✨ 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.

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.

Finding Home within the Heart of the Earth, by Eagle Skyfire

Finding Home within the Heart of the Earth: Creating a Harmonious Space with the Energy of the Earth, by Eagle Skyfire
Llewellyn Publications, 0738760067, 231 pages, November 2020

Finding Home within the Heart of the Earth: Creating a Harmonious Space with the Energy of the Earth by Eagle Skyfire felt more to me words to be practiced rather than a book to be merely read. It provides guidance to creating a “harmonious space” in your place of dwelling or working that works in concert with the earth’s energy. A trained shaman, Skyfire is well-positioned to share with the reader what she’s learned from Native American teachers with whom she’s trained – with their permission.  

To begin, Skyfire introduces the reader to the “Heart of the Earth” method, a way of living in harmony with the earth. The purpose of the book is to be a “hands-on, step-by step guide in order to enhance harmony, wellness, and overall greater sense of well-being in many environments.”1 To be clear, it is not a Native American interpretation of the Chinese practice of feng shui. Heart of the Earth is a system that Eagle developed which is a “synthesis of Native American spiritual principles and shamanic practices, current resources, wisdom gained from experiences in the field, and intuitive gifts.”2

I remember when I took Home Economics in high school (is that even still a part of secondary curriculum?) and the teacher advised us to always read the recipe in full before starting to cook or bake. It was a way to make sure that you had the correct ingredients and cookware and that you followed the steps in order to have the recipe turn out correctly. Just like my Home Economic’s teacher, Skyfire rightly recommends reading the book in its entirety to familiarize one’s self with the concepts discussed, the methods described, and the explanations behind the principles before beginning to incorporate the principles to design or re-design one’s space.While it was a bit challenging to hold off diving into the exercises, I did follow the advice. 

The book is divided into two parts. Part One is an introduction of basic concepts of why we need to connect with nature, universal Native American spiritual principles, energetic principles, and being aware of the lay of the land including physical features, human-made features, and nonphysical features. 

In this section, Skyfire encourages the reader to remember that we are children of the earth mother, that we are affected by the cycles of the seasons, and that feeling the “current of sacred energy and the cycles of natural time”3 is empowering. I recommend taking one’s time in reading Part One as there is a lot to digest and familiarize one’s self with, especially if one is new to these concepts, such as the Good Red Road and the Seven Arrows, as I was. These concepts form the basis of actually creating one’s space that is the focus of Part Two. 

Especially meaningful to me in Part One was absorbing what Eagle wrote about understanding that there is an energetic landscape that surrounds us, which we inhabit. Attitude and core beliefs play roles in how we view ourselves and the world. Change is the only constant in our lives as is true with nature. It’s easy to notice the physical landscape that surrounds us, but idea of an energetic landscape that one could tap into… of course! Why hadn’t I ever made this connection of the existence of an energetic landscape? I was aware of the energy contained within a physical space like a home or office – but not to an energetic landscape per se. 

This section also contained exercises to facilitate connecting with one’s inner child, remembering what made us excited and lit us up! She writes that “in order to know what you want to create for your well-being, you must understand yourself better.”4 This was a fun exercise to do – but also very revealing as to how far I’ve strayed from what truly excites me, buried beneath reason and adult obligations. Another exercise asks the reader to reflect on what truly makes you happy, discerning whether this happiness comes from one’s heart or mind.  Also exercise shared in Part One I enjoyed is the Waterfall Meditation, which I found very relaxing, receiving sacred Power in my heart and returning it to the earth, much like the cycle of water

My favorite chapter in Part one was the Lay of the Land in which Skyfire write about natural elements such as bodies of water (above and below the ground), trees (my favorite) and wildlife, stones, and crystals, and the air. She opens our eyes to man-made surrounding that the effects they have, such as buildings, roads, power lines, parks, and graveyards. Nonphysical features include sacred ancestors of the land, nature spirits, and one’s own sacred ancestors. Part One increased my awareness of my surroundings, made me look deeper within, made me look higher up, and below the surface, made me listen, and see, and feel energy.

Part One concludes with a guide to looking at the indoor features where one lives or works – the layout of rooms, whether they are serving their purpose (for example, is the bedroom relaxing?), and whether they are clutter free. Taking stock of the spaces, actually taking a physical inventory of what the spaces hold, and then identifying if the space is serving one’s needs was a much-needed eye-opener.

Part Two covers the actual creation of one’s space based on the evaluations taken in Part One using the Heart of the Earth method. There is a lot of information covered such as “the qualities of each of the directions…and the function of each room in relation to the five elements.”5 Ultimately, one will “learn how to set the Heart of your place, which sets the energetic tone and maintains the health of your home or workplace.”6

Eagle asks the reader to understand how one’s core beliefs provide a “framework of energy that causes people and things to be attracted to you”7 and that understanding your core beliefs is necessary to designing your space. She encourages one to “work with your nature and not against it. You need to embrace yourself for who you are and from that choose what you need in order to thrive.”8

Part Two offers “the necessary information to see what you are working with in order to build your space in harmony with your own desires, as well as those of the land you are on.”9 To realize that we are not separate from our surroundings and that our needs or wants do not supersede that of the earth mother is vital. The steps outlined involve notetaking, use of a compass, and organization. As Eagle points out, some of the initial steps are “tedious” as one advances to the more enjoyable activities that incorporate creativity.

Topics covered include “gridding” one’s space, use of color and light, how to set the energy of a space, and decluttering. To be most effective, one should do all of the steps and exercises. And, if you are feeling overwhelmed or out of your element with the concepts, I recommend taking a pause. Give yourself time to digest what is being asked of you – and then carry on. I found the need to take breaks and re-group before proceeding with the next step. As Rome wasn’t built in. day, please don’t expect to be able to absorb and then accomplish everything that the book offers in one reading or in a finite amount of time. Give yourself latitude and you will make great strides. It’s been about a week of me actively shifting this energy, and I’m only getting started.

The Heart of the Earth method is truly an agent of change. I highly recommend Finding Home within the Heart of the Earth as a way to bring “abundance, peace, and contentment”10 to your spaces. It puts you in harmony with “nature and your Sacred Self.”11 It can sometimes be a heavy carry to understand and absorb the concepts and principles outlined. The self-centered exercises are beneficial and if one is truly honest with one’s self, they will put you on the path of creating beneficial spaces. The steps provided to work with one’s space that involve instruments such as a compass or grid might take time and dedication. But all in all, the Eagle’s Heart of the Earth method offers the reader a path to harmony, peace, and abundance.

Goddess Love Oracle, by Wendy Andrew

Goddess Love Oracle, written and illustrated by Wendy Andrew
Rockpool Publishing, 1925924329, 107 pages, 2021

Goddess Love Oracle is an incredible deck that packs a lot of Goddess guidance into it. Measuring only about 3 inches by 4 inches, the deck and accompanying guidebook are easily portable. In fact, creator Wendy Andrew recommends carrying the guidebook in your bag or pocket and opening it if you need inspiration or a bit of direction. As both author and illustrator, Andrew brings the wisdom of the Goddess into our lives with her beautiful paintings and accompanying writings. Based in southern England, she writes that she first heard “Goddess whispering in the wind and vibrating through the land.”1

When I first received the deck, I shuffled the cards and pulled Radiance, a card that illustrated the Goddess Flora, ringlets of golden hair flowing down her back. A halo of purple and pink flowers surround her head as she tilts her face toward the light and warmth of the sun. Her guidance was spot on for what was going on in my life: “No more hiding in the shadows, no more silencing your voice and no more walling up your heart.”2 I was immediately drawn in by the warm colors and comforting illustrations, which all have a feminine sense of fluidity to them.

Another day I did a three-card spread that Andrew calls “Work, Play and People.”3 Cards fully shuffled, I cut them into three piles and magically, I pulled three cards in numeric order, Rebirth, Reflection, and Rest, all cards that encouraged inward thinking, restoring one’s energy, and stillness. Incubating periods versus outward growth. Again, the cards resonated, and I felt the Goddesses communicated with me.

I truly loved how Andrew approached the deck – simple but certainly not simplistic, uncomplicated but complex. In the guidebook she writes that “there are no hard and fast rules about how to use the cards; simply do what feels right and that will be Goddess guiding you. Allow yourself to feel the essence of Her messages as Her love enfolds you.”4 She continues by offering very easy ways to connect with the message of the cards – sit quietly and when it feels right, shuffle the cards. Although she writes that there are many ways of laying out a card spread, she offers only three. There is a single-card reading and two three-card spreads: one on work, play, and people and the other on body, mind, and spirit.

The back of the cards contains a circle of 12 winter-bare trees, their roots extending into the earth until they reach a circle of eight purple hearts. The trees appear against what reminds me of a purple-colored, star-filled night sky. Then every Goddess is richly illustrated, inviting one to go deeper into the meaning/communication by quietly sitting with the image. As Andrew recommends, put the drawn card on your altar (if you have one) or in place where you’ll see it during the day. Allow the image and the Goddess’s message to become part of your day. Invite in the Goddess’s love and wisdom.

There are 36 Goddess cards in the deck, each card offering a message and also a connected “Goddess-inspired daily practice” such as a guided meditation, journaling/vision boarding, or doing something that brings you out of your comfort zone. The daily practices are intended to “deepen the communication”5 from the Goddess.

Almost all of the images contain animals with rabbits/hares and foxes dominating the group. I use the term animal loosely, including those of the air and water. Only two cards do not contain animal imagery, Rati (Love Your Body) and Quan Yin (Compassion). Also present in most of the cards is the spiral of the Divine Feminine, sometimes obvious and other times very subtle. The cards foster a sense of connection to the natural world.

Named Goddesses do not appear on all of the cards but those that are represented by name include Rhiannon (twice), Brigid (twice), Lakshmi, Demeter, Freya, Arta, Flora, Iananna, Cerridwen, and Mellangell. Other cards simply reference a communication from “Goddess.” 

The two cards featuring Brigid contain her flame, her light. One of Brigid’s cards is Awakening, encouraging us to live in the moment. A swan appears behind her, its extended white wings seemingly giving her the ability to fly. Spirals appear in her orange flowing hair and also on her forehead. Five white stars crown her head. He is cloaked in a garment covered in winter snowdrops, the flowers that first poke through the earth around Imbolc. A hare stands near her as she cradles a flame in her hand, Brigid asking if we are “ready to be fully awake?”6 The Goddess-inspired daily practices asks the reader to ask one’s self “What would happen if I released rather than strived?”7

Another card that I was drawn to was Hope, reminding us that “out of darkness comes light.”8 The card features Demeter and her daughter, Persephone. The star-filled winter evening sky contains a crescent moon. Bare trees stand on the landscape. In the right corner of the image one sees the pink of the rising sun. Two birds fly around Demeter, her head crowned in brown flowers. Her arms open to surround her daughter who holds a brown hare. Although this reunion will be short-lived, Persephone brings flowers and the hope of rebirth. As Andrew writes, “Demeter comes to you now, saying: ‘I understand. I hear you when you call for help. I know that there are times when life can be hard. But I also know that the darkness is balanced by the light.’”9 The Goddess-inspired daily practice encourages one to find a symbol of hope to carry around. 

Perhaps my favorite card is Wisdom, the last card in the deck. Here we encounter Cerridwen, the crone, the “ancient Welsh Mother Goddess.”10 Cerridwen is cloaked in purple, her garment covered in spirals. A spiral also appears on her forehead. She holds a cat that tenderly strokes her long hair. In her other hand she holds an orange pumpkin, carved with leaves and tendrils. The pumpkin holds a brewing hot liquid, steaming rising from its center. Cerridwen stands against a purple colored night sky, a sky that contains stars and a crescent moon.

Andrew reminds the reader that Cerridwen is here to tell that “you came into this life as a wise being and you have spent much of your time forgetting and unlearning.”11 She writes how the Goddess will “come…at significant times during your life to give you special opportunities to rediscover your inner wisdom.”12 The Goddess-inspired daily practice is a guided meditation that brings one into the presence of Cerridwen where one is invited into her house in the woods. 

I highly recommend Goddess Love Oracle for those who want a colorful burst of Goddess energy in their life. It is filled with messages of warmth and love, of hope and inspiration, of tenderness and guidance. Wendy encourages us to be “alert to any synchronicities that may occur” as we use the deck for “these may not be mere coincidences by subtle nudges from Goddess to heed her message.”13 I’ll let Andrew’s words close this review as they embody the intention of the deck: “May Goddess bless you with clarity, enlightenment and love.”14

Ancestral Tarot, by Nancy Hendrickson

Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future, by Nancy Hendrickson
Weiser Books, 1578637416, 202 pages, March 2021

Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future by Nancy Hendrickson immediately drew my attention because it combined two interests of mine: tarot and ancestry. I have been working with the tarot for almost 30 years and have used it countless times for advice, guidance, and clarification. Ancestry has been a newer passion for about the past 10 years. I have an insatiable interest in learning about the different ancestors that live in my family tree, all of them coming from Southern Italy. It’s the stories of these blood ancestors that intrigue me – why they did the things they did and how they lived. I truly feel the blood of these ancestors coursing through my veins.

Hendrickson does an amazing job of illuminating how one can use the tarot as a tool for ancestral communication to: “identify and access ancestral gifts, message, powers, protectors, and healers… and use the tarot to discover ancestors you may not have known you had.”1 As one who has decades of experience in genealogy and tarot, she is well-poised to write on this topic.

In this book, Hendrickson writes that there is really no order recommended in which to read the book. While she understands that one might want to delve into issues around one’s family of origin for example, and start with that chapter, she does suggest doing the tarot spreads and journal prompts introduced at the beginning of the book to form a foundation for working with one’s ancestors

I automatically connect the term ancestor to my family of birth origin, or as she calls them, Ancestors of Blood – grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents – on down the line. Yet I was immensely intrigued to read about how she broadened the term “ancestor” to include two other types: Ancestors of Place and Ancestors of Time. Ancestors of Place are those ancestors with whom one has a genetic connection and who lived in the one’s ancestral homeland a long time ago, but those whose names are not known. Ancestors of Time are ancestors from past incarnations.2 I have this inexplicable draw to Ireland and was hoping to have a “conversation” with those Ancestors of Time to see if there may be a connection.

The book is divided into eleven chapters. Chapters one through three contain an introduction to the three afore-mentioned types of ancestors. Hendrickson also writes about how those who are adopted can work with their ancestors. She provides tarot spreads to help one find an ancestral spirit guide for the journey as well as using the tarot to ask questions about the purpose of one’s walk with the ancestors. As she writes, “Chapter 3 will load you up with a variety of tools for the journey. I hope your backpack is super-sized – because you’ll be given a lot to work with!”3

I did the spread to help me determine what type of ancestors I wanted to work with initially – those of Blood, Place, or Time. While my head was pulling me to one column of cards – that of the Ancestors of Time because it was comprised entirely of Major Arcana cards, my intuition pulled me to work with the Ancestors of Place. 

The majority of my ancestors that I can trace come from the same province in Benevento, Italy. Ironically, Benevento was through to be the gathering place for witches, a place where they would not be prosecuted. I remember hearing about the “Evil Eye” growing up and was given an amulet to wear to ward it off. In fact, when my daughters were born my grandmother gifted each of them with their own amulet. I also remember hearing about great-grandmothers who knew how to do the “overlooks” that could remove the curse of the Evil Eye.

Looking back, maybe it was from my Ancestors of Place that I have inherited some of my interests in Italian folklore such as the Evil Eye and witchcraft. When asked how I could expect to benefit in my work with my Ancestors of Place I drew the High Priestess card – inner knowing seems to be spot on. Finally, when asked what message my Ancestors of Place had as I begin this journey, I drew the Page of Pentacles – learning how to manifest, being a voracious learner – and ironically, the astrological correspondence of the card is Capricorn – which is my birth sign. So much insight just from one spread, which as you can see really helped me to reflect on the unknown ancestors from this spirit of place and make connections to present day in my life.

Moving along, chapter four, “Meet the Family,” held information on using the tarot to work with one’s present family to reveal familial patterns. Then chapters five, six, and seven deepened the work with the three ancestral types. Chapter eight covers the importance of keeping a tarot journal for this journey of discovery. The final chapters nine, ten, and eleven offer ways to create “ancestral altars, sacred space, and crystal grids.”4

While I have provided an overview of the focus of each of the chapters, one should realize that there is a tremendous amount of information offered in each one — too much to digest in one reading. I came to understand that working with one’s ancestors is not a quick walk in the park, but rather a dedication to spending time with the ancestors, more of a slow, multi-leveled revelation versus a quick answer. I realized that I had to dedicate the time to do the spreads and journal promptings, to listen for the answers that bubbled up over time, and to put the pieces together to understand the story. From understanding the story and receiving the communications I could begin to work on self-healing and to experience hidden ancestral gifts emerge.

Hendrickson’s writing style is very straightforward and comprehensible. However, I feel that having an understanding of the tarot is beneficial before diving into this book. A tarot novice might easily be overwhelmed by the spreads, especially since one needs to use one’s knowledge of the tarot for insight into the cards as a form of communication with their ancestors. 

The only downside I encountered was in chapter nine, “Pairing Up,” she writes about using an ancestor’s birth date to calculate personality and soul numbers. Unfortunately for me, the majority of my ancestors were illiterate, and their birth dates are more approximations. Many of the church records that housed information on births and christenings were destroyed. However, I immensely enjoyed the final chapter, “Ancestral Rituals,” which covers how one can honor the ancestors through rituals such as creating altars. This has always been a meaningful activity for me. I truly liked creating an ancestral altar using items that “came” to me as I was meditating on what to include on it. 

The Appendices in the book provide additional information. Appendix A provides an overview of the tarot – or “Tarot 101”5 as it’s referred to. Appendix B offers recommended reading on the tarot and Appendix  C offers genealogy resources. 


I very much enjoyed working with the exercises in Ancestral Tarot as a new way to connect with my ancestors. Through combining tarot and ancestry, Hendrickson has opened a whole new realm of possibility when it comes to communing with our family and spiritual lineage from beyond the veil. I highly recommend this book for those who want to use the tarot to work with one’s ancestors and discover a connection to their ancestors beyond those of their bloodline. I nod in agreement with Nancy’s observation that “the search for ancestors is really about a search for self. Work with the ancestors and the person you find is you.”6