Thursday, June 13, 2024

Book Review: Alive With Spirits by Althaea Sebastiani

Book Review: Alive With Spirits by Althaea Sebastiani
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 in exchange for an honest review.

I have been a little slower to finish some of the occult books in my stack lately as I have wanted to read more fiction, but I finally sat down to read Alive With Spirits: The Path and Practice of Animistic Witchcraft by Althaea Sebastiani this past week and boy am I glad I did. Alive With Spirits is exactly what the occult community needs right now, especially in the face of rising consumerism, individualism, and fascism in our own community.

Sebastiani provides an excellent guide to animism, with each lesson addressing different facets of animism with several exercises at the end of each chapter to help you change your worldview, hone practical skills, and build community with the spirits around you. Sebastiani does not hold back, calling out a number of problematic behaviors in the occult community that are hindering right relationship with the world and spirits around us. Her work challenges everything American culture holds dear, cultural aspects that have been taking over our community for quite some time. Individualism, consumerism, capitalism, fascism, and cultural appropriation have absolutely no place in our community and Sebastiani's approach to animism is in direct opposition to these ideas. I was nodding my head continuously as I read, underlining and making notes on almost every page.

On top of this, Sebastiani made her book highly accessible to everyone, including those who are neurodivergent, disabled, or members of other marginalized communities by providing such things as definitions, disclaimers, length of exercises, outlines, an index of exercises with page numbers, and so much more. For any exercises that include breath work, she makes a note of how this can affect your heart rate and blood flow, increasing the risk of passing out for certain groups. She offers alternatives for those who may not have certain items or be able to move a certain way. Furthermore, she describes visualization not necessarily as seeing an object in your mind, but instead as an incorporation of all senses to bring about the object. It's important to note that many people are unable to see images in their mind (known as aphantasia), and therefore must rely on their other senses to bring about the object or outcome. When we visualize, it's more about creating those feelings than necessarily seeing the object or outcome in our mind. This is what raises the energy necessary for spell work and builds that spiritual connection.

Book Review: Alive With Spirits by Althaea Sebastiani

On top of the inclusion and equity promoted in Sebastiani's work, she also makes note that witchcraft is not some unbroken line of tradition. Modern witchcraft is only a few decades old. The push to create a false history that shows some fantastical goddess cult or unbroken line of magical practitioners has been used to legitimize witchcraft, which is highly rooted in white supremacy culture. Witchcraft doesn't need to be rooted in history to be valid, and while modern witchcraft, including my own, incorporated historical folk practices, those folk practices were not originally described as witchcraft. In fact, folk practitioners would be appalled if you labeled their work as such. I am so thankful more and more occult authors are discussing the real history of modern witchcraft instead of acting like Robert Graves, among others, was telling the truth. They lied on purpose and we are still perpetuating those lies decades later when we don't have to. Because of this, Sebastiani makes a point to tell the reader that the contents of Alive With Spirits is therefore not based on some historical system, but instead on her own experiences. These experiences are valid and it's important we start recognizing that modern witchcraft really is all about experiences.

I could go on and on and on about Alive With Spirits. If you are interested in taking your practice to the next level, integrating spirit work into your practice, building community, and becoming a spiritual activist, this is the book for you. If you are reading my blog, this is the book for you. I don't care who you are, this is the book for you. When you get it, read it straight through, including the exercises, but don't do any of the work. Just read it. Let it marinate, then pick it up again, this time with the intent of taking her message to heart and engaging in the exercises. I promise you will not be disappointed.

If you liked this post and would like to support future content, please consider leaving a small tip in the jar. 

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Ginseng

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Ginseng

Gender: Masculine
Planet: Sun
Element: Fire
Powers: Beauty, Health, Love, Lust, Protection, Wishes
Magical Uses and History: Ginseng comes in several varieties, including American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng). All varieties have been used in similar ways throughout history, but also have unique attributes depending on what type of ginseng you are using. 

The name ginseng is derived from the Chinese rénshēn or schinseng, which translates to "person plant root," which refers to the human-like shape of the roots that sports arm- and leg-like branches similar to that of mandrake. Because of its human-like qualities, ginseng has long been associated with magic and medicine, being used across multiple cultures all over the globe. One of the earliest records of ginseng can be found in Pharmacopoeia by Shen Nong. This Chinese text, which dates back to 169 AD, details the medicinal uses of ginseng in China, where it has been used for more than 2000 years. It is widely considered a cure-all, said to strengthen the body's five digestive organisms, remove bad energies, and calm the mind. In North America, American ginseng was used in similar ways by Indigenous tribes, with the root being used to make an eyewash by the Iroquois, steeped in water and drunk to alleviate sores, or pulverized and smoked to treat asthma. When ginseng first made its way to Europe, it was looked upon with disdain and fear, often confused with the toxic mandrake. It was banned for quite some time until it was reintroduced during the Renaissance through trade. Once it became widely accepted among European countries, the use of ginseng as a health aid spread. As such, ginseng can be used in healing and health spells, especially those for unknown ailments that afflict the body. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, ginseng is considered a cure-all as it is shaped like a man and, therefore able to aid in curing any ailment possessed by humans. Use the whole root to represent the sick person, add to healing sachets and bags, or burn as incense to promote health and wellbeing.

Despite its long history in medicine, ginseng is most commonly associated with love and lust, its warming properties attributing to increased blood flow, flushed skin, and sexual arousal. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng powder was used to treat erectile dysfunction and increase libido. Among the Meskwaki women of North America, ginseng was used to obtain and attract a husband when combined with mica, gelatin, and snake meat. The Pawnee also used ginseng as a love charm, while in the Penobscot tribe, ginseng was used to increase fertility in women. These practices were passed onto the colonists who arrived in the Americas and began creating their own aphrodisiacs. Some more common methods included adding ginseng to moonshine or mixing it with other herbs to make an infusion, while others called for ginseng to be soaked in Holy Oil which was then used to anoint male genitalia to increase sexual performance. Among practitioners of Hoodoo, ginseng root is often used to enhance male sexual prowess and to increase longevity. As such, ginseng can be used in spells for love and lust. Carry ginseng root to attract love, ensure sexual potency, enhance your beauty, or otherwise bring sexual desire. Burn ginseng powder to attract love, add to teas and potions to enhance libido or give to a lover to increase sexual desire or fertility. 

As Asian ginseng numbers dwindled due to high demand, harvesters switched to American ginseng. in the 1800s, the market for American ginseng boomed, driving prices through the roof. This increase in price associated ginseng with luck and wealth, and therefore can be used in spells for such purposes. Place ginseng in your purse or cash register to attract wealth or add to money drawing bowls or jars for the same purpose. In Hoodoo, the first dollar earned from a new business is wrapped around a ginseng root and tied with a red thread to ensure future financial success. Wishes can also be carved into ginseng root and tossed into a river to ensure your wish comes true. Due to overharvesting, American ginseng is now protected under CITIES, and harvesting is highly regulated to prevent future loss of the species, so be mindful if you are wildcrafting.

Ginseng can be used in a number of spells including:
    Love Spells
    Lust Magic
    Prosperity Magic
    Wealth Spells
    Glamour Magic
    Healing Spells

Medicinal Uses: Despite its long history of medicinal uses, ginseng has only been found to scientifically aid in certain ailments, certainly not all. American ginseng has been found to have anti-aging and anti-hyperglycemia effects in humans, while Asian ginseng has been found to increase blood flow and decrease fatigue. Some studies suggest both types of ginseng are anti-inflammatory as well as help stimulate the nervous and digestive systems, meaning it can be used to treat digestive issues, depression, and fatigue. While it has long been used as an aphrodisiac, studies show it has a mild effect, at best.

Preparation and Dosage: To create a decoction, combine 1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginseng root with one cup of water and bring it to a boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. Ginseng root can also be chewed for the same purpose. As a tincture, take 200-400 milligrams by mouth twice daily.

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

Magical and Medicinal Uses of Ginseng

If you liked this post and would like to support future content, please consider leaving a small tip in the jar. 

Monday, June 3, 2024

Book Review: The Herbalist's Guide by Mary Colvin, RH

Book Review: The Herbalist's Guide by Mary Colvin, RH
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 in exchange for an honest review.

If it isn't obvious, I adore plants, especially regarding their history, folklore, and medicinal uses. It's why I write my wildly popular Herbarium posts, so when I was given the opportunity to review The Herbalist's Guide: How to Build and Use Your Own Apothecary by Mary Colvin, RH I couldn't pass it up. This was another opportunity for me to not only learn some new information but also add to my growing collection of books on herbalism that I can reference for my own Herbarium posts. I pride myself in providing accurate historical and scientifically backed information, so the more resources I have, the better!

The Herbalist's Guide is broken up into 8 parts, each consisting of a couple of short chapters. Despite how this may sound, the book is short, with only 237 pages minus the glossary and index. These parts or sections include building foundational skills in herbalism, from harvesting, tools, preparations, understanding energetics, building an apothecary, and even a guide to 35 commonly used herbs. I'm not going to lie, the guide to 35 herbs was my favorite part of the book simply because I love quick reference guides when researching, writing, and creating my own remedies and profiles. Each of the herb profiles contains the plant's common and scientific name, taste, qualities, parts used, medicinal properties, a brief description and overview of the herb, an exercise, and fully colored photographs. The exercises for each herb involve creating a remedy with the plant, allowing you to slowly build your apothecary as you learn about the plants in question. Colvin suggests when learning about each herb to start with older material and compare it to modern herbals before looking at medical research/scientific articles from today. I love this approach as it builds a foundation rooted in history and science. Furthermore, Colvin suggests studying no more than five plants at a time to fully learn about them, instead of just memorizing information. As an educator, I completely agree. Overloading yourself with too much information at once and relying on memorizing information is not best practice and often results in an incomplete understanding and failure to retain the information. This is the last thing you want when learning about herbalism as it can result in poorly prepared or incorrectly prepared remedies that could cause more harm than good. True learning occurs through practice, repetition, and trial and error, so I encourage you to spend time working with one or two plants at a time, especially ones that are able to work together before moving on to others. How long you spend on a plant is up to you, but I promise you will know when you are ready to explore more. I've spent months, even years, working with a single plant before I felt truly comfortable moving on to another. While most plants do not require that sort of time, as an animist and witch I find it's important to develop deep spiritual relationships with the plants I wish to work with instead of approaching them as an object ripe for the picking. Exploitation of our resources, which Colvin wholeheartedly agrees with, is the antithesis of healing.

Book Review: The Herbalist's Guide by Mary Colvin, RH

As I mentioned earlier, each plant profile contains an exercise. This is not the only place you will find exercises. In fact, Colvin highly recommends working through the book one chapter at a time, from beginning to end, to fully develop the foundations of a healthy herbalism practice. There are numerous exercises and activities throughout designed to hone your skills before jumping into making remedies. These exercises include plenty of research, with excellent guiding questions to help you better understand scientific studies. Colvin's guiding questions are a great resource for anyone reading scientific or peer-reviewed sources, whether they are about herbalism or not. Unfortunately, reading such articles requires skills beyond those required to read and enjoy fictional works, skills many people simply do not possess. Discernment, critical thinking, and comparing information across sources are necessary to fully understand herbalism and ensure you are preparing the best possible remedies without causing harm to others. I absolutely love Colvin's suggestions and it's refreshing to see someone as passionate as myself about reading critically.

Furthermore, Colvin supports the use of modern medicine in conjunction with herbal remedies and bashes many of the essential oil MLMs, homeopathic practitioners, and more who completely disregard science and safe practices. I wish she had spent a little more time exposing homeopathy for what it is, but we can't all be perfect. For those unaware, homeopathy is NOT herbalism or the use of home remedies. Instead, it is the belief that like-cures-like and small doses that cure illnesses. It's a crock of horse shit (pardon my language) and a waste of time. Numerous studies have found it to be useless and if anything, a great example of the placebo effect. In essence, homeopathy would have you dissolve a single Advil into a bathtub full of water and drink a cup of that water every hour to cure your migraine. Every single homeopathic, over-the-counter "drug" on the market has been tested and found to be nothing more than sugar pills. They contain such small traces, if any, of actual medicine that they are rendered completely useless.

Colvin also includes legal information, specifically regarding the use of the word "apothecary," sustainably harvesting, and harvesting on private and government-owned land. This is very important information to know and understand, whether you plan to open a business or wildcraft. As always be mindful of local laws and research whether plants are protected in your area. A plant can be endangered in one area, but not in another so be weary of using only one source for this information.

Colvin ends the book with a list of resources, which includes information on finding seeds, connecting with local groups, continuing your education, and so much more. I love the addition of resources, as well as a complete Works Cited of the sources Colvin pulled her information from. This is a great jumping point for those wishing to dive deeper into the world of herbalism.

The Herbalist's Guide: How to Build and Use Your Own Apothecary by Mary Colvin, RH is a great introduction to herbalism and beginning your own practice. It is not, however, a complete and definitive guide, and even Colvin mentions this. If you are looking at getting started or continuing to grow your own practice, I highly recommend picking up Colvin's work to get started. You can find The Herbalist's Guide: How to Build and Use Your Own Apothecary by Mary Colvin, RH wherever books are sold.

Until next time,

If you liked this post and would like to support future content, please consider leaving a small tip in the jar.