Saturday, March 16, 2024

Book Review: Norse Mysticism by Disa Forvitin

norse mysticism, norse paganism, heathenry, book review, witch, witchcraft, occult, spiritual, wicca, wiccan, pagan

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 received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have been on a reading kick lately, trying to knock out as many occult books as possible from my ever-growing stack. That means I have yet another book review for all of you. If I am honest, I skipped a couple books in my stack to get to Norse Mysticism: An Exploration of Viking Traditions and Magical Practices by Disa Forvitin. If you read The Future of Flying the Hedge you know that I have decided to listen to my ancestors and follow a new spiritual path, including Norse paganism. This book felt like the right place to get my toes wet.

Norse Mysticism: An Exploration of Viking Traditions and Magical Practices by Disa Forvitin is a very, very brief introduction to Norse spiritual practices. At just under 200 pages and with lots of illustrations (and blank space) you can read through this in an afternoon. It is by no means a comprehensive guide, but does provide a wonderful overview of the history, mythology, and practices of Norse pagans with a bit of Trolldom mixed in.

Forvitin notes in the introduction that Norse mythology was largely an oral tradition, so what you read in this book may not line up with what other authors report. No version is more correct than another due to the nature of oral traditions and the cultural influences of the region from which they originate. I think modern-day practitioners get so caught up with being historically accurate, that they forget the myths and practices were a product of their time, and what records we have are often biased and incomplete. Instead, Forvitin encourages readers to use ancient wisdom to develop a modern, personal practice. Magic is personal so what may work for someone else won't necessarily work for you. Furthermore, the need to fend off literal wolves doesn't apply in most cases, but you may have to defend yourself from wolfish people.

Also in the introduction is a section on the co-opting of Norse symbolism by hate groups. This is one of the biggest problems with modern heathenry; white supremacists have long been co-opting and bastardizing Norse paganism to support their racist ideals and fascist beliefs. True practitioners of heathenry know that it was a largely inclusive practice, allowing for both men and women practitioners of magic (although it was mostly women who participated). On top of this, the Norse were extremely open to women being warriors and there is evidence of trans individuals being greatly honored. Needless to say, these neo-Nazis are misappropriating Norse mythology.

Forvitin gives a wonderful overview of Nordic history to put Nordic traditions into perspective. As with all traditions, we must view them through a historical lens, not a modern one. This helps explain why they did what they did. This also explains the Norse myths, holidays, and types of magic such as seidhr, spae, and galdar. I will say that the dates for the Nordic holidays outlined in the book differ from most other sources. That isn't to say they are incorrect, but that there is some wiggle room if the dates don't work for you. The list of holidays provided, however, is widely accepted by the community at large, which is different from the Wiccan-inspired Wheel of the Year, which borrowed holidays from multiple cultures.

Throughout the book, there are random spells, side notes, crafts, and rituals, such as making your own modern primstav. I loved these little asides as they give the reader some ideas on how to implement ancient practices into their modern lives.

Overall, I enjoyed Norse Mysticism: An Exploration of Viking Traditions and Magical Practices by Disa Forvitin, but feel it was lacking in depth. As I mentioned, this is a short introductory read for those looking to see if the practice is for them, or those interested in broadening their understanding of cultures outside of their own. If you are looking for something that provides more guidance or detail, this isn't the book for you.

Norse Mysticism: An Exploration of Viking Traditions and Magical Practices by Disa Forvitin is currently available for pre-order and is set to release on May 9, 2024.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Book Review: Ancestral Grimoire by Nancy Hendrickson

ancestor veneration, tarot, book review, witch, witchcraft, occult, spiritual, wicca, wiccan, pagan

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 received a free copy of this book via Weiser in exchange for an honest review.

In 2021, I had the privilege of reading and reviewing Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future by Nancy Hendrickson. It remains one of the best books on ancestor work I have read, so when Weiser reached out asking if I would like to review Hendrickson's latest book Ancestral Grimoire: Connect with the Wisdom of the Ancestors through Tarot, Oracles, and Magic I jumped on the opportunity. Of course, I was not disappointed, and honestly, I think this book is the better of the two regarding building an ancestral veneration practice.

Ancestral Grimoire is divided into two parts: Tools for Divination and Building Your Ancestral Grimoire. Part I introduces the reader to the tools that will be used in Part II to build your ancestral grimoire, from tarot and other divination tools to the seasons, months, and sabbats. When discussing the seasons and sabbats, Hendrickson takes a very scientific approach, which as a scientist I appreciate. I love magic and mystery as much as the next witch, but not everything is a 'magical' event. Sometimes it's just science, and that's okay! I strongly believe science and magic go hand-in-hand with one another, and therefore should not be separated from each other.

Hendrickson once again focuses heavily on using tarot to connect with your ancestors. She offers spreads and methods for making contact with specific examples to direct the reader. I love that she consistently provides examples from her own practice as it helps me understand the text and gives me an idea of what I should expect to happen. On top of this, Hendrickson is respectful of gender fluidity. She makes note that traditional binary views don't always work saying that feminine-presenting ancestors can appear as masculine-presenting cards and vice versa. The same is true of age. An adult who was childlike in life can appear as a child card, while a child who was forced to grow up too quickly can appear as an adult card. Instead of focusing on the gender or age of the card, you should instead focus on the ancestor's personality as represented by the cards you have pulled and use other methods, such as a pendulum, to pinpoint gender (or lack thereof) age, or even location.

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Despite leaning heavily on tarot, Hendrickson also offers other ways to connect with your ancestors, including through visiting the Land of Tarot. Her description of the Land of Tarot sounds remarkably similar to the Middle Realm, especially if you have established a garden or office for hedge riding. Either way, Hendrickson's Land of Tarot or your astral office/garden are both valid places to meet with your ancestors. She offers a pathwalking exercise to get to the Land of Tarot which is almost identical to starting a hedge riding journey, so if you are talented in hedge riding, you could rely on it over tarot to meet with your ancestors. If you prefer to use tarot, Hendrickson suggests using The Relative Tarot, and I concur. I had the privilege of reviewing the deck in 2021 and it's by far the best deck I have found for connecting with my ancestors, but just because it works well for us does not mean it will work well for you. Your ancestors may request a different deck, one they can better connect to, so pay attention during this process.

Part II focuses entirely on connecting with your ancestors with each month dedicated to a particular ancestor's trait such as lunar magic, solar magic, reading signs, sigil work, manifestation magic, or healing. Not only does she invite you to cultivate a relationship with several ancestors, but also to cultivate necessary magical skills. I love this approach to ancestor magic and fully agree that any ancestral practice you cultivate should be rooted in skill-building.

Hendrickson does all this with a touch of sass, the occasional curse word popping up to emphasize something's importance. I love how real and relatable Hendrickson's writing is. It makes reading feel like a conversation with an old friend.

If you are interested in building your ancestral practice, I highly encourage you to pick up Ancestral Grimoire: Connect with the Wisdom of the Ancestors through Tarot, Oracles, and Magic by Nancy Hendrickson. I know you will not be disappointed.

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Sunday, March 10, 2024

The Future of Flying the Hedge

For the past several years I have felt an extreme disconnect from my practice, which has noticeably overflowed into my blog. I often feel like I am forcing spells, rituals, altar setups, and magical workings for the sake of creating content or being a "good" witch. This doesn't mean I don't still feel a deep connection with witchcraft, but something is off. I don't feel that pull like I used to, which has left me feeling relatively empty. At first, I attributed this emptiness to other factors in my life, but the more I reflected, the more I realized what was missing was, in fact, spiritual.

I am sure we have all felt this at some point in our spiritual journey; what used to bring us joy no longer sparks it; what used to leave us feeling fulfilled instead drains our chalices. This is a normal part of spiritual growth and one I have personally been putting off because of various things in my life. I will admit I am a stubborn woman and sometimes this stubbornness, mixed with anxiety, prevents me from moving forward, especially when moving forward means significant changes.

Since starting this blog in 2014, my life has been very tumultuous. It has quite literally been the definition of 'through our ups and downs." Despite all that has changed over the years, I have continued to blog, sometimes out of passion and other times out of perceived obligation. I know most of you don't expect content multiple times a week, but I have set the expectation for myself to continue to provide the community with free resources, even if it's only a couple times a month.

My blog has served many purposes in my life during this time. It has served as a source of inspiration, a creative outlet, a business opportunity, and a connection to the witch community. I am so glad I made the choice to start blogging about my journey and stick with it all these years, despite other's protests. My mother has never fully supported my blog or my public admission of practicing witchcraft. Despite her love and support for me, I believe she cares too much about what others think. I don't know if she is afraid for me or afraid of what her church will think of her. My ex-husband believed my practice was dumb and downright embarrassing, talking shit behind my back to our mutual friends. He told me, on more than one occasion, that I was wasting my time and that nothing would ever come of this. He isn't the only man to have said this to me over the years either. It's difficult to continue a practice, especially on a public forum, when the people closest to you don't support you. As witches, we hear a lot of criticisms about our beliefs and practices to the point it makes us question why are do it at all. I find it very difficult to continue practicing when I feel constantly judged, demeaned, and ridiculed by the very people who are supposed to support me. Despite all this, I do not regret a single moment of my spiritual journey. This blog has brought me such joy and opportunities over the years, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

By now some of you may be worried. Rest easy. I have no intention of ending my blogging career. I love blogging. It combines so many of my passions into one: witchcraft, writing, creating, researching/learning, teaching, and reading. If I had to describe myself using tarot cards, I would use the Queen of Swords. I love to learn and to share my knowledge with others. If I could, I would be a chronic student, much like Flynn Carson in the movie The Librarian. Since I can't be a chronic student, blogging is a pretty close second. I spend hours upon hours researching for the majority of the posts I write, from Herbarium posts to book reviews to comprehensive guides. I rely heavily on Google Scholar, GAELLIO, and other peer-reviewed databases, on top of books and the knowledge of other practitioners. I genuinely enjoy the process, but it is very time-consuming.

Despite how much I love writing and sharing my knowledge with all of you, I have felt for the past three-ish years that the content I am creating is more focused on what others want aka what's most popular or 'trending' in the witchcraft world, instead of what I am interested in. Celebrating the Wheel of the Year and observing the phases of the Moon no longer resonates with me. I often feel like an outsider in my own body when I attempt to celebrate these things with spells, rituals, and altars. I even feel disconnected when performing more mundane types of daily magic, like stirring my intention into my morning tea or even cleansing a space. It feels so forced and fake now when it didn't before.

I can't pinpoint exactly when I started to feel this way, but I can say the pandemic was the catalyst. I'm sure I'm not alone here in my feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and frustration. These emotions have overflowed into my practice, to the point where I have almost completely stopped engaging in magical workings. And yet I can still hear the whisper of my ancestors, my spiritual guides, and the Universe calling my name, bidding me to follow them into the darkness. It's time I listen to their call despite my negative emotions telling me to plant my feet and remain an unmoveable force.

So what does this mean for the future of Flying the Hedge?

Well, I'm not entirely sure yet. What I do know is the following:
  • I am going to continue writing and sharing my experiences on this platform.
  • Herbariumbook reviews, and hedge riding posts are staying. These are my favorite posts to research and write and despite the lull in my practice, hedge riding is still important to me.
  • I will no longer be posting about the modern, Wiccan-inspired Wheel of the Year or moon magic. This means Wheel of the Year altars, spells, rituals, and crafts will stop. These practices no longer serve me and despite their popularity, feel like lies. I strive to be authentic and in order to remain an authentic blogger, I need to write from a place of passion.
  • Spiritual activism will become a larger part of my blog. I am deeply passionate about collective liberation, anti-racism, and creating an equitable world for all through both spiritual and non-spiritual means. This is one of the few things that has kept me spiritually active despite how I have been feeling.
  • It's going to take me some time to find my way out of this darkness and this means my blog will grow and change as I do.

There is a good chance my content will be sporadic for a while, even disjointed as I find my way. For the last year, I have heard my Scandinavian ancestors whispering in my ear, beckoning me to follow them. It was ever so faint at first, but the tug that was once just a tickle has become a forceful pull. My desire to study Norse paganism, seiĆ°r, and ancestral work has become a constant itch that I have been unable or unwilling to scratch. My Scottish ancestors, some of whom are also of Scandinavian descent, have also been whispering their support. It's high time I listen.

With such changes in my spiritual journey and therefore the content of my blog, there may come a change in my blog's layout. I haven't decided yet but sometimes the best way to symbolize a major shift in your life is with a complete overhaul of your look. A branding refresh if you will.

Needless to say, I hope that all of you will stick around as I continue to document my journey, even though it's shifting in a new direction. Despite practicing for over 20 years now, I know there is so much more I need to learn and growing I need to do. Witchcraft is a life-long journey and hopefully, my story will help others follow their own authentic path.

Warmest regards,

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Magical Properties of Chrysoprase

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