✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Author Archives: Anne Greco

About Anne Greco

Anne Greco is a non-fiction writer who writes about her life experiences and travels with humor, keen observations, and the hope that her words will remind us that “we’re all just walking each other home.” Her book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages, tells the story of Anne encountering her places of power. As she reconnects with herself at each site, Anne also develops a deeper understanding and appreciation of her connection to both the seen and unseen worlds. Learn more about her work here: http://annegrecowriter.com.

Seasons of a Magical Life, by H. Byron Ballard

Seasons of a Magical Life: A Pagan Path of Living, by H. Byron Ballard
Weiser Books, 987-1578637232, 197 pages, August 2021

Take a breath, pause, and gift yourself the time to delve into Seasons of a Magical Life: A Pagan Path of Living by H. Byron Ballard. In doing so, use the wisdom shared in this book to create a guide to a more connected way of living and co-existing. As Ballard writes, “this book is an invitation to modern Pagans to return to a simpler and quieter time, either literally or virtually, through letters from a small forest-farm in the southern highlands of the Appalachian Mountains.”3

The educationally credentialed author, H. Byron Ballard (BA, MFA), is a teacher and folklorist as well as a senior priestess. Her life and work are centered in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is a co-founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple and the Coalition of Earth Religions. 

As I read, I felt as if I was accompanying Ballard around her farm. I could smell the air, feel the weather, and taste the food offerings. I was afforded the experience of spending time with her and the life force that surrounds her in her mountain setting and, by extension, the life force that surrounds me in my setting. 

As the cover indicates, the book focuses on the celebrations, festivals, and rituals for the Wheel of the Year. It is divided into three parts. Part One is a five-chapter section that offers background essays “Animism, Mutual Aid, and Permaculture”, “Tower Time and the Conceit of the Ever-Turning Wheel”, “A Different Means to Reckon Time”, “Re-enchantment and the Uses of Magic”, and “the Good Neighbors, the Land Spirits”.

Part Two is comprised of two chapters, focusing on the Wheel of the Agricultural Year: “Winter, The Waxing Year” and “Summer, the Waning Year”. Within those chapters are the equinoxes of spring and fall. “The chapters are broken into the four seasons, with the Quarter Days a highlight within each, and include simple skills that accompany each marker of the year.”4

Part Three wraps up with “Hearth”, a “chapter on the spiritual and physical immersion into these seasons”5 no matter where one lives, rural, urban, or suburban. 

The essays offered in Part One are intended to “not only give the reader a map of (the) journey but also to introduce some ideas to better inform the journey.”6 Some essays were written as if Ballard was talking to a friend as they climbed a hill, while others unfold in a more informational manner, such as the sections on Ember Days and Embertide and Rogation Days.

As one who communicates daily with the trees and rocks that surround my house, I loved the writings on animism and permaculture. Re-enchantment? Yes, please; I could use a healthy dose of that. However, I recommend taking time to sit with what is being offered in these essays as some are more “heady” than others.

I liked how Ballard did not write about these topics in a clinical, detached manner. She walks the reader around her property as she delves into these subjects; the reader is invited to sit at her kitchen table as she prepares meals. Living seasonally, living and working by the natural light, living with the rhythms of nature. 

Wanting to not only read the book but also practice the activities offered, when I finished the section on the essays and moved to Part Two, the “Wheel of the Year”, I began reading the final chapter first, Chapter 7, “Summer: The Waning Year,” as I received the book a few days before Lammas, the Season of the First Harvest.

As with all of the sections on the Wheel of the Year, Ballard offers a letter from her forest-farm, skills to use, chores to be completed, foods for the season, traditions and celebrations, activities to do with children and other friends, an icon of the season and a concluding paragraph on season’s end.

For Lammas, in her letter from her forest-farm, she writes about how hot and dry the farm now is and surveys what is happening in the garden – an abundance of squash and tomatoes, days of “sweat and effort.”7 She offers a lesson on bread-making including the “philosophy” of kneading and sour dough. Chores such as canning and pickling are covered. Traditions and celebrations such as the blessed loaf and the ceremony of cakes and ale are introduced.

The Lammas section continues with recommended activities for Children and Other Friends, including shaping a loaf person and making corn dollies. The icon written about is Wheat as Lammas is “the first in a series of three harvest festivals that is usually dominated by bread – making it, shaping it, and eating it.”8

It concludes with a paragraph on Season’s End that encapsulates the essence of the season, for Lammas, namely looking to the “symbol of the harvest and what that means about gratitude in your life – how you express it, how you use it.”9

She asks the reader to look at the intention that was planted in the Spring — both literally and symbolically and see if the reader tended to this intention — and if it’s ready to “feed you now, that thing that you imagined planting?”10

The book’s final section delves into the aspects of hearth and homely life. She praises homeliness – simplicity in one’s home, comfort, pleasant but ordinary. She invites the reader to view the kitchen as living space for nurturing physically and emotionally. Home altars both indoors and outdoors are discussed as spiritual anchors. Ironically, while I have a home altar, I hadn’t thought of creating an outdoor altar until reading this book. She writes of – are you ready? – laundry as a meditative practice, which after reading I now understand. 

I especially love the book’s concluding lines, offered as a friend waving as you depart their home and sending you off with love:

“There is so much to do, every day, to tuck in the ends of this weaving we are creating: to observe and really see, to listen and really hear, to integrate our intuition and our Ancestral memory into a practice so practiced it no longer feels artificial. It only feels like living a good life and a full one.”11

I highly recommend not only reading Seasons of a Magical Life – but living it. For those who are looking to deepen their connection to the natural cycles of the year, this is a great book to have in one’s library. It offers simple, practical ways to engage with the seasonal energy of the year as it makes its way around the wheel of time. Many of these small practices are certain to enchant one’s life and bring a deeper sense of purpose to the small actions we do daily, fostering an appreciation of the current moment in time that is grounded yet extraordinarily magical.

Moon Magick, by Stacey Demarco

Moon Magick: Deep Moon Messages, by Stacey Demarco, designed by Sara Lindberg
Rockpool Publishing, 9781925946154, 40 cards, April 2021

Moon Magick: Deep Moon Messages by Stacey Demarco is a charming deck of affirmation cards to help one connect with the cycles of the Moon. Stacey has a strong background in paganism and moonology and has published other items such as Queen of the Moon Oracle and the annual Lunar and Seasonal Diary.

The tiny deck is pocket-sized and avails itself to pulling a card a day. As Stacey recommends, “Pull a single card each morning; it is a simple act that will help guide your day with a solitary insight. Hold the affirmation to your heart and integrate it for the day.” 1  There are 40 cards in total, each measuring 2 inches by 4 inches. Each card contains an image on one side and a one-line affirmation on the other. 

“Our ancient ancestors often relied on divination to gain insight. We, too, as modern people can also benefit from receiving regular messages from the energies.”2

The illustrative side of each card is connected to either a Moon god or goddess or a phase of the Moon. Gods and goddesses represented include Dionysus, Diana, Artemus, Tu’er Ye, Hina, Hekate, Mani, and Baiame. The illustration for Tu’er Ye, or the Rabbit on the Moon, depicts a white rabbit standing on its haunches positioned against a full moon with varying shades of blue against a star-filled sky. The accompanying affirmation is “I choose to take a higher perspective and widen my views.”

The remaining cards focus on the phases of the moon: dark, waxing and waning crescent, first and last quarters, waxing and waning gibbous, full, super moon, blue moon, micro moon, and eclipse. I was most drawn to these images that just depicted the Moon, as some illustrations included images of people or animals.

The New Moon card was illustrated with a tiny sliver of a pinkish moon against a navy sky, with white clouds below and a few stars in the sky. “I accept renewal and delight in fresh starts”3 was the accompanying affirmation. 

The waning gibbous card depicts a woman sitting cross-legged on a rocky ledge, palms resting upward on her knees, as she stares at the yellow rising sun, large white moon above. “I seek balance and grounding”4 is the affirmation.

While I recognize that the deck is an affirmation deck, I think a small accompanying booklet describing the phases of the moon and the gods and goddess would have deepened the meaning of the affirmations for me. It’s nice to read the affirmations, but I don’t know enough about the deities or moon phases to make a personal connection, and going off the affirmations I don’t really get a full message from the cards, just an affirmation with no explanation of how its related to the card’s imagery. If you want a deeper dive into the Moon I recommend Demarco’s items previously mentioned.

However, I would recommend using Moon Magick to connect to the wisdom of the Moon and for its use to start your day, as long as you are looking for a bit of inspiration. The card can be quite calming to one’s mind and soul. For instance, to begin my day today, I pulled the waning crescent card that affirmed “I am loved beyond measure.” Priceless! I enjoyed this affirmation very much and have carried the sentiment with me through the day.

Inviting Angels into Your Life, by Kathryn Hudson

Inviting Angels into Your Life: Assistance and Support from the Angelic Realm, by Kathryn Hudson
Findhorn Press, 1644111727, 239 pages, September 2020

I’ll never forget an encounter I had in a bread shop one cold, December morning. I had just left the hair salon after getting my hair cut. I was thinking about my cousin who was hospitalized for a serious illness and bothered by a relationship problem. The gray sky matched my mood. I was even feeling guilty for going to the salon with my cousin so ill. I heard a man speaking to me from behind as I waited in line to buy bread. “Everything will be okay. I promise you.” I turned around and looked at this slightly built man, the only other customer in the store.

I felt tears well up. “Really, everything will be okay. Remember what Mikey is telling you. Mikey is always right.” He walked up to me, gave me a hug, and left the store. This was not a normal encounter – and I remember it to this day, 11 years later. I continued to wonder if Mikey was indeed an angel. After finishing Kathryn Hudson’s book, Inviting Angels into Your Life, and reading of angelic encounters, I am more convinced than ever that Mikey of the bread store was Archangel Michael.

I’ve read a lot of books on angels over the years, but Inviting Angels into Your Life resonated with me more than most books on this topic. Kathryn describes what angels are (without being clinical in nature or getting bogged down with the hierarchy of the angelic realm) and brings them to the reader in ways that we can truly interact with them on an everyday basis. As she writes, the angels are always present and willing to help– what they need is an invitation from us and that is what she shows us how to do. Angels will never infringe upon our free will. Kathryn, a certified Angel Therapy practitioner, has written on this topic and is a workshop presenter on angels.

One of the things that I most liked, and found very helpful in working with angels, was her descriptions of how there is unlimited angelic help available to all of us. If we work with the angels all day, every day, we are not taking angels from someone who we perceive as needing them more. I came to think of this as an angel being like a mother, a mother who can help one child with a seemingly menial task such as homework help while also helping another child deal with a relationship problem. Nothing is too small to ask an angel for help with – and as such asking does not take the angels away from someone asking for help with a serious health issue, for example.

Kathryn write a lot about living a “Large” life, a life aligned with our intended state of being, which is Joy. “Joy is rooted in the truth of our being, eternal and light-filled, no matter what our current experience is on the earth plane. Joy is the essence of Large Life…”1 Angels help us remember our true essence and are willing to help us live a life that is not based in fear and scarcity.

The book is divided into four parts: Take Action with Angels – Preparation, Our Friends in High Places – Archangels, Energy and Angelic Healing, and Next Steps. In Part One she writes on how we can prepare ourselves for interacting with the angels in an intentional way. She describes an angel as “an expression of God that accompanies us here on the earth plan during our lifetime.”2 By viewing our bodies as an instrument, she shows the reader how, “it is up to us to become more aware of how our instrument works and reach toward its mastery.”3 This instrument works through clairvoyance, the method through which we communicate with angels. She defines clairvoyance as “a capacity to see/understand things in an extraordinary way, over and above what is deemed ‘normal’.”4

Part One offers exercises such as channel opening, how to ask for help, filling one’s body with light, and connecting with the earth. She also suggestions for aftercare after completing the exercise. I particularly liked the exercise of connecting to Mother Earth – and the closing affirmation; “I open my channel to stand strong upon the earth, grounded and ready to live my life’s purpose – Large. Thank you, Gaia, Mother Earth.”5

Part Two focuses on the fifteen archangels with whom she most works, from Azrael to Zadkiel. For each she describes the specific focus or form of help of which each one is a master, the associated chakra and color, and the ideal stone with which to connect. She concludes each description with an exercise that can be used to connect with the specific archangel. Peppered throughout are stories of her connections with the archangel or those of others. Uriel, for example, can be called on in times of natural or personal disasters. Uriel is associated with the solar plexus to bring calm, the color is steel grey, and the stone is snowflake obsidian.

The focus of Part Three is on Energy and Angelic Healing. Included are ways to connect with our inner child, do chakra work, and ways to raise our frequency. As we align more with our true self and the spark of the Divine that resides within us, so too do we open ourselves more to angelic communication.

The final part, Four, focuses on Angelic Co-Creation, “essentially a partnering with the Angelic realm in order to live our lives to the fullest, in service of Light, Love, and Joy.”6 She recommends entering into two Contracts, one with our inner child and one with the angels. All offerings are doable – and not intimidating.

I highly recommend Inviting Angels Into Your Life for those new to working with angels as well as those who have been tapping into the angelic realm for a while. I’ve taken Kathryn’s suggestion to “talk” to my guardian angel during the day, as I would a friend. I now communicate with the angels in ways that don’t always focus on problem solving such as pointing our something beautiful that I see (like that lovely full moon) or laughing at myself for something silly that I did. Angels as friends! Use this book to invite them in!

The Goddess Book, by Nancy Blair

The Goddess Book: A celebration of witches, queens, healers, and crones, by Nancy Blair and illustrated by Thalia Took
Hampton Roads Publishing, 1642970203, 234 pages, April 2021

It’s not every day that I have the opportunity to invite 52 friends into my home, but that’s what happened when Nancy Blair’s book, The Goddess Book arrived at my doorstep. As I happily opened the door to retrieve the book, so too did I gladly open myself up to welcoming these goddesses into my life to share their wisdom with me. As Nancy writes in the Preface, “our Goddess heritage and her story, the greatest story never told, brought me home.”1 She continues:

“Goddess spirituality brought me home: to my Self, to the innate wisdom of my body, to our living Earth body, and the body of women’s wisdom long repressed. The return of the Goddess is a rising tide that cannot be held back.”2

I was attracted to the book as I wanted to participate in the celebration of witches, queens, healers, and crones — pretty great company if you ask me. I liked that Nancy worked with the Goddesses in a seasonal way, 13 Goddesses for each season. I read the book in its entirety, but then I focused on the Goddesses of Spring as that is the current season where I live.

I’ll keep this book out the entire year, and I plan on working with one Goddess a week based on the season to allow for a deeper relationship with each. I am really enjoying being introduced to Goddesses with whom I wasn’t aware of such as Vila (Spring), Oshun (Summer), Ungnyeo (Fall), and Aida Wedo (Winter). I also welcomed reconnecting with some of my favorites such as Tara (Spring), Selena (Summer), Baba Yago (Fall), and Brigit (Winter). 

The book has a very brief introduction for each season before profiling the 13 Goddesses. There is a short description of the Goddess followed by an exercise to work with the Goddess and a related affirmation.

Thalia Took’s illustrations remind me of beautifully colored woodcuts that greatly enhance the writings. As the author is also an artist, I thought it a great testimony to Took’s talent that Nancy chose her to illustrate the book rather than doing so herself. I absolutely loved the illustrations, some favorites were the multi-breasted Diana of Ephesus, Inanna bejeweled in stars and the moon, and Willendorf, the first time I’ve seen her portrayed in a two-dimensional with a face rather than the tiny sculpture of which I’m most familiar. 

Nancy is an artist and published author (Amulets of the Goddess: Oracle of Ancient Wisdom) who imparts a Mother Earth-based familiarity with these Goddesses in an approachable way. With Demeter, for example, we meet the Goddess whose Roman name, Cere, is where the word cereal is derived. One is encouraged to “invite Demeter to feast with you as Autumn’s light grows thin.”3 The three-line accompanying affirmation focuses on healthy food and nourishment. The illustration of Demeter shows a woman with long blonde hair resembling corn, cloaked in green.

We meet Sophia in the Winter season. As Holy Wisdom, she will “lead you to your true destiny.”4 In the Affirmation we hold “inner wisdom as my road map.”5 She is illustrated as with the almond-shaped eyes reminiscent of a Byzantine image. The yoke of her cloak is covered in similarly almond-shaped stones that mirror her eyes. 

Danu, the Great Goddess, appears in Spring. We see her in profile, rooted leaves forming her hair. All in green, her upper body and face are covered in the spirals that are most identified with Celtic art as she is the “Great Mother Goddess, from whom all Irish gods descend.”6 The affirmation calls us to embrace our power.

Summer introduces us to Yemaya, Goddess of the Sea. A dark-skinned woman, she is cloaked in a patterned batik fabric. Shells adorn her upper arm, neck, and ears. She is a “mother spirit: matron spirit of women, especially pregnant women.”7 Call on Yemaya to “release you from old beliefs, thoughts, or feelings that seem to enslave you and keep you estranged from your sacred Self.”8

As I said, this book will be a reference for all the seasons to connect with the many different Goddesses who support us on our path. The Goddess Book packs a lot of information and offers empowering affirmations. I recommend using this as a guidebook, inviting these Goddesses to become your companions as you move through your life and the wheel of the year. Meditate on them, embrace them, and accept the guidance they are providing. Blair and Took have done a wonderful job of depicting the many facets of the great Goddess and bringing them all to life.

Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life, by Shelly Kaehr

Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life: The Transformative Power of Genealogical Regression, by Shelly A. Kaehr, PhD
Llewellyn Publications, 0738764511, 191 pages, March 2021

How much power or influence do your ancestors have over your current life? Some people say that they got their talent for music from their great-grandfather, or their ability to cook from their maternal family of stellar cooks. We tend to easily attribute talents to our ancestors. But, can ancestors have a connection to a physical ailment that you have? How about a personality trait such as a tendency to worry?

In her book, Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life: The Transformative Power of Genealogical Regression, Dr. Shelly Kaehr explores how working with your ancestors through past-life regression can help you heal your life. The book differs from others I’ve read on past-life regression because the focus of this book is not so much on one’s own past-life regression to one’s previous lives, but rather a past-life regression to experience what one’s ancestors experienced in their lives. “By sending healing light through the family tree, clients positively affected not only their own well-being but the lives and future happiness of everyone in their family.”1

Shelley has decades of experience as a past-life regressionist. A previously published author of Past Lives with Pets and Meet Your Karma: The Healing Power of Past Life Memories, she is well-poised to write on this topic. She developed her own method of past-life regression to connect with ancestors and to experience their “struggles and turmoil, triumphs and tragedies.”2 She writes on how we can take the knowledge gained from working with our ancestors to not only heal our current challenges, physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual but also help our ancestors heal while also helping future generations in our families to feel a light of “loving kindness.”3 Remarkably, she also details how those who were adopted can connect with their blood ancestors. 

The book is divided into three parts: Genealogical Regression Overview, Case Studies, and Guided Journeys, which contains exercises. The book concludes with a bibliography and a list of genealogical and DNA resources.

Genealogical Regression Overview is the shortest section of the book, but it formed the basis of the remainder of the book. Shelley writes about Carl Jung and the collective consciousness as well as “behaviors that seem to be transmitted through the collective consciousness and DNA…”4 For me, this section melded college psychology course work that I had long forgotten about with ancestors and past-life regression — a connection that I hadn’t made until now. As Shelley writes, “We have energetic ties to the past, where we’re consciously aware of them or not. Every single soul who has come before us and all who will continue on when we’ve crossed over are part of our cells.”5

Part 2, Case Studies, provides just that – various case studies on which Shelley has worked over the years. What was unique to these case studies, compared to those I’ve read in other books on past-life regression, is how the outcomes were related to ancestral trauma, events, and even illness. The case studies focus on physical healing, emotional, and spiritual healing, plus curses and vows. While, as Shelley notes, the “past-life regression cannot alleviate illness,” it can become “a tool to help the cognitive aspect of the client to come to terms with what’s happened and gain the strength and acceptance to accept what is and to go forward with healing intentions.”6

Two case studies especially resonated with me. The first was that of Dana who worried constantly. It was a relief to read that “some people are genetically predisposed to worry.”7 I come from a family of worriers on my mother’s maternal side. “The undercurrent of fear is a quite prevalent emotion to pass down through the generations.”8 Dana regressed to visit a great-great-great-grandfather who suffered a violent act. Through the regression she was able to bring a healing light over the man, releasing him from his pain. 

The second case study that touched me was Eugene and the Evil Eye. Shelley writes that she became involved with helping people remove curses accidentally. As a woman whose ancestral family hails from southern Italy, namely Benevento, where the witches were thought to gather, I grew up quite familiar with the curse of the Evil Eye. In my family this was nothing to be scoffed at, especially for the generations to which my grandparents and great-grandparents belonged. Through Shelley’s past-life regression, Eugene was able to help remove a family curse, which whether real or perceived was affecting Eugene. 

The final section, Guided Journeys, allows the reader to participate in exercises for their own healing and that of their family and ancestors. Shelley writes that it’s best to do past-life regressions with a professional if one is able. However, the exercises that she included in the book can be done on one’s own. She recommends recording one’s regression to listen to later. I tried a few and found it helpful to record the words of exercise in my own voice to guide myself in the process. I also recorded what I had to say during the session. While not wanting to reveal details, I found the exercises illuminating and well worth the time to invest in journeying. 

This section has three parts. There is one on working with your mother and your maternal lineage and one on working with your father and your paternal lineage. She provides ways for an adoptee to connect with one’s birth mother and birth father and also ways for one to connect with ancestors of one’s adopted mother and adopted father. The last part deals with cord cutting and soul retrieval, as well as visiting future generations of one’s part.

What I liked most about this section is that one does not enter into a past-life regression alone; one is always accompanied by an angel who provides healing light and guidance. As Shelley reminds the reader, during these exercises one encounters the higher selves of our parents and ancestors – the “most evolved aspects of their souls.”9 It removed the judgement to read:

“The higher self (of one’s parent) is calm and neutral, loves you unconditionally, and has come to your soul journey in your current life for very real and meaningful reasons that always contribute to your highest and best, even if their real-life actions don’t ways seem that way.”10

I found Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life very, very interesting. It introduced me to the concept of connecting with one’s ancestors through past-life regression to assist in present-day healing. The case studies were detailed, and the exercises covered a wide range of topics. There’s something for everyone in this book who wants to dip a toe into ancestral past-life regression. I highly recommend this book to those who are just being introduced to the concept of past-life regression as well as those who are familiar with the concept.

Reflections on Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage. The word conjures up planned journeys to faraway places. That rare activity you do once in a lifetime. Maybe.

What if we turned the concept of pilgrimage around to embrace those places that nourish our spirit with transformative effects? How can we learn to pay attention to those places that we visit intentionally, and also by happenstance, which upon reflection we come to see how they spoke to us on a deep level?

The traditional concept of pilgrimage involves meticulous planning, a time investment of many weeks or months, and often a substantial investment in walking equipment, travel, and lodging. Things that are out of the reach for most of us – especially the time investment.

In settling into a desire to reinvent the concept of pilgrimage while still being able to have the transformative experience, I’ve come to understand that one of the things those on pilgrimages do is remove themselves from their everyday life to experience something deeper. I’m sure I’m not alone in having experienced getting into a car with a destination in mind only to come to realize that I’m mindlessly driving my normal route by rote (!). The conditioning we experience by maintaining our routines blinds us to new experiences.

The travel to places that I’ve come to define as my pilgrimage places came from me stepping out of my normal routine, which is ruled by schedules and obligations. The wandering, the freedom from routine, heightens our senses to the point that we become aware of how multi-dimensional we are – mind, body, and very importantly, spirit.

I didn’t set out to intentionally to go on these pilgrimages, but upon returning to my “normal” life, I realized that some places to which I traveled had me dialoguing with my soul, with the Divine who resides in all of us. I didn’t hear voices from above or any thunderclaps. I didn’t have to endure the pain of walking many miles with a backpack. What I experienced was a subtle shift in how I viewed myself and, as a result, how I engaged with the world around me, including the natural world. The changes were subtle – like a soft wind shifting something inside of me versus the power of a gale force wind.

My places of pilgrimage have included a church in the Italian-American section of Philadelphia, the River Mersey in Liverpool, England, and Circus Maximus in Rome. I came to these places in different ways: through a vacation to visit my husband’s family in England, a ten-mile drive to the home of my paternal great-grandmother, and a dream trip to Rome. The important thing to remember is that although I planned some of the trips, namely the international ones, the intention wasn’t to have a spiritual experience. The transformative powers of these places was totally unexpected – and this is the power of pilgrimage.

These pilgrimages encouraged me to peel back the many layers of my life, some of which blocked out my true self, my spirit. The subtle changes paved the way for larger changes, opened my eyes to possibilities, encouraged me to move forward, to be open and receptive to the signs and signals I was receiving from the Divine.

What can you do to go on your own pilgrimages?

⭐ Go where you’re directed. If you feel a pull to a certain place, go – maybe not immediately, but before too long. Don’t second guess it.
⭐ Be guided by your intuition. If you’re directed to explore something – do it.
⭐ Lose the grip you have on your life to control situations and circumstances. Throw your routine to the wind, even for a short time.
⭐ Ask for guidance and then listen, notice.
⭐ Notice the lost parts of you that you find along the way as you become a pilgrim.
⭐ Have fun. Be lighthearted. Experience connections with those you encounter along the way.
⭐ See that sometimes the very thing that you are seeking to help in your transformation, is right outside your door.

Ultimately, all pilgrimages end up at home. Notice how effective these pilgrimages are in returning you to your true self.

Moon Wisdom, by Heather Roan Robbins

Moon Wisdom: Transforming Your Life Using the Moon’s Signs and Cycles, by Heather Roan Robbins
CICO Books, 978-1-78249-849-0, 144 pages, 2020

Moon Wisdom: Transforming Your Life Using the Moon’s Signs and Cycles by Heather Roan Robbins is an amazingly informative book to help in understanding the important role the Moon plays in our lives. You need no working knowledge of the phases of the Moon, its relationship to signs of the zodiac, or even how to find your Moon sign in order to begin a deep dive into the book. The information is presented in an easy to understand manner with colorful graphics and charts. I envision this as a book that I will use every day, not one to be read and put on a shelf.  The book is divided into three sections and an Appendix that offer clear, guided ways to begin your Moon work. 

In Part I, “Navigate The Way With,” Robbins describes the effect the Moon has on our daily lives depending on what sign of the zodiac it’s passing that day. As she explains, the Moon moves through the entire zodiac approximately every 28 days, and so passes through each sign every two to three days. She describes how to work with the Moon in the moment, depending on what sign it is in, using it as a guide to navigate the day. She breaks down the aspects of the Moon for each sign by using the same headings: Mood Under the Sign, Romance, Contemplation/Meditation, Things to Do, and Garden (both your internal garden and the physical garden), ending with a chart on What to Watch Out For. Of course, I did an immediate check to see what sign the Moon was in on the day I read the section and found it spot on.

Part II, “If You Were Born Under,” Robbins explains the effect the Moon has on our lives depending on its phase and sign, based on the day one was born. This Moon imprint remains with us our entire lives and helps explain our unique gifts. The information offered in Part II is a guide to help raise self-awareness and also an awareness of the characteristics of friends and family. It was interesting to read that if one knows one’s Moon sign as well as one’s Sun sign, you can better understand how all Capricorns, for example, are not cut from the same cloth. The coupling of the traits of a Moon sign with that of a Sun sign creates a multi-dimensional picture of one’s self and also of others. Life Part I, this section is also divided into sections: Challenges, Primary Emotional Need, Dealing with Those (born under this Moon sign) at Work, in Romance, and in Family, and Unique Gifts. Of course, it’s not meant to be a one-size fits all description of what this Moon sign means to you, but it does put forth some very strong characteristics of the Moon sign and also offers much-needed guidance. 

In Part III, “Phases and Aspects of the Moon,” there is a deeper dive into the effects of the phases of the Moon and the corresponding energy on the sign of the day and also the sign of our birth Moon. Heather offers a guide to using lunar energy to live by – when to begin or end something, to attract or be more introspective, what we generally need at each phase, and how best to interact with others. She works with eight phases of the Moon, not just the four phases of which we are generally aware: full, new, waning, and waxing, offering a more details of the phases. 

She explains that the Moon phase at the time of one’s birth helps one understand where one is in the soul cycle, whether one is beginning a soul cycle if born under a new moon or completing one if born under a full moon. She also writes about the power of the eclipse (both solar and lunar) which she describes as a “form of astrological acupuncture” 1 meant to be surprising, uncomfortable, and ultimately revelatory. I found the section of Part III that delves into the aspects of the Moon to other planets to be the most technical and challenging to grasp in a few reads. It was definitely not a quick read, at least for me, and I will need to be re-read to fully understand. 

Part IV, “Appendix,” offers guidance on how to read an astrological calendar and a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section that offers further details how astrology work and the definitions of astrological terms. Again, the colorful graphics and charts offer this information in an easy-to-understand form. 

Heather encourages one to work with a two-pronged approach to astrology, the “astrology of the moment” or today 2 and also the astrology of the moment of one’s birth. I loved her description of the benefits of working with the stars, constellate or con=with and stella=stars, versus disaster, or dis=against and aster=stars. The book truly reflects her belief that “we’re not influenced by the planets but that the planets are influenced by the same universal patterns that influence us.” 3

After reading Moon Wisdom, I have begun to refer to this book every few days to see the aspects of the day ahead based on the Zodiac sign that the Moon is in. I say every few days because the Moon lingers in each Zodiac house for at least 2 days. I have a Moon app that I use in conjunction with the book to help me with the Moon phases. I’ve begun using the phases of the Moon to guide when I start projects, when I want to delve into more introspective work, and even as a gauge as to what to expect from colleagues in my work day. While I’ve always loved conversing with La Bella Luna in the night sky, I now feel as if I understand her complexity and her pull on my life. She’s not just a pretty face! She’s a powerful force!  I highly recommend this easy to use guide. There is a tremendous amount of information offered in its pages.

Living a Hygge Lifestyle This Winter

Hygge. You might have seen the word. You might even be familiar with some of its concepts. You probably have a hard time pronouncing it! (It’s pronounced “hoo-guh” by the way.)

The concept of hygge is that of creating a feeling of coziness in the winter months. But really, it’s more than the accoutrements of coziness such as blankets and candles, although they are important parts. Hygge is a way of life in which one not only copes with living in the winter months but thrives.

Hygge is most associated with Denmark, where the Danes experience dark, cold winter months. Despite the weather, Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, if not the happiest. The country even has a Happiness Research Institute, a think tank that focuses on wellbeing.

It’s known that embracing the concept of hygge increases feelings of wellness and contentment. This is because hygge encourages you to embrace the winter season instead of curse it. It’s a shifting of mindset from thinking that winter is an isolating, depressing time to one in which you gain the opportunity to engage in self-care, warmth, quiet, and introspection. Seeing the benefits of each wheel of the year is the supreme act of living seasonally.

How can you embrace hygge and incorporate it into your winter lifestyle?

Comfort is key

Embrace comfort. Pile up the blankets. Wear comfy clothing and thick warm socks. Layer extra throw pillows on the bed or sofa. Create an environment where you feel warm and safe. Instead of wide open spaces, aim for creating a cocoon in a part of a room. Maybe it’s a chair in a corner that transforms into a reading nook.

Flame your fires

Cozy up to a fireplace. If you have one, light it. If you don’t have a fireplace you can improvise. Buy a space heater that simulates a fireplace, flame and all. Or, upload an image of a fireplace on your computer or television and sit for a spell.

Seasonal eating

Cook and eat comfort foods. Stews, soups, bread, warm drinks. Fill your belly with warmth. These winter foods tend to take longer to prepare, so slow down and enjoy the time chopping, kneading, baking, and simmering.

Decrease the electricity

Fill your space with candlelight. As daylight tends to be shorter, bring light in with candles. Allow the soft glow of real candles or even flameless candles to create ambience. Remember, don’t curse the darkness, light a candle! Turn off electronic devices and decrease the use of artificial lighting.

Fill up on fresh air

Get outdoors even if it’s in short spurts! Look at the different perspectives available to you in the winter months, when the bones of nature are exposed. Breathe in fresh air. Embrace a star-filled winter night sky.

Dress the part

Dress appropriately for the weather. Bundle up. Wearing the proper clothing will make it an enjoyable experience. Meik Wiking, Chief Executive of the Happiness Institute, is a proponent of what she calls the benefit of “outdoorphins.” The Danes have a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Gather with loved ones

This year, with the world experience of pandemic, one of the most important components of hygge can’t be easily or safely experienced: communing with friends and family. Normally, sitting around a table sharing food, conversation, and laughter with friends and family is a big part of the hygge lifestyle. Just because socializing needs to look different this year doesn’t mean you should forgot about it as part of your hygge winter plans. If possible, have a bonfire party with social distancing. Ask everyone to bring a basket of food and drinks for themselves, and sit around the fire socializing, eating, and covered in blankets. However, if outdoor socializing isn’t possible (or permitted), embrace the moment and let 2020 be the year that you focus on communing with yourself.

Living a hygge lifestyle turns the concept of “coping” with winter into embracing it. Look at it as an opportunity to engage in self-care. Winter is all about turning inward. Use this time to rest and relax. The concept of hygge is meant to be lived and experienced as it provides real physical and emotional benefits. Remember to focus on the present, live in the moment, wrap yourself in warmth.

The Magical Nordic Tarot, by Jayne Wallace

The Magical Nordic Tarot: Be Inspired by Nordic Legends and Explore Your Past, Present, and Future, by Jayne Wallace and illustrated by Hannah Davies and Tracey Emin
CICO Books, 1782498865, 64 page, 2020

The Magical Nordic Tarot by Jayne Wallace is a serenely magical deck. In recent years I’ve found myself attracted to all things Nordic such as hygge, the Northern Lights (which is on my list of things to see), and a society that promote a healthy work/life balance. However, I am not at all familiar with Nordic myths and legends. I have been looking forward to using this deck because I was curious to see how this deck would incorporate Nordic myths, gods, and goddess with the card interpretations. I am happy to say it wonderfully connects the reader with the exceptional energy of Nordic mythology, infusing the reading with the wisdom of Scandinavian culture.

The deck has a nice card stock and the card size is manageable (about 4” x 6”). The illustration on the outside of the cards reminds me of a love child between Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the Northern Lights. A bright yellow star is and smaller illuminated stars are placed on a background of colors of muted purples, pinks, and greens.

Hannah Davies’s illustrations of the Major Arcana cards are pure beauty. The depiction of light, landscape, and images reminds me of the dancing Northern Lights. Most of the images on the Major Arcana cards are set in a Nordic landscape and each card has a unique keyword at the bottom. In the accompanying book Jayne provides a description of the scene, key words, a message, and a meaning. Also included is a description of the card’s connection to Nordic myths, folklore, gods, goddesses, or legends that provides a deeper explanation of the card’s imagery. 

I pulled a few Major Arcana cards as I familiarized myself with the deck.

The Lovers shows a man and woman each standing on what appears to be a mini iceberg. Two white swans swim towards them. Pastel colors of purple, pink, and turquoise are used in the illustration. “Passion” appears at the card’s bottom, supporting the message “I am entwined with passion.” 1 As the Nordic connection to the card, Jayne writes that “The goddess of spring and eternal youth, Idun, was thought to have magical apples that would help the gods and goddesses stay young and beautiful forever.” 2

The Magician is cloaked in a fur-trimmed jacket with the beams of the Northern Lights behind him. In the foreground is a compass, representing the directional points in which one can move. Mastery is the keyword of the card, representing that ultimately, we are all masters of our own fate.

In the Empress card, a woman sits on the ground, surrounded by blooming flowers and three rabbits (fertility). She lovingly caresses her belly that is pregnant with new life. In the background, mountains are set against the Northern Lights. Jayne describes that “in Nordic folklore it was said that seeing the Northern Lights could ease the pain of childbirth.” 3 Nurture is the keyword for this card, a reminder that we need to nurture the new. 

The Hermit depicts a young man sitting in contemplation against the background of a waterfall. In the far distance, the Northern Lights shine like beacons. A rabbit and deer stand near but do not disturb the man. Jayne details that “the Nordic tree of life was thought to have three wells under it, all of which would water its roots and keep it alive.” 4  Wisdom is the keyword, the wisdom that comes from inner knowing that bubbles up when we are silent.

Interestingly, Jayne included an extra card titled Clarity to the Major Arcana. Clarity is depicted as a blue cat, “one of the most sacred animals in Nordic mythology.” 5 Unlike the other cards in the deck, this card was illustrated by Tracey Emin and so has a different style, more of a loose Japanese water color with no Nordic references.  It is described as a card of compassion and self-care. The blue cat is “synonymous with the goddess of love and beauty, Freya, who’s thought to have traveled in a chariot pulled by cats, felines were highly prized by ancient Nordic people, who believed the cats had been given to Freya as a gift from Thor.” 6 I did not pull this card in any of my readings, though, but remain intrigued by its placement in the deck. I’m curious to see in which reading it will emerge.

The Minor Arcana cards contain depictions of each of the four suits. In the book, Jayne explains each of the four suits, their respective elements, and associations (for example, finances for Pentacles). The accompanying book also provides a description of the meaning of each card and a keyword. There are no Nordic legends or myths written about for the Minor Arcana cards. 

The numbered cards of the Minor Arcana show the respective number and suit image with a different colored background for each suit. For example, One of Swords has one sword on the card against a purplish background. While the numbered cards lack illustrations that might help one in determining a message, each card has keyword at the bottom. Going back to the One of Swords, the clarifying word is Clarity. However, the court cards of the Minor Arcana are illustrated in the same Nordic style of the Major Arcana card. Most are set against a background of mountains and Northern Lights. They also include a keyword. I feel that a beginner can easily become familiar with the meanings of the Minor Arcana with a keyword which compensates for the lack of an illustration. The austere background of the numbered cards in no way diminishes one’s ability to read the cards. 

The accompanying guide book is divided into four sections: Introduction, the Spreads, Major Arcana, and Minor Arcana. 

The Introduction offered advice to both novice and experienced readers. I liked that Jayne Wallace walks new readers through various ways to connecting with the deck. Before diving into different spreads and the card meanings, Jayne suggests ways to get the most of a reading, advice that I have found is often skipped in tarot books. I think it’s really important to build a relationship with one’s cards and liked that this information was included. Jayne recommended various ways to connect with your deck including touching every card and also sleeping with the deck under your pillow. She also offers ways to care for your cards, which I think is another aspect of working with a deck that is also often neglected. 

The Introduction also suggested various ways to begin the reading, set the mood, and participate in a closing ritual. I feel that these different components covered in this section reinforce the idea of respecting the cards, opening a “dialogue” with them, honoring the process of a reading, and concluding the reading with a ritual. I admit that I haven’t done a closing ritual in all my years of working with my cards but now plan on including last step in my ritual, which is generally centering one’s self and thanking the cards. Beautiful!

The second section of the book was on various Spreads. The Spreads range from one and three cards spreads to a spread that used 36 cards. The smaller Spreads are geared to both the Beginner and also a more experienced reader who wants a quick bit of guidance or clarification. I was not familiar with some of the spreads that Jayne included such as the four card Nordic Compass, the six card Horseshoe, the seven card Light Within, and that large 36 card spread, Clock. 

I did a few quick reads which were amazingly spot on. But of course, I had to try the Clock spread which intrigued me. In this spread you pull 12 cards and set them out like the numbers on a clock and continue the process of laying out the cards until you have three cards for each of the 12 number spots, each of which corresponds to a topic such as Money, New Beginnings, Obstacles, and Past. As Jayne writes, the spread is meant to give insight into life at the present, offering help and guidance to any obstacles or challenges. As I sat with each of the 12 piles I came to see that the three cards in each spot began to reveal a story and I was able to get a deeper understanding of the message coming forth in each of the 12 positions; much more clarification came through by pulling the three cards rather than just one as many spreads often suggest.

All in all, The Magical Nordic Tarot is a beautiful deck. I enjoyed embracing the Nordic myths and legends while engaging with the deck. The deck seemed “quiet” to me, quite like the world seems after a snowfall. The messages come through, but in a muted way that gently seeps into one’s being versus a loud pronouncement. This feeling invited me to sit with the cards, enabling them to open themselves to me. I highly recommend this deck for those who seek an unassuming read filled with the beauty of Nordic landscapes, myths, and spirituality.

Winter, by Jo Graham

Winter: Rituals to Thrive in the Dark Cycle of the Saeculum, by Jo Graham
Llewellyn Publications, 0738763712, 211 pages, 2020

I was intrigued by the title of this book and looked forward to diving into it to familiarize myself with the saeculum in general — the season of Winter specifically. I had no knowledge of the concept of the saeculum, first mentioned by the Etruscans but also written about by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Saeculum roughly translates into the expected lifetime of an individual (80 years). It is based on the cycles of the Great Wheel that, if we live to 80 and beyond, we will experience during our life lifetime.  In Winter: Rituals to Thrive in the Dark Cycle of the Saeculum, Jo Graham does a marvelous job of detailing out the concept of saeculum and also explaining each season of the Great Wheel, including what to expect. She also goes back in time to what happened during each season in both recent and ancient history to help us understand the current time of Winter.

As Graham explains, the Romans called this 80-year cycle the Great Wheel, or the wheel of generations. The Great Wheel is aligned with the seasonal nature of all life. Each cycle of the Great Wheel lasts roughly 80 years, and each of the four seasons within the Great Wheel cycle lasts approximately 20 years. Each season is further divided into periods of 10 years, including Imbolc, Belatane, Lammas, and Samhain. Therefore, we are all born in a certain season in the cycle of the Great Wheel. Graham provides charts to determine in what season you were born. I was born in Spring of the current cycle. Therefore, I experienced my youth in Spring, adulthood in Summer, maturity in Autumn, and am now entering old age in Winter. I admit gasping at being categorized as being in Old Age, but in terms of the Great Wheel, we all get to live through each of the four seasons if we are blessed to live to 80 (at which point the cycle begins again). “Every eighty years we pass through what the Classical Greeks called ekpyrosis, a destruction by fire that then allows for rebirth and the growth of new things.” 1

Graham also breaks down how each of the so-called age groups (Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers) are going to meet the Winter (the season in which we are living now) challenges in their own unique ways. According to the Great Wheel, we entered the season of Winter around 2010. In 2020, we are in Imbolc. Winter will be nearing an end in 2030. Graham goes into detail writing about how events that have occurred since 2010 are exemplary of things that happen in the season of Winter which, like anything natural, does not have a fixed start and end date. For example, the approach of Winter could be felt in the attacks of 9/11 and the stock market crash of 2008, which happened in Samhain in the Fall season.

Winter is divided into four sections: Introduction, The Crisis Approaches, The Storm Rages, and Aftermath. There is also an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. In each section, Graham describes what to expect in each phase of Winter, what happened in a Winter seasons in times past, and includes detailed rituals to help cope/survive and ultimately thrive during this season. In addition to explaining about the Great Wheel and the seasons, Graham also writes extensively in the Introduction about the last season of Winter, 1925 – 1945, which included the Great Depression and World War II. Definitely not good times for civilization. I shuddered to think that we are in this season again.

One ritual that Graham recommended in the Introduction was to help reconnect with ancestors who you know experienced the last Winter. Without going into too much detail, the ritual involved mask-making (how the Romans honored and invited in their ancestors) and also journaling to invoke our ancestors for counsel, wisdom, and ways to cope during Winter. I loved this ritual and was happy to receive guidance from grandparents and extended family who lived through this period. I was shown that while there was hardship, families worked together and everyone in the world was in the same boat – much like today’s Winter with COVID-19.

In the section titled “The Crisis Approaches,” Graham offers a broader picture of the last cycle of Winter. She also asks us to remember where we were when this current season of Winter began (around 2010), what we were experiencing in our life at that time, what our community, country, and the world at large was also was experiencing. She brings us back further in time through another journaling exercise to 2000, just before the start of the current Winter. When I sat quietly and journaled about this time, I realized that my 18-year marriage had come to a sudden end. As Graham writes, “Winter as a season is inevitable” and it always arrives. 2 

The first phase of Winter is what she describes as the “Gathering Storm,” 3 which is easy to dismiss as a gradual change in temperature, a few snowflakes. She encourages us to prepare for the Winter and not to be complacent and caught off guard. “We can get through Winter the same way our ancestors did: with planning, community, and faith.” 4 She also recommends journaling exercise with questions about our values. “Our values can help guide not just ourselves but those around us as we navigate this season.” 5 This exercise asks us to look at who we are now in this phase of Winter by answering questions on topics such as hospitality, honor, our relationship to the Earth, and how we feel about Pagan values. It was a very interesting exercise and I soon found out in the next section the relevance of the topics. As she cautions, “Remember, we cannot make good decisions about the events to come if we don’t realistically understand our own situation with its vulnerabilities and strengths and receive truthful information about events as they happen.” 6

In the section titled “The Storm Rages”, Graham helps us to prepare for the inevitable storm, including rituals to invoke Athena Strategos (for strength) and Hermes (for effective communication based on clarity and truth). She also asks us to choose what seeds we want to preserve through the Winter to plant in the Spring, not just for us personally but also for our country at large and includes a ritual to save these seeds. She also walks the reader through the process of creating a haven, once again not just for ourselves but also for others who might come to us seeking shelter from the Winter. There was a beautiful rite to Vesta to hallow the house, to protect it, and bless it, that I found quite moving. While the ritual is best done with a community, due to the pandemic I did this alone and found it equally as beautiful and beneficial. I especially like the direction to keep a candle burning (artificial) throughout the night.  

Heroes are needed to get through the Winter, and the final chapter in this section deals with different types of heroes. Graham offers an exercise to determine the type of hero we are based on our temperament. Ideally, we will want to be in a community of heroes who possess different skills and strengths: communicator, warrior, helper, and conservator. The exercise revealed that I am a helper warrior. Graham includes a ritual to make a bracelet to wear as a reminder of our hero skill-type; also recommended is a community-based ritual to help all of us carry out our unique roles depending on our hero-type. 

The final section is “Aftermath”. Jo includes a meditation to help us move from Winter into Spring. Included is a ritual to bring forth the seed we saved and preserved and how to decide how and when to plant it. There is also a ritual to welcome the returning Winter warriors and to honor the departed who did not survive the season. Graham concludes Winter with rituals for invoking Concordia, the daughter of Mars and Venus to “rule our interactions so that the world to come is the best we can make it” 7 and a ritual to banish Discoria, or lawlessness.

Do not expect Winter to be a quick read. I recommend reading each section slowly and engaging in the rituals, exercises, and meditations that call to you. It would have been personally helpful if I had read Graham’s first book, The Great Wheel, to have had an initial fuller understanding of the natural cycle of the Great Wheel. No doubt, the topics covered in the book are heavy, for Winter is not to be trifled with. At times, I found myself depressed, especially in reading that the coming years are those of cataclysm. But it also helped me put into perspective what is happening in the country today in terms of bad communication, unrest, a lack of empathy and civility, a pandemic, and governments turned on their heads. I very much enjoyed that Graham asked me to remember via a journaling exercise that my grandparents and extended family came through the Winter. It left me with hope that “in the early 2030s we will be charting new courses socially, economically, environmentally, and physically. Spring will be fully upon us.” 8