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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.

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

Magical Self-Care for Everyday Life, by Leah Vanderveldt

Magical Self-Care for Everyday Life: Creating your own personal wellness rituals using the Tarot, space-clearing, breath work, high-vibe recipes, and more, by Leah Vanderveldt
CICO Books, 1782498513, 144 pages, March 2020

Magical Self-Care for Everyday Life by Leah Vanderveldt is an amazingly comprehensive book that introduces readers to the myriad of ways that self-care can be practiced in our daily life. Leah has a wealth of experience in this topic as a wellness and nutrition expert. As the founder of The Nourish Exchange and Witchy Wellness, her bio notes that she writes with a “focus on intuitive living, creating healthy recipes, herbalism, and self-care with a mystical twist.”1 This book stretched the bounds of “traditional” self-care recommendation by introducing magic through rituals and energy work.

I purposely chose to read this book during my favorite week of the year, the week between Christmas and the New Year, which for me is a time of quiet and introspection. I absolutely loved this book and savored every moment reading it. Vanderveldt expanded self-care to include mind, body, and spirit, while also reminding us that self-care means different things to all of us. As Vanderveldt explains, “magical living gives us an opportunity to claim our power, make the changes we seek, and create a life that lights us up.”2 I was ready to embrace magical living as I stood on the threshold of a new year. I have been using this time as an opportunity to get clear on my intentions, and so far I’ve tried many of the meditations, rituals, and activities described in the book. 

The book is divided into nine chapters: “embracing the Feminine”; “mirroring nature and the seasons”; “creating a magical home”; “lunar living”; “self-awareness with astrology; connect to your wisdom with Tarot“; “herbs and plant medicines for wellbeing”; “healing with energy flow and movement”; “manifesting and honoring your shadow.” The book is very comprehensive, and each chapter offers details on the topic at hand such as gemstones, moon cycles and phases, magical plants and flower essences.

Each chapter also includes related healthy recipes. For example, the lunar living chapter has a recipe on full moon pasta, the mirroring nature chapter has recipes for a spring equinox bowl and a grilled veggie summer solstice bowl, and the Tarot chapter has a recipe for an Empress breakfast. I am planning on making the Winter Solstice Soup in a few days!

The book closes with helpful reminders such as “taking care of yourself first will help you show up fully for others” and “give yourself the gift of time and space”3 The Resource section offers a chapter-by-chapter list of practitioners and websites. 

Intention, energy work, self-care are the main focus throughout. Vanderveldt encourages us with various rituals and recipes to shift the energy within us and the energy that surrounds us with practices such as healthy eating, astrology, moon work, shifting our thoughts, Tarot, cleansing rituals, attunement with the seasons, and working with plants and stones. The book is extremely sensual, a veritable feast for the senses and the spirit. The recipes and rituals indulge one or more of our senses at various times. The photography is amazing and brings the writing to life.

“Magical self-care is the practice of using rituals and tools that might be considered mystical, witchy, or esoteric to identify and address your needs. It requires being inquisitive, diving deep, and trusting yourself and your instincts. It is a process of self-care that combines the earthy and the spiritual for personal evolution and healing.”4

What I like most about the magical self-care concept was that this is a practice, much like yoga, one that best works when it is ongoing to help us grow and become self-aware. I also loved that Vanderveldt recognizes that often our time commitments are sometimes stretched thin and has created it so most rituals or activities can be done in 30 minutes or less. She purposely chose exercises that were quick, adaptable, and affordable (some of which are relatively inexpensive or free). The recipes to nourish the body and spirit are not intended to be difficult to make.

I appreciated that Vanderveldt recognized that “sometimes self-care looks like not taking any action at all. Or like getting serious about my boundaries. Or just going out with my friends and celebrating life.” 5 There’s no right or wrong. There’s not judgement. Self-care is about self-inquiry and self-awareness and trusting one’s intuition, which Vanderveldt reminds us how it is “not always easy to hear it clearly, especially after decades of not being aware of it or ignoring it.” 6

Vanderveldt encourages the reader to try what rituals or activities resonate with us without the pressure to do every ritual in the book. She does recommend, though, that we do the chosen ritual or activity consistently. I was particularly drawn to creating a magical home and lunar living; again, because these are what I focus on as the new year is birthed. I cleansed my home using the rituals in the book. I did a full moon check-in and release. I tried some Tarot spreads of which I was not familiar: three-care spreads on releasing, asking for guidance, and working with the new moon.  Vanderveldt asks us to take a bird’s eye view of things — to see the larger picture and the higher good — while also encouraging us to literally get into the weeds through working with plants such as dandelions!  

I highly recommend Magical Self-Care for Everyday Life to anyone who wants to incorporate a spiritual self-care practice into their life. But don’t just read the book — use the book, treat it as a companion and engage with it every day. Feel worthy to take time for yourself. As Vanderveldt reminds us, “manifestation is a simple energetic equation, but it can get tripped up when we don’t feel deserving of what we want – we only get what we believe we deserve.”7 Believe that you deserve joy and happiness. Believe that you deserve to make magical self-care a daily practice.

4 Ways to Usher in the New Year with Gemstones

My ritual of cleaning the house at the start of the new year to bring in fresh energy consists of more than dusting, washing mirrors, changing seasonal accents, and making resolutions. It also includes gemstone! I both bring in new gemstones and cleanse the ones that already reside in my house. 

I can’t remember when I was first attracted to stones, especially gemstones, but I can say without a doubt that they are an integral part of my life. As we turn the calendar page what I want to share are my recommendations for gemstones to use to bless the new year, stones to assist with space protection, stones to help with manifestation, and stones to bring focus on showing gratitude. Use these stones to assist you in bringing into the new year what your heart desires.

Recommendations for Purchasing Stones

As you read through my recommendations, focus on the stones that resonate with you. Wander into a local gem store and see what stones call to you. Pick them up, hold them in your hand. Choose the ones that want to come into your life and your living space. Try not to let reason be the determiner of your choice, such as the cost of the stone, but do keep your budget in mind. I prefer unpolished stones to polished ones, but go with what you’re attracted to. Of course, if you don’t live near a gem store, you can purchase stones on the Internet. 

If you want to be more adventurous and have the gemstones bring you into their life, leave this list behind and wander the gem store and purchase what stones call to you. When you get home read up on the properties of the stone. You’ll be amazed that the stone that chose you is just what you needed! Picking gemstones intuitively can be a method of divination about what the new year holds for you.

Blessing the New Year

Gemstones I like to use in blessing the new year are quartz, amethyst, labradorite, fluorite, jade and jasper.

Of course you want to enter the new year free from the bondage of last year’s hurts and failure; quartz is the ideal stone to assist with releasing. Then, to get things aligned for the new year, bring in Amethyst, which helps with removing blockages that impede your progress. The last gemstone for this trio is Labradorite to help reveal to you your true calling.

Next, I make a use a mixture of gemstones to honor the inward winter months; I love the quiet that January brings. For calming down, meditating on your desires, and taking a bird’s eye view of your life, fluorite is the perfect stone. To call in affluence and abundance of all positive things you want to attract in the new year, consider bringing jade into your home. Then, to lift your spirits early days of the new year, invite the energy of jasper to your life.

Space Protection

It’s a good idea to protect your living space as you set intentions for a new year. I love placing black tourmaline outside my front door. I have a small stone that is pretty much undetectable placed at the base of a statue of Ganesh. I have a few pieces of Apache tears, a form of obsidian, throughout the house as they assist with psychic protection. It’s important to clean these stones frequently, as they absorb a lot of negative energy. I also have this stone in my office space, as it helps to absorb workspace negativity. Finally, I keep pieces of amethyst, a great protector stone, on my windowsills. They create a beautiful touch when the sun hits them.

I also use two variations of my absolute favorite stone, selenite, to assist with protection. Selenite is thought to be self-cleansing so there’s no need to actively cleanse it. I also never place selenite in water but feel free to charge it with sunlight. White selenite assists with psychic protection, cleansing your aura, and also calling in the angels. For calming, I place white selenite wands on at least one windowsill in each room. 

I place rose selenite on a table at the entrance of my home and also on the windowsill. Rose selenite also helps with manifestation of dreams so it’s a good stone to keep at your bedside. Rose selenite is associated with protection based on a Native American belief that the rose shape of this form of selenite was carved by warriors who were returning home from the spirit world and then placed around the area for protection of their homeland. 

Manifestation

I’m not a proponent of making resolutions at the start of a new year. I see too many people spring into action in January to keep pace with their resolutions, like joining a gym or beginning a diet. For me, the winter is a time for introspection, conjuring, dreaming, planning. Actions, like planting come later in the year.

I recommend using these winter months to journal, dream, imagine what you want to manifest. Remember, though, that it’s important that you feel worthy of receiving what you want to manifest. Use citrine to welcome in abundance in all forms. Clear quartz is another great stone for manifestation. Black obsidian helps with releasing limiting beliefs that will impede growth. And of course, rose quartz can be used to bring love into your life.

Keep these stones nearby as you journal or create a vision board. Keep them by your bedside and hold them before you close your eyes, asking that your dreams help guide you toward making manifest what you desire.

Gratitude

As you begin anew, cleanse and protect your space, and think about what you want to manifest in the new year, remember to include a gratitude ritual in your daily life. Gratitude is the key to receiving. As lean as things may seem at times, always find time to give thanks for what you do have. Want a bigger living space? Give thanks for the space that you have. Want a better job? Express gratitude for something about your current job.

Citrine, a stone of appreciation, will help you see the joy in your everyday life and help you to not take your blessings for granted. Green adventurine is a great “soother” stone and helps you feel grateful for what you have as you attract more abundance in your life. The stones will support your spiritual growth, but as always, your thoughts are the driver. 

Cleansing and Charging Your Stones

I think it’s important to cleanse your stones when you first bring them home. My preferred method of cleansing is using salt water, though you may also want to use moon water or rain water. It’s important though to check to see if your stone is sensitive to water. If so, do not submerge it into water. To cleanse with salt water, fill a bowl with water, add sea salt, and place your stone or stones in the water. I then place my bowl of salt water and stones outside in the sun for about a day.  When the stones are cleansed I dispose of the water by emptying the bowl in the street or on a pavement, not directly back into the earth. 

After the stone is cleansed the next step is to charge it with the intention that you want to set. Hold the stone in your hand and ask it to help with your intention, be it love, protection, abundance. If you want to bring an assertive energy into the stone, set your intention and then place it outside in the sunlight. If you want to bring a more receptive energy into the stone, set your intention and then place the stone outside in the moonlight, using the moon’s phases to assist with the process (for example, place it outside during the new moon to assist with growth). 

Have fun choosing your stones. Invite them into your space and ask for their assistance. They will soon become your quiet friends and guardians.

Heavenly Bodies Astrology, by Lily Ashwell

Heavenly Bodies Astrology: Deck and Little Guidebook, by Lily Ashwell
CICO Books, 1782499312, 51 cards, 144 pages, February 2021

I have been reading different decks for almost 30 years (I started young!). But when Heavenly Bodies Astrology by Lily Ashwell arrived, I got chills. The presentation of this boxset is unlike any I’ve ever seen. The deck and guidebook came in a gorgeous keepsake box, which really made for a memorable deck unveiling. As I opened the inner cover of the box, I was greeted with a quote by Henry David Thoreau that instantly made me marvel at the idea that heaven is ever-present . Illustrated in tones of pinks and grays, lace, and a full moon, the deck mesmerized me from the get-go. It even has a gold ribbon that can be used to gently remove the deck from the box with grace and ease!

The intricate beauty put into the presentation of the deck and “little guidebook” conveyed to me that just as much care and love was put into the design of this deck. The smaller box within the keepsake box holds the deck, which also has a ribbon to be used to remove it from its holder. The back of the deck’s box has a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke, one of my favorite poets, while the inner lid of the deck’s box has a quote by William Blake. In her Introduction, Lily describes the importance of this quote in her journey, which brought the box to life. 

I normally don’t gush over presentations and artwork, but this deck is truly a magnificent work of art. The contents of this box set are appropriately referred to as “treasures” on the box sleeve. I actually sat with these three pieces laid out on the table in front of me to soak in the craftsmanship that went into their creation. I felt as if someone had shared treasure with me, and I relished opening the book to read its content and then opening the deck to hold the cards as I would a new baby. These feelings were confirmed when I read Lily’s description in the book’s Introduction:

“This deck and guidebook did not begin as something to be shared, let alone published, but as my own study tool, to deepen my understanding of the cosmos.” 1

Bingo – the box and its contents felt like I had come upon someone’s preciously stored items and private writings, something very personal written from the heart and soul. Ashwell is both author and illustrator of the cards and book. Her training at London’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design (inner back of book) is vividly demonstrated in the design of the cards, which combine symbolism and astrology to create meaningful works art on each card.

Lily recommends using the cards to learn astrology, decode planetary placements in one’s birth chart, and/or communicate with the angels. As she explains in the guidebook, “understanding the deck requires a general understanding of astrology.”2 She proceeds to give a brief introduction to items such as the planets, zodiac, houses, and major aspects.

As someone who becomes quickly lost when astrological discussions move beyond Sun signs, I appreciated how Lily builds upon concept upon concept to help me begin to better understand the workings of astrology. She began with using the card Jupiter, and then illustrated what Jupiter in Aries meant, and then what Jupiter in Aries in the 7th House meant. This introduction made me feel a bit less intimated to begin working with the cards. I say “a little” because I admit to my head spinning when I got into Nodes, Trine, and Sextile! However, the guidebook generously helped me to navigate the unknown and still find the answers I was seeking.

I was glad to read in the guidebook that she understood that one could become overwhelmed when first beginning to work with the cards, especially if one has a very limited understanding of astrology. I very much appreciated her writing, “That’s okay and totally normal – I felt that way too. Just remember, you don’t need to grasp how everything pieces together right away. This is the journey.”3

Lily remembers her own introduction to astrology and chose to make this deck usable and not intimidating.

“When I began my journey with the cosmos, I felt thirsty for information, but bored and uninspired by the textbook-ish materials available. It’s why I made this little guidebook simple and the cards beautiful. They provide you with enough information to explore the subject but not enough to trigger overwhelm.”4

This reassured me that I didn’t need to be an astrology expert to use the deck; I could use the deck to familiarize myself with astrology, while also enjoying the stunning visuals that help me to learn about the different energies described.

The cards themselves are absolutely beautiful. Each card offers keywords and an “omen,” or the card’s overriding message. There are six categories of cards: the Planets, the Signs of the Zodiac, the Houses, the Major Aspects, the Natural Zodiac, and the Nodes of Destiny. They are have gentle, dreamlike colored tones that make you sink into your imagination when looking at them. The flowing design of the cards seems to make it easier to access my own inner knowing and also receive the card’s message on a soul level.

All the cards are filled with symbolic imagery, helping the reader to access the energy of the astrology viscerally, rather than just through the mind. The Earth card, for example, has four roses in various stages of blooming. There is a heart in the middle of the card, one side of the heart is a cage of bones while the other side is an intact red heart. The keywords are persistence, patience, and practicality. Then, Mercury has a butterfly set against the planet with a watercolor background of what reminds me of waterlilies. Venus’s card has a pale pink background, with an open clamshell displaying a white pearl, set against the planet itself.

My favorite illustrations are found on the House cards, which are bird-themed. The House Four card has a nest containing two eggs, set in a tree, against a full moon in a blue-black sky. The key words are cultural and family roots, home, peace, and comfort. Looking at this card makes me feel that sense of calmness, connectedness, and grounding associated with domestic life (which I also learned is it’s energy in astrology!)

I decided to work with the cards as Lily suggests, get to know them, try various spreads, allow them to speak to me, and to not get hung up with astrological terms. And guess what? I love, love, love working with them! I value Lily’s advice about asking questions of the cards by framing it as “what is…” versus yes or no questions. For example, “What is the best way to approach a job change?” instead of “Should I apply for job A next week?” This method helped me to open up to receive intuitive messages, deepening my capacity for communion with the cards.

In the guidebook, Liluyoffers three card spreads; a one card of the day, a three-card soul spread, and a four-card third eye spread. My favorite spread with this deck was the three-card soul spread, cards that revealed what one is learning, how one is learning it, and where the wisdom will take one.5 Without revealing my own card pulls, I will say that the way these cards communicated with me enabled me to drop my resistance to diving deeper into astrology and working with concepts other than my Sun sign.

I did the one card pulls for a few days. I sat with the selected card each day, reading the guidebook’s description and letting it marinate. I liked to pick my card early in the morning and sit with it all day – throughout my daily activities. Sometimes it resonated very quickly. Other times, it slowly revealed its meaning to me.

Three days in a row, I have pulled the card Yin! So, I’ve been trying to incorporate a slower pace in life. The Yin card is part of the Natural Zodiac in the Little Guidebook, along with Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Yang, Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable. In addition to the keywords listed on the card itself, the guidebook also lists the “omen” for each card as described earlier as well as a description of the energy of the card itself. For example, for the Yin card, Lily writes about the “energy of the Divine Feminine.” 

The guidebook is easy to read and even includes blank pages at the end for note-taking, which offers the opportunity for me to personalize my deck with my thoughts and discoveries. I responded to Lily’s description of the energy of each card and found great insight in each card’s “omens.” I used the omen of a card to guide me, inspire me, and give me pause in my response to some of the questions posed. All food for thought – or rather, for the soul to digest.  I look forward to continuing taking it slow with the cards, allowing our relationship to develop, and learning more about the energy of astrology through the cards.

My next step using the cards is going to be laying them out to create different planet placements in my chart. I hope to gain insight from the visual representation of the energy of my personal astrological make-up, such as Moon in Aries in the first house and Mars in Taurus in the third house. I believe the keywords on the cards will help me to better understand these aspects in my chart, further deepening my astrological understanding.

All in all, Heavenly Bodies Astrology is a true gift in its beauty and its message. Lily’s honesty in describing her journey using astrology, her sharing of her artwork on the cards and in the little guidebook, and her gentle taking of the reader’s hand to encourage us to “find out own direct connection to the heavens,”6 makes for a very personalized feeling in this deck. The supreme elegance of the symbolic representation of the cosmos creates the feeling of sublime connection to the heavens. I highly recommend that you bring this treasure into your life. Whether you’re a novice or expert astrologer, you’ll feel there’s an exalted mysticism within these cards. As Ashwell writes, if this deck resonates with you, trust that you were brought to it for a reason. 

The Book of Celtic Symbols, by Joules Taylor

The Book of Celtic Symbols: Symbols, Stories, and Blessings for Everyday Living, by Joules Taylor
CICO Books, 978-1-78249-824-7, 2020 (first published 2007)

The Book of Celtic Symbols: Symbols, Stories, and Blessings for Everyday Living by Joules Taylor is a comprehensive primer for those new to the Celts, as well as a concise work that provides insight into Celtic life for those of familiar with these people. The book “captures the essence of Celtic wisdom and shows how to bring its magic into our lives today.” 1 Joules Taylor, an established author and co-author, is well poised to open this world to us. I was espeically excited to read about their far-reaching traditions and belief system to better understand the sites I’ve seen in my travels.

Despite growing up in an Italian-American household, I have been inexplicably drawn to Ireland and have traveled there twice in the past five years. My knowledge of the Celts was literally learned on the spot in places such as Newgrange. I read this book with the deepen my knowledge of the Celts, and I certainly feel this happens page after page.

When I was in Ireland, I allowed the places to call me to them. I had no knowledge of Newgrange, a Stone Age monument in Ireland’s Ancient East and found it surreptitiously through highway signs. Wells and Brigid? I went to where I was pulled. Joules’ book puts all the pieces into place for me, and I now have a deeper understanding of the importance of the art and artifacts of the Celts. With no written language, these symbols were their means of communication. As Joules explains, “to the Celts, everything in life was symbolic.” 2

The book is divided into seven chapters: “The Celtic Year, Celtic Guides and Their Symbols,” “Ogham: Celtic Alphabet, Symbols from Domestic life,” “The Signification of Trees and Mistletoe,” “Animal Guides,” and “The Sacred Landscape.” All information is present in depth with colorful illustrations or photographs of actual Celtic metalwork or stonework (including those spirals found at Newgrange). The writing is concise and easily understandable. Each chapter is a deep-dive into the topic at hand. There’s even a bread recipe in the chapter, Symbols of Domestic Life. (I intend to try this recipe the next time I make bread this month.) As you see, there’s a variety of topics, content, and ways to connect to Celtic culture.

Just to provide some background, the Celtic culture flourished for almost three thousand years across Europe and the British Isles. It was eventually taken over by Romans as their empire expanded. What resonated most with me about the Celtic culture is the connection that the Celts had with the earth. “The Celts considered the land to be a goddess, their Great Mother, filled with mystery and peopled by gods and goddesses in the springs, rivers, wells, and caves, in the hills and trees.” 3

A practitioner of seasonal living, I enjoyed reading that the Celts lived in concert with the seasons. Their celebrations broke up the year into festivals, and they were ways to show gratitude and reverence. Their celebrations were incorporated into Early Christian life. The celebrations of Esotre/Ostara with eggs and hares symbolizing fertility and rebirth became Easter with its eggs and bunnies. I enjoyed learning that the Celts’ dark year, or new year, began with Samhain, akin to what is traditionally known as Halloween. Bonfires or bone fires, trick or treating, all have their start with the Celts. It was very interesting to learn the roots of these modern practices date back to the Celts.

Through Joules’s writing, I was introduced to goddesses and gods with whom I was unfamiliar, such as Modron and Sulis. Having visited Bath in England I liked learning that Sulis was the “local goddess of the springs at what is now known as Bath.” 4 Stevie Nicks sang of Rhiannon with Fleetwood Mac, but Joules brought this this beautiful woman to life for me. Associated with horses and the moon, she represents beauty, fidelity, and love. 5

I especially like Joule’s suggestions in the book that offered ways to incorporate Celtic traditions, celebrations, ceremonies, and activities into life today. Joules provides detailed descriptions on the origins of these celebrations/activities and how they can be used in daily life. As we approach Imbolc (January 31 – February 1) I have set about “spring cleaning” to prepare for the new year after which I will go for a walk in nature to look for signs of new life, buds on branches and birds building nests as Joules suggests. While today we generally don’t have a hearth fire burning continuously, and unfortunately (at least for me) don’t have a cauldron simmering all day to offer hospitality to visitors, I did learn ways to live more aligned to Celtic domestic life. 

Despite the fact that the Celts did not use what we call the written word, they had a form of alphabet called Ogham based on characters. Joules allows a whole chapter to learning to use this alphabet. I’ll need to go back and spend time with this chapter to attempt a few communications. Coincidentally, as I was reading this book, I received Ogham symbols carved into various types of trees for my birthday. My daughter had become aware of my growing interest in Celtic culture and ordered a handmade set all the way from England! I look forward to using Joules book along with my tree Ogham to commune more with nature, especially the trees. 

Which brings me to my favorite chapter in the book, “The Significance of Trees and Mistletoe.” It helped deepen the reason why my tree Ogham gift contained the twigs from the trees that it did. Joules detailed the indigenous trees that grew in Celtic lands and their importance. As Joules wrote, “all trees were sacred to the Celts.”6 Oak was probably the most sacred tree, a symbol of eternity. The birch was associated with eloquence, stemming from the belief that “Ogmios, the Celtic god of eloquence, wrote the first Ogham characters on a wand of birch wood.” 7 Mistletoe had medicinal properties and was associated with male fertility, and kissing under the mistletoe invoked blessings of the gods in matters of love. 8

Further more, Joules describes how the apple tree bore a fruit that was considered magical because it could be eaten raw and cooked. It was a symbol of immortality and afterlife, and was connected to Annwn, or the Otherworld.

“To some, Avalon may have been another name for Annwn, separated from the mortal world by the thinnest of unseen barriers.” 9 Avalon, the Isle of Apples, was thought to be a place where “there was no pain or distress and everyone was forever young and happy.”10

The book provided a serendipitous connection to another place I visited, Glastonbury, in England. Some consider Glastonbury to have been where Avalon was located. It truly is an otherworldly place. Joules writes that “Glastonbury was reputed to be a site of a Druid University.” 11

What I really appreciated about The Book of Celtic Symbols is Joules presented the information in a non-encyclopedic way. The writing felt relatable and invited me to explore the Celtic culture, even though I have very little former knowledge of the traditions. The illustrations and photographs of sacred symbols throughout the book enhanced the writing, visually prompting me to connect with the words on the page and further absorb all the fascinating things I was learning. 

I highly recommend The Book of Celtic Symbols as a guide to learning about the Celts but more meaningfully, to incorporating some of their wisdom and beliefs into your life. Nature-based living, celebrating the cycle of the year, strong women, and blessings – all of which we could use of dose of today.

Magdalene Mysteries, by Seren and Azra Bertrand

Magdalene Mysteries: The Left-Hand Path of the Feminine Christ, Seren Bertrand & Azra Bertrand, M.D.
Bear & Company, 978-1-59143-346-0, 525 pages, 2020

Magdalene Myserties: The Left-hand Path of the Feminine Christ by Seren Bertrand and Azra Bertrand is a deep dive into Mary Magdalene, viewing her from Biblical, historical, and mystical perspectives. This well-researched book invites the reader on a pilgrimage to the Rose by journeying through three portals: the Magdalene Chronicles, the Magdalene Codex, and the Magdalene Vision Quest. These portals form the basis of the sectioning of the book, with each portal offering in-depth exploration of the topic. The authors write that “a key to our journey into the Magdalene Mysteries is to understand the true left-hand path of the goddess; and that Mary Magdalene…was the lineage holder of this sacred tradition.”1

Before the reader enters the portals, the authors provide their “love letters,” each offering individual writings on their initiations/encounters with Mary Magdalene, with Sara writing of meeting Mary Magdalene and of the sacred masculine vision and Azra writing about the Holy Whore of Sophia. The book then proceeds to “explore a radical, forbidden version of Mary Magdalene as a priestess of the Womb mysteries.”2

I was drawn to this book to explore the multi-faceted Mary Magdalene. Having been raised a Catholic, I initially only knew of Mary Magdalene as the prostitute, carried into my teen years with watching Jesus Christ Superstar where she was again portrayed in this role. I later became an adjunct instructor of Art History, and again, my encounters with Mary Magdalene in painting and sculpture again had her portrayed as a prostitute. As I began reading sources other than the Catholic church (!) I was met by a powerful woman, a trusted apostle of Jesus. I needed to learn more, and this book provided a compendious accounting of Mary Magdalene. 

Portal One, the Magdalene Chronicles, details Mary Magdalene’s lineage, starting with the “ancient mothers” in Sumeria. The chronology includes mermaids and the primeval water dragons, Inanna, and Asherah. It was illuminating to read of this lineage of the powerful woman, the vessel, the womb. The authors then transition to Mary Magdalene’ story of the Feminine Christ, looking at the feminist ministry of Christ, whether or not Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, and her place at the crucifixion and resurrection. The first portal concludes with churches linked to the growth of churches in Europe linked to Mary Magdalene. 

The main focus of Portal Two, the Magdalene Codex, is an in-depth study of the Ghent Altarpiece, created by Jan Van Eyck, from 1426 to 1432. The authors approach this work “as both a pilgrimage and Grail Quest.”3 I found this section fascinating. I was familiar with the Ghent Altarpiece and taught about it in my Art History classes from the typical perspective of the religious symbolism in the painting such as the lamb symbolizing the Lamb of God. I taught about perspective, the place of patrons present in the piece, the role of an altarpiece in a church, etc. The authors, however, offer a complex and compelling distillation of the altarpiece, focusing one’s attention on the positioning of images to create the “position of birthing and sacred sexuality.” (plate 15). I did need to sit a while with the intimation that Van Eyck inserted an heretical message in the work. 

The authors turned next to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper. I will admit that I never “bought” the explanation that the feminine figure to the side of Jesus was John the Evangelist. I am in agreement that, after having read about the important place of Mary Magdalene in the life of Jesus, that this image was indeed that of Mary Magdalene. The authors write that da Vinci was also “connected to the underground streams of the feminine mysteries.” 4 I imagine that these artists kept the need of art patronage in the forefront as they created multi-dimensional works of art with levels of meaning. 

The belief that Mary Magdalene was seen as a “dangerous figure” threatening to usurp masculine power, led to her portrayal as a “less than,” a whore, non-starter. The second portal closes with a return to the Ghent Altarpiece, where the authors write that Van Eyck “presents an entirely new, and at the same time ancient, vision in which the feminine is restored.” 5 I found the second portal so very fascinating, given my background in Art History. It’s given me a desire to develop an art history course on Mary Magdalene. 

The Third Portal, Magdalene Vision Quest, focuses on the pilgrimage to the Rose through “stories, oracles, and personal rituals.” 6 In the chapter Honoring the Motherline, Mary Magdalene as the “spirit keeper of the womb” is investigated. Seren writes about her own opening up to the path of Mary Magdalene and the goddess path. A personal favorite of mine was her writing about her pilgrimage to Glastonbury in England, a place I was drawn to visit as well. It is hard to adequately describe the otherworldly feeling of Glastonbury, the multidimensional feeling of space and time. Sere writes about the chalice well and its red flowing water and Glastonbury Abbey built on the site of an ancient sacred site devoted to the divine feminine and “known in local lore as the ‘vagina of the birth goddess.’”7

Seren recounts how Magdalene directed her to visit Iona, a remote Scottish island in the Hebrides. I was beginning to feel a connection both to Magdalene and Seren as Iona is a place that I find myself constantly drawn to read about and to most definitely visit post-pandemic. She continues by writing about the ancestral wise witches and the death of her mother, the mother of her “birth womb.”8 She movingly describes the graveside service she led for her mother. “As my mother’s womb had birthed me into this world, now I midwived her back into the womb of Mother Earth, for her rebirth into the Spirit world.”9

The Third Portal section contains rituals that the reader can perform, such as a Rose Ritual or the Anointing of the Moon ritual, a Mermaid ritual, and a Black Rose rituals. The rituals all contain references to an element, a ministry (such as cleansing), archetypes (such as Aphrodite), colors, and sigils (like a chalice). I have not yet taken the time to participate in a ritual, though, but the moving descriptions accompanying each ritual will draw me in sooner rather than later.

The book concludes with an invitation to return to the “dynamic Wild Feminine” which is “not limited to the story of one person or priestess – it is a living, vibrant frequency within everyone, calling to be remembered and embodied.” 10 Seren’s prayers to Magdalene are the final pages of the book. 

The book contains numerous images and illustrations to support the writings, including prehistoric clay tablets and sculptures, rich reproductions of pre-Renaissance and Renaissance tapestries, painting, and sculptures, and 20th century art including the image of a stained glass window in Sheffield, England in which Mary Magdalene is depicted as holding her hands in the “womb mudra position.” 11

Magdalene Mysteries offers a perfect combination of historic information across millennia along with the personal interactions of the authors with Mary Magdalene. It is a book to be read over time, allowing the information to seep in. It reads as a pilgrimage, and like all pilgrimages, time should be taken to allow the path to reveal itself to you, to allow yourself to open to revelations and notice the changes that occur as a result of the pilgrimage. The book is a pilgrimage to the Rose, and as such, invites the reader to open up slowly to Mary Magdalene, much like a rose itself that slowly opens, moving from a bud to a flower in full bloom, layers of beautiful petals.  It is a comprehensive introduction to Mary Magdalene to those new to the subject and also a deep-dive for those wanting a deeper interaction with Mary Magdalene. I highly recommend this book and encourage the reader to walk the path of pilgrimage to the Rose with these highly informed and passionate authors.

Angelic Lightwork, by Alana Fairchild

Angelic Lightwork: Magic & Manifestation with the Angels, by Alana Fairchild
Llewellyn Publications, 9780738762692, 248 pages, 2020

It’s true, big things come in little packages. Angelic Lightwork: Magic & Manifestation with the Angels by Alana Fairchild is a small book (7”x5”) that packs a powerful dose of angelic love. I’ve read countless books on the angels, how to work with them, who they are, and how they communicate, but this book spoke words to me that I hadn’t heard until now; it offered insight that had never been presented to me.

I was drawn to this book initially because I am familiar with other work by the author. Her deck Mother Mary Oracle is one of my absolute favorites and it never fails to offer guidance that is spot on. I was interested to see whether her writings on the angels would also resonate so deeply. I can say with assurance that Fairchild fully delivers on her intention of the book stated as, “my intention in creating this loving little book is that you connect with all that divine goodness within and find comfort, empowerment, happiness, and freedom in doing so.” 1

I read this book as many challenges were creeping into my life — challenges that trigger those story-fondling monsters that threaten joy, faith, and peace. The statements found in the pages of the book offered a new way of thinking for me, a new way of understanding who the angels are, and insight into the ease with which one can interact with the them for manifestation of the highest good.

Lesson one: ahh, yes, I limit myself but the angles are limitless. Lesson two: think of connecting with the angels as more of “playing” with these lighthearted beings versus “working” with them. “It is not the divine nature that is the issue, but our own expectations and fears that prevent us from being able to bear unobstructed witness.” 2 As Fairchild reminds the reader, angels help us get closer to the divine.

Fairchild reiterates that there are limitless numbers of angels that can be called on to help; when we ask for angelic guidance we are not taking the angels away from another in need. The more we engage with the angels the more we open up the channel to the divine. “When your thoughts are on the divine energies of angels, you will be energetically broadcasting a beautiful light that will attract similar frequencies to your world….” 3

Conversely, she also writes about the concept of our free will. “They (angels) want to help humans, but because of our free will, they need to wait until we ask.” 4 Correspondingly, we can ask for angelic help for another being, but they have the free will whether to accept the angelic help. 

Throughout the book, Fairchild shares her amazing knowledge of the angelic realm in great detail. Part One focuses on “angelic basics” with sections on what angels are really like, the different types of celestial angels, some of the angels who want to help you, simple practices to connect with angels, and preparing for archangel work.  I particularly liked the questions she posed and answered, such as one about if one can ask for too much help from their angels. The questions are ones that I’m sure that most of us have as we work with the angels, and her responses serve to deepen our understanding of working with these beings of love and light.

In the chapter titled “Different Types of Celestial Angels,” Fairchild provides an in-depth description of the hierarchy of angels from the first through the third orders. Her descriptions of the angelic realms such as powers, virtues, seraphim, and thrones were enlightening. I had no idea there were so many strata of angels. However, while the book references guardian angels, it only briefly touches on this subject.

Fairchild goes into greater detail about individual angels in the chapter “Angels Who Want to Help You.” Included are the four archangels that she details in Part Two of the book, as well as other angels who are particularly close to humanity, such as Metatron, Sandalphon, and Camael. I find it so helpful to know the particular “specialties” of these angels to help me call on one in particular depending on the issue at hand. For example, Camael who helps those who need spiritual strength5 has been very helpful to me recently, as I face some obstacles in my personal life. She even offers specific ways to call in the particular angel and also provides information on the ways they are depicted in art and writing. 

The chapter “Simple Practices to Connect with Angels” also gave me a lot of insight into how I can better connect with the angels. In part of the book Fairchild offers ways to ready one’s self for receiving angelic communication from setting up an altar to finding a quiet space. I liked hearing that calling on the angels can be as simple as saying an angel’s name aloud. The book conveys that working with the angels can be any way that works best with our own individual lifestyle. 

Part Two focuses on what Fairchild calls angelic lightwork, “which is the art of creating healing, magic, and manifestation with angelic energy.” 6 She specifically details how to do deeper angelic lightwork with four archangels, Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. Since Michael is a favorite of mine, I chose to do the book’s exercises with Michael. I appreciated reading that I could work with Michael as often as I wished and that my practice with Michael would never become worn out. I have been using the book’s exercise to call in Michael often over the past few weeks and find that inviting in Michael’s angelic support is always met with a response. I release the need to control how, when, where, and why – and open myself for the response. As Fairchild explains, “when we focus on doing our inner work rather than trying to make outer circumstances change, we heal and grow spiritually.” 7

At the beginning of the book, just after the Table of Contents, the reader finds “Practices,” a section that is a quick reference to special practices found in Chapters 6 – 9 that can be used to work with these four archangels. Fairchild lists the specific topics and references the page on which they can be found. For example, there is a practice for healing through divorce (or the end of any relationship), manifesting money, and all the resources you need for peace and progress, prayers for good health, blessing a journey, finding the best place to live (and for the homeless in need of shelter), and protection for animals. There is truly a wide range of angelic practices detailed in the book, and I like that the Practice section gives quick reference.

The book continually reinforces the belief that “we still have our challenges in life to deal with, but we no longer have to feel that we have to do so on our own. We have powerful divine guardians to help us grow and heal through any experience.” 8 Doing the practices in this book and learning to work with the angels has certainly show this to be true. I already feel the guidance, love, and support from my angels deepening from the experience of reading this book.

I highly recommend Angelic Lightwork to all who wish to cultivate a relationship with the angels. Fairchild’s writings completely changed my mindset in working with the angels. It has been a healing balm that came at a much-needed time. Learning about these new method of working with the angels as given me many ways to invite the angels into my life. Having the angels nearby provides me comfort in knowing that I am never alone, and help can be just a whisper away.