Archive for the Book Review Category

My thoughts on Blackthorn’s Protection Magic & Brigid’s Light, available now from @WeiserBooks

Posted in Book Review, Magick on March 1, 2022 by Occult Detective

The world is on fire. It is times like these when we need the comfort of magic the most. Let’s face it, social upheaval, pandemic, and war are clear and present signs of transition, and magic is always at the fore as we realign ourselves for the age to come. For me, I find solace in well crafted esoterica, and I am thrilled to share with you today two books celebrating birthdays, both from the good folks at Red Wheel/Weiser.

A hands-on guide to protection magic using essential oils, incense, spells, and tarot from a beloved and trusted authority.

Blackthorn’s Protection Magic
guides readers through the realm of the green witch to a glade filled with options for your protection. Amy Blackthorn discusses spiritual, emotional, and physical security in an easy-to-understand way. The book provides an overview of what protection means to witches and then explores practices in more depth, including:

  • Essential oils for protection magic
  • The role plant allies play in both protecting and healing
  • What tarot can teach us about our strengths and weaknesses
  • Oracle spell work as a potent source of protection

As a witch who has worked in executive security for nearly fifteen years, Amy possesses the botanical spirit of an animist witch, able to see the inherent spirit in plants, as well as a keen eye on ways to make a home feel safer and more secure, on the magical and the mundane levels. For example, holly trees provide magical protection from lightning, but also make a prickly barrier outside the home to keep burglars from lurking in the shadows.

I love me some Amy Blackthorn. I spoke of comfort earlier, and Amy epitomizes comfort in all the best ways. Her books, while erudite and insightful, are also the literary equivalent of comfort food. Her latest, Protection Magic, is a timely read.

Divided into four parts, Blackthorn covers magical protection for the Mind (Psychic), Body (Physical), and Spirit (Emotional), with the final section delving into an info dump of miscellany and correspondences.

This is a lovely little primer that I feel is ideal for new practitioners, especially for women. Not that there aren’t new tricks to be found for us old dogs and of the male variety. The thrust, however, is practicality in every sense of the word. There are so many little tidbits that stand out as the author attempts to cover every situation, from identifying magical components (and weeding out fakes) to real world protection and defense in the physical sense.

This is a holistic approach that transcends mere occult protection, but impresses upon you the need to make magic a part of your being, utilizing it in all facets of your life.

Brilliant stuff, and the book cover is lovely to boot. The interior is spartan, with newsprint-like pages. At times the font-size runs a tad small in some of the subsets, but nothing to overly concern yourself with. It’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend, especially for those in the early stages of their craft.

Blackthorn’s Protection Magic: A Witch’s Guide to Mental and Physical Self-Defense by Amy Blackthorn is available today, the 1st of March, wherever books are sold. Here’s a link to Amazon.

Stories, spells, rituals, and recipes celebrating the worldwide influence of this beloved Celtic goddess, with contributions from Amy Blackthorn, Laura Tempest Zakroff, Courtney Weber, and many others

This anthology celebrates Brigid, an ancient and mysterious Celtic spirit who ranks among today’s most popular modern goddesses. Venerated in many forms including as a saint and a goddess, Brigid has traveled the globe alongside the Celtic diaspora. Once a goddess with a narrow territory, she is now an internationally beloved presence. While acknowledging her origins, this book also explores Brigid from the perspective of those outside her original Celtic homeland.

Editors Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella have gathered art, poetry, stories, spells, rituals, recipes, and traditions as an homage to the worldwide influence of Brigid’s magic and lore, especially among the descendants of immigrants to the Americas. In compiling these individual works, Cairelle and Laura have given voice to those traveling ancestors by showcasing a rich and beautiful heritage manifested through embodiments of devotion by their descendants, as well as others touched by Brigid.

Are you looking for inner healing, something to help take the weight of these past few years off your shoulders, even if it’s just for a brief respite? Brigid’s Light is what you’ve been waiting for. This book is a celebration and I assure you, it will lift your spirits and fill you with light and hope.

Past the powerful cover art by the talented Stuart Littlejohn you are treated to wonderful examinations of the Brigid Spirit. It begins with an insightful foreword by one of my favorite people to chat with, Judika Illes, then the anthology becomes a spiritual journey through the many facets of the character of Brigid, through ritual practice, poetry and essays, recipes and spellwork, and more.

I was thrilled by all of the contributions, but especially Courtney Weber’s A Ritual with Brigid — “I crave. You crave. We crave.” — and Lucia Moreno-Velo’s Brigid’s Place, which really caught me off guard.

Even without a personal connection to Brigid, you will find the warmth of the words inside a sublime comfort, which seems to be the theme for today.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I think you will love it. It’s light and passionate, and we can all use a little bit of that in our lives right now.

Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess, edited by Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella is available wherever books are sold. Here’s a convenient link to its Amazon listing.

My Thoughts on @LlewellynBooks’ Norse Divination: Illuminating Your Path with the Wisdom of the Gods by Gypsey Elaine Teague

Posted in Book Review, Magick, Wyrd on February 10, 2022 by Occult Detective

Journey into the Norse Pantheon to Uncover the Secrets of Your Past, Present, and Future

Reveal your life’s path in a brand-new way with Norse Divination, the only book designed around the Nordic gods themselves rather than the Futhark. Through concise yet enlightening analyses of these deities and their relationships to each other, you’ll unlock answers to your deepest questions and find more happiness and success.

An excellent primer on Norse mythology, this book teaches you how to easily create your own thirty-six-piece divination set and use it to explore the gods and goddesses’ beliefs, customs, loves, and deaths. Each deity, along with important mythological items, has a dedicated chapter outlining who they are, what their role is, and how they can help you divine the best course of action in any scenario. Featuring clear and thorough instruction on how to read all thirty-six pieces in their past, present, and future positions, Norse Divination helps you harness hidden knowledge and forge a unique practice.

Let me be honest right out of the gate: this is not the book I was expecting. Now let me explain why that’s not a bad thing.

I suppose I should first interject my obligatory apology for being late to review this. By now, you’re well aware of my bout with the plague. But that’s behind me now and we’ve one last book review to make good on, in this case, something that enters into the magical realm I am most connected to and enamored by — Northern European Heathenry — via Gypsey Elaine Teague’s aforementioned book, Norse Divination.

As stated above, I expected something quite different from this one, something more akin to an exploration of the runes. This is not that. I have read Gypsey’s work before, having read, reviewed, and enjoyed her work on The Witch’s Guide to Wands. I should have known by that work that I would be getting something fresh, unique, and wonderful.

That’s how I found Norse Divination. Teague knows her heathenry and has a special connection to the gods. As a scholar, she acknowledges the scant information we have on the people and faith that sprang out of those ancient climes, but through this connection that has blossomed over time and space, with so many being reunited with these godforms, Gypsey is able to bring the past in line with the present to deliver a remarkable system of divination that honors the roots from which it springs.

Utilizing 42 symbols, Gypsey has developed from her rune work a system that brings the gods into the mix. It is very intuitive, and I created for myself makeshift disks, burning the symbols into the wood. What I found was a very natural and insightful set of divination tools that fulfill their promise.

As always, I find Gypsey’s words meaningful and comfortable and believe you will find them the same. As for the book itself, well, it’s a thing of beauty. The interior design and layout is wonderful, but the star of the show is that magnificent cover. I could stare at that one all day.

If you’ve a love of divination, this book is for you and demands a place on your library shelf. For many heathens, well, this might be too outside the box for them, but I do hope they would be open-minded enough to not dismiss it out of hand. I lean toward more traditionalism as well, but found this to be inspired and worthwhile.

Norse Divination: Illuminating Your Path with the Wisdom of the Gods by Gypsey Elaine Teague is available wherever books are sold. I encourage you to bring this one home.

My thoughts on Kelden’s Witches’ Sabbath

Posted in Book Review, Magick on February 2, 2022 by Occult Detective

As I write this, the morning after Imbolc, I await Winter Storm Landon’s arrival. Rain is pelting the canopy over the back door, evolving ever so slowly into sleet, before the increasing eventuality of voluminous snowfall that threatens a visit to these haunted climes.

It seems a good time to share with you my thoughts on The Witches’ Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore, and Modern Practice by Kelden, especially in light of recent events.

I was riding a high after watching the latest episode of Kindred Spirits featuring paranormal investigators Amy Bruni and Adam Berry, which presented a ritual, The Shroud of the Revenant, from Greg Newkirk of Hellier fame. I love that kind of innovation. But that high was soon soured by Travel Channel’s latest paranormal entertainment series, Vampires In America, which is the very worst sort of sensationalist garbage that damages the entire paranormal community. Couple that with the gods awful documentary, The Book of Secrets: Aliens, Ghosts, and Ancient Mysteries, and, well, my resolve was all but shattered.

So, writing this review is, in many ways, cathartic —a way to rekindle my faith in the magical community, and a reminder that there is a wealth good to be found there. It just requires a bit of digging sometimes.

First, allow me to share Llewellyn’s introduction:

Discover the Hidden Depths of the Sabbath

Take flight for a mesmerizing exploration of an event long shrouded in fear and mystery―the Witches’ Sabbath. Kelden presents an in-depth examination of the Sabbath’s historical and folkloric development as well as its re-emergence within the modern practice of Witchcraft. From discussions on the folklore of flight and the events of nocturnal gatherings to enchanting rituals and recipes, you’ll find everything you need to not only understand the nature of the legendary Sabbath, but also journey there yourself. Offering impressive research and compelling stories from across Europe and the early American colonies, this book is the ultimate resource for discovering an oft misunderstood and overlooked aspect of Witchcraft.

Includes a foreword by Jason Mankey, author of The Horned God of the Witches

I received an advanced copy of The Witches’ Sabbath in mid-December just as my bout with the dreaded plague was sinking its tendrils into me. This book was a gift from the gods as it was a welcome distraction from my discomfort. While the book was released in the US in January, its February release in Canada and the UK helps alleviate some of the guilt I feel for not reviewing this book sooner.

Beyond addressing the book’s content, can I first gush over Tim Foley’s gorgeous woodcut that graces the cover? I love the colors, the stark blacks, and the otherworldly imagery that takes me back to my childhood, when I first took those fateful baby-steps into the world of witchcraft. Delicious by all accounts.

As for Kelden’s work, it is a wonderful read. A bit disjointed, perhaps, with an odd narrative, but I sort of like it. Kelden’s writing style matches the theme and tone of the book, which is both a concise and comprehensive exploration of the Witches’ Sabbath, in folklore and in practice today.

This is the place of wild magic, beyond myth and fantasy, where the shadow realm thrives outside this earthly realm and awaits for initiates to discover its location. Kelden does a masterful job of invoking the essence of its true nature, of presenting it through solid academic research to give it substance, but also through fanciful examination of legend and lore to expand upon its majestic presence beyond the veil.

The Witches’ Sabbath is whimsical and fantastic and wholly enchanting. It is a promise, an affirmation, if you will, of all that is wonderful and magical and dangerous about the world of witchcraft. So much of this has been lost in the past few decades. It’s nice to see the satanic majesty of it all reaffirmed.

Beyond the academia, you will find a wealth of practical exercises and spellwork to align yourself for visiting the Sabbath, should you fain to do so. While I found some of the exercises somewhat lackluster, overall it’s an ambitious undertaking, and I recommend it on many levels.

I see this work as imagination fuel. While the path may not be exactly the one you wish to travel, the very idea of it can lead you toward the proper trail where fancy becomes reality.

A delightful read that I recommend without hesitation, Kelden’s The Witches’ Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore, and Modern Practice is available wherever books are sold. You’ll certainly want this one in your home library.

My thoughts on Elemental Powers for Witches by Frater Barrabbas (spoiler alert — it’s terrific)

Posted in Book Review, Magick on January 28, 2022 by Occult Detective

I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things after my bout with the plague. I found it hard to concentrate on reading for any real length of time during the height of it, but I did find that in those moments when I could wrap myself up inside a book, it was an important part of the healing process.

One of the books I found solace in was the latest release from Frater Barrabbas, an author I have been keen on approaching, particularly his book Spirit Conjuring for Witches. So, when offered a chance to read Elemental Powers for Witches, I was more than eager to do so.

Before I give you my brief thoughts on the book, let’s hear what Llewellyn has to say about it:

Bring Element-Based Ceremonial Magic into your Modern Witchcraft

What was once only available to ceremonial magicians can now be yours with this guide to advanced elemental energy work. Frater Barrabbas presents a ritual system that uses the forty qualified powers as well as the sixteen elementals―paired elements, such as earth of water, that create a more articulated expression of magical power. A companion to Spirit Conjuring for Witches, this book covers working with your own energy, uncrossing mechanisms that remove internal blocks, and a variety of magical tools, including sigils, pentacles, and crystals.

Featuring numerous illustrations and diagrams, Elemental Powers for Witches teaches you how to use specialized ritual energy patterns that are more effective than the regular witch’s circle. Frater Barrabbas walks you through exciting new rituals he has developed over the years, including the eight-node magic circle, invoking and banishing spirals, Western and Eastern gateways, the Rose Cross Vortex Rite, and more. From using the tarot as a Book of Shadows to calling upon elemental spirits, this book helps you enhance your practice while staying true to your primary tradition of the Craft.

First, I really appreciate what Frater Barrabbas is looking to accomplish here — to offer up alternative practices through a systematic, yet simplified exploration of ceremonial magick. It is ambitious and well plotted. If ceremonial practices are not your thing, this book may very well be for you. Afterward, I suspect you’ll change your tune.

While I found some of the text a bit rambling in parts, Barrabbas has ultimately created a terrific system of magick, synthesizing a veritable smorgasbord of occult practices all under one umbrella, from yoga to tarot to sigil magic and more.

For someone new to magick, or with little experience, this is a superb primer and initiatory starting point. It is elegant at times and insightful, with a lot of knowledge and background all in its core, creating a firm foundation from which to build on. It puts me in mind of some of Donald Tyson’s work in the late 1980s.

All in all, a book I highly recommend, for those new to ways of magick and those more seasoned. I certainly found some very useful practices within. As a magical system, steeped as is in the western tradition, it’s solid, inspiring, and most important, it’s useful.

You want to do more than learn about magick? Do you want to practice the art? Well, you really need look no further. This book will set you on a path from which you can grow and prosper from.

Elemental Powers for Witches: Energy Magic Simplified by Frater Barrabbas is available wherever books are sold. I give this one my highest recommendation.

Today I’m taking a look at three #tarot / oracle decks from @LlewellynBooks and @loscarabeotarot

Posted in Book Review, Tarot on January 18, 2022 by Occult Detective

As you know, I collect Tarot and Oracle Cards. I love getting my hands on a new deck, wrapping my head around the art and test driving them through a couple of weeks of divinatory practices. I’ve been at this a long time. Over thirty years ago, it’s how I made my money for deviant extracurricular activities. I still read for small gatherings, parties, and the like, and I have done daily readings for myself for nearly forty years.

I have three decks I’ve been meaning to comment on, all I received before COVID came to visit for the holidays. While I’m still not 100%, it seems like the right time to share these with you.

Goetia – Tarot in Darkness

This deck is a masterpiece of deep art inspired by the esoteric lore of the Lesser Key of Salomon. Teeming with demons and spirits and rendered in a subdued palette of greys and blacks, this stark imagery pierces through to the innermost spirit of the reader. Designed to show that darkness is nothing if not a path to the light, the Goetia―Tarot in Darkness also reveals that the unconscious is nothing if not a mirror of your true conscious self.

Boxed deck (2¾ x 4¾) includes a 78-card deck and instructional booklet.

♠♠♠ — The artwork in this deck is simply amazing. Easily the most impressive, and as a student of Goetia, I marvel at the amount of work that went into bringing this to life. There are some minor quibbles, however. The print in the booklet is abysmally small. I ended up reading most of it with a magnifying glass. Also, some of the cards are a little too dark. But all in all, a delight to own. This is not a deck I would use lightly. It is definitely a deck for “special occasions”.

Goetia – Tarot in Darkness is priced at just $26.95 though I see that it is currently out of stock at Llewellyn and Amazon, so you may need to track it down through secondary markets, or patiently await its restocking.

Manara Erotic Oracle

An oracle for those choosing to believe in sex, not as a myth, but rather as an experience. Following the long-standing success of the Manara Erotic Tarot, these oracle cards combine the enticing art of the famed Milo Manara with astrology and chakra to create surprising and insightful readings, especially on very complex subjects.

Boxed deck (4 x 5¼) includes a 35-card deck and instructional booklet

♠♠♠♠ — Milo Manara is a talented artist of erotica and I believe that if you are a fan Milo’s art, or of sensual art in general, you will not be disappointed here. These are fantastically illustrated and I found as an oracle, surprisingly insightful. Very intuitive. Personally, these cards would not find their way into any sort of public rotation, but this is a deck that will certainly serve me at home. I recommend these highly.

The Manara Erotic Oracle is priced at 19.95, a real bargain, and readily available through Llewellyn or Amazon.

Folk Cards of Destiny: Antica Cartomanzia

Harkening back to an era when divination was conducted with playing cards, the Folk Cards of Destiny is sure to occupy a unique and privileged position in any collection. Reflecting the whimsical, everyday scenes and motifs found on some of these early divination cards, this deck provides a fascinating reading experience. Based on an eighteenth-century deck by renowned printer Dondorf, the artwork brings a deep sense of imagination and nostalgia for a style of divinatory reflection that may just open a new chapter in your own contemporary spiritual quest.

Boxed deck (2¾ x 4¾) includes a 36-card deck and instructional booklet

♠♠♠♠½ — I’ve saved my favorite for last. I can’t quite explain it, but I really connected with these so-called Folk Cards of Destiny. I love the artwork. Every reading was a treat, with a true sense of wonder, discovery, and insight found. I’ve always had a fondness for traditional cartomancy decks, and this fits the bill. Of the three decks I’m sharing today, this is the deck that will be revisited often.

Best yet, the Folk Cards of Destiny are priced at a mere $18.95. Available at Llewellyn or Amazon, you definitely want this deck in your collection.

Some quick thoughts on Welsh Witchcraft by Mhara Starling (2/22), now available for preorder

Posted in Book Review, Magick on December 1, 2021 by Occult Detective

The history of magic and witchcraft in Wales will inspire any modern-day witch. Written by a Welsh practitioner, this book shares the magical traditions of the land of the red dragon, exploring deities, fairies, folklore, charms, plants, and magic with dozens of exercises for hands-on practice.

Explore the history and terminology of Welsh magic and methods for honoring the land. Learn to connect with Cerridwen, Rhiannon, and other deities as well as fairies and mystical creatures. Discover how you can incorporate traditional Welsh folk magic into your modern witchcraft practice, with exercises for honoring those who came before, connecting with the spirit of your home, protecting against adversity and malignant spirits, changing the weather, and much more.

I get the feeling this is a book that a lot of readers new to witchcraft will find appealing. It’s got a scholarly air to it, especially to fresh faces, seemingly steeped in lore that feels ancient, while written in a very modern voice by a very modern author.

The book is packed with information and is dense at times, like the author is desperate to get all these little bits of knowledge out there. It’s a tad breathless, but its heart is genuine. The exercises and meditations are solid and personal. Which is true of the book as a whole. This is Mhara Starling’s personal journey and she has invited the reader along, offering her experiences as guideposts along the way.

This is both a strength and a weakness.

I like the cover. Evocative and simple. And I like the book, overall. It’s like a DJ Conway book on steroids. You remember those. Well, you do if you’re of a certain age.

Look, I wanted a book on Welsh Witchcraft. This is not that. Not really. It’s Wicca wearing a Welsh Hallowe’en costume, but you know what, the older I get, the more I’m okay with that. There is a place for these types of occult books. They are ideal for young people finding their way. I know I sure read a lot of them in the 80s. Right?

So, do I recommend Mhara Starling’s Welsh Witchcraft? Certainly. It is not for the seasoned student, nor for someone longing for a deep rooted connection to an ancient lore system. But it’s fun, informative, and there’s bits and pieces that you’ll find quite useful.

These sort of primers in cultural dress are a part of the scene. They sell. They’re safe.

Welsh Witchcraft: A Guide to the Spirits, Lore, and Magic of Wales by Mhara Starling will be available in February, wherever books are sold. It’s available for preorder right now, for less than 20 bones.

Lloniannau!

#Norsevember: Loki & Sigyn by Lea Svendsen (Available for Pre-Order)

Posted in Book Review, Norsevember on November 10, 2021 by Occult Detective

This captivating book takes you deep into the infamous legacy of Loki and his wife Sigyn. As a controversial and misunderstood figure in Heathenry, Loki is often approached with trepidation. But this book introduces you to his true self: a trickster, but a devoted husband and creative problem-solver, too. You’ll also learn about Sigyn, the often forgotten goddess of loyalty and compassion.

Join Heathen author Lea Svendsen on a rich exploration of these two Norse deities, together and separate. Discover their adventures in parenthood, their complicated relationships with other gods, and the entertaining exploits that only a trickster can accomplish. Learn how to set up an altar to each of them, what offerings they like, and how to perform rituals. You’ll also find insights on Loki and Sigyn from Pagan and Heathen leaders.

In February, 2022, Llewellyn will release Lea Svendsen’s Loki and Sigyn: Lessons on Chaos, Laughter & Loyalty from the Norse Gods. I received an Uncorrected Proof from the publisher a few weeks back, and I am happy to, finally, be able to release my thoughts on it. I’ve had some definite ups and downs of late, battling various infections from a cocktail of anti-and probiotics, and while still not over the proverbial hump, I didn’t want to put this off any longer.

The short of it is, this is a book you’ll want to digest, particularly if you are a heathen leaning pagan, although there is plenty in this book for anyone with a perchance for magick. I was, admittedly, unfamiliar with the author so cannot verify the authenticity of her biography, but it is certainly colorful.

The fact is, any book that deals with heathenry is fraught with peril. So very little of the culture has survived to modern times, and much of what is available to us has been tainted by Christian hands. Loki in particular.

The author does an admirable job of navigating these tumultuous waters. Where scholarship fails us, she intuits Loki and Sigyn’s roles. Svendsen’s relationship with the gods, and with Loki and Sigyn in particular, is front and center. She does not shy away from her attempts to connect and understand beyond what little academia has been able to bring to the table.

Her writing style is comfortable and relaxed. She writes with confidence, but in a very folksy way that comes across less of a teacher/student interaction, but more like a helpful neighbor. This, I think, is a strength in this particular work, where so little is known and in need of reconstruction with but the barest of bones to work with.

The book is short, but covers a wide breadth, from Lore to an exploration of American Heathenry and how conversion baggage lingers. You’ll also find chapters on clergy, rituals, and the like, all thoughtful (and largely speculative), but with a passionate air that defines the uncharted territory that we have been forced into due to the desecration of our ancestral faith.

I am waning. The medicines are taking their toll on me, so let me, in summation, acknowledge that I found Lea Svendsen’s work a valuable asset. And while I do not agree with her, whole-cloth, in terms of her interpretation of Loki, and to a lesser degree, Sigyn, I do appreciate her devotion and forthrightness.

Loki is a complex character, as tricksters tend to be. For a culture built on storytelling, how could he be anything less than everything to the skald’s who spin their yarns with him at the story’s core.

Loki and Sigyn: Lessons on Chaos, Laughter & Loyalty from the Norse Gods by Lea Svendsen is available for preorder for only $16.99, well worth the price of admission. It includes are Foreword by Mortellus, author of Do I Have to Wear Black?: Rituals, Customs & Funerary Etiquette for Modern Pagans which is an added bonus.

While I felt the book had its faults, I was honored to read it… and I think you will too.

#OCCULTOBER: My thoughts on Winterseer Animal Oracle by Siolo Thompson (@LlewellynBooks)

Posted in Book Review, Tarot on October 19, 2021 by Occult Detective

Gain the Wisdom of Long-Revered Creatures
from the Northern Climes

Experience Celtic and Norse lore in a brand-new way with this exquisite oracle deck. Winterseer Animal Oracle shows you how to deepen your divination practice through the wisdom of fifty-six marvelous creatures native to northern climates, from salmon and magpie to badger and bear. Featuring Siolo Thompson’s impressive watercolor illustrations, these cards bolster your readings with their stunning details, and the accompanying guidebook uses the mythology of bygone days to inspire your modern life.

I am simply in love with Siolo Thompson’s art and in Winterseer you get what I feel is some of her best work. Each of the 56 cards are lovingly crafted, with a wide variety of Northern European animal life that are emblazoned with an appropriate keyword. Within moments, without reading a single word from the nearly 200 page accompanying guidebook, I could easily intuit how this deck would work as an oracle tool. The cards, in and of themselves, are just a brilliant example of the fusion of art and magic.

As a complete package, I must commend Llewellyn. It’s a wonderfully constructed product, with a beautiful magnetic box that holds the guide and cards. This thing is a marvel. The printing is exquisite, with the rich, deep watercolors dripping off of card and page. The manual is gloriously glossy and easy to read…

Siolo’s writing is as soothing and inspiring as her art. The introduction is lilting and the direction concise and flawless. The focus is more on a gentle nudge toward divination, allowing for one’s own interpretation and sense of storytelling. I love this. The card descriptions are thorough and poetic and just simply lovely.

As a Heathen, this deck immediately spoke to me. Without question, I will visit it often, especially in the winter months. Having spent several days with it, I fell into Winterseer‘s charms quite easily. In no time, I developed a rhythm and narratives began to flow as I practiced one and three card spreads. I am experimenting with a nine card spread, embracing that number sacred to heathenry, and I think this is the path I will take with them.

That’s the wondrous thing about the versatility of the deck. The keywords are profound, the artwork compelling and thought-provoking… It allows the reader to develop their own chronicle with Winterseer as a guide and tool.

Beyond its value as an oracle, I can also see a veritable treasure trove of other uses, in writing fiction and interactive storytelling.

At less than $30 US, Winterseer Animal Oracle by Siolo Thompson is the deal of a lifetime. If you have not yet purchased it, make haste. You want this deck. You need this deck. Trust me, I believe you’ll fall in love with it every bit as much as I have. Recommended? Oh, without hesitation. Available at your favorite bookstores and online outlets. Here’s an Amazon link for good measure.

#OCCULTOBER: The Magic of Tarot by Sasha Graham (@SashaGraham / @LlewellynBooks)

Posted in Book Review, Occultober, Tarot on October 12, 2021 by Occult Detective

I have read a lot of books on Tarot and I own dozens of decks. I’ve been studying and reading Tarot for more than forty years now. When a book like Sasha Graham’s The Magic of Tarot comes along, I am beyond thankful. To deliver something fresh and exciting in the sphere of Tarot is no easy feat. Graham has more than succeeded in this task. What a terrific journey she took me on… I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough.

The author begins by addressing something that I have held near and dear to my heart, something that is at the very core of my being. Allow me to quote from the Introduction —

“Tarot is storytelling. It’s what we do when we read the cards. Telling stories imbues us with supernatural power — the power to change your story.”

This. All of this. Nothing could be more true, especially if not confined to Tarot. Magic, with or without the ‘K’, is about storytelling. Plain and simple. I have been preaching this for years.

Sasha Graham gets this and it shows throughout The Magic of Tarot. Before I dive deeper, let’s see what the publisher had to say about the book:

Bring Enchantment and Luminous Energy into Your Readings

Tarot is more than a card trick. It’s a chance to empower your intuition, dive into your dreams, and get to the heart of the matter. The Magic of Tarot is a fantastic guide to creating your own marvelous and magical practice. With her irresistible charm and straightforward guidance, Sasha Graham shows you how to craft a divine, sparkling destiny using spreads, exercises, spells, and prompts.

The Magic of Tarot opens your eyes to a richer, more enlightened style of divination. Sasha encourages you to flex your intuitive muscles, confidently use tarot magic and rituals, and perform readings for other people. She also walks you through every card meaning, introduces you to dream and shadow work, helps you interpret colors, numbers, and patterns, and so much more. This book lets you fearlessly jump in and enjoy magical experiences that you’ll never forget.

This is an ideal book for beginning Tarot students. Graham delves into the heart of the practice over the course of its 360 pages, and she delivers wondrous insights as she takes the reader on a complete and intimate tour of all facets of Tarot methodology.

Not only is a detailed description of each card presented, but Graham covers rituals and spells, dream and shadow work, and a wealth of various interpretations all enhanced by a focus on developing your intuitive and storytelling powers.

For those of you who, like me, have been at this for a number of years, you’ll feel comfortable with the author’s expressiveness and forthright narrative. Graham offers fresh new ways at looking at things, particularly in regard to spell and shadow work. There are some intriguing ideas that I am eager to experiment with.

One of the more enchanting things about the book was the author’s bio, written as a Tarot card description. Clever.

As for the book design, it’s more than adequate. It utilizes Pixie’s Waite Tarot illustrations throughout. Further artwork is spartan, but the diagrams of card layouts are easy to follow for the novice. While there is no flash in the design, this was probably on purpose. The prose itself is flashy enough.

I love the cover art by Abigail Larson and wish she could have contributed to the interior as well to add more symmetry. I adore her work.

The Magic of Tarot: Your Guide to Intuitive Readings, Rituals, and Spells by Sasha Graham is a tremendous value at less than $20. Available wherever books are sold, I highly recommend you purchase directly from the publisher, Llewellyn, or from your local booksellers. We need healthy publishers and bookstores. Where we spend our money matters.

#OCCULTOBER: The Sacred Herbs of Samhain by Ellen Evert Hopman

Posted in Book Review, Occultober on October 4, 2021 by Occult Detective

I had the pleasure of reading Ellen Evert Hopman’s The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead. Here’s what the publisher had to say about it —

A practical guide to using the sacred herbs of Samhain for healing, divination, purification, protection, magic, and as tools for contacting the Spirits

• Explores the identification, harvest, and safe practical and ritual use of more than 70 plants and trees sacred to the Celtic festival of Samhain, the origin of Halloween

• Details the most effective plants for protection from the mischief of Fairies, herbs for releasing the Dead, and visionary plants for divination and shamanic work

• Provides instructions and suggestions for a traditional Dumb Supper, offerings to the Land Spirits, Samhain rites, and recipes for the sacred foods of Samhain

The ancient Celts separated the year into two halves, the light half and the dark half, summer and winter. The festival of Samhain, from which the modern holiday of Halloween originates, marks the transition from summer to winter, the end of the Celtic year, a time when the barriers between the physical and spiritual world are at their most transparent. The herbs most characteristic of this time have specific magical and healing properties that echo the darker aspect of the year and offer potent opportunities for divination, contact with ancestors and Land Spirits, and journeys in the Otherworld.

Presenting a practical guide to the sacred herbs and trees of Samhain, Ellen Evert Hopman details the identification, harvest, and use of more than 70 plants and trees in healing, divination, purification, magic, and as tools for contacting the Spirits wandering the landscape at this liminal time of year. She explores the most effective plants for protection from the mischief of the “Good Neighbors,” the Sidhe or Fairies, as well as herbs for releasing the Dead when they are trapped on this plane. Identifying visionary plants used to induce ecstatic trance, Hopman explores how herbs have been used for millennia to aid in psychic travel and shamanic work and shows how one might safely use plants to take a voyage to the Otherworld. Drawing on her knowledge as a master herbalist, she also includes cautions to prevent harm and misidentification, along with advice on basic etiquette and common sense approaches to herb magic.

Detailing the history, rites, and traditions of Samhain, Hopman explains how to make an offering to the Land Spirits and provides instructions for the traditional Samhain ritual of the Dumb Supper, complete with recipes for the sacred foods of Samhain, such as Soul Cakes, Colcannon, Boxty bread, and dandelion wine. Woven throughout with mystical tales of folk, Fairy, and sacred herbs, this guide offers each of us practical and magical ways to connect with Nature, the plant kingdom, the Spirits that surround us, and the turning of the year.

REVIEW

This is exactly the book I was hoping to read as Samhain drew near. While I had certainly heard of the author, I had never read any of her work. That will now change. Ellen Evert Hopman writes with confidence and warmth, leaving no doubt of her sincerity and breadth of knowledge. She is in her element here as she takes the reader on a magical journey through the season, introducing the various plants and herbs to be used for salves, poultices, tinctures, homeopathic dilutions, and teas. Littered throughout are spells, charms, lore, and offerings that takes the reader from the printed word to actual work. All the information is gently delivered and it all feels very intuitive.

The book deserves a hardcover edition, which is the only fault I find. Lavishly illustrated, the book’s design is a treat in and of itself. The cover alone made me want to purchase the book, but as one should not judge it by such standards, let me assure you, the content is the real treasure here.

This a teacher’s guide, with Part One concentrating on those sacred plants to protect oneself and those which aide in communicating with spirits. Part Two is more whimsical, addressing edibles, rituals, and offerings.

This should be a part of every paranormal investigator’s tool kit and I learned a lot. I look forward to putting this new knowledge to the test in the coming weeks.

The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead is a book that should have a home on the bookshelves of every serious student of Witchcraft, Magick, and Religion. Available wherever books are sold, I recommend ordering directly from the publisher, Destiny Books, to ensure we continue to get more titles such as this.

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