Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Book Review: The Four Elements of the Wise by Ivo Dominguez Jr

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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 apologize for not blogging lately. I've felt rather burnt out on everything in my life, and have spent the time catching up on some TV shows I have been meaning to watch, relaxing, and working a bit to prepare for the upcoming school year. With just over a week before I have to return, I guess it's time to return to some 'normalcy' in my life and that means working on the blog and, of course, reviewing some new books!

I just finished The Four Elements of the Wise: Working with the Magickal Powers of Earth, Air, Water, Fire by Ivo Dominguez Jr, which I highly recommend, especially to those who worked through my Elemental Magic series last year and are looking for more. Dominguez dives deep into the four elements, and, like my series, offers several exercises to develop a deeper relationship and understanding of the elements in occult practices. These exercises are not explicitly laid out in a separate section with questions to reflect upon, but instead built into the text itself. I enjoyed this as it made it to where you didn't know it was coming and couldn't just gloss over the exercise. If you are anything like me, I read a lot and don't always want to do the exercises outlined so I'll skip over them, sometimes not even reading through them completely. You can't do that in this book, which I liked. It forced my ADD mind into reading through them because I wasn't sure where the informational text would pick back up. It also forced me to think about what was requested of me, and caused me to pause on more than one occasion. While Dominguez is Wiccan, it is not a predominant theme in his book, which I was thankful for. He takes a worldly approach to the elements, offering folklore, myth, and esoteric practices from a wide range of cultures and occult groups without saying one is right and others wrong, making the material accessible to all practitioners.

The first half of the book builds the historical foundation of working with the elements including fundamental lore, elemental spirits, basic uses and applications, platonic solids, how the elements align with different threefold practices, and elements within the elements. This exploration was fascinating and I walked away having learned something new in every chapter. I found the chapter on elements within the elements most fascinating and one of the most difficult to understand. No element, at least within our plane of existence, exists in a pure form. Sometimes a Fire is airy, other times earthy. These qualities lend slightly different energies to a spell or ritual and should be accounted for. I also loved Dominguez's inclusion of hedge riding and the three realms of the world tree. It isn't often I come upon this inclusion in books. It's nice to be recognized and how the elements connect to this practice. The last half of the book discusses each element in detail, including the element of spirit, and ends with practical applications anyone can benefit from. I appreciated that Dominguez dedicated an entire chapter to working with the elements in a healing ritual. The directions for this ritual are thorough and incorporate the practices learned through the book.

This book is definitely not for beginners, but instead for those who already have a working understanding and relationship with the elements. I encourage you to work through my Elemental Magic series first, then tackle The Four Elements of the Wise to continue building your knowledge and understanding. The elements are a crucial part of spell work and understanding magic, but we rarely find them discussed in any great detail as done in Dominguez's book. The Four Elements of the Wise: Working with the Magickal Powers of Earth, Air, Water, Fire by Ivo Dominguez Jr is available now and I couldn't recommend it more!

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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Book Review: So Potent Art by Emily Carding

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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 don't know about the rest of you, but I love reading, and not just occult books. I love literature so much that I named all of my cats after famous authors. Among my favorites is Shakespeare and Shakespeare is full of the occult. So when So Potent Art: The Magic Of Shakespeare by Emily Carding popped up for me to review, I jumped on it quickly.

So Potent Art is a practical, yet academic approach to the magic and occult of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. This is a pretty dense read, but well worth it whether you enjoy Shakespeare or not. Each of the chapters discusses in great detail different aspects of the occult including the planets, elements, Hermeticism, alchemy, witches, and fairies, and ends with how the construction of the Globe theatre made the plays even more magical. Carding backs up her claims with extensive examples, including quotes and references with an academic analysis of the sources in question. To make her academic approach easier to follow, Carding spends time summarizing each of Shakespeare's works covered in the book, making it perfect even for those unfamiliar with some of his less popular plays. I have to say, despite my absolute love of Shakespeare, I was not aware of how deeply entrenched in esoteric lore his works actually are. I found the chapter on the planets and elements and how different characters are associated with each fascinating.

In the process of discussing different occult elements within the context of Shakespeare's works, Carding offers exercises at the end of each chapter that incorporates both modern witchcraft and Shakespearean works. I previously covered 5 Unsuspecting Tools of the Hedgewitch where I discuss the importance of poetry in hedgecraft and how it can be used to write spells, rituals, and correspondences. Carding does an amazing job of not only discussing magic and esoteric lore in Shakespeare's works, but applies these principles to practical, modern exercises any witch can use, much like what I discussed in my own post. Again, you don't have to be super familiar with Shakespeare or enjoy his work to benefit from the exercises Carding discusses at the end of each chapter. Some of the exercises include how to create sacred space using play characters, tarot card spread influenced by Shakespearan ghosts, how to summon spirits using play verses, and even a forgiveness spell. None of these uses any deities, which I absolutely loved. For witches, like myself, who do not believe in or work with any deities, having secular spells and rituals is a huge bonus as well as a learning opportunity. The ritual for creating scared space was absolutely gorgeous and I cannot wait to make it a staple in my own practice, calling upon the energies of the characters from some of my favorite plays, including Titania and Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream (my favorite play, by the way). I also adored the spirit summoning using different lines from Shakespeare's works and Carding's encouragement to use a similar technique to write your own spells. For the tarot spread, Carding includes an example of her own cards and how to interpret the cards in reference to the ghosts featured in Shakespeare's plays. I am the type of person that needs to see how something is done in order to do it, so I appreciate the discussion of how she read the cards. 

This book, however, is not just for witches; it's for anyone interested in Shakespeare and theatre. Carding, a thespian herself, spends a lot of time discussing how actors and actresses can channel different characters using their planetary, elemental, and alchemical properties, allowing one to really connect with the character on a deeper level. The final chapter includes a ritual play, perfect, again, for those involved in the theatre. These same theatrical practices, however, can also be used in witchcraft to develop a better relationship with the planets, elements, and alchemical properties as well as how to use them to your advantage in your day-to-day life. I can also see much of this book being invaluable to literature teachers, especially those teaching British literature, plays, and Shakespeare. I know this book would have been beneficial to me in college simply from an academic standpoint. Everything is referenced and sourced, with a complete bibliography at the end. I am a sucker for bibliographies and well-cited research!

While a dense read, I really enjoyed Carding's approach to Shakespeare and her unique insight into using his works in your magical and theatrical practice. Being a dense read, this book will likely take you some time to get through, but I promise it's well worth the effort if anything for a better understanding of the exercises throughout the book. So Potent Art: The Magic Of Shakespeare by Emily Carding is available now so be sure to snag your own copy today!

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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Arnica

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Gender: Masculine
Planet: Sun
Element: Fire
Powers: Abundance, Banishing, Healing, Prosperity, Protection, Strength
Magical Uses and History: Arnica, also known as Mountain Daisy or Wolfsblume, bears no mention by Graeco-Roman doctors and herbalists, which seems odd considering the flower, native to Europe, can be found along the Pyrenees in Portugal, Croatia, and Moldova. The first written record of arnica appears during the Middle Ages in 1558 where it is referred to as 'alisma.' It wasn't until 1625 that arnica was referred to its modern name by Medici, which was recorded as a note in Johann Jakob von Bergzabern's herbal where he described the flower as being used for "those who have fallen down or have hurt themselves while at work" which likely refers to its use to treat bruises, strained muscles, sprained ankles, and other forms of inflammation. As such, arnica is associated with healing magic, especially those related to the aforementioned ailments. Furthermore, the bright sunny flower has the potential to lift one's spirits, thus 'healing' an individual from depression.

However, arnica is more deeply associated with protection. While the most commonly known name for this plant is arnica, in its national language of German it is known as bergwohlverleih. The origins of this name is are unclear. Wohlverleih may mean 'wolf' or 'prosperity for all sorts,' both of which lend to its correspondences. However, arnica is also referred to as 'wolfblume', 'wolferley', and 'wolf murderer.' Fenris or Fenrir, the great wolf from Norse mythology, was foretold to kill Odin during Ragnarok, thus destroying radiance and bringing great darkness to the land. Whether or not arnica is actually capable of killing a wolf is unknown, but we do know that grazing animals that feed upon arnica become ill and some even die. During the Summer Solstice, arnica was often placed or planted at the corners of a field to protect all within. The Summer Solstice is associated with Odin, so this ritual can take on multiple meanings. First, it could legitimately be used to protect the fields from grazing wildlife as well as livestock from potential predators. Second, this ritual could be a sympathetic form of magic, protecting Odin from Fenrir. Needless to say, arnica is a potent protector and can be used during protection rituals and spells, whether in its whole form or as an incense, being a favorite to stuff into protection poppets.

Other folklore tells us the use of arnica at the Summer Solstice was to trap the Corn Wolf (Kornwolf), Rye Wolf (Roggenwolf), and Grain Wolf (Getreidewolf) spirits in the fields, preventing them from leaving until the grain was ready to harvest. Still, other folklore suggests that arnica was used to prevent these spirits from entering the field. Direct contact with these spirits was thought to bring illness and bad luck, so they were killed at the end of the harvesting season by trapping them in and cutting the last of the grain. These spirits were collectively known as felgeister and are part of a larger group of field spirits that includes a host of animals and human-like spirits. These same spirits were thought to also be wind spirits that cause thunderstorms. To drive away the thunderstorms, arnica was set ablaze while chanting "Set arnica alight, set arnica alight, thunderstorm take flight." Again, arnica was often called 'wolf murderer', and therefore burning it was said to drive those thunderstorm-causing wolf spirits away. As such, arnica can be burned to banish thunderstorms, hung in the home or planted in the garden to protect against lightning, or used in rituals to banish or protect against harmful spirits, particularly those that have a wolf-like nature. Furthermore, its use to protect crops, aka bring prosperity, lend to its uses in prosperity and abundance spells, particularly those associated with crop success. 

Apart from protection and healing, arnica can be used to bring strength to those that carry it or to your spells. Arnica grows along mountainous regions in Europe and North America, making it a hardy plant. There are a number of courses that cite that arnica can be used to increase psychic abilities. I cannot find any legitimate folklore suggesting this is the case. If you happen to know of some, please let me know!

Arnica can be used in a number of spells including:
    Protection Spells
    Banishing Rituals
    Weather Magic
    Crop Abundance Rituals
    Healing Spells

Medicinal Uses: Arnica, while not taken internally, is a potent healer of topical bruises, sprains, and mild arthritis. The flowers are commonly used in poultices and salves to treat the aforementioned ailments as long as the skin is not broken.

Preparation and Dosage: To create an external tincture, combine 2 ounces of fresh flowers with 1 pint or 0.5 liters of 70% proof alcohol such as vodka. Seal tightly, shaking every day for at least a week. For a more potent mixture, place in a warm, sunny place for 4 weeks. Filter and apply the solution topically to bruises, sprains, or other inflamed joints. Do not take it internally. To create a poultice, mash a handful of flowers with just enough water to create a paste. Apply directly to the affected area and cover with a cloth or bandage. 

Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy! 
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Monday, June 28, 2021

Book Review: Doctoring the Devil by Jake Richards + Bonus Conjure Cards Review

book review, conjure, witchcraft, granny magic, folk magic, root work, rootwork, pagan, neopagan, witch

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.

This is the second book this year I have read about Appalachian Conjure and I am not complaining. The entire system is absolutely fascinating and well worth learning about, especially if you live in the United States. We get so caught up in authenticity and tracing occult practices back to Europe, that we forget the United States created its own brand of the occult, that is just as magical and authentic as traditional Cornish witchcraft. The more I have learned about Appalachian Conjure, the more I fall in love with this amazing practice. Doctoring the Devil: Notebooks of an Appalachian Conjure Man by Jake Richards is an absolutely phenomenal introduction to Appalachian Conjure and pairs wonderfully with Foxwood's Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work. So let's jump into this review because I have so much to talk about.

Doctoring the Devil: Notebooks of an Appalachian Conjure Man is jam-packed with information, and while relatively short, will take you some time to read because there is just so much to process. This is not an introductory book that you breeze through and throw on the shelf. You will find yourself reading a short passage and stopping to think, "Huh..." The book begins by discussing the differences between root work, folk magic, and conjure. These are terms that are often confused so it was great to have a definitive definition of each, especially for someone like myself coming from the outside. Richards then dives into the basics of conjure, its history, and how to cleanse, protect, draw money, cure diseases, break roots, and curse and hex if you need to. He draws heavily upon folklore, even spending an entire chapter talking about famous conjurers and witches. He draws upon his own experiences and stories passed down from his family and neighbors, discussing themes and truths behind folktales, much like Hutcheson does in New World Witchery. He backs up all of this information with an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, so it's obvious Richards is well informed and has done the work. It was lovely to see the overlap between what Hutcheson covered and what Richards actually does, so you go basically from theory in Hutcheson's book to practice in Richards' book. Being that I love folklore, I loved to see how these folktales translate into an actual practice. Furthermore, Richards understands these tales, while they ring with some truth, are exaggerated.

Richards also spends time discussing haints and other spirits of the area, many of which do not mean well. I loved the inclusion of haints, which was missing from Foxwood's book. Haints are such an integral part of Southern history that porch roofs and window molding are painted 'haint' blue to confuse and discourage haints from entering your home. He doesn't mention haint blue in the book but does cover a large array of cleansing methods, followed by an excellent chapter on protecting yourself and your home. These were my favorite two chapters in regards to actual conjure work as they are applicable to everyone, no matter your practice. Furthermore, these two chapters talk pretty heavily about spirits as well as other practitioners having it out for you, mentioning if a spirit makes it past your protections, they likely don't mean you harm. Remember, your ancestors and helpful spirits can move past these because they aren't there to hurt, but to help. During these couple of chapters, Richards heavily uses an herbal gum called asafoetida. I attempted to contact Richards about this herb in particular because I was curious as to what it was. From the little research I did, asafoetida is a gum-like substance from a plant from Southern Iran. I am very curious how a plant from Southern Iran became such a popular protection ingredient in Appalachia, and how readily available it was to these people. I have yet to hear back from Richards, but hopefully, he will respond and I can elaborate on the use of the plant here. I had never heard of it prior to this book and find it fascinating how a gum from halfway across the world is now a staple in Appalachian Conjure. Richards follows up with an entire chapter on keeping the law away and swaying the law in your favor, which was a fantastic chapter as well. Historically, marginalized groups, including those impoverished in Appalachia, needed conjure to help bring justice where it was not otherwise being served, and prevent the law from disrupting 'unlawful' practices that bring a family income.

Finally, Richards covers other topics, including love spells, pregnancy, cursing, and more. In the chapter on love roots, Richards places no judgment on those in need of love roots, but does make it clear, "If your lover isn't willing to work on your relationship without a root being put on them then they aren't worth your time." This is excellent advice without passing judgment, which I love. What I loved most about this chapter, however, was the discussion on how to break love roots after they have been cast, whether you did it or not. This is something you rarely see in occult books, and I deeply appreciated Richards' knowledge on breaking these spells and the reason why you would want to. I wish more books covered breaking roots and spells you cast, but it seems like our community is more caught up in casting than breaking, but that is a discussion for another time.

Unlike Foxwood, Richards does not focus heavily on God, which made this more enjoyable for me overall. However, a large number of Plasms, prayers, and other Biblical references are used in conjure, so if this is something that makes you uncomfortable then this may not be the book for you, although there is ample valuable information that does not involve Christian texts. 

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To add to the book, Richards has also produced a set of Conjure Cards. Richards spends a chapter discussing divination practices in the Appalachia, including bone throwing and the use of playing cards. The section on bone throwing is excellent so if you are looking for some more insight into creating your own bone set, reading bones, and feeding them, I encourage you to check out that section for sure. Because bone tarot or throwing bone sets are so personal, they aren't something you can mass market, but playing cards certainly are. Richards specifically designed a set of playing cards with images representing their meaning to aid in your divination practice, whether you practice conjure or not. The cards come complete with a guidebook that discusses each card's upright and reversed meaning, simple spreads, and examples of how to read cards in conjunction with each other. I love seeing how different practitioners read their cards as it's a great way to learn by example, especially if you are new. Furthermore, Richards discusses gender fluidity and how to find the card that suits you and your lover, without the constraints of traditional binary language. The cards are antiques to give them an aged look and printed on sturdy card stock so they will hold up to use. I love how the imagery on each card is specifically designed to jog your memory into the meaning of each card, meanings that Richards learned from his mother when he was a boy. The only downside to the cards is the information booklet. While informative and complete, it's very small with tiny print written in a funky font. This makes it difficult to read if you are visually impaired or having a learning disability, such as dyslexia.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Magical Properties of Tree Agate

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