Friday, April 9, 2021

Book Review: SpellCast Folk Magic for the 21st Century by Luna Hare and Antony Simpson

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Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I am in contact with several team members at a number of different large publishers. Because of this, I am able to bring you as many book reviews as I do, especially as of late. Lately, I have been getting 2-3 books at a time, which is why there have been so many reviews lately, but I absolutely don't mind doing these sorts of posts. They are some of my most widely read posts, other than the series on hedge riding and my 10 crystals and herbs every witch should have. I believe a lot of this lies in the fact that there are so many occult books on the market, with more being added every single day. How do you decide which books to purchase and which ones to let go of? If you're like me, you don't have a ton of money to blow on witchcraft books, so making sure you are purchasing a book actually worth the money is important. So where am I going with all this today? Well, Hare and Simpson did not come to me from a big publisher. In fact, they self-published their book using Amazon, which makes my review all that more important. Authors, especially those that self-publish, have to advertise their own books, hoping that if they can go viral, their sales will offset the cost of originally writing and publishing the book. So needless to say when they reached out to me about a book review, I was happy to oblige.

SpellCast: Folk Magic for the 21st Century by Luna Hare and Antony Simpson is first and foremost a spellbook. It contains no introductory information, just tried and true spells that have proven effective by the authors. Both Hare and Simpson have been practicing for the better part of their lives, making them experts in the field of spell casting. They include everything from basic spells, charms, talismans, and oils covering a variety of topics including protection, banishment, love, fertility, death, cleansing, and so much more. The spells are easily laid out by type with simple yet easy directions. Most of the spells require little to no ingredients and most of the ingredients are easy to find or cheap. However, they do use a lot of essential oils, which can be easily substituted with an infusion if needed. I personally don't have a bunch of essential oils. The two I have came with my Apothecary At Home subscription box so working some of these spells as they are written is nearly impossible without purchasing expensive essential oils. However, Hare and Simpson encourage their readers to make the spells their own and offer a list of correspondences at the end of each chapter so you can make substitutions as needed. When in doubt, dried versions of the herbs, herb-infused oils, or herbal teas work in place of essential oils.

Each section is introduced by beautiful poetry, which is a spell in and of itself. The printed text font is large and easy to read although there are a couple of errors, likely due to the fact that they did not have a large editorial team like a large publishing company. The format is easy and simple, making it a breeze to skim through and find what you are looking for. The index is a little wonky, likely from the fact that software put it together, but you can still find what you are looking for nonetheless. Some sections are longer than others, such as the section on protection or chants. The Death section only contains one spell, which was disappointing to me, but it's a great spell to have in times of mourning and is more extensive than some of the other spells in the book. Throughout the book, Hare and Simpson offer sound advice, especially in the chapter on finance and money. Their "rules" include only asking for what you need, not using the phrase "harm none" in your spells, and being specific in your requests. This is some of the best advice I've seen in a book about spells in a long time. It was a nice change from the typical Wiccan spellbook. 

However, there were a couple things I did not like about the book, other than how short the section on death was. First, there is a spell that calls for painting a rock and throwing it into a stream to get a job. Be mindful of the type of paint you use as many of them contain toxic chemicals which will anger the river spirits. They do mention chakras in the book and cleansing them, which is a Hindu practice and therefore closed. Finally, there is a very fat-phobic spell for weight loss that simply reads "Eat less, move more. Padlock the fridge and hide the car keys." In this day and age, I expected a little more tact. I crossed out the spell in black Sharpie and sent that negativity right on out the door. I was thrilled with the rest of the book, but that spell left a sour taste in my mouth. It's not a reason not to purchase the book, whether in print or the Kindle version, but I suggest ignoring that spell altogether.

Overall, if you are looking for a non-Wiccan book of spells, Hare and Simpson are here to provide. SpellCast: Folk Magic for the 21st Century is a great little addition to any witch's bookshelf, whether you are new to witchcraft or not. When in doubt, they offer an amazing array of spells you can build your own from. SpellCast is available now on Amazon in both a print and Kindle version or get a signed copy directly from them!

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Monday, April 5, 2021

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Use of Linden

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Gender: Masculine
Planet: Jupiter, Mercury, Sun
Element: Air
Powers: Divination, Justice, Love, Protection, Wisdom
Magical Uses and History: Linden, also referred to as the Lime Tree, is one of the most magical trees in the world, especially among Slavic traditions. However, to understand the full history of the linden we have to go back to Ancient Greece. There are two myths that include the linden tree, the first being the story of the nymph Philyra. Philyra was seduced by Cronos while he was shapeshifted into a horse and later gave birth to the centaur Chiron. After Chiron's birth, Philyra, upset that she had given birth to a monster, asked the gods to transform her into a linden tree, for which they obliged. Chiron grew up in the shade of the linden tree where his mother taught him wisdom and compassion. Chiron was so renowned for his wisdom that nobles sent their sons to be educated by him, where he taught under the linden tree. As such, the linden tree became known as a symbol of love, compassion, and wisdom. In the second Greek myth, Philemon and Baucis, a classical couple married by Zeus, were allowed to die at the same time so they wouldn't be parted. Philemon's body metamorphosed into an oak tree, the symbol of hospitality, while Baucis's body turned into a linden tree, thus symbolizing love, beauty, and grace, characteristics prized in a wife. As such, the linden tree can be used in love spells, marriage spells, and to bring wisdom.

Herodot later mentions that Scythian soothsayers used linden leaves to obtain inspiration and foretell the future, while the Enarei people used linden bark for divination. Either way, the linden tree can be used for divination, especially divination pertaining to love.

The Greek myths carried over into Roman mythology, where the linden tree was associated with both Venus (love) and Junona (wisdom). Young couples would decorate their home and altars with boughs of linden flowers to promote wisdom and long-lasting love. The poet Ovidiu recorded young women wearing crowns of linden flowers to honor fertility goddesses, but which exactly is unknown.

In pre-Christian Germanic mythology, the linden tree was associated with Freya, the goddess of life, torture, fertility, love, and truth, all characteristics associated with the linden tree. It was said that lightning would not strike a linden tree because of Freya's marriage to Odin. Linden trees were commonly planted in the town square or another central location and later near churches to act as the center. It was under the linden tree that tribal judgment was made, marriages were conducted, and celebrations held. Thus, the linden became associated with justice and peace and this practice of passing judgment lasted well into the Enlightenment period, and was often referred to as "under Tilia."  Because of this, the linden is perfect for spells pertaining to justice, peace, and other court matters.

Even after towns stopped using the linden as a tree of judgment, marriages were still often conducted under them. It was the sacred tree of lovers and fertility. In the shade of its branches, lovers would swear their eternal love to one another. According to French folklore, a marriage vow made under a linden tree would never fall apart. In Germanic folklore, this symbolism is immortalized in the poem Under der linden by Walter von der Vogelweide which tells the story of a maid and a knight who fall in love under a linden tree.

The tree is so scared to Slavic cultures that there are a number of towns named after the tree, including "Swieta Lipka" meaning "the Holy Linden Tree." It is a national emblem of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In Croatia, the month of June is named after the linden tree (Lipanj) whereas in Poland it's the month of July that bears the linden tree's name (Lipiec). In Poland, the linden tree was believed to have protective properties from both lightning (being associated with Freya), evil spirits, and baneful magic. Linden trees were planted outside of houses to protect against such ill tidings. The tree eventually made its way into Christian customs where it was believed to prevent temptation and sin. Prayers made under the linden tree were said to be more likely to be listened to because the linden was the tree of the Virgin Mary. Shrines to Mary were decorated with linden boughs, their soft nature being associated with love, protection, and peace. In Estonia and Lithuania, women would bring offerings to the linden tree to grant them fertility, while in many Polish villages, figures of the Virgin Mary were placed in the trunk of a linden tree to aid a woman in childbirth. It later became a Polish custom of the nobility to plant a linden tree after the birth of a firstborn or major wedding and named after the person the tree was meant to protect. Use linden branches and flowers to protect your home, ward away evil spirits, and bring peace to the home. Placed in the bedroom, it can promote fertility and fidelity while ensuring a lasting marriage. 

This only scratches the surface of the uses of the linden tree and some of the folklore and myths of the linden tree. There is so much more than what was covered in this post.

Linden can be used in a number of spells including:
    Love Spells
    Fertility Rites
    Marriage Spells
    Clearing Ritual Baths
    Protection Magic

Medicinal Uses: The flowers of the linden tree act as an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, mild sedative, and nerve tonic. It is often used to treat colds, fever, anxiety, muscle tension, and high blood pressure. When mixed with lavender or passionflower, it encourages relaxation and promotes healthy sleep. Linden flowers are generally safe for both children and adults but can cause hay fever in those allergic to pollen.

Preparation and Dosage: Linden flowers are usually taken as an infusion but can also be used in a tincture when treating anxiety. To make an infusion combine 2-3 teaspoons (2-10 oz) of dried flowers with one cup boiling water and allow to infuse for 20 minutes. Take three times a day. Linden tea can be mixed with apple juice to cut the flavor. Combines well with elderflower, passionflower, and lavender. To relieve sinus pressure, combine 2 tablespoons of dried linden flower with 2 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and inhale the steam. For a tincture, take 1-2 milliliters up to three times a day.

Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy! This Herbarium copy contains two pages and includes a recipe from Gather Victoria to make Semolina Sun Cake with Linden Blossom Syrup!

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Friday, April 2, 2021

Magical Properties of Sodalite

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Book Review: Ancestral Tarot by Nancy Hendrickson

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I am back this week with another book review! I'm actually going to have a few more coming along as that is how far behind I am on reading and reviewing the books I have been sent. But I figured these are some of my most sought-after posts, so why the heck not. This book in particular took so long to read through because it requires some work on your part, but the work is totally worth it.

Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future by Nancy Hendrickson is an in-depth workbook for beginning an ancestral tarot practice. As someone who works routinely with spirits and some ancestors, I found this book to be both challenging and enlightening. Hendrickson begins by introducing the reader to three types of ancestors: Blood, Place, and Time. Each ancestral type has an entire chapter devoted to them and how to work with them through tarot using a variety of spreads created by Hendrickson herself. What I loved most is that Hendrickson is writing the book as she too uses the spread, using her ancestors to guide the writing of the book. As such, you get a glimpse into her own practice, allowing you to use her real examples to help you figure out yours. I learn by seeing then doing, so having detailed accounts from Hendrickson on how she worked each tarot spread allowed me to fully understand what I was expected to do when I started drawing cards. I was so excited to get started on the spreads in the book that I purchased a new tarot deck just for ancestral tarot. Hendrickson encourages the use of clarifying cards, runes, oracle cards, and other forms of divination to help you along your journey to better understand your past so you can change your future, especially when it comes to breaking ancestral habits and healing ancestral wounds. The ancestors of time chapter struck me deeper than the other chapters for a couple of reasons. Despite ancestors of time being the most convoluted, as they include not only your past lives but the ancestors of those past lives and close friends from those past lives as well. This is a huge group of ancestors and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly who are you talking with, but so interesting. Hendrickson discusses using DNA tests to help you figure out ancestral lines and past lives and what not and this got me thinking. When I was in high school I took AP World History. We were learning about Napoleon and I remember having vivid dreams and flashbacks to a past life. I was 15 at the time and was unsure of what I was experiencing, but I knew deep down that I was someone very close to Napoleon, someone who loved him deeply. I mourned his loss and cried during his wedding to Josephine. I have no idea who I was in relation to him, but I knew I had lived the life. A couple of years ago my mom and dad did 23 And Me. I grew up hearing about how our family came to America from Scotland and Sweden. In fact, both my mom and dad are from the same clan in Scotland, the McLaines. We are indirectly related to William Wallace, which explains the rebellious nature of my mother's side of the family. However, we were shocked to see my mother's family had French royalty. I didn't even put these two things together until reading this book and I was like, "Wait a minute..." Hopefully, it will help you put some pieces together as well.

The last few chapters deal with keeping a detailed record, looking at tarot pairs, creating a whole self mandala, and performing ancestral rituals to honor the ancestors you are working with through tarot. In these chapters Henrickson briefly mentions karma. While the concept of karma belongs to Hinduism, Hendrickson's definition really resonated with me. For her, karma isn't about you doing something good or bad and being rewarded or punished in the next life, but that your actions in the past and that of your ancestors resonate into the future in a variety of ways such as limiting beliefs, passive-aggressiveness, fear, skewed world view, etc. I feel this idea more aligns with my personal beliefs based on my work with my ancestors. The trauma experienced by my ancestors and past lives still affects me and my family today. While this may or may not be karma, I find the sentiment to be true all the same. The tarot pairs, chapter, however, was most intriguing to me. I have talked about birth pairs on the blog before, those cards that give you insight into what your purpose is in this life, but Hendrickson takes it a step further with death pairs and event pairs. According to Hendrickson, death pairs help explain what happened at and after the death of an ancestor. This can help explain some of the actions of the ancestor you encounter. What really put this into perspective for me was the death pair for Anthony Bourdain: Tower/Chariot. Considering Bourdain committed suicide, I read this has a tumultuous and unexpected death. There were several others listed that had me shaking my head like, Hendrickson is onto something! She then goes on to discuss event pairs, which are pairs for a significant event in your life that changes its course. I fully support the notion that there are events in our lives that forever change us and our future.

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I really enjoy this book and working through some of the spreads. I am going to have to come back to it when I have more time to sit down with each spread and keep a detailed journal, but I definitely will. Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future by Nancy Hendrickson is available now, and if you are looking to grow your ancestral practice I encourage you to pick up this book!

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

Ostara/Spring Equinox Altar 2021

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This year you may notice some new names for the sabbats as well as some new holiday altars on the blog. Inspired by Alden's book, Year of the Witch, I am trying to rewrite my Wheel of the Year to be more in line with my beliefs and ancestry. The Wheel of the Year is largely a Wiccan construct and was not celebrated in its current form anywhere in the world. This doesn't mean that it's bad, it just means it's difficult for people outside of Europe, Canada, and the Northern United States (which have roughly the same climate being in the same biome and all) and of different ancestry to really connect with it. I am still piecing together how I would like to rework the Wheel of the Year to better fit my personal practice. This has proven more difficult than I initially thought, but not for some of the reasons you may think. This has largely been in part to 2021 being an endless mess of mini catastrophes and overwhelming daily tasks. Needless to say, by the time I get a moment of respite I'm so mentally drained all I want to do is watch TV and head to bed. Witchcraft and the blog are the least of my concerns at the moment, but I know I'll get around to it. The Spring Equinox is a time of new beginnings, right?

Ostara or the Spring Equinox celebrates the dawning of Spring and the return of life. It is first and foremost a fertility holiday, honoring the reappearance of flowers, birds, and rabbits. Snow is beginning the melt and flowers force their way through the frozen ground, dotting the landscape with their bright blooms, a symbol of hope and new life. As the Sun grows in strength in the sky, the air warms, bringing with it animals previously hiding during the colder Winter months. March and April mark the mating season for many birds and small mammals, which will culminate in a bushel of cute babies. This is also the time of balance, as an equinox is a balance between day and night. We didn't get snow here in Georgia this year except for the mountains and by the end of March, daffodils and tulips have already stopped blooming. However, the cherry trees and forsythia are in full bloom, so I decided to go with some "less" traditional flowers this year to better honor where I live and practice.

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1. Gold and White Rabbits- One of the most prominent symbols of Ostara or the Spring Equinox is the rabbit, representing fertility and new life. Rabbits begin breeding this time of year and are extremely prolific, hence their association with fertility. In fact, rabbits can be pregnant with more than one litter of babies at a time! I've included two rabbits on my Spring Equinox altar to represent fertility, but I have included two to balance the altar as the equinox represents balance. The golden rabbit represents the Sun while the white rabbit represents the Moon who are in perfect balance during the equinox. (Where did I get it: Hobby Lobby 2017; Cost: $3 each)

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2. Rose Quartz and Mangano Calcite- This year I went with two light pink stones to represent love, harmony, and balance. Rose quartz and Mangano calcite vibrate with a soft, soothing love, one that last's for an eternity, the perfect crystal to symbolize the loving relationship between Sun and Earth. (Where did I get it: Metaphysical Subscription Boxes; Cost: ~$6)

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3. Pink Flower Incense Holder- In the center is an incense holder without the incense. I used it because of its pink color and flower shape. The flower represents the new blossoms of Spring, and being pink, it represents love and unity, which results in the flowering fruits so abundant at this time. I did not place any incense for this altar because the heavenly smell of the forsythia and dead nettle were enough. While cherry blossoms do not smell the best, the mixing of the two scents would not have created harmony and balance on this altar. (Where did I get it: Five Below 2019; Cost: $3)

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4. Forsythia, Purple Dead Nettle, and Cherry Blossoms- Here in Georgia, many of the traditional Spring flowers are done blooming. In fact, the daffodils in my yard shed their blooms about a week ago. However, forsythia, purple dead nettle, cherry blossoms, dandelions, and a host of other flowers are blooming in full force. I placed flowers on my altar to represent the blossoming of Spring as the Wheel turns toward warmer temperatures. These same flowers attract a host of pollinators which help to fertilize the blooms so they may turn to seed, thus representing fertility and new life. The fruits of their hard work will soon be realized, but for now, we are gifted with the pleasant aroma of fresh flowers. forsythia represents the Sun, who is growing in strength, calm, and hope. Spring has returned and with it, the harsh Winter winds are retreating. Bountiful harvests are right around the corner and the fear of death subsides. Purple dead nettle, like forsythia, also represents hope, but unlike forsythia, it also represents perseverance, grounding, and merriment. Purple dead nettle is a tenacious grower, making it the perfect representation of Spring. Finally, the cherry blossoms represent love and abundance and is said to invite the essence of Spring. (Where did I get it: My Garden; Cost: Free)

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5. Marble Egg- The blue, marble egg is the ultimate symbol of fertility and new beginnings. As Spring begins, the birds flock back to their mating grounds, building nests and laying eggs that will give birth to the next generation. I placed it in the center of my altar as fertility is the predominant theme of Ostara. The blue color represents healing, calm, and femininity, something I believe is currently lacking in the world right now. (Where did I get it: Marble Egg: Gifted; Cost: Free; Egg holder: Target 2018; $1)

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Like my other altars, most of the items I use are found, made, or purchased for around $1, although if the items must be purchased by you, then the cost will be higher. I hope you find this sort of breakdown helpful, especially those of you looking to create Instagram perfect altars on a budget!

Did you do anything special for Ostara this year? Let me know in the comments below!

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