3 Books for the Magical Activist

Witchcraft is not a political ideology, but it’s been frequently noted that it’s often the tool of the oppressed. It’s a type of power embraced by people who may have no other recourse. In that vein, while not all magical practitioners would consider themselves liberals, these three books have a definite liberal worldview. If that offends you, you won’t like any of them.

Hexing the Patriarchy is a small hardcover book with enchanting illustrations and quotes sprinkled in the margins. It’s only about 5×7 inches and 276 pages.

The book is set up to be alphabetical, for some reason. There are books that are alphabetical and it makes sense, like encyclopedias that cover a lot of different topics. It’s a way to organize the information. However, this book only has one entry per letter. So A is for Ancestors, B is for Binding, C is for Conjure.

The book is a hodgepodge of spells, rituals, recipes and activities, many written by Ariel Gore and some contributed by other writers. Although the other writers are credited in the sections where their spells appear, I wish there was a separate section at the back listing each contributor and a brief bio.

The book covers a wide variety of topics but doesn’t go into much depth on each one. Recipes are for things like Anti-Patriarchal-Bullshit Salt Scrub (page 39) and Personal Power Oil (page 67). Spells are things like Brujita Spell to Wear Down the Patriarchy (MK Chavez, p. 48) and Red Dragon Spells of Liberation from Supremacy Ideologies (Rhea Wolf, pm 55).

The chapter for F is “Fight Song”:

One of the ways the patriarchy undermines us is by making us feel like shit for everything from our waistlines to our leadership styles. By bombarding us with messages of unworthiness, these trolls hope to effectively disarm us so we’ll stay home shame-spiraling instead of hitting the streets and kicking their asses. To counter this, a witch needs an anthem.

Considering what we’re up against, we need a whole playlist of anthems.

p. 73

She goes on to recommend just such a playlist.

There is a brief introduction that explains why she wrote the book, addresses the controversy among witches about hexing, and lays out her purpose:

Patriarchy — the age-old system that enforces a gender binary and creates brutal hierarchies among men while universally privileging the masculine over the feminine — hurts all of us. It forces us to act as if men don’t need relationships, women don’t need selves, and trans and nonbinary people have no right to exist at all. We reject that system.

p. 15

Hexing the Patriarchy: 26 Potions, Spells, and Magical Elixirs to Embolden the Resistance

Ariel Gore

Seal Press, 2019

Magic for the Resistance was published earlier than the other books on this list, and it’s by an author who went viral for a spell to bind Donald Trump. It seems not to have worked, and if you’ve seen the prayer warriors who intervene (magically, though they’d never call it that) on his behalf, you’d have an idea why.

The man himself grew up in a church led by Norman Vincent Peale, who was famous for popularizing the Power of Positive Thinking. If you think that Trump doesn’t practice magic, you haven’t been paying attention.

I remember reading an article during the 2016 election that talked about a wall at his campaign headquarters that had pictures of his opponents (unflattering pictures, of course) and they were marked when they were “vanquished.” I am personally of the opinion that it makes no sense to cast magic against someone who works with magic because they have defenses, first of all, and often the ability to take the negative energy that is being sent their way and use it for their own purposes. If you don’t like the man, stop sending him your energy!

Aside from this, the book itself contains a lot of useful magical information. It starts with a general FAQ and a brief history of magical practitioners fighting off oppressors. Other chapters include Toolkit for Magical Activism, Offensive and Defensive Magic, Magic Beyond the Altar, Finding the Others: Coven and Community Building, Self-Care and Resilience, Preparation for Ritual, and The Magical Activist’s Spellbook.

A sample spell is “Black Lives Matter: Spell for Justice for a Victim of a Police Action” (p. 176), which is topical yet again (as it is all too often).

There’s an appendix in the back with some correspondences and some booklists divided by topic (I’m a sucker for sections in books that recommend even more books!).

In his chapter on Offensive and Defensive Magic, he discusses the differences of opinion on this type of magic, including people who don’t believe in ever doing any binding or hexing. He obviously does believe in it, but he explains:

It is also critical to examine how far you would go in a hex. If you wouldn’t do something by nonmagical means, don’t do it with magic. I advocate nonviolence as the most useful and practical mode of resistance, so I would never do magic that would physically harm or kill someone, like cursing someone to get cancer or to get hit by a bus, just as I wouldn’t slip a carcinogenic poison into their drink or shove them in front of a bus. I would most definitely do magic to nonviolently impede their actions from harming me or others I care about.

p. 89

Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change

Michael M. Hughes

Llewellyn Publications, 2018

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but we all do, and I have to say that this book has the least appealing cover of these three. That’s unfortunate, because the book itself is solid and the author is knowledgeable.

The first chapter has a section called Activism in Its Many Forms that covers “mundane” activism such as Petitioning and Letter-Writing, Lobbying, Outreach and Volunteering, Marching and Demonstrating, and Civil Disobedience and Direct Action. This is followed by a brief primer on how to do magic, from setting intent to raising power and magical follow-through.

The next section is called Getting to Work, and it’s broken into: Strategizing, Building a Defense, Building an Offense, and Victory and Loss. The Victory and Loss section has a spell to cultivate resilience and he says:

Throughout your efforts in both magic and activism, you will not only experience large victories and losses, but you’ll probably also experience them in smaller ways all along your journey. Certainly the work of justice and equality can feel like we are taking two steps forward one day and two steps back the next. When we’re lucky, it can feel like we’re speeding right up through the finish line as well. Because of the dynamic nature of victory and loss it is important that we channel the power of flexibility and adaptability with all things.

p. 128

The final chapter touches on magical activists in history.

Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance

David Salisbury

Weiser Books, 2019

The books are listed here in order from the most eclectic to the least. Hexing the Patriarchy is a magical cookbook. Magic for the Resistance includes a lot of information about different types of magic and some spells and recipes. Witchcraft Activism goes most deeply into activism itself and has the fewest spells.

I’d recommend Hexing the Patriarchy to someone who was new and wanted to peruse the subject for the first time. Magic for the Resistance is better suited for somebody who is already an experienced magical practitioner who wants ideas on how to incorporate magic into activism. Witchcraft Activism is the best choice for somebody who wants to get more deeply involved in activism on all levels and also wants to use a bit of magic while they’re at it.

6 Great Books on Kitchen Witchery

6 Great Books on Kitchen Witchery

The first book I would recommend on Kitchen Witchery is simply a comprehensive cookbook on the cuisine that you regularly eat. I can’t tell you which one this is, because it’s personal to you and your background, culture, and family history. If you come from a culture with a tradition of baking, I’d also recommend a basic baking book of your choosing.

As far as books specifically on making magic in the kitchen, here are six to start with:

Supermarket Magic is a spellbook centered around ingredients you can find at your local supermarket, unlike spellbooks of old that called for ingredients you’ve never heard of and have to track down through specialty dealers.

The first chapter, on Navigating the Supermarket, contains two simple meditations for grocery shopping. One is for protection and the other is an anti-anxiety orb. These may come in even more handy now than they did when the book was written.

The next two chapters cover magical basics and magical ethics. The author has written two books entirely on spellcasting, and these chapters are like a condensed primer.

From there the book become a spellbook organized by magical intention, covering:

  • Clearing and Cleansing
  • Harmony
  • Healing
  • Love, Lust, and Beauty Magic
  • Luck
  • Money
  • Protection
  • Psychic Ability and Divination
  • Sabbats and Esbats
  • Miscellany (this is a few simple tables of correspondences that most books would call the appendix)

There’s a brief section on pages 53-57 on how to make oils, potions, powders, and vinegars. Within each magical intention, there are several different types of recipes, ranging from brews, oils and bath salts to witch bottles, powders, and charms. And, of course, foods. An example of a recipe is a good luck blend on page144 that calls for only orange juice, strawberries, and vanilla extract.

Supermarket Magic: Creating Spells, Brews, Potions & Powders from Everyday Ingredients

Michael Furie

Llewellyn Publications, 2013

Supermarket Sabbats is from the same author as Supermarket Magic and it centers on the idea that:

…with a keen eye and careful shopping, we can find that all of our festivals have representation in the supermarket.

p. 2

There is a (very) brief introduction that covers how to make potpourri, brews, incenses, magical oils, powders, and vinegars (we’re talking a paragraph or two on each) and a brief intro to how to do magic. If you’re never done magic before, this won’t be enough, but if you have then it’s all you need.

From here we head into four seasonal sections: Winter Wonderland, Spring Forward, Summer Surge, and Autumn Harvest. Every Sabbat is covered, along with New Year’s and Valentine’s Day (for some reason). The last chapter is called Special Occasions and it covers solar and lunar eclipses and Leap Day.

Each section contains recipes for potpourri, brews, incense, oils, powders, charms, foods, bath salts, witch bottles. Some sections contain things like spring cleaners or amulets. Each Sabbat includes and very brief ritual and a shopping list of ingredients for the recipes in that section.

Appendices in the back include a basic color magic chart and a more useful ingredient table of correspondences that lists, for each herb or food, the element, planet, polarity, and magical uses.

Supermarket Sabbats: A Magical Year Using Everyday Ingredients

Michael Furie

Llewellyn Publications, 2017

A Cart Full of Magic is a small book of magical correspondences. This author has previously written a series of small spellbooks. This is not a spellbook. It doesn’t contain a bunch of recipes or rituals.

Part One is a brief rundown on things like magical supplies and tools, visualization, and grocery shopping with intention.

Part Two is correspondences for Food, Drink and More:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Bread
  • Dairy
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Grains and Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Baking Goods
  • Honey
  • Vinegar
  • Oils
  • Salt
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Water
  • Juice Drinks
  • Alcoholic Beverages

Part Three contains correspondences for Household, Hygiene, Beauty and Other Items:

  • Flowers
  • Essential Oils
  • Hygiene and Daily Ritual Products
  • Beauty
  • Housewares
  • Cleaning Products
  • Hardware
  • Seeds for Planting
  • Bird Food
  • Other Products (this section is a bunch of random items like candles, matches, safety pins, buttons, envelopes, jars)

Part Four is called Enhancing Magical Work. It includes using color correspondences, moon phases and days of the week, and some magical intentions such as happiness, health, love, money and the vegetable, flower, fruit, herb, essential oil, color, planet and day of the week to use in spells for that intention. There’s also a section on cleaning your home physically and spiritually.

It sounds like a lot to cover in a small book, and it is. It’s like the mini companion to the much larger Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences.

A Cart Full of Magic: Your Secret Supermarket Shopping List

Ileana Abrev

Llewellyn Publications, 2018

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen is a cross between a book of correspondences and a cookbook. It has an introductory section on tools, food magic, and festival festival foods.

The next section is lists of foods and their correspondences:

  • Breads & Grains
  • Cakes, Sweetened Breads, Cookies & Pies
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Spices & Herbs
  • Honey, Sugar, Chocolate, Carob, & Maple Syrup
  • Nuts & Alleged Nuts
  • Salt, Vinegar, Soup & Noodles
  • Food from Sea & River
  • Beer, Wine & Alcoholic Beverages, Tea & Coffee
  • The Mystic Egg
  • From the Dairy

After that is a section called Magical Food Diets that is arranged by magical intention and contains food recommendations and recipes for each:

  • Love
  • Protection
  • Health & Healing
  • Money
  • Sex
  • Spirituality
  • Psychic Awareness
  • Peace & Happiness
  • Purification
  • Weight Loss
  • Other Magical Food Diets (Physical Strength and Magical Power, Fertility, Grounding, Conscious Mind, Luck)

The next section is called Scott’s Favorite Recipes and it’s a cookbook in the standard format (by appetizers, beverages, etc.) but it’s less than 30 pages long and there’s a note from the editor saying that Cunningham had intended to write a separate cookout but died before it was complete. There are some correspondence tables in the back.

This book would appeal to a Cunningham fan, as it’s similar to his other encyclopedias. If you have several other books on kitchen witchery you may find it redundant, but it’s a good place to start.

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen

Scott Cunningham

Llewellyn Publications, 2013 (originally published in 1990)

Whereas the other books were magical books that happen to contain recipes, Romancing the Stove is a cookbook that happens to contain a bit of magic. It’s the most delicious book on this list, from an author who has written other cookbooks. It also has a focus on Roman goddesses, with sections like “She Wrote the Book on Playing Hard to Get” (a short essay on Vesta followed by recipes for Home-Brew Kahlua and Russian Huntress (which adds the Kahlua to crushed ice and vodka).

Interspersed among the recipes are short pieces about bath magic, candle magic, celebrating the seasons. Chapters include:

  • Good Goddess, Let’s Eat! The Kitchen Goddess Manifesto
  • Demeter’s Delights: Heartwarming Treasures for the Kid in All of Us
  • In Aphrodite’s Mixing Bowl: Delicious Pleasure and Tasty Favorites
  • Making Life a Picnic: Feel-Good Feasts at Nature’s Table
  • Vestal Pleasures: Food for Savoring Solitude
  • The Artemis Party: Fun Fare for Festive Occasions
  • Charmed Holidays: Celebrations for a Spell
  • The Golden Apple Invitational (this section has a story about the goddess of discord, Eris, and a recipe for Golden Apple Dumplings)

The best thing I can say about this cookbook is that I’ve been making Margie’s Cowboy Cookies (page 60) for almost two decades.

Romancing the Stove: Celebrated Recipes and Delicious Fun for Every Kitchen Goddess

Margie Lapanja

Conari Press, 2002 (previously published as Goddess in the Kitchen)

Witch in the Kitchen is another cookbook with magical sidebars rather than a magical book that also has recipes. Part One (Kitchen Magic) has information on making your kitchen a sacred space, setting up a kitchen altar, making a kitchen with apron, and performing kitchen rituals. There are some brief correspondences and idea for decorations.

The cookbook sections are: Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. There are essays on each season, early season recipes, Sabbat recipes, late season recipes. There are also some spells and rituals for each Sabbat.

Right now we’re in late spring, and her recipes in this section include:

  • Sensuous Spinach Soup
  • Wild Salad (including actual leaves you pick from outdoors, like dandelion)
  • Beltane Asparagus
  • Toaster Tamari Almonds
  • Risotto Primavera
  • Aphrodites Love Cakes

The book is not overtly vegetarian but the recipes are quietly plant-based.

There’s a short section in the back on emotions and kitchen work. For example:

For those emotional, weepy days: Chop a lot of onions. Let the tears flow. Make exaggerated crying noises.

p. 203

There’s even a section on page 205 for what to do when you can’t stand the thought of cooking (few cookbooks mention it, but we’ve all been there).

Witch in the Kitchen: Magical Cooking for All Seasons

Cait Johnson

Destiny Books, 2001

Confused about where to start? I recommend Supermarket Magic and, if you can afford two books to start with, Supermarket Sabbats. Happy kitchen witching!

Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences (Book Review)

The first thing you notice about this book is its size. The pages are about 8 inches by 10 inches and there are over 500 of them. It’s a paperback, sadly. It’s the kind of book that would be a tome if it were hardcover. It starts with an introduction, which is fewer than 10 pages, and the entire rest of the book is just what it sounds like: tables of correspondences.

The first section is sorted by issues, intentions and powers. So here’s where you’d look if you wanted to do a prosperity spell or a creativity spell.

The other sections are organized by Plant Kingdom (trees, herbs, garden plants and shrubs, miscellaneous plants), Mineral Kingdom (gemstone and minerals, metals and alloys, from the sea), Animal Kingdom (animals, birds, marine life, reptiles, insects and miscellaneous, mythical creatures), Deities and Other Beings (goddesses, gods, magical beings and spirits, angels), Astrological and Time Reckoning (the zodiac, the solar system, moon phases, the full moons, the seasons, the days of the week, the times of day, celebrations, the ogham and Celtic tree calendar, the runes and runic half-months) and Miscellaneous (the elements, the directions, colors, energy: yin and yang, the chakras, numbers, and the tarot).

There is an appendix (guide to plants) and an extensive index.

In a book this size, you’re bound to find a few things here and there that you disagree with. That’s actually good, because it means you’re forming your own correspondences. This book has plenty of room to write in the margins and it also has about ten blank pages in the back that you could use for your own notes.

The author admits in the introduction that her bias is toward Pagan and Wiccan correspondences because that’s what she knows best, so it might be less useful for ceremonial magicians, and she explains that Afro-Caribbean traditions are out of her area of expertise. She also delves into her ideas on why we use correspondences, and that she doesn’t think of them merely as tables but as webs of connection, “where the correspondences we use are not only associated with an intention but also with each other.”

Although we tend to reach for our favorite correspondences again and again, she says:

When it comes to magical correspondences, I found that using different ones from time to time provides a way to fine-tune rituals and especially spells. While it is true that power is built up over time by repeated use of something, stepping off the beaten path to explore different approaches is when magic really happens.

p. 1

This is a book that I owned for a few years as an ebook but eventually ended up buying the paperback. I works better as a paperback. It’s a reference book you’ll want on your shelf if you’re writing your own spells.

5 out of 5 stars

Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences: A Comprehensive & Cross-Referenced Resource for Pagans & Wiccans

Sandra Kynes

Llewellyn Publications, 2019 (originally published in 2013)

5 Great Books on Herbal Magic

5 Great Books on Herbal Magic

If you’re just getting started in herbal magic, the perfect place to start is with Ellen Dugan’s Herb Magic for Beginners. Dugan is a master gardener who has taught classes and written several books on herbs and magic. This book is smaller than the others on this list but it’s full of information and well-organized.

She starts with What is Herb Magic? which covers the basics of what herbs are, how to gather them, how herb magic and spell craft work. Then she moves into days of the week and phases of the moon with their herbal correspondences, as well as herbs and their planetary and elemental rulers.

Then comes the meat of the book: chapters on different types of magic (Love and Happiness, Well-Being and Comfort, Protection, Prosperity) and how to use herbs for each type. Within this section, each magical intention is broken down into herbs from the spice rack, plants you may not know are herbs, trees, and “Garden Witchery: From Garden to Cauldron.” Scattered throughout this section are spells, charms, sachets, amulets.

The final chapter is on Writing Your Own Herbal Spells and Charms, which includes an herbal spell worksheet and this advice:

So, live on the edge, and go pick up a spiral notebook and keep a record of your research and spellwork. Dare to study the basics. Get in there and adapt some charms, and try your hand at writing your own herb magic. Commit some herbal and magical knowledge to memory, and then create and cast spells and herb magics of your own creation. In truth, this is how you become a more advanced magical practitioner.

p. 166

There is an appendix in the back with all of the herbs featured in this book, along with their correspondence and emergency substitutions.

Herb Magic for Beginners: Down-to-Earth Enchantments

Ellen Dugan

Llewellyn Publications, 2019 (originally published 2006)

There’s a reason Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs is a classic. When I bought this copy, the cashier at Barnes & Noble told me I’d have it for the rest of my life. What she didn’t know was that I was buying this to replace the copy I’d been using since 1999.

This book starts with “The Basics”: The Power of Herbs, a few notes on how to do magic, Spells and Procedures, and Magical intentions. In the back are tons of tables of herbs by gender, planetary rules, elemental rulers, magical intentions, colors, and folk names.

The bulk of the book, however, is the alphabetical listings of hundreds of herbs. Each entry includes Latin name, folk names, gender, planet, element, deity, powers, and a section on magical uses that can range from a few sentences to several paragraphs.

There are wide margins with line art of many of the herbs and plenty of room for you to make your own notes. Every witch I know consults this book when writing spells.

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs

Scott Cunningham

Llewellyn Publications, 2016 (originally published 1985)

Another classic book by Scott Cunningham, The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews is basically a magical cookbook. Like the Encyclopedia of Magic Herbs, this book also starts with some basics on magic and includes several tables in the back for correspondences and substitutions.

The main part of the book includes hundreds of recipes for:

  • incense
  • oils
  • ointments
  • inks
  • tinctures
  • herb baths
  • bath salts
  • brews
  • ritual soaps
  • sachet or herbal charms
  • powders
  • a miscellany of recipes (including things like rose love beads and witches’ love honey).

This book is a great base to get you started and to inspire you to create your own recipes.

The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews

Scott Cunningham

Llewellyn Publications, 2017 (originally published 1989)

These next two books are not technically magical books, but they’re great to learn herbalism from.

Healing Herbal Infusions is an entire book based on making things from simple herbal infusions that are basically like brewing tea. There are beautiful color photos throughout the book.

The beginning of the book covers basics like how to acquire plants and prepare them for issuing, how to make infucions and decoctions, ingredients and tips for turning them into salves, balms and butter, how to use and store your infusions, and safety considerations.

From there, the book is broken into sections by what you’d be using it for, from boosting your immunity, to soothing aches and pains, nourishing your skin, lips and hair, easing your digestion, or taking care of a pregnancy or new baby. Example recipes include a calendula and lavender “Healing Flower Whipped Body Butter.”

In the back of the book is an alphabetical listing of herbs and flowers with some basic information on them.

Healing Herbal Infusions: Simple and Effective Home Remedies for Colds, Muscle Pain, Upset Stomach, Stress, Skin Issues and More

Colleen Codekas

Page Street Publishing, 2018

Similar in content to Healing Herbal Infusions is Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary. It’s not as beautifully laid out but it does include color photography on several pages.

My favorite section of this book is several pages in the from called “Master Recipes” that show how to make a basic capsule, basic fomentation, basic herbal oil, medicinal tea, basic poultice, basic salve, basic spray, basic suppository, basic syrup, basic tincture, basic wash. This section would be valuable to have at your side when you’re making any herbal recipe from this book or any other, because of the clear simple instructions with step-by-step photographs.

The next section is Key Ingredients, which shows a color photo of each herbs and provides information like where to get herbs and which parts are used.

The main part of the book is the recipes, and they’re arranged by topic, such as men’s health, women’s health, immune defense.

Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary: 375 Tinctures, Salves, Teas, Capsules, Oils and Washes for Whole Body Health and Wellness

JJ Pursell

Timber Press, 2019

Together these five books give a complete beginner education in herbal magic. If you can only get one or two, I’d start with Herb Magic for Beginners and Healing Herbal Infusions and add some Cunningham books later.

Poppet Magick (Book Review)

Poppet Magick (Book Review)

Poppet Magick is exactly what it sounds like: a comprehensive guide to making and using dolls in magic. Although the topic of poppet magic is likely to conjure up ideas of “voodoo dolls” and other unsavory magic, this book is set up more like a crafting book than a scary tome. It’s not a book about curses. Unlike most Llewellyn books, Poppet Magick is printed on glossy paper with full-color photography. There are step-by-step instructions for crafting several types of dolls and plushies, and patterns are included.

The book covers a brief history of poppets (including a theory on how the association with “voodoo dolls” came about), choosing your materials and crafting your poppet, magical timing, color magic, and other spell items to stuff the poppet with. She also talks about rituals for naming the poppet and birthing it or bringing it to life (and later deactivating or decommissioning it). For some reason the process of making the doll, stuffing it and putting something special inside, then ritually “bringing it to life” reminded me strongly of the Build-a-Bear Workshop. This book even contains ingredients for a poppet that banishes nightmares, which is likely the purpose of teddy bears.

She also covers folk magic staples like the SATOR square, hex signs, and various seals and sigils. Although there is a lot of focus on cloth poppets, she includes information about working with clay and even with found rocks and other unusual substitutes. One of my favorites is her “Bird Seed Love and Good Fortune Spirit Doll” (page 143) which reminded me of treats you can buy your pet bird except that it’s doll-shaped.

There are several projects that would take months to work through and would give you a firm base to start using poppets in your own practice. She has lists of correspondences for making poppets for love, money, protection, success, steady income, truth, removing pain, and more. If you’ve never worked with poppets, this book will get you started. If you’ve been working with poppets for years, this book will reinvigorate your practice with new ideas.

five out of five stars

Poppet Magick: Patterns, Spells & Formulas for Poppets, Spirit Dolls & Magickal Animals

Silver Ravenwolf

Llewellyn Publications, 2018

The Witch’s Book of Shadows (Book Review)

There are two main types of witches: those whose practice mostly centers on rituals, and those who rarely do a formal ritual. Jason Mankey is firmly in the first category. This is reflected in a book on books of shadows that focuses more on books of rituals than on spell books. In fact, this book talks a lot about the author’s own path as a Gardnerian and the books he’s inherited as part of his path. Which is interesting in its own way but almost completely irrelevant to the vast majority of readers who have no interest in pursuing Gardnerian Wicca.

I like that he talks about having multiple books over the years, instead of feeling like you have to cram everything into one giant tome. I also like the focus on being practical and making a book you will use rather than on merely reproducing a movie prop. Though I love that aesthetic, it has a tendency to put so much pressure on us that some witches have no BOS because they can’t have the perfect BOS.

Mankey covers the history of magical books, putting together your own, what to put in one, magical alphabets, deities, using your book in ritual, cleansing and consecrating your book, and using technology such as an iPad in circle and the idea of storing your BOS entirely on a flash drive or in the cloud.

In addition to the text written by Mankey, there are also smaller essays called, “Every Trick in the Book.” My favorites are, “You Are Writing Your Own History” by Thorn Mooney and, “No-Fear Grimoire Crafting” by Laura Tempest Zakroff. Zakroff’s sections liken the BOS to a family cookbook that has been handed down and has notes in the margins and index cards and clippings stuffed in. She says:

It’s a work in progress, a growing, changing hodgepodge of stuff — which is exactly how you should view your Book of Shadows!

Your BoS should be an active, working collection of your thoughts, a place to gather your ideas and collage your favorite images and inspirations, a book that gets wax spilled on it during this candle spell and wine spilled on it during that esbat. it’s not the physical beauty of the book that makes it special or sacred, but the collection of experiences you gather upon its pages.

location 703 of the ebook

I liked her essay enough that I almost wish she’d written this particular book, with perhaps a short essay by Mankey on preserving the BOS handed down in one’s tradition.

One notably bizarre section of the book was on, “Retiring a Book of Shadows.” I like the part where he discussing passing the magic from the book into a new volume, as your active book will change over the years and a retired book may be shelved. Where he lost me was the idea that one would burn their book when it gets old and shabby. He says it’s about “oathbound promises,” which would make sense if he were talking about burning a witch’s book after they had died. But he’s talking about a binding wearing out and the book “leaking pages” (here I made the note, “Wait until he hears about book repair tape!”). Old and rare books are archived and handled with gloves, but burned? Just for being beat up? Like the Velveteen Rabbit, that’s when a book becomes Real.

As much as I gripe, the book does have plenty of ideas worth using and plenty of suggestions I may try. In particular, I liked his section on the difference between cleansing, consecrating and blessing. If you use your BOS mainly for ritual, you may appreciate that focus but if yours is more of the cookbook of spells you may be frustrated that the entire focus of the book is on stuff you won’t really use. There’s plenty of material here that you’ll inevitably find something that inspires you.

four out of five stars

The Witch’s Book of Shadows

Jason Mankey

Llewellyn Publications, 2017

Modern Witch Tarot Deck (Deck Review)

Modern Witch Tarot Deck (Deck Review)

The Modern Witch Tarot Deck reads right out of the box if you’re experienced with the Rider Waite tarot symbolism. This deck is a very close RWS clone and the imagery will be familiar to you. Its uniqueness is in its modern illustrations of women, femmes, and adrongynous characters. Some of them are dressed like they just stepped off a city street into a medieval landscape, like the Six of Wands, who wears torn black jeans while riding a white horse and carrying a victory branch.

This deck celebrates diversity and includes witch of various races, ethnicities, body sizes and ages. The Queen of Wands is the first card I ever remember seeing that depicts vitiligo. The Four of Pentacles and Eight of Pentacles are wearing glasses.

Although this deck came out before the coronavirus, the Five of Wands show a group of people, some of whom are wearing face masks and some who aren’t, and they’re fighting with each other! It looks like a card that shows what’s happening in the news right now but it was released last July.

The cards come with a small hardcover book in a sturdy box (not like the regular boxes that get torn up over time and lead to people needing separate bags to store their decks). The backs are reversible. There is a small amount of nudity on a few cards. The card stock is thick — so much so that the stacked deck is nearly twice as tall as my other decks.

This deck would be perfect for anyone who has already learned the Rider Waite system or wants a deck they can learn traditional symbolism from so they can study with the majority of tarot books on the market, but who also wants to see a diversity of people represented. This deck is particularly suited to witches, women, and LGBTQ people of color.

five out of five stars

Modern Witch Tarot Deck

Lisa Sterle

Sterling Ethos, 2019

Moonology Oracle Cards (Deck Review)

Moonology Oracle Cards (Deck Review)

The Moonology Oracle Cards are a lovely deck of pictures of the moon. Humans have admired the moon for thousands of years or longer so it’s no surprise that this deck is beautiful. There are 44 cards and a small companion book by Yasmin Boland. There are moon phase cards (new moon, waxing crescent, full moon, etc.), astrological cards for new moons and full moons (New Moon in Aries, Full Moon in Aries, etc.) and “special moon cards” like New Moon Eclipse, Full Moon Eclipse, Void-of-Course Moon, Supermoon, etc.

Each card has a label across the bottom with the card name and a simple statement or question such as, for the New Moon Eclipse, “Expect powerful change;” or, for the Waning Moon, “What do you need to release?”

The book then expands on the card, for example the Waning Moon says:

The Waning Moon points to what’s falling away. Life goes in cycles and sometimes we need downtime or to let go. No matter when in the Moon cycle you pull this card, it’s a sign that a situation has peaked, for better or worse, and it’s time for you to go easier. It’s the autumn and winter of the cycle. So what do you need to release? Almost certainly something from the situation you’re asking about. This card can be very positive but it can still be gently suggesting that you let something go and stop trying so hard.

p. 100

Then for each card the book has Attune to the Moon (a short affirmation such as, “It’s safe to let go and move on.”), a bullet-point list of Additional Meanings for This Card, and a small summary called The Teaching. The book also includes a few basic spreads.

As an oracle, this might be a good deck to use for questions of timing, like “When should I start work toward such-and-so goal?” I also think you could pull out a card to place on your altar that corresponds with the Esbat, like, New Moon in Gemini or Full Moon in Sagittarius. If you want to learn more about the lunar cycles, you could work with this deck all year, meditating on each card in turn as it comes up in the calendar.

If you love the moon as much as I do, you will enjoy this deck.

five of five stars

Moonology Oracle Cards

Yasmin Boland

Artwork by Nyx Rowan

Hay House, 2018

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal (Book Review)

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal (Book Review)

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal is the companion to the Dreams of Gaia Tarot. It features full-page, full-color reproductions of several of the cards (44 if I counted correctly; more than half the deck).

It’s set up in a similar way to other Blue Angel Journals like The Jasmine Becket-Griffith Writing & Creativity Journal or the Book of Shadows and Light. It has lovely ivory pages, some blank and others lined. This one, thankfully, doesn’t have any distracting quotes on the pages.

Although the pictures are from a tarot deck, the deck differs so much from a standard tarot deck that the images aren’t overtly tarot; they could simply be fantasy paintings. Since the journal itself is not a guided journal and doesn’t mention tarot at all anywhere but the cover, this could easily be a journal you use for another purpose. It lends itself particularly to being a Book of Shadows or dream journal. It might also be a place to record your insights after meditation or ritual. I can even see it being used as a morning pages journal, when you’re switching from a dream state to an awakened one.

Like other journals from this brand, it is not hardcover. However the softcover is quite sturdy and the signatures are sewn. It’s beautiful in a way that makes me want to frame the artwork rather than write on the pages. One of the most stunning journals I’ve seen.

5 out of 5 stars

The Dreamer’s Story Tarot Journal

Ravynne Phelan

Blue Angel Publishing, 2017

Dreams of Gaia Tarot (Deck Review)

Dreams of Gaia Tarot (Deck Review)

Dreams of Gaia Tarot is an absolutely stunning deck by Ravynne Phelan. The artwork is gorgeous, luminous. The cards are thick heavy cardstock. Their size is great for being able to see the luscious art, but awkward to shuffle. Likewise, the clear PVC coating gives a gloss that makes the pictures shine but can make the cards stick while you’re trying to shuffle.

In addition to being hard to shuffle, the cards have also shifted so much from a standard tarot that they’re practically a brand-new oracle. There is a major arcana and four suits (air, fire, water, earth) but none of the standard tarot symbology remains.

The major arcana has 25 cards instead of the regular 22 and they have been substantially reinvisioned. For example, card XV is the Devil in most decks but rather than find some way of expressing some aspect of the Devil, card XV in Dreams of Gaia is Abundance. And the author doesn’t mean that in some way that shows temptation or materialism but literally,:

Abundance is defined as a state of plenty. When the Abundance card appears, it signifies a feeling of abundance, of appreciation, that opens you to the abundance that surrounds you. In turn, this feeling gives rise to an abundance consciousness.

(p. 95)

For this reason, you may want to spend some time exploring these cards and their book before reading with them even (or especially) if you’ve been reading tarot for awhile. The book is small but meaty and for each card it gives a list of keywords, some key phrases, an in-depth meaning, and, for reversals, “potential blockage.”

To me the deck seems far more suited for meditation, journeying, pathworking or journaling than for reading. Each card is so beautiful you will want to stare at it awhile so it works fantastically for meditation. I can also see its use in ritual, for example putting the king and queen of each element at the quarters or on the altar. It would also make an inspirational deck for a fantasy writer.

There is almost no diversity in this deck. The man on the Four of Earth is black and the Choice card depicts a white face and a black face side by side in a tree. There are literally more dragons than people of color in this deck, as the Ace of each suit is a dragon of that element. It reflects more of a high fantasy Norse or Celtic pseudo-medieval landscape than the modern world.

There is very little nudity in the deck but card XXIII “Integrity” is sitting there with her breasts and full bush on display, making this deck not suitable for readings for children or adults who would be offended.

The difficult in shuffling such a large glossy deck and the lack of diversity make this a four star deck rather than five. Overall it’s one of the most beautiful and, as its name suggests, dreamlike decks I’ve seen.

four out of five stars

Dreams of Gaia Tarot

Ravynne Phelan

Blue Angel Publishing, 2018