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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
    Divination

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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TOTAL COST: ~$16


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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Friday, March 12, 2021

Spellcrafting: A Series Introduction

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It has taken me some time to figure out what topic I wanted to focus on this year, but after much consideration, I have decided upon spellcrafting or the art of writing your own spells. With the growing number of spellbooks entering the market and the flood of introductory witchcraft books, we are left with books scratching the same surface over and over without going into any depth. There are very few books on the market covering spellcrafting, so I felt compelled to add to the information available by creating this series to help new and old witches hone their craft.

Spells and rituals are the heart of witchcraft, and learning to write your own spells is incredibly important. There is nothing wrong with using spells from books in your practice, however. I get ideas from books all the time and publish a number of spells here on my blog. I encourage new witches to dissect and use the spells of others to practice prior to jumping right into writing your own spells. Learning the basics of raising energy, grounding, and shielding are the foundation of spell work and without these skills, writing and casting your own spells successfully will be difficult. There is, however, something very different about the spells you create yourself. They contain your essence, your energy, which often makes them more powerful than a spell taken from a book. Many witches, new and old alike, are often unsure of where to start when writing a spell. Do you have to include the spoken word? Do the words have the rhyme? How do I set clear intent? Is intent enough to cast a spell or is it just wishing? What tools should I use? Does the moon phase really matter? Can I cast an [insert spell type here] on a day other than [insert moon phase here]? Do I have to cast a circle? What herbs and crystals should I use, if any? How specific should I be? Do I need to call upon spirits, deities, and/or the genius loci to cast a spell? Where and when should I cast a spell? Should I dance or chant? Can I cast a spell without physical ingredients in the Otherworld and if so, how do I do that?  This series will address these questions and more, leaving you with the tools necessary to craft your own successful spells. 

Spells, even in their simplest forms, can create real and effective change in our day-to-day lives. Often times we have a unique need for a spell, but find nothing matching our exact wants and needs. When we go to write the spell ourselves we find ourselves confused and unsure of where to begin. This series will provide you with not only the how of spellcrafting, but why as well. If you have noticed my latest trend in my spell and ritual posts, you'll see that I have started breaking down why I used and did what I did in the spell or ritual. This is to provide you with a learning opportunity to help you better write your own spells. This series will expand upon this notion, breaking down step by step how to write your own effective spells and why each step is so important. With any luck, your magic and spells should grow stronger by the end of this series, empowering your practice unlike ever before.

So what topics will I be covering? Below is a complete breakdown of what I plan to cover over the next several months. This is subject to change as I work through the series, but this is a basic outline nevertheless.

  • What is Spellcrafting?
  • Ethics is Spellcrafting: To Cast or Not to Cast
  • Types of Spells
  • Basics of Spellcrafting
  • Correspondences, Substitutions, and How to Write Your Own
  • Perfect Spell Timing
  • Spell Wording: Be Clear, Be Heard
  • Raising Energy, Cleansing, Charging, and Centering Prior to Spellcasting
  • Breaking Your Own Spells
  • What to do with Spell Remains 
  • Recording Your Spells
  • Intuitive Spellcasting
  • Casting Spells from the Otherworld
  • Troubleshooting Your Spells and Why They Didn't Work

I hope that you will join me for this series this year. I am excited to get started!



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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Book Review: Elves, Witches, and Gods by Cat Heath

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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 back this week with another book review! I'm actually going to have two more coming along this month 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. Later in the month, I will introduce you to this year's series as well as a seed blessing ritual and my Ostara altar, so keep an eye out for those posts as well.

Elves, Witches, and Gods: Spinning old Heathen Magic in the Modern Day by Cat Heath stuck out to me when looking through upcoming releases from Llewellyn and after reading the description I knew I needed to get my hands on an early copy. Boy am I glad I did! Heathenry is a term used to describe Germanic and Scandinavian magical practices, which resonates with me deeply as both my mother and father can trace their ancestral roots not only back to Celtic Ireland and Scotland, but Sweden and Germany as well. In fact, my father was surprised to learn he has "Viking" blood in him. We knew my mother's family hailed from Sweden but were completely taken aback my father's family had similar roots. Needless to say, I feel a deep connection with all things Scandinavian, and heathenry is no exception.

Heath does an amazing job introducing heathenry using historical texts, folktales, and her own experiences to drive the techniques and rituals outlined in the book. This is by far one of the best occult books I have read in a very long time for a couple of reasons. First, I absolutely love historical texts, myths, folklore, and the like, and draw heavily upon them when developing my own practice. I still do. The fact the Heath does the same and explains the texts in a methodical and analytical way while expanding the texts to explain how they apply to modern heathenry and occult practices did not fall on deaf ears. Most of the book felt like I was conversing with a similar mind to my own and while her writing style is different than mine, I could feel and see myself in her words. This type of writing isn't for everything, but if you enjoy my posts explaining folklore, myths, and historical texts, then you will definitely enjoy Heath's writing.

Second, Heath cites everything within the text with citations annotated at the bottom of pages. This is my favorite way to read citations so I don't have to go flipping back and forth to find the exact source referenced in the material. This allows me to quickly judge the validity of the source, from which she uses far more primary sources than secondary, and therefore the validity of the information. It also very quickly allows me to see what is speculation and personal experience versus what is backed up by history. I am a huge fan of this type of citation and put me at ease while reading.

Finally, I love how candid Heath is throughout the book. She speaks from decades of experience and isn't afraid to admit when she has messed up. I envy her practice and her ability to travel the world. Maybe one day I will be able to do the same. I love reading the personal experiences of others in the craft as they are often more insightful than the picture they paint elsewhere. It's all well and good to write and post manicured rituals and spells, its another to read the raw details on how such a ritual or spell originally came about and the trials and tribulations it took to get to today.

As a hedgewitch, I found the sections on "The Pathway Between" and "Herbal Charms" to be two of my favorite sections of the entire book. The Pathway Between covers liminality and spirit communication. However, Heath builds up to these practices, laying the foundation in Part One: Cosmology before giving you practical magic to practice on your own.

At the end of the book, Heath offers a list of recommended resources, many of which are now on my list to read later. These sources are broken up into sections, including both historical and modern, which I appreciate. There is also a short pronunciation guide to help you navigate some of the difficult Nordic, Icelandic, and Germanic words, although I would have liked to see a pronunciation guide next to each word when we first encounter them. I was having to Google the correct pronunciation of each word so I could read smoothly. I have a learning disability that affects my ability to read new words, so without the pronunciation guide next to each word, I kept getting tripped up and couldn't progress until after I had heard the word aloud.

Apart from wishing for a pronunciation guide next to new words, I did not like Heath's constant backtracking. She summarized what she had just talked about often throughout the book, which may be helpful for those who are easily distracted, but I found it rather annoying. I think it's mostly because I didn't like how she summarized, not that she did. This is really me issue and not a book issue, but one I felt the need to mention all the same. Some sections were also difficult to get through, not because the text wasn't fascinating, but because it was so dense. This may turn off some readers, but it is well worth it in the end.

Overall, I loved this book so much I purchased a hard copy the moment I finished it. I strongly encourage every hedgewitch out there to pick up this book. I promise you it will be worth it. You can order your copy of Elves, Witches, and Gods: Spinning Old Heathen Magic in the Modern Day by Cat Heath now!



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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Book Review: Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work by Orion Foxwood

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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.

The last two months I haven't done a lot of reading. This is partially due to the stress of a new semester with new challenges. In the ever-changing COVID world, it's all I, or anyone for that matter, can do to keep up! However, I have recently been able to sit down and start reading some of the books that have been piling up precariously on my nightstand. Seriously...the stack is getting out of control, but I can't say no to books! My latest read is Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work by Orion Foxwood

I have always been interested in conjure and root work, but seeing as it's not a family tradition I have left it alone. Conjure arose from the need to fight oppression, especially among the poor and disenfranchised. As poor as many of my family was historically, conjure never found its way into our traditions, but the tomtee and other faerie folk sure did. Needless to say, when Weiser/Red Wheel sent me a lovely Yule package that contained Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work I placed the book at the top of my stack. Foxwood is a native of Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains. Mountain conjure or "granny magic" has many similarities to the variety of conjure practices found in other parts of the United States, especially Louisiana. Like other forms of conjure, it is passed down within families and towns and used as a way to get ahead in life when the entire system is rigged against you. Foxwood was born into the tradition of mountain conjure and spent the rest of his life honing his practice, not just in conjure but in multiple forms of magic, including Alexandrian Wicca and faery magic. His life experiences and diversity in the Craft offer a unique take on Southern conjure and makes him an expert in his field. As someone who is relatively unfamiliar with conjure outside of one or two books and an abundance of highly inaccurate TV shows and movies, I appreciate learning about the topic from someone who was raised in the tradition.

Foxwood covers a variety of topics regarding Southern conjure, including his personal experiences, the origins of conjure, how to grow your spirit, and work with spirits. For obvious reasons, the sections on working with spirits were my favorite chapters and I will likely return to them again and again over the years. When documenting his personal journey, Foxwood mentions that mountain conjure is a combination of traditions from multiple cultures, including BIPOC cultures. I am adamantly opposed to cultural appropriation but recognize all forms of conjure arose from a need within the community, no matter your background. Conjure is, by definition, a hodgepodge of African, Native American, and European traditions wrapped up into one powerful magical practice. When the Europeans came over and soon after brought the first African slaves, the cultures of the oppressed collided to provide a magical outlet to fight the oppressors. It helped the slaves revolt, the Native Americans survive, and the poor white folk overcome economic disparities in the Appalachian Mountains. I appreciate Foxwood calling attention to the history of conjure and where the practices came from while making it abundantly clear that respect of its history and where the practices originate from is a must. However, I found it problematic that Foxwood encourages smudging as a cleansing practice.

I loved how Foxwood related the parts of the Otherworld to the physical features of the Appalachian Mountains and the American foothills. I always encourage witches, new and old alike, to build a local practice and what better way than to traverse the Otherworld using the terrain you are most familiar with? While I find traveling a tree to be easiest, there is something to be said for seeing the Otherworld in your own backyard. Foxwood also includes incredible guides for working with the dead and Death himself, honoring your ancestors, collecting graveyard dirt (truly this one of my favorite sections of the entire book and I will be adding his suggestions to my Grimoire in the future), and how to enter the Otherworld from a conjure perspective. As a hedgewitch, I found Foxwood's interpretation of spirit work intriguing and his perspective offered fresh insight into how I view my own practice. Needless to say, I was left with something to chew on and some possible new techniques to use in the future.

Overall I greatly enjoyed the book, but I definitely went back and forth while reading it. I mentioned on more than one occasion to my partner that I wasn't sure how I really felt about the book and I think this largely lies in the focus on God as the Spirit. I fully recognize that conjure incorporates Christian practices and the Bible. In fact, most who practice conjure also go to church every Sunday and would probably knock you upside the head if you suggested they were not God-fearing Christians. It was a struggle for me to separate Foxwood's God from my vision of the Universe as the source. I had to keep reminding myself that we are simply giving a different name to the same source of energy that created all there is. I have a lot of negative associations with God and Christianity which has left a very sour taste in my mouth. If you are the same way, I encourage you to replace the word and apply it to your religious or atheistic views. The knowledge Foxwood has to share is valuable and worth understanding.

While looking past the Christian undertones (or overtone?) of the book was a challenge for me at times, what really bothered me about the book was a brief mention that your soul chooses your parents prior to being born. This seems to be a growing belief among many practitioners of magic and it is one that has always bothered me. There are so many of us that are born into absolutely horrid situations fraught with abuse and trauma. When we say that your soul chose this path, it's victim-blaming and spiritually bypassing very real problems. Usually, when I find this in books and articles it's accompanied with a brief history of the author and their loving relationship with their parents. Those without loving and supporting parents often do not believe their soul chose to live such a life. When I read about children being purposely beaten and killed by their parents, locked in a hot car, or sexually abused, I can't for a moment believe their soul chose that path.

Sorry, I got a little dark there at the end, but I needed to get it off my chest. Whether you are interested in mountain conjure, looking for fresh insights into magical practices, or wishing to grow your spirit work practice, Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work by Orion Foxwood is a great place to start. It was a refreshing read, especially with the growing number of books on Wicca hitting the market on what seems like a daily basis. The book left with me, as a more traditional European hedgewitch, a lot to think about and will likely be a book I return to in the future. You can purchase Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work by Orion Foxwood now!


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Monday, February 22, 2021

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Pennyroyal

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Gender: Masculine or Feminine (depends on tradition)
Planet: Mars or venus (depends on tradition)
Element: Fire or Earth (depends on tradition)
Powers: Protection, Peace, Strength
Magical Uses and History: A member of the mint family, pennyroyal was historically used in Ancient Rome and Greece as a cooking herb. Many old recipes call for its use alongside other herbs such as oregano, coriander, and lovage, especially in pork recipes. Its culinary uses endured into the Medieval period, but fell out of use shortly after, maybe due to its less than pleasant taste and abortive properties. However, due to its strong abortive properties as an emmenagogue (a menstruation stimulant), pennyroyal is deeply associated with midwifery. As such, it can be used in spells related to encouraging menstruation, blood magic, and protection from unwanted pregnancies, especially for those in the sex industry. Do not, however, ingest pennyroyal without proper medical guidance as the plant is toxic. Its toxic nature, however, makes it a great herb for general protection.

The scientific name Mentha peluqium is believed to originate from the Latin pulex meaning flea, alluding to its use as a flea repellent. It was historically rubbed on the body to repel fleas and has been used in modern times around the home to prevent fleas from entering. (Do not spray directly on your pets or allow your pets to ingest the plant). Furthermore, pennyroyal is said to protect against the Evil Eye. Charms and herbal sachets of pennyroyal were worn or hung in the home to protect the wearer from ill-will, hexes, and curses. The herb can also be used in hex or curse-breaking spells and the oil to anoint candles for similar magical purposes. In Medieval Europe, boughs of pennyroyal were hung in sickrooms to heal and protect those within from disease. In other folklore, pennyroyal was placed in one's shoes prior to traveling to protect the wearer and prevent their feet from tiring.

Finally, pennyroyal is associated with peace. Pennyroyal carried in the pocket is said to prevent quarrels while hanging it in your home is said to bring peace, even when tempers run high. 

Pennyroyal can be used in a number of spells including:
    Blood Magic
    Protection Spells
    Hex & Curse Breaking
    Peace Spells

Medicinal Uses: Pennyroyal is rich in aromatic volatile oil which helps ease flatulence and abdominal colic as well as anxiety and spasmodic pain. Its main use, however, is as an emmenagogue to stimulate menstruation and uterine contractions. As such, it should be avoided during pregnancy. Due to its toxic nature, pennyroyal oil should not be taken internally.

Preparation and Dosage: Despite its toxicity, pennyroyal can be taken in small doses internally as a tea or tincture. However, use at your own risk. Its use is highly discouraged by all medical websites. To create an infusion, pour one cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves and allow it to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. As a tincture, 1-2 milliliters can be taken up to three times a day.


Want to print a copy of this for your Book of Shadows? Click below for your free copy!

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Pennyroyal


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Monday, February 15, 2021

Apothecary At Home Review: February 2021

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It has been a couple months since I wrote a review of the Apothecary At Home box, and a couple of things have changed since November that I'd like to cover so no one is surprised. February's box is Herbs for Heart Health, which is so fitting for the month of love.

Before I jump into the box though, I wanted to give you witches a rundown of the company. First, Apothecary At Home is a small, witchy woman-owned business in Berkley, California. Their mission is to inspire, empower, and equip the next generation of herbalists by supplying an affordable monthly subscription box that brings the herbal classroom directly to you, no matter your herbal background. Each month brings a new theme and wellness topic complete with herbs and step-by-step instructions to create your own natural remedies. In my opinion, this is one of the best boxes of its kind on the market, fantastically pairing herbalism and witchcraft into one affordable and ducational, monthly subscription box.

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Again February's theme is Heart Health. As always, there is a complete, sourced informational booklet, that explains heart health and diseases, each of the herb's medicinal profiles, folklore, and magical uses, and recipes that feature the herbs. I love the time, care, and research put into the booklet and the fact that they suggest future reading, continued study resources, and cite their sources. I am slowly creating a materia medica using this information and the botanical prints, although I am tempted to frame all these lovely prints and decorate an entire wall with them in the spare bedroom. This month focuses on two herbs, hawthorn berry and linden, with a bonus herb yarrow. There are 2 ounces of both the yarrow and hawthorn berry and 1 ounce of the linden, which is WAY more than I will likely use in the near future, meaning I have plenty not only to restock my herbal cabinet but to use in my magical workings as well. I still can't believe they are able to pack so much into a single box every month for the price point! This month, I was pleasantly surprised to find linden. It's an often-overlooked herb and now I feel compelled to write a detailed herbarium post about this lovely herb.

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The one thing I absolutely love about this box is that it comes fully stocked with everything you need minus an ingredient or two, to make the herbal remedies. In previous months, this included salve tins, jars, brown dropper bottles, mullein bags, and beeswax or soy wax. This month is no different, except neither recipe is a salve so there is no beeswax or soy wax this month. This month is a cardiotonic syrup and yarrow infused oil, with a number of bonus recipes included for recipes such as high blood pressure tea, linden lozenges, and yarrow infused witch hazel. Having all the supplies on hand makes creating these remedies extremely easy and gives you no excuse not to get started right away. This is a major selling point for me and many others as the easier it is to create the remedies, the more likely we are to do it. To keep everything properly labeled, which is extremely important, they have included several beautiful labels so you can record the contents and date of the remedy or infusion.

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Apart from the supplies to make the remedies, the box also comes with yarrow seeds from the Southern Seed Exchange so you can continue your herbalist adventure by expanding your garden. This is a switch from Bentley Seeds Co, a small family-owned business in upstate New York. I've reached out to Shannon, the creator and founder of Apothecary At Home, to see if this is something for all subscription boxes or just for those in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. If it is just for those in the SE and Mid-Atlantic then I am super excited to have a variety of seeds that do well growing in Georgia clay. As must as I would love to grow all the things, some plants just do not do well here, like peonies and hollyhocks. Either way, I love that each month Shannon continues to support small businesses around the country. This is a major plus in my book and I am glad my money is going to help small businesses. Shannon's mother, Virgi, also creates the two lovely botanical prints found in each month's box that you can frame, glue into your Book of Shadows, or place in your materia medica. The prints are printed on sturdy paper which I greatly appreciate. They are absolutely stunning and I am looking forward to adding more to my collection. This month's prints feature hawthorn and linden.

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Finally, the surprise, bonus items this month are Blood Pressure Tea from The Loose LeafPink Sea Salt Chocolate by Raaka Chocolate, and a Heart vinyl sticker by Pergamo Paper Goods. The chocolate is so smooth and delightful. The tea tastes of lemongrass (my favorite) and hibiscus with hints of ginger, ginkgo, and a light sweetness from hawthorn berries. This is one of the best teas I have tried from The Loose Leaf and I look forward to ordering some more in the future, maybe even some for my mom who struggles with high blood pressure from time to time.

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Overall I LOVE this box. I continue to be awed and delighted by this amazing box and strongly encourage my readers to pick up a subscription now. You can save 15% on your first box using code WILLOW15. It's a great way to support a small, witchy business and learn an amazing skill at the same time for a fraction of the cost of an herbalist course.

***
I know that I included a pros and cons list in my original post, but I wanted to expand on some new features and new information I have received since the last box. I will likely keep this list going for as long as I am posting about it.

Pros:

  • The box is designed to teach, instead of just providing you with goodies. It includes everything you need to learn how to make herbal remedies and gets you started on the herbalist path.
  • The item quality is great. Every item is worth more than I paid and sometimes you even get some bonus items thrown in!
  • The information packet is informative and explains how to use each of the items in the box. The herb profiles are clearly outlines and recipes are easy to follow.
  • There are vegan and non-vegan options. They offer both beeswax and soy wax for salves, so if you are vegan there is an option available for you.
  • They survey you for allergies. When you sign up for the box, you begin with a survey where you can let them know if you are allergic to anything. I thought this is great because I am allergic to opiates and gogi berries, and while I don't think opiates will end up in the box, gogi berries have a strong possibility of showing up. I'm glad that they take this into account and won't put anything in my box that I am allergic to.
  • They are eco-friendly. The box is recyclable and you have the option to receive the information packets printed or digital. I love how much you can customize this box! The original box came with bubble wrap, and for a while, they switched to paper, but the last several boxes have contained packing peanuts to protect the glassware.
  • They support the BIPOC community. Right now, they are offering boxes to BIPOC who are interested in learning herbalism for free or heavily discounted. If you or someone you know is interested in the details, check out their website. You can also sponsor a box to help provide more boxes!
  • They support other small businesses such as The Loose Leaf and Raaka Chocolate
  • They have an online study group specifically designed to answer questions, share ideas, and have support, whether it's from other subscribers or Shannon herself!
  • monthly/bi-monthly newsletter is sent out detailing important information, updates, savings, and more to help you use the remedies in your box and learn more about the herbs. I really appreciate the contact and support!
  • All of the supplies are reusable. The glass containers can be used over and over again, making it very eco-friendly.
  • There are more than enough herbs to create the remedies and restock your apothecary in the future. I know 2 ounces doesn't sound like a lot, but trust me... it's a lot!
  • There are multiple options including a mystery box and an ala carte option (suppliesherbs, and study guides). 
  • This box is available! They still have some spots available for next month's box, but you best hurry!

Cons:

  • The box is somewhat expensive. It's currently priced between $25 (not bad at all) and $40 plus $8 shipping within the US. However, if you were to compare this to an online course, this box is significantly cheaper and provides all the supplies needed for a fraction of the price.
  • Lately, the packaging has not been as eco-friendly as in the past. The boxes have contained packing peanuts, which may or may not be biodegradable. I understand this is to ensure the integrity of the glass containers, but it is disappointing to see the switch.
OVERALL: 5 out of 5 stars 

Interested in purchasing this box? Check out Apothecary At Home onlineUse code WILLOW15 to get 15% off your first order!


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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Magical Properties of Carnelian

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Monday, February 1, 2021

Imbolc/Winter Thermstice 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. Furthermore, not all of us connect with the Celts, which is where many of these celebrations originated from, Imbolc included. I am currently writing a blog post that goes into more detail about how I am reconstructing my Wheel of the Year that will delve into this in more detail, so keep an eye out on that post to learn more about my reconstruction.

Imbolc or the Winter Themstice, whose history is sketchy at best, is and was a celebration of light. It marks the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, meaning that its exact date of celebration changes each year. Many witches, however, choose to celebrate the Winter Themstice (Imbolc) on February 1st. During this time, sympathetic magic is worked to coax the Sun to return and with Him the return of life on Earth. Candles were lit in mass as a result, bread was baked, and houses were cleaned to prepare for the return of Spring. With these themes in mind, I created a simple, yet effective, Winter Themstice altar.

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1. White Candles- Imbolc, the Winter Themstice, or Candlemas is a celebration of sympathetic magic to coax the return of the Sun. The candles on my altar are for just that purpose, to sympathetically call back the Sun and to aid in His return. They also represent the inner flame that burns even during the darkest and coldest of times. Here in Georgia, we are coming to the coldest time of the year, yet life is still found all around us. I picked white candles to represent snow and renewal. There is white sand in the bottom of the lantern to also represent snow. (Where did I get it: Dollar Tree 2017 & 2019; Cost: $5)

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2. Tangerine Quartz and Green Aventurine- Being a time of hope, rebirth, and the return of the Sun, I decided to go with tangerine quartz and green aventurine on my altar. Tangerine quartz is a mixture of quartz and hematite which results in the rust color seen in the crystal. The union represents the unity of the Sun and Earth who together create life. Furthermore, being orange in color, tangerine quartz is considered a solar crystal, symbolizing the energies of the Sun. Green aventurine represents prosperity, balance, and the return of green sprouts. It is also a potent garden protector, making it the perfect addition to any Imbolc altar that includes seeds. (Where did I get it: Metaphysical Subscription Boxes; Cost: ~$6)

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3. Bell- Bells are used for cleansing as well as to 'ring' in your desires. Being a time of spiritual and space cleansing as well as a time to call back the Sun, I felt the bell was the perfect addition to cover both of these aspects of Imbolc.  (Where did I get it: Metaphysical Subscription Boxes; Cost: $2)

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4. Roses- Roses are one of my favorite flowers, representing love, passion, and unity, three characteristics or acts that bring forth new life. I placed two, small roses on my altar to represent the relationship between the Sun and Earth, whose love results in new life. This is also a time of lambing, which again comes from the unity of two individuals. (Where did I get it: My Garden; Cost: Free)

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TOTAL COST: ~$13


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 break down helpful, especially those of you looking to create Instagram perfect altars on a budget!

What are your plans for Imbolc this year? Let me know in the comments below!



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