Archive for the Book Review Category

My Thoughts on Starr Casas’ Hoodoo Herbal

Posted in Book Review on September 21, 2022 by Occult Detective

The latest release on schedule from Weiser Books is Hoodoo Herbal: Folk Recipes for Conjure & Spellwork with Herbs, Houseplants, Roots & Oils by Starr Casas, set to drop on the 1st of October, once spooky season is in full swing.

Here’s the publisher’s two cents:

This definitive guide to Hoodoo plant magic contains detailed information on dozens of roots and herbs.

In Hoodoo Herbal, Starr Casas shares a lifetime of experience and family secrets in her usual plain-spoken, direct, and friendly style.
 
Mama Starr makes Hoodoo plant magic accessible to all. For example, snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata)—common houseplants that are readily available at garden stores and supermarkets—possess a long reputation for successfully keeping lying tongues from disrupting your home. As their leaves resemble a double-edged sword, they are believed able to cut through malicious works (spells) that may have been sent against you. They are valued for their anti-gossip properties.
 
The book features information about a wide variety of plants and how to use them, as well as practical tips regarding planting seeds, cutting, transplanting, and caring for plants so that they will care for you, too. Starr advises that as the plants thrive and grow, the works for which they are used will grow stronger, too—as will you.

Anyone with an interest in Conjure need look no further than Mama Starr. This is as down-home and authentic as you’re going to find and a perfect companion work to Old Style Conjure, which I reviewed HERE.

And companion work it is. I highly recommend you visit Old Style Conjure first, though, if not, it is still very serviceable and chock full of information steeped in the Southern folkway.

Hoodoo Herbal serves as a great introduction to practical plant magic and you can approach it purely from that point of view, but it works best, I think, as a tool, as a guidebook into this world, which is why I suggest delving into her previous works as well, to get the full flavor.

But trust me. Hoodoo Herbal can stand alone. I just think you’re better served to explore the vast wealth of knowledge Mama Starr brings to the table.

I adore the graphic design of the book, especially the cover art and vibrant colors. Looks fantastic on the shelf.

Hoodoo Herbal: Folk Recipes for Conjure & Spellwork with Herbs, Houseplants, Roots & Oils by Starr Casas is available October 1st, wherever books are sold. Here’s a link to it on AMAZON.

My Thoughts on A Spirit Work Primer by Naag Loki Shivanath

Posted in Book Review on September 13, 2022 by Occult Detective

A small, independent publisher out of Chicago, Crossed Crow Books, reached out to me some months back, asking for my review of a title they’d planned to re-release called A Spirit Work Primer: A Beginner’s Guide to Streamlined Spirit Work by Naag Loki Shivanath.

Here is the publisher’s description of the second edition of this work.

***

Invocation, Evocation, Possession These words conjure forth feelings of unease and confusion for many magical practitioners, even today. This book, however, is a fantastic guide intended to shed some much needed light on these often misunderstood subjects. Within these pages, spirit worker and necromancer Naag Loki Shivanath serves as guide and teacher, taking all readers through a sophisticated yet highly practical system of spirit conjuration. If you’ve been interested in learning how to sharpen your spirit senses, safely practice spirit possession, work through spirit invocation and evocation, then this tome is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Whether you are a follower of the more ritualized manifestations of the magical arts or a Witch looking to deepen your practice with the spirit world, A Spirit Work Primer will prove to be a valuable resource that is referenced time and time again.

***

A Spirit Work Primer was originally published by the author in 2017. The 2022 edition available now from Crossed Crow Books is an updated version, with more competent editing and better packaging. My review copy came by way of pdf, so I cannot vouch for the physical copy of the book, but the formatting and graphic design are solid. It’s clean, neat, and with excellent production values.

Admittedly, the author’s narrative voice felt off to me at first, but I eventually fell into his rhythm and I actually got rather comfortable with it. The information contained is sound magical instruction, but coming on the heels of having read Jason Miller’s Consorting with Spirits, A Spirit Primer suffers somewhat. But only just.

There are some very intriguing techniques delved into here, progressing from beginner to very advanced levels, and the author admirably navigates this with very insightful commentary throughout the experience. As a workbook, A Spirit Work Primer, really delivers.

The author is to be commended for producing a work that’s very tradition neutral. It’s a book anyone, from any background, can dive into and come out better for it. It is a very practical and informative guide and I would not hesitate to recommend it, particularly to someone new to the practice.

A Spirit Work Primer: A Beginner’s Guide to Streamlined Spirit Work by Naag Loki Shivanath is available via AMAZON for less than $20. Well worth it. In fact,l I’ll be picking up a physical copy for myself.

My Thoughts on Ancestral Grimoire by Nancy Hendrickson, published by @WeiserBooks

Posted in Book Review on September 9, 2022 by Occult Detective

Sometimes books enter your life you didn’t know you needed. Ancestral Grimoire is one of those books. I received it a few weeks back from the publisher, Weiser Books, along with another, the rerelease of Gerina Dunwich’s seminal Gemstone & Crystal Magic (highly recommended). I was behind on other reviews, some pressing deadlines, and, to be honest, I’ve been rather sick off and on for almost a year and it’s rather taxing. Nevertheless, these books tend to be healers, of mind, body, and spirit, and Ancestral Grimoire was just such a visitor.

Here’s what the publisher had to say about it:

“Hendrickson takes readers on a magical journey where they learn how to construct a personal Book of Shadows filled with ancestral wisdom.” —Theresa Reed, author of Twist Your Fate
 
Most of us know our immediate family and maybe even a generation or two beyond, but few of us are attuned to those who lived earlier. Many of us have forgotten how to keep our own stories alive. This is where the ancestors come in and where this book begins.

Ancestral Grimoire is a guide to reconnecting with your ancestors. It will show you how to access their unique wisdom—their magic!—and create your own personal ancestral grimoire, a spell book or Book of Shadows, unique to you and your heritage. Through divination, intuition, and sometimes a little luck, you will learn the magic of each ancestor and how you can use their gifts to make your life richer and more fulfilling.

As you go through this book, you’ll save your ancestral work in a journal or loose-leaf binder that will become the place to store the stories, spells, rituals, and everyday life, lore, and legend of twelve of your ancestors. At the end of a year, you will hold a personal Book of Shadows with every bit of ancestral knowledge within its pages unique to you. No two will ever be alike. In an age when family storytelling has been lost, you will have created a legacy—and a life—that the ancestors could only dream of.

This is a lovely book. I just adore the cover art and design that went into it. Similarly so with the interior. Plenty of diagrams and illustrations, comfortable font choices, and the like. Care went into this one.

What I like best, beyond the soothing narrative of the author, is that this is a workbook, first and foremost. No passive read here. This is the sort of book to light a fire under you, to get you excited to make some magick.

We all need that little push sometimes and Ancestral Grimoire delivers, almost like an elder would with a child. An encouraging prodding. Fitting.

There are terrific revelations and discoveries to be found here. While ideally suited for those new to the path, I learned so much from this book I would encourage all practitioners, regardless of experience, to join Nancy Hendrickson on this magical journey.

Ancestral Grimoire: Connect with the Wisdom of the Ancestors through Tarot, Oracles, and Magic by Nancy Hendrickson is available now, wherever books are sold. This is not a book that will sit idly on your bookshelf and as such it is sure to become a treasured part of your esoteric library. You can pick up a copy today, from Amazon, and I encourage you to do so. It’s the spooky time, folks. A fresh Book of Shadows is a perfect way to embrace the season.

My Thoughts on The Witch’s Guide to the Paranormal by J. Allen Cross, published by @LlewellynBooks

Posted in Book Review, Investigations, Paranormal on September 7, 2022 by Occult Detective

Barking right up my proverbial tree, and just in time for Spooky Season, we have J. Allen Cross’ The Witch’s Guide to the Paranormal: How to Investigate, Communicate, and Clear Spirits. Llewellyn actually sent me an Uncorrected Proof a few months back, and I’ve read the book twice through, and revisited certain chapters since, but before I give you my thoughts, let’s see what the publisher has to say about it:

Flex Investigative Methods That Only Witches Can Wield

As a witch, your ability to manipulate energy allows you to interact with ghosts in ways that other investigators can’t. Discover how to use your magical toolkit to identify and resolve the four main types of haunting―residual, poltergeist, human earthbound, and inhuman entity. J. Allen Cross guides you through the basic principles of a haunting, while building a foundation of paranormal investigation, witchcraft, and mediumship skills. You will learn how to craft a seal, open and close portals, perform an exorcism, and help spirits cross over. With more than forty exercises and rituals, this book shows you how to make the most of your talents so you can bring peace to restless spirits and those they haunt.

Llewellyn is pretty dead on in the description. J. Allen Cross does an admirable job of covering all the bases. As a near lifelong paranormal investigator and purveyor of the strange and unusual, I can honestly say this is a solid primer for anyone, let alone the target audience (ie young witches/occultists interested in ghost hunting).

One of the biggest thrills I got was poring over Cross’ Recommended Reading List and, in addition to Michelle Belanger’s excellent Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide (highly recommended), Cross mentions one of my favorite books from the early years of my studies, The Llewellyn Practical Guide to Psychic Self-Defense and Well-Being by Melita Denning and Osbourne Phillips, which I devoured in, I’m going to say, 1981 or so. Fine book if you happen upon it secondhand.

This “Witch’s Guide” is a treat for would-be investigators and, I think, helpful to even some of the more seasoned folk out there. It is concise, well-researched, insightful, and engaging. It’s obviously written by someone with first hand experience in investigating the paranormal and in folk magic.

This has long been a passion of mine, utilizing occult practices in the investigation of and communion with preternatural intelligences. This is a neglected part of the field of paranormal research and investigation. All too often, the media shows us one form of investigative procedures and it produces far too many copycats. There is far more to interacting with spirits than flashlight tricks and emf detectors. Thankfully this book has come along to champion that cause.

The Witch’s Guide to the Paranormal: How to Investigate, Communicate, and Clear Spirits by J. Allen Cross, published by Llewellyn Books, will be available wherever books are sold on Thursday, September 8. Here’s a helpful link to AMAZON so you can add this book to your library. Trust me, this one needs to be there.

My Thoughts on Twist Your Fate by Theresa Reed

Posted in Book Review, Tarot on August 1, 2022 by Occult Detective

Available today, the 1st of August, from Weiser Books — Twist Your Fate: Manifest Success with Astrology and Tarot by Theresa Reed. Before I get into my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the book, let’s take a look at that all-important backcover copy:


Use astrology and tarot to discover your unique challenges,
talents, and to set yourself up for success.

Are you running your own show or is your life running you? Wondering how some folks seem to reach the top with ease while you’re struggling to figure out where to even begin? Some people are born (financially, socially) into good “fate,” but most of us need to twist fate to achieve our best lives.

The best way to twist fate to your advantage is to know your strengths, pay attention to what’s happening around you, and trust your instincts. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your natal chart, being attuned to the insights that Tarot can provide, and trusting your intuition are the tools you need to master any situation and create success on your terms.

Twist Your Fate will show you how to find your best path and maximize your talents. You’ll learn how to use Tarot to brainstorm new creative ideas, compare career options, and make intelligent decisions. You’ll also learn how astrology can help you find divine timing for every situation.

THE GOOD

Twist Your Fate is full of solid, practical insight into utilizing tarot and astrology — together — to navigate your life. I have always turned to the tarot for guidance through turbulent situations, but the author does an excellent job of shaping narrative and exploring creative storytelling to become your best self. It’s simply put for beginners, which is impressive considering the depths she traverses.

The section on tarot is exceptional, and I really liked the various spreads shared. Her analysis was spot on here and the high point of the book for me.

THE BAD (?)

For some, it’s going to come off a little “new agey”, and other times it reads a little colloquial. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…Or is it? I guess you’ll have to decide that for yourself. The author is undoubtedly an authority, especially in regard to tarot. It feels like, at times, there’s a drift in tone. I found it fine, but thought you should be aware.

THE UGLY

Alright, let’s get this out of the way — I love the cover — but the interior design, I feel, leaves a lot to be desired. On twitter, I posted the following gut reaction:

Spending time with Twist Your Fate: Manifest Success with Astrology & Tarot by Teresa Reed. Lovely book, but goodness, the font choice —Roboto is nearly unreadable. Too thin & light. Hard on the eyes. Cream pages accentuate the font’s shortcomings. Too bad. Great subject matter.

It’s not really cream paged, more like newsprint. Better lighting helps somewhat, but I showed the book to a dear friend who spent seventy-five years working in letterpress. “That font needs to be left on a backlit computer screen where it belongs.

Overall, I like the book a lot and I recommend it. It’s a great (although difficult) read. Twist Your Fate deserves a place on your bookshelf. Just make sure you’ve got good lighting (and maybe a pair of cheaters) when you read it.

Twist Your Fate: Manifest Success with Astrology and Tarot by Theresa Reed is available wherever books are sold. The AMAZON link is just a CLICK away.

Lonely House by Michelle Belanger

Posted in Book Review, Horror, Paranormal on July 28, 2022 by Occult Detective

Bordermen Games

Michelle Belanger is an occult expert and author of more than thirty books on paranormal topics. You probably know Michelle best from appearances on A&E’s Paranormal State and the Travel Channel’s Portals to Hell. In addition, Michelle also creates tabletop games.

Michelle’s Ouila Board Scramble is a lot of fun (and a great tool for any horror themed rpg), Midnight’s Kiss is a solid gothic rpg, and I also have read Michelle’s work on World of Darkness: Ghost Hunters. All to say, Michelle does solid work in the gaming community, in case you weren’t aware.

Michelle’s latest is an immersive storytelling rpg, billed as “a solo game of collaborative fiction”, called Lonely House. It is a storytelling game, which tend to be really hit or miss with me (usually miss), but right out of the proverbial gate I could tell Lonely House was something special.

The…

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My Thoughts on The Knights Templar Tarot, now available from @llewellynbooks

Posted in Book Review, Tarot on July 7, 2022 by Occult Detective

Now Available from Llewellyn Worldwide

The Knights Templar Tarot
by Floreana Nativo & Franco Rivolli

With breathtaking religious imagery and spiritual energy, this tarot deck uses the power of the Knights Templar to invigorate your readings. The Templars set forth on their crusade with conviction and grace, and they encourage you to do the same as you work toward your goals. This captivating, Rider-Waite-based deck is bursting with strength, faith, and wisdom–a worthy addition to your collection.

Why look, two of my obsessions have collided! I’ve been reading tarot since I was a teen, but I’ve had an interest in The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, more commonly known as The Knights Templar, since long before that.

The Templars are everywhere — as historical icons, conspiracy theory boogeymen, pop culture fodder for comics, video games, novels, and more. They have been depicted in tarot imagery before, but never in such an artistically satisfying way.

Franco Rivolli’s artwork is sublime, capturing the fantastical essence of these Crusader Knights, both from a spiritual and martial sense. The design redresses the classic Waite/Colman Smith tarot in the Templar image, and it really works effortlessly. Floreana Nativo has written a compelling and whimsical guide to the cards, invoking the historical and mythical Templars, while marrying the images to the most common interpretations.

I took the deck for a spin, of course, utilizing 4, 5, and 8 card spreads, as well as the traditional Celtic Cross method. I found them quite intuitive, especially if you’re a student of Pixie’s illustrated deck. No surprises. I wouldn’t hesitate to use these in a professional setting, and I may do so with my more Christian-aligned clientele.

It is a fine deck, ideal for the collector. Made of sturdy stock and elegantly printed. I recommend them highly. The Knights Templar Tarot was released in May of 2022 and thus available widely, without question. Priced at less than $25 US, these are a bargain. They are really quite lovely. You can order this deck of 78 lavishly illustrated cards from Amazon. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.


My thoughts on @WeiserBooks’ The Big Book of Candle Magic by Jacki Smith

Posted in Book Review, Magick on July 6, 2022 by Occult Detective

Sorry I’m a little late on this. Less than a week ago, Weiser Books dropped something special — Jacki Smith’s The Big Book of Candle Magic. I’ve read a lot of books on candle magic, I suspect you have too. It’s a subject that seems very simple on the surface. It is part and parcel of a lot of our practices. Trust me when I say, this is the definitive book on the subject.

Here’s the publisher’s copy:

The definitive guide to candle magic, written by a leading authority with over 30 years of experience making magical candles and creating candle spells.

Author Jacki Smith, founder of Coventry Creations (currently among the largest and most successful magical supply companies), shares her magical secrets with readers, enabling them to empower themselves through successful spell casting. Her book explains the nature of magic spells and provides examples for a wide variety of purposes including love, money, healing, and protection, liberally punctuated with tips from “Aunt Jacki,” deriving from her many years of experience.

The Big Book of Candle Magic shows:

  • How to create your own candles
  • The basics of crafting your own spells
  • How to use basic supplies for everyday magic

If you don’t know Jacki, you know of her. Her Coventry Creations has left a massive footprint on the magical community. She is sort of the “queen bee” of candle magic and has spent the past couple of decades building her brand as they say, and it shows.

The author has a big personality. She writes with authority. She is straightforward. Direct. She’s not here to put on airs, as my grandma used to say. The Big Book of Candle Magic is instantly accessible, with no ostentation.

If you’ve been looking for a book on candle magic, look no further.

Clocking in at over 300 pages, “Aunt Jacki” has delivered on the book’s subtitle — a comprehensive, in-depth guide including instructions for casting your own spells. Hel, more than a hundred pages are easy to navigate indexes. And that’s the best part. The Big Book of Candle Magic is useful. Everything is well organized, lovingly typeset, and augmented with pictures and diagrams that make all the sage advice all the more potent.

I could go on with lavish praise, but that only distracts you from doing what must be done — ordering the damn book. So, ignore any further yammering and click on the following link so that you can add The Big Book of Candle Magic by Jacki Smith to your library as soon as possible.

You can always drop back by here later and thank me.

My Thoughts on @LlewellynBooks’ Ozark Mountain Spell Book by Brandon Weston

Posted in Book Review on June 27, 2022 by Occult Detective

As you’re probably aware, my family is largely from Arkansas. I know the Ozarks well. I’ve camped there. Investigated there. I may have been born North of the Mason-Dixon, but there is no denying my Southern roots. The small town in Indiana I lived closest to as a child was seemingly comprised of folk just like my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles — they were transplanted Arkansawyers.

A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure to read and review Brandon Weston’s Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers & Healing, and was thrilled to receive Weston’s follow-up, Ozark Mountain Spell Book: Folk Magic & Healing from the publisher, Llewellyn.

Speaking of which, here’s their back cover copy:

Explore Ozark Folk Magic for Love, Luck & Health

Apply traditional Ozark workings to your craft and enjoy a stronger connection to the everyday magic all around you. Brandon Weston weaves fascinating historical details and stories from his own practice alongside step-by-step instructions for authentic remedies, rituals, and spells collected from other regional witches and healers.

A companion to Ozark Folk Magic, this book compiles more than fifty recipes that utilize ingredients commonly found in the household or in nature. You will learn how to grow luck at the base of a tree, bring lovers closer together with string, and reverse a hex using a black candle. Weston also covers cleansing rituals, protection charms, dream work, divination tools, and more. With advice for modernizing these techniques, this spell book captures Ozark folk magic as both a deep and evolving tradition for practitioners to enjoy.

Well, first, this is definitely a companion to Ozark Folk Magic, in so much that you really should read it first before diving into the spell-work Weston has collected and crafted here. To go further, due to the brevity of both titles, I would have loved to see them combined into a single edition. But, that’s not the case. We are still in the possession of a solid rural grimoire, full of folk wisdom and recipes for nearly all occasions.

Ozark Mountain Spell Book is a solid entry. It’s simple and direct. You will have no issues following along and working the magic as presented. In fact, for new practitioners, I can see how this book would be a perfect start for you.

If there’s a drawback, it is that, like its predecessor, it does lean into the modern era a bit much for my personal tastes, but then, magic should evolve, I suppose.

Weston keeps it folksy, while giving things a modern spin. I imagine that will please many.

The book is well put together. Clean editing, nice production values. And it’s got the scent of the intangible about it — it’s got soul. And that’s hard to come by.

I happily recommend Ozark Mountain Spell Book, and its predecessor, Ozark Folk Magic. Weston has a calming narrative voice. You can learn a lot from these books. You’ll find them vailable wherever books are sold, and at a more than fair price considering the content. Here’s a link to Barnes & Noble for a change. Don’t worry. You can find it easily enough on Amazon. One must feed our oppressors ;)

My thoughts on @LlewellynBooks’ The Shamanic Soul by Daniel Moler

Posted in Book Review on June 24, 2022 by Occult Detective

Earlier this month, Llewellyn dropped a terrific primer for those interested in the shamanic tradition with the aptly titled The Shamanic Soul: A Guidebook for Self-Exploration, Healing, and Mysticism by Daniel Moler. Let’s take a look at the publisher’s blurb before I add my thoughts —

A One-Stop Training Course in the Shamanic Arts

Written by an authentic practitioner of Peruvian shamanism, this beginner-friendly book shows you how the shamanic arts can completely change your life. Daniel Moler teaches you through non-appropriative methods, such as healing exercises, spellwork, and divination techniques. Using his stories and experiences, Daniel helps you discover your soul path and write your own destiny.

This book introduces you to many aspects of shamanism, including the seen and unseen realms, spiritual tools such as mesas and campos, and the three pachas (worlds) of the shamanic cosmos. You’ll explore vision quests, limpias, rituals, and other techniques that help unlock your spiritual potential. Through hands-on activities and meaningful insights into shamanic theory and teachings, The Shamanic Soul helps you awaken your True Self.

My personal leanings are toward the shamanism of Northern Europe, so you may be surprised to find me endorsing Daniel Moler’s The Shamanic Soul. Fact is, this is exactly the sort of book I’m always looking for. While you will find it extremely instructive, The Shamanic Soul is not a dry treatise on the subject. Instead, it comes across as very personal, with Moler unfolding his journey from Christianity into the Peruvian Shamanism throughout. Moler is careful here to step outside of cultural bounds to try and present the divine root at the center of the spiritual journey of individualized connection to the universe. And with abounding pop culture references, Moler’s narrative voice and personal anecdotes make this voyage very comfortable.

The book was a joy to read, and evocative of others I’ve had the pleasure to experience, works by the likes of Terence McKenna, Graham Hancock, Ram Dass, Dennis McKenna, Michael Harner, and Tom Cowan, to name a few.

I was pleased to find the book heavily illustrated, and filled with practical exercises that addresses fully the person beginning their journey. There is plenty here for more seasoned practitioners, but The Shamanic Soul has become my number one recommendation to folks who ask me where to start on the shaman path.

I think what makes this book so special is the “storyteller” aspect of Moler’s narrative. This is how one teaches. Not by a laundry list of practices, but by weaving the instruction into a yarn, and by connecting with the student in an intimate way. Moler does a terrific job at this and feel like he is on the right path toward evolving his practice, finding that elusive synthesis of spiritual awakening by way of creative and imaginative raconteuring.

The book also sports a nice foreword by author Jason Mankey. An odd choice, as he has little connection to shamanic practices, but Mankey is forthright in this and mirrors my own thoughts on the book.

There is wisdom to be found in these pages, wisdom that can be integrated into your personal practice, and that is at the very heart of shamanism, the building of a personal relationship with the universe.

Reading Daniel Moler’s The Shamanic Soul will serve you well, whatever flavor of spirituality you are navigating. You can find the book wherever such are sold. Here’s a link to the somewhat apropos Amazon.

PERSONAL NOTE: I will be somewhat scarce Saturday, June 25, as I will be visiting friends at the Pride event in Matter Park (Marion, Indiana) during the afternoon (come by and see us at the Willow Products booth) and I have a residential investigation that evening. A reminder, we are a week away from the launch of my Occult Detective patreon. Keep an eye out for more book reviews next week, pre-launch.

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