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.

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  1. Thanks for the thoughtful review! As someone who works in the disability field and experience disabilities herself, I especially enjoyed your description of the author's disability-friendly additions.

    1. She did a great job making sure the book was inclusive for everyone. Thank you for reading and commenting. <3


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