’s beauty in the accessibility of cord magic as a whole, compared to something like crystal magic or the use of Tarot. Anyone can pick up a string or yarn and twist it just so! That said, I connected deeply to the idea of capturing energies in cords for later use. With various levels of mobility and mental health issues in my household, it can be a feat of master engineering to get us all involved in celebrating a full moon or solstice together. The integration of cord magic in our workings could mitigate this, as I can capture the full moon for my wife on her bad days and visa versa. It opens up a universe of magic that felt inaccessible due to health limitations, and that means the world to me.

I found myself imagining ways to use the exercises and examples with items I have in my own home, and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? While I don’t know that the author was aiming for this, her detailed description of capturing various energies (and a staggering list of examples I might not have thought up) had me considering the utility of cord magic in the time of something like this pandemic. Imagine gathering lengths of thread to weave into cords individually, knowing you’re spinning the same energies into being with your witchy kinfolk (safe at home, of course). It takes the idea of a friendship bracelet to higher levels! I’ve done similar work with candles to capture energies, but cords would be so much more practical from a cost and storage standpoint.

Less Enjoyable Bits

It’s a small thing, but I was very interested in the idea of a charging cord. It’s mentioned as something you can create, up to and including the creation of cords with the energies of certain times, seasons, and weather trapped within their threads. However, I felt like we missed instructions on what to do with a charging cord. Do I wrap it around a candle to charge the candle? If there’s a knot I want to undo to release energies into a candle, do I hold it over the unlit wick? Or do I light it and untie the knot to the side? I have ideas of my own to work with these captured energies, but my point is that the book could’ve explored the use of those particular cords in more detail with us.

There’s a lot of info dumping to cover side topics, which I think could’ve benefitted from either more or less information being provided. The book dives into some basics on planetary associations, zodiac signs, numerology, and color magic. All of those topics can apply to cord magic in some way, but I feel like dabbling in their magics doesn’t do justice to the breadth and depth of each type of energy. I’m more of an all-or-none person, so I’d prefer either a simple list of standard associations or a detailed chapter on each type of additional magic being referenced in this book. Considering this is a book about a specific type of magic in the first place, I think the former option would’ve been a better fit.

I had hoped for some interesting friendship bracelet patterns, for lack of a better description. Or at least a four stranded braid instructional. Instead, this book gave us a couple of cord crafting methods to lean on and three knots to work into the mix. On one hand, this makes cord magic feel more accessible and is a boon. On the other hand, it also left me wanting more. Cord Magic 2, anyone?

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Cords are easy to incorporate into clothing or to hide in a pocket or bag. They’re the ultimate portable tool. – 3%

A cord is a talisman made from a string. The fiber of the string is the body of the talisman. The physical material adds both practical and energetic qualities to our magical intent. – 39%

Cord magic is a flexible way to capture the energy of time and place. […] Cords can be folded, labeled, and stacked in a box. – 76%

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – the ideas presented in some of the exercises were enough to justify purchasing this book, but they’re also packaged in an informative and approachable package.

Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “New World Witchery” by Cory Thomas Hutcheson

Full Title: New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic
Author: Cory Thomas Hutcheson
Published: April 8, 2021 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Witchcraft, Folklore, Mythology, Magic Studies, Folk Magic, American Culture
Edition Details: 480 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – Request via NetGalley
Rating: {3.5/5 stars}

First Glance

As a long time witch, I’ve studied various paths and cultures to see what speaks to my spirit. American folklore and practices are, I admit, one of my blind spots. I don’t connect to any one region because of being a military brat, so I lack the personal history and ties to a place that others might find spiritually relevant. When I saw this book available for review, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to look into my own country and culture for spiritual inspiration.

Positive Bits

The premise of this book is outlined very early on: “In some ways, I am hoping that picking up this book will be like unearthing a box buried at the crossroads for you and finding it stuffed full of folkloric odds and ends – a veritable treasure trove of witchery, if you will. Each little piece will tell you something about magic, and let you put together your own picture of folkloric witchcraft here and now.” As you explore this book, it truly dives into a variety of sources, from local tribal traditions to immigrant practices from other countries that settled here. The details are also regularly tied back to the current occult movements that match them, allowing you to draw the line between past and present with ease.

I enjoyed the author’s take on magical ingredient correspondences. I’m a big fan of finding your personal connection and symbolism in magic, and they took the time to mention something they get out of each item rather than rehashing the correspondences you find in every other sourcebook. In the same section, there’s an exercise that involves looking at your favorite foods or recipes and considering what magicks they would represent based on their ingredients – which is something I’ve done before, and it’s fascinating to look at your food in a magickal light (particularly if you’re an avid cook)!

Each section has interesting tasks to try, called The Work. After you’ve been exposed to one type of magical folklore, you’re invited to explore it within your own spiritual path. Several of them contained great questions to meditate or journal on, and I found myself pausing to consider how they related to my practice. I enjoy interactivity in books, so this is a major bonus point to the book as a whole.

Less Enjoyable Bits

This book is very heavily focused on folkloric knowledge, with much smaller sections tying it back to modern witchcraft. While intriguing if you like history and folklore as topics, I found myself a bit disappointed to slug through 480 pages of folklore when I had thought there’d be more active rituals and practices to explore. Considering how often folklore related to witches dips into talk of worshipping the Devil, I found myself less interested in the information provided when it was steeped in stories from that angle.

On the flip side, there were mentions of folklore that greatly intrigued me… only to be presented in one or two sentences and then never referenced again. For example, I live near the Chehalis tribe in the Pacific Northwest, and they were mentioned in a section about moon folklore. Apparently they see the moon as masculine, but we get one note to that effect and then nothing further. Living so close to multiple tribes, I wish more Native culture had been included as part of American folklore. Too often, we treat Natives as “other” and less American than the immigrants who supplanted them.

I think this book is geared toward an audience who wants to explore American folklore and folk magic but doesn’t want to dive into research alone. If that’s your focus, then it’s a good guide to jumping off points for exploring our history. If that’s not your cup of tea, then this book is a long and difficult trek through a portion of American history.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Be a magical magpie if you wish, and gather the shiny and beautiful things you like, but acknowledge that you are a magpie and not a bluebird or a cardinal, even if you add a few of their twigs or feathers to your nest. Be grateful and humble towards the magic and the people behind that magic, and you will find that magic opens up all sorts of new possibilities for you. – 8%

Being seen and heard, and feeling that spiritual forces are available to you – that is a kind of magic all its own. Witchcraft is a nuanced craft, and magical healing can go well beyond easing the symptoms of a cold or buying away a wart. It can reach into the very heart of us and work its transformations there as well. – 22%

As we reach the end of our journey here, I invite you to take a look at the rising popularity of the witch in a different way: she is hiding something. She is glamorous and beautiful, bold and unapologetic, standing up for rights and demonstrating ferocity to all who see her. And in between all of that, she may light a candle or turn over some cards to see what part of the future she can change. – 96%

Is it worth the coin?

No – unless what I described is what you’re looking for. It wasn’t the guide to American folk magic that I had hoped to find, but it had value for someone exploring folklore for folklore’s sake.

Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “The New Aradia” by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Full Title: The New Aradia: A Witch’s Handbook to Magical Resistance
Author: {edited by} Laura Tempest Zakroff
Published: September 2018 by Revelore Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Occult, Magical Resistance
Edition Details: 106 pages, trade paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

This summer I went hunting for books about magical resistance. With America being full of unrest and injustice, I wanted to do something! This book came up on more than one suggested reading list, so I decided to grab a copy.

Positive Bits

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or hopeless, this book is for you. Thanks to the variety of writers who pitched in their works, the handbook serves as a pep talk across diverse angles of approach. There are rituals and sigils to work toward change, but there are also reminders of our inherent power laced throughout.

I’m pleased to say that the focus isn’t so targeted to 2020 that the book will lose value with time. While highly applicable to today’s problems, I feel like the writers made smart choices in providing ideas and spells that can be molded to any working angled toward justice, positive change, and community. When I bought this book in June, I imagined I’d make the most use out of the sigils included. However, here I am in November embracing the self-care rituals and reminders of my personal power as a witch. Clearly, the topics covered flex with your needs.

As a poet and longtime witch, I don’t often use other people’s spells as written. I tend to rework the wording, paraphrasing the original in my own syntax. However, I found myself impressed with several of the workings as written; I find myself wanting to use them “as is” rather than transforming them, and that’s a good thing. Well-written magic is beautiful and powerful!

Less Enjoyable Bits

This book should be three times bigger than it is! In all seriousness, I wish the book had been delayed a bit longer to allow for more content inclusion; the introduction mentions how rushed the creation process was, and I feel like we missed out on an opportunity to truly build a social justice handbook for witches everywhere.

The title made me think there’d be more of an embrace of Aradia’s mythos, but she was minimally included. As I don’t connect to her story, it didn’t bother me; however, newer witches less familiar with her might wonder why she was used as a lens to view magical resistance through in this book. Aradia’s mythos is very focused on using witchcraft to fight oppression, particularly when wielded by the minority against a powerful majority. I think including a bit more explanation of her history might’ve been helpful for some readers coming in blind.

There’s no organization to this handbook. My brain works the same way, where most thoughts are only tangentially tied together. If you prefer linear thoughts and patterns, then this book might frustrate you. Fair warning!

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Calling oneself a Witch is in itself an act of defiance, a statement of going against the grain and the status quo of society. – page 16

Set your face against the gathering cold, the meanness of spirit that threatens to wither us before our time. Dig your heels into the good old Earth. Remember who you are. Consider your deepest birthright as witches. Gather your allies. Sharpen your tools. – page 25

Go ahead and burn me. The fire will change me, transform me to ash. […] Burn me and I shall be everywhere. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the earth that nourishes you, and the fires that keep you warm. These will all bear my mark. – page 90

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – I needed this. Of all the books I purchased with magical resistance in mind, this is the first one to give me something back: hope.

Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “The Complete Book of Moon Spells” by Michael Herkes

Full Title: The Complete Book of Moon Spells: Rituals, Practices, and Potions for Abundance
Author: Michael Herkes
Published: July 2020 by Rockridge Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Magic Studies, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Moon Magic, Goddess Worship
Edition Details: 218 pages, trade paperback
Source: Won via Instagram Giveaway
Rating: {4.5/5 stars}

First Glance

I won this book from an Instagram giveaway hosted by @fatfeministwitch (Paige Vanderbeck) and @the.glam.witch (Michael Herkes) in July. They asked for affirmations based on a moon phase prompt, and mine was “I am a child of the universe, my bones and blood are stardust!” I’ll admit that I hadn’t run across Michael’s Instagram prior to the giveaway, but his posts are always colorful and inspirational.

Positive Bits

Right off the bat, I was impressed and excited by the book’s plan to break down the lunar cycle into eight different phases instead of the standard four. Even moon-focused books often direct your energies to the New and Full Moons, with basic details on the differences between waning and waxing moon energies. Here, we get spells and rituals designed for all phases of the moon, taking us deeper into the practice of lunar magic.

Each section starts with a journaling prompt, helping you to form your magical intentions before you start working your magic. I think this provides real guidance for working through your magical goals with focus, rather than a complete set-it-and-forget-it approach. Also, your journaled notes will be there later for reference, so you can look back and see what works for you personally. As someone who struggles to journal regularly, I think these prompts are pure gold! They give just enough of a push to guide me into writing down my thoughts throughout the lunar cycle.

The layout of this book is perfect for active use! Each ritual and spell only covers two pages, facing each out. That means you could prop it open on your altar and work from the pages without having to flip back and forth for details. It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed by an ungainly mess of ritual instructions, which is often a problem with pre-made rituals. All in all, the aesthetics and functionality of this book put it high on my resource list. Rockridge Press once again used colors and formatting choices to enhance the book’s message, and I’m starting to think they’re a publisher to keep an eye on.

Less Enjoyable Bits

I get a little disappointed when anyone shortcuts their ritual closing process. The ritual outline for starting your magic is nicely detailed, from casting circle to calling quarters to raising energy. But when we’re all done, the closing of the circle turns into a quick description of giving thanks. I feel like you need to either be general in your instructions for both calling and releasing the elements, or you need to include full descriptions for each piece of their participation. It’s a pet peeve I notice in a lot of pre-made ritual descriptions including the processes used by my old coven, so it’s not a deal breaker. It’s just frustrating.

There are a few times that random ceremonial or hoodoo magic practices are pulled in without explanation, but this is the nature of being a witch outside of a standardized path. I’d likely research symbols and actions with more detail if they weren’t familiar to my personal practices, so this didn’t make any spells or rituals stand out as malformed. Instead, I reread the spells that had these kinds of details and looked for the why.

Every witch is different, and so are our ethics. That said, I took issue with one particular spell in this book. In a spell for strengthening an existing relationship, we’re told that hair is the easiest biological bit to retrieve from your partner without being noticed. However, if you’re in a healthy relationship that you simply wish to enhance, I would think you could safely ask for permission to use their hair instead of sneaking around. Call me old fashioned, but that doesn’t sound like a relationship with open and honest communication. I recognize, though, that this is my personal ethical approach to magic that directly includes another person.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

The universe does not operate on our sense of time. Spellcasting is not a fast-food spiritual practice. – page 19

Not everything goes the way you think it will. Sometimes life takes a sharp turn off course, and you either back up and get back on the road or change course completely. Regardless of which way you go, I’ve learned it’s best to just enjoy the scenery of whatever detour you take. – page 88

All obstacles present new experiences for us to learn and grow from. It is through embracing these hardships that we learn just how strong we are. – page 144

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – this book would be a good resource for someone just starting their lunar practice, because it strikes a balance between simplicity and focus. For those not new to their path, the spells can provide a shot of inspiration to revive and rejuvenate your moon magic.

Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “The Grimoire Journal” by Paige Vanderbeck

Full Title: The Grimoire Journal: A Place to Record Spells, Rituals, Recipes, and More
Author: Paige Vanderbeck
Published: July 2020 by Rockridge Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Wicca, Magic Studies, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Journal
Edition Details: 158 pages, trade paperback
Source: Won via Instagram Giveaway
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

I won this book from an Instagram giveaway hosted by @fatfeministwitch (Paige Vanderbeck) and @the.glam.witch (Michael Herkes) in July. They asked for affirmations based on one of the prompts in this book, and mine was “I am a child of the universe, my bones and blood are stardust!”

Positive Bits

I need other publishers to step up their game! The aesthetics of this journal and the other books I’ve received from them are literally magical. We get colors and artwork scattered throughout the book, lending inspiration to the reader on every page. Journals and prompt books can come across as plain or even dull, especially when the majority of a page is full of straight lines for us to write. In this journal, we get the expected lines to fill in with our thoughts, but every single page has borders with color and symbols to tickle your fancy. The overall effect of this layout is a feeling of focused creativity.

Of course, the content itself is more important that the appearance. For my first read-through, I chose not to actually perform any of the writing activities or rituals while reviewing the full picture. Yet I found myself brainstorming page after page, staring off into space while I considered the prompt or spell worksheet at hand. As someone who’s been struggling with a witchy listlessness for some time now, it amazed me to feel so focused on each idea the journal presented. Not every spell suggestion fit my needs, but enough of them did to make the collection useful to any witch who might be looking for some inspiration.

There’s also a beauty in using a journal with prompts like this completely out of order. The topics are divided into basic sections: Summon Your Spells, Record Your Rituals, Relish Your Recipes, and Make Your Magic. What this really means is that there are prompts for spells, a review of large rituals celebrating the year, some recipes to craft around the kitchen, and a combination of various magical tools. You can work to create your own magical oil recipe, then turn around and use that for a prompted spell for protection. I’d actually recommend jotting down the page numbers of incorporated items like the oil recipe on any other pages it appears in, just to make finding your recipe easily when the time comes. All in all, the ties between items are loose enough that there’s no need to move chronologically through the exercises in order to gain their benefits.

Less Enjoyable Bits

This journal may not do much for a brand new witch. Without some basic background knowledge of various topics (elements, herbs, colors, crystals, and so forth), the prompts may come across as a bit overwhelming. However, some patience and the use of a couple outside resources could overcome this issue.

In a completely personal preference, I wish this journal was bound in a spiral. As a lefty in particular, I don’t enjoy the feeling of resistance that the left side of the book applies to your hand as you write in a bound book. That’s why my own active grimoire is a spiral journal instead, because it can truly lay flat. To be fair, though, I’m not sure that many publishers have the equipment (or desire) to bind books in anything other than traditional methods.

More prompts related to personal associations would’ve been wonderful. We get into some basics throughout the journal, but we didn’t dive into the elements or moon phases as they relate to us as individuals. Considering how different my relationship with the elements has been based on location (living in Texas versus living in the Pacific Northwest), that would’ve been an interesting direction to explore together.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Magic isn’t something purely outside of ourselves; it’s equally pulled from within. We find it in our memories, feelings, and relationships, and our inner voice weaves this magic into the fabric of who we are and how we see ourselves. – page xi

The act of preparing food, for others or yourself, is inherently imbued with the energies of love, care, and healing. – page 70

The flame of your candle can release your wishes out into the universe, attract blessings and spirits with its warm light, and bring psychic revelations through smoke and wax. – page 102

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – particularly if you need some inspiration to get your magical creativity flowing. The variety of topics touched by this journal is like the rainbow of light a prism casts onto the walls as the sun hits – there’s a bit of every color mixed in!

Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “Green Witchcraft” by Paige Vanderbeck

Full Title: Green Witchcraft: A Practical Guide to Discovering the Magic of Plants, Herbs, Crystals, and Beyond
Author: Paige Vanderbeck
Published: February 2020 by Rockridge Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Wicca, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Religion
Edition Details: 169 pages, trade paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

Paige Vanderbeck is The Fat Feminist Witch, and she posts across various social media on witchcraft and related topics. She’s best known for her podcast, which is available on most podcast providers.

To be fair, though, I don’t do podcasts. I don’t have the focus to listen to someone speak without a visual, so I’ve only listened to one or two of her live shows thanks to Facebook Live. Still, between those and her non-podcast posts, it was exciting to see her publishing a book on green witchcraft. Added to that, I’m working to find new books for my personal library that aren’t a few decades old, so this definitely looked like a good option.

Positive Bits

Right off the bat, I think this book was written with the right amount of openness. What I mean is that we’re provided with just enough information and structure to function, but then we’re told to look into each topic ourselves and experience it directly. Too many books fall into the trap of telling you how energy feels or how magic works without giving any flexibility. In this book, we’re given a look at how each of our senses can interact with energies; as someone who can visualize the taste and smell of a peach but can’t visualize the image itself, I appreciated the discussion of different psychic senses being involved in your magical processes.

The fact that this book limits each category (stones, plants, etc) to fifteen examples is the perfect balance between being informational and being intuitive. By giving us a handful of examples and their basic magical information, we’re shown what potential different plants and stones have without being spoon fed associations to use. I think we could all use more intuition on our magic! Paige specifically tells us to consider the local flora for our magical workings, which is something I’ve been inspired to do now that I own a house. Having lived in half a dozen climates around the world while growing up, I can see the obvious benefit of looking at your specific location for plants, stones, trees, and other creatures to work into your magic.

Each spell and mixture of ingredients is satisfying as well as powerful. I love the simplicity of things like magical bath salts, because it’s important to bring your magic into your mundane moments like bath time. There’s also a note on several of the spells that explain optional additions to the working; this allows the caster to remain as simple or complex in their magic as they so desire. All in all, nothing felt inaccessible due to cost or content.

Less Enjoyable Bits

If you’re looking for a deep dive into the details of green witchcraft or a huge compendium of magical stones and plants, you’re going to be disappointed. This book is an introduction into green witchcraft and ways to incorporate it into your life, not an intensive guide into the dark corners of earth-based magic. Keep that in mind.

It would’ve been nice to see more information on how to find or discover the magical uses for different plants and stones. Sure, you can go buy a random collection, but I think there’s more power in figuring out magical associations yourself. The book tiptoes next to this idea, but we’re presented with things like elemental and astrological associations for items without any reference as to where or how to find those details. It was a missed opportunity to look a little closer at the intuitive side of green witchcraft.

I’ll be honest. I’m wracking my brain to find things I didn’t like about this book, and I can’t really think of any good reasons. I mean, I wish it was longer?

Tidbits Worth Repeating

The most important plants, herbs, and flowers for you to learn about are the ones that grow locally. What kinds of trees grow where you live? What are the native flower species? Are there poisonous plants and fungi onto which you might stumble? Their energy is all around you, and you have the privilege to be able to interact with them at all stages of growth, learning exactly how they work. – page 27

Your morning coffee is already a magical potion that energizes you and brings mental clarity. – page 79

As you go forward, creating your own path as you go, remember to remain curious and humble in the wilderness. – page 160

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – With two decades of witching under my belt, I can get a little annoyed at the repetition found in beginner’s books. Not this time! This book is perfect for a beginner, but it’s also inspired me to take a renewed look at my own path.

Posted in [poetry], [witchcraft & wonder]

a match of cosmic proportions [poem]

I thought I’d spend forever searching for my match
the Erebos to my Nyx if you will
someone who is so obviously mine
it’s probably an act of nature for us to be joined
I thought my Hades would climb into my wandering life
and end my pale Persephone problems with an adventure
I thought the one who’d love me right
would be a faithful supplicant at my altar
and worthy of my blessings
I thought wrong
yet I was still right
my forever arrived like a prophecy at Delphi
she was the Apollo to my Artemis
a tough woman filled with everything I needed
as well as everything I’m not capable of being
our balance
is the kind of love they write myths about
a match of cosmic proportions

Posted in [poetry], [witchcraft & wonder]

love as a pilgrimage [poem]

when I tell you I love you
it is the holiest truth I can give voice to
know that this heart is a cavernous temple
too dangerous to traverse
and those words are your guide
to the only safe passageway into me
and you will enter at your own risk
I cannot save you from the darkness
the unseen traps
the terrifying silence that seems almost alive
you won’t enter this sacred ruin
and return home unchanged
the journey will change you
whether you like it or not
if you value your ignorance
your agnostic outlook on life and love
shut your ears to these divine words
do not love me
turn around
run
and never look back

Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “Badass Ancestors” by Patti Wigington

Full Title: Badass Ancestors: Finding Your Power with Ancestral Guides
Author: Patti Wigington
Published: September 2020 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Witchcraft, Magic Studies, Angels & Spirit Guides, Spirituality
Edition Details: 256 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – requested by me
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

I know you don’t usually judge a book by its cover, but a good cover design can get your attention long enough to have you reading the description. That happened here, where the cover art drew me in and then the details had me requesting an advanced readers’ copy on NetGalley.

I don’t work with ancestors in my current practice. My family is a far-flung mess of people, with my biological father’s side completely unknown to me. I’ve always wondered where you would begin to work with ancestors in that kind of situation.

Positive Bits

To be honest, I only made it to the end of Chapter 3 before pre-ordering a physical copy of this book. In the introduction, the author already drew me in with a discussion of chosen family, adopted family, and purposefully severed family ties. She then followed through with that promise from the start, covering different definitions of family and ancestors than just blood relatives.

This book provides both research guidance and ancestor rituals with equal balance between spiritual and mundane methods. I found myself browsing some of the suggested resources just to see what I could find, losing a few hours just poking around online. Thanks to prior family tree work, I know there’s one branch of Filipino heritage I can trace back to ship records, but the author provided suggestions that led to a local ancestor’s grave and a marriage to an actress in the 1930s. Neither of those details came up in previous searches, because I didn’t know where to start.

Meanwhile, the rituals are very approachable and intuitive. Her suggestions for tying in culturally relevant foods resonated with me the most, as I’m a foodie at heart and love trying unfamiliar recipes. The idea of integrating that love into something I can share with my ancestors to show them appreciation just made sense. Again, I found myself down a research rabbit hole as I looked into traditional Filipino recipes and clothing (prior to colonization), but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Less Enjoyable Bits

As with most books, there were parts that didn’t speak to me. As a polytheist, I couldn’t connect to Chapter 8 as the author discussed calling archetypes in place of unknown ancestors. The idea hadn’t sounded strange when it was mentioned prior to that chapter, but then she used deities as if they were archetypes throughout this section. That may work for a non-religious witch or someone who believes deities are archetypes of the Unnamed Divine. However, as a person who’s worked to develop relationships with individual deities along my path, I can’t connect to the idea of treating them like ancestors or symbols instead of actual gods.

I’ll admit that I felt a little lost and left out at times, though it’s not the author’s fault. My family is a tangle web of marriages and divorces, immigrants, lost records, and poor folks. I don’t have family heirlooms or anything older than my grandparents’ generation. We have almost no pictures older than that, either. And don’t get me started on how being poor means not putting down roots! All of that is to say, sometimes the author’s descriptions of how her research progressed (talking to elder living relatives, asking about family heirlooms or where traditions started, looking up local newspapers) felt unfamiliar and almost impossible.

Efforts were made to pull in options for those without steady family trees. They were imperfect, but I appreciate the attempt. By the end of the book, I could tell I’m still out of luck on some fronts when it comes to ancestor tracing and the related spiritual workings. Thankfully, there were plenty of other parts that spoke to me and gave me guidance for working with the ancestors I can reach.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Our ancestors were survivors of things far more frightening than our first-world problems. They were strong. How do we know that? Because you’re here. Your bloodline survived millennia of plague, war, pestilence, famine, infant mortality, and just plain old bad luck… just to make you. That means your ancestors were badasses. – in the Introduction

It’s not that a rebel is unaware of those constraints; they simply don’t allow themselves to be held by them. The rebel brings about freedom by way of dissent and justice by way of rebellion. – in Chapter 8, Connecting to Archetypical Badasses

Family traditions tend to have other benefits as well. In our hectic and chaotic, non-stop busy lives, a ritualized tradition offers a feeling of comfort. They give us a constant. – in Chapter 11, Your Badass Legacy

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – because I had a free digital ARC and still pre-ordered the physical book. This is the best introduction to ancestor work in a spiritual context that I’ve come across, and there’s value for both the traditional family person and someone like myself with a less structured family tree.

Posted in [poetry], [witchcraft & wonder]

a hex on all scammers, liars, and thieves [poem]

Persephone hear my cry
fury pulsing through my veins
I fucked up
I made a mistake and admit it as such
but still there are those out in the world who
lead hardworking people astray
I am a victim of treachery and deceit
unknown faces speaking false names
please strike them with your righteous vengeance
take down those who
damage the livelihoods of others
let them regret their choices
as much as I regret my mistakes
make them pay
for I surely will

Posted in [poetry], [witchcraft & wonder]

the act of burning [poem]

incense smoke has a way
of permeating everything it touches
it becomes holy
not in the act of burning down
but rather
in the way it rises up from its own ashes
to spread across a sacred space
it is the layman’s holy water
which is to say
anyone can light a stick or cone
and set its blessings loose without the help
of a priest
or a good book
or a god
I keep the incense burning
especially when I need to remind myself
of my own godliness
that this body is temple
and these choices I make are worship
at this woman altar
my love has become the smoke
curling around everything I can reach
like my heart knows nothing
but the desire to make everyone and everything
holy

Posted in [poetry], [witchcraft & wonder]

fairy tale choices [poem]

I read a fairy tale once
one with courts of creatures vying for
the biggest slice of mortal pie
trying to outdo each other left and right
at how best to use a human being for play
there was a queen and her sister
opposites in every way
she was the birthplace of order
of straight lines and rules
and her sister was a hot mess personified
sometimes I feel like the sister
reveling in the chaos birthed by my mere presence
but usually I just want peace and quiet
and calm seas
most days
I’m the queen with all her inherent control
almost inflexible with it
if I were a fairy
I’d be the one granting wishes
exactly
as they’re worded
twisting dreams into nightmares for fun