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Author Archives: Antoinette Aird

About Antoinette Aird

Antoinette Aird is a lifelong creator of whatever pleases her, thank you very much. Be it short stories that never see the light of day or ramblings on items she loves. When she’s not shouting at the neighbor chickens for pecking at her garden or reading you can find her attempting various methods of divination or trying to befriend the local stray cats. Antoinette has a lot of thoughts floating around in her brain and is willing to share them. Come and sit for a spell...

The Wanderer’s Tarot, by Casy Zabala

The Wanderer’s Tarot, by Casey Zabala
Weiser Books, 1578637597, November 2021

There is room for everyone to improve in life, but sometimes we don’t know where to start. The Wanderer’s Tarot by Casey Zabala appears to be an amazing jumping-off point for this particular activity; only time will tell, and I doubt time will prove this observation wrong. Casey Zabala is a creator after my own heart, believing in divination as a means of healing self-discovery and personal empowerment. Her deck, The Wanderer’s Tarot, is a tool I will be keeping in rotation for a long time.

This box is just superb! The design is simple, but the sleek all black design with white text is inviting. The artwork present is barebones, but alluring. The picture on the back made me immediately paw through the cards to see which card art inspired it (it’s the Wanderer of Stones).

The spine is completely blank: there’s no name, no doodles, just black inky nothingness, which I only see as an issue if you display your decks on a shelf of any kind with spines facing out. But then again, you could resolve this issue with a sticky tab or, dare I say, writing on the box yourself! The opening mechanism is a hinge style clam-like lid. Now, I wouldn’t go shaking it about, but it stays quite secure. I would trust this box to protect the cards on the go if you take a deck with you.

Now onto the cards themselves. The card stock is great. They have a good amount of give without feeling thin and aren’t obnoxiously thick, I have small hands so card sizing is very important to me in a deck. If I can’t shuffle the deck, I’m less likely to use it and will then feel bad about neglecting it.

The cards were thankfully held together not by plastic but rather by a simple black paper band that I was able to slide back on after removing if I was careful… up until the point where I stepped on the band like a goofus. Off topic, so let’s get back on track with the edges of these bad boys. They are so shiny! I have in the past gone out of my way to color the edges of some of my other decks, but these cards came pre-treated with a shiny silver, and I am in love to a degree.

On flip through, the cards stuck together much more than usual, and my hands came away with a faint dusting of silver the first few times of handling. This silver is a gorgeous contrast to the solid black background of these cards. The backs lend themselves well to reading reversals. The circle in the middle with lines radiating off of it gives me “light at the end of the tunnel” vibes, and I like that a lot. These cards are a bit wider than your standard deck but it is still very shuffle-able.

Reading with these cards is a bit tricky though. The numbering for both the majors and the minors are not consistently placed, so I find myself looking for the numbers or names on some cards. I do, however, appreciate that the majors don’t use the traditional roman numerals and the minors are denoted by tally marks only.

It makes you think a little when doing a reading, and that’s kind of the whole point of the deck: diving deeper into the mind and self to better your existence. The minor arcana is drawn in a very pip like style which, in my mind, would prove a bit hard for a new reader to understand as there isn’t any of the traditional RWS context images to help them out.

We’re gonna talk about that smell now. This is my biggest problem with this deck. Trying to riffle shuffle them the first time made it more obvious than when just holding it. If smells trigger any issues of yours, let these cards air out. Set them on a window sill or a table spread out for a few days, otherwise you will not have a fun time. Do the same with the box, leave it open before storing them.

Enough tough talk, let’s look at the guidebook. The book isn’t so much a book as it is a pamphlet with quick info on the cards. Zabala makes it pretty clear that we’re supposed to sit with these cards and come up with our own personal meanings and really suss out how these cards make us feel when they come up, rather than treat the guide like it’s some kind of god.

Our major arcana cards get a few keywords apiece, which is pretty standard fare. The minor arcana got an interesting treatment though. The only bits that get any kind of in-depth meaning is the suits and court cards, as they were changed for this deck. Pentacles are now Stones, Swords are Knives, Wands to Feathers, and Cups to Moons. There is a short explanation of each of the suits on their own panel.

But the truly interesting part is how the numbered minor arcana are treated. We get a numerology cheat sheet of sorts that we have to pair with the traits of the suits to get our meaning. The courts are a bit tricky; they feel like their own entity completely divorced from the RWS courts. I couldn’t figure out a one-to-one correspondence, so here they are for you to decide: Philosopher, Goddess, Prophet, and Wanderer. I won’t say anymore on them as I feel you should pick up this deck to sate that curiosity and support the creator yourself.

There is an option to purchase a more in-depth book from their shop for $20 USD. I would suggest picking up the book with this deck, even though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. In the description of the item it says there are spreads, in-depth meanings plus reversals, and a brief history of the tarot in the big book. As of writing this, the full guidebook is out of stock on Zabala’s shop, but here’s a link to the book itself anyway for your viewing pleasure.

The sheer amount of self-reflection I’ve been forced to do with this deck is unreal. From the moment I pulled my first card, it was already reading me to filth. There is a brutal honesty in these cards that most of my other decks also have with me, so I guess that’s just how I get messages best. Tell me straight up — no sugar coating, hit meh!

While I don’t feel any more connected to the wider world around me through the work I’ve done with these cards, I feel more grounded in myself. I’m setting down roots that I need to start reaching for the cosmic truths this deck wants to throw at me. So, if you pick this one up, get ready for a journey cause you’ll be going on one whether you think you want to or not.

The Wanderer’s Tarot holds lessons that I think everyone should hear regardless of how you identify, and I would love to say everyone should pick up a copy, but I can’t. Are you open to looking into yourself? Can you admit to yourself that things need to change and are you capable of enacting those changes? If the answer to any of those questions is “no”, then this is not for you at this time. This change is what the deck wants for me and what it will want for you. It will make you think, it will tell you the same thing as many times as it takes to get you to do something about it. It will fight you FOR you to ensure growth is happening.

The Big Book of Magical Incense, by Sara L. Mastros

The Big Book of Magical Incense, by Sara L. Mastros
Weiser Books, 1578637406, 288 pages, December 2021

The thing that often comes to mind when I think of the modern witch, and most likely does for others as well, is the silhouette of a person obscured by heavy smoke in a sweet heavy scented air. But how do we create this sort of ambiance? Why with incense of course! But how do we get incense? The Big Book of Magical Incense by Sara L. Mastros has everything you need to know when taking your first baby steps into the world of incense craft. This book touches on the history, the how to burn, the forms of incense and much more. 

All of these chapters are for the most part short, sweet, and to the point. For instance, the chapter “A very Brief History of Incense in the West” clocks in at a whopping three pages! A very informative three pages, but three pages nonetheless. It was so easy to say “just one more chapter” while reading, making this a very quick book to get through.

Just because it’s a relatively quick read doesn’t mean it’s a one and done title. Subsequent readings may not have any new information jump out at you, but refreshing your knowledge on such an important topic in the craft periodically is invaluable.

The Big Book of Magical Incense is divided into three main parts: fundamentals, ingredients, and recipes. Each chapter within these sections is appropriately titled and numbered for quick reference.

There’s a well-implemented table of contents too, which is important since being able to find your way around a book this size is quite a feat. In the event that said chapter has sub categories, much like the “How to Prepare Loose Incense”, they are included under the chapter name on an indented line almost like a citation in an APA formatted paper. Thus, making the process of locating certain topics a breeze. No going to the index in the back to get to the making cone incense section: it’s front and center. 

The way the notes and citations were done confused me before I realized they were all together, in one place, at the back starting on page 259. I much prefer this method of having all the citations in one section toward the back, where I can stick a bookmark and refer to them at my leisure, rather than having them tacked onto the bottom of the pages they appear on.

“This book isn’t intended for your library, but for your laboratory, where you get your hands dirty and try things.”1

This is a claim made by our author, but there’s a part of me that isn’t too convinced. My first and pretty much only point of contention with that statement is that this book appears to only come as a paperback and doesn’t have a hardcover option.

I have always been rough with my most used tools; there are composition books that have seen better days in my possession. Covers worn clean off and some hand-stitched back together so as to preserve the tea ring on page 25 from that one late-night flip though gone slightly wrong. Even though it would mean a price increase, I’d love to see a hardcover version of this at some point, so it could be more durable for my experiments.

Whelp, with my only real issue out of the way, let’s give this wonderful title some praise. First up on the praise block has to be the margins. There is so much empty space around the text that’s straight up free real estate for notes. This is just *chef’s kiss*.

Giving us all that space to make our notes and alterations to our Mastros’ printed word was such an amazing design choice. It really makes it feel like this is a workbook that deserves a place at the bench of magical workings. Being able to mark-up the rituals and exercises presented to us right in the book that will be going into the sacred space of said working, in my opinion, is invaluable. You’re able to get the most accurate to the moment notes as possible by being able to write right in the book.

A thing that I feel the need to address is that Mastros does mention White Sage and Palo Santo in the ingredients section. But these materials were treated with the respect they deserve. The problematic nature of the way modern markets have treated these sacred and powerful pieces of nature is addressed and substitutions are given for both substances.

The coverage was not very extensive but that is to be expected. This is a book on incense, not the sketchy way big business is making money by harming and mistreating plants. That’s something for us to do research on in our own time.

Another thing I love about this book is the emphasis placed on the customization of the recipes/blends given to us by Mastros. Newcomers to the world of incense, and to the practice in general, seem to get so bogged down in the notion that they need to do things EXACTLY like the way the books say. But this is a personal practice for the most part, you do what feels right and gets you the desired outcome.

Person A may not use Lavender in a calming blend because they don’t see it as a calming herb, whereas I do. And in the same vein, someone else may have no qualms with including tobacco in an ancestor incense, but I would never as tobacco smoke is one of my migraine triggers. In the words of Captain Barbosa from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, “The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” There’s no shame in changing it up.

Who do I think would benefit from this book? The short answer is everyone. Never used incense? Completely new to the concept? No biggie! There’s just enough info here to get you started in the dirty work of blending right away as well as lay the groundwork for a good foundation upon which to build up with further research.

Do you have a mid to high level of experience with this stuff? The personal blends and exercises/rituals that pair with said blends might just tickle a mental itch you didn’t know you had and reading Mastros’ take on these things may have you rethinking your personal beliefs/philosophy on incense and its place in your craft. The wealth of knowledge in The Big Book of Magical Incense is a bonafide steal.

Empath Activation Cards, by Rev. Stephanie Red Feather

Empath Activation Cards: Discover Your Cosmic Purpose, by Reverand Stephanie Red Feather
Bear & Company, 1591434173, 224 pages, November 2021

Empath. What’s an empath? According to Merriam Webster an empath is “one who experiences the emotions of others.”1 Now I get it, I’m quoting a dictionary, but this is important. Important to me as a person and important to this review.

I have from a very early age basically been a sponge for emotions. I could feel and access the vibe/feel of a space or hone in on the strong emotions of an individual with relative ease. And long-ish story short, it messed me up a bit. Young me not knowing how to handle all this extra data was so overwhelmed with processing that, that working on my own personal emotions fell to the wayside and is still developing today. 

I’m opening up about this here because I know I’m not alone in this experience. I don’t doubt that there are many empaths out there who aren’t entirely aware of this side of them. who don’t quite know where they fall in this world and are just kind of floating aimlessly and going through the motions of adult life. Empath Activation Cards: Discover Your Cosmic Purpose by Reverand Stephanie Red Feather claims to help you figure that out, it says that it’s a rite of passage and being “cross-cultural in design”2 will touch everyone who handles them. I had to test these bold, bold claims made by Red Feather for myself. 

Right off the bat, I was hooked on the box. It is bright, it is eye-catching, and dare I say a bit gaudy. Bright red, featuring a magnetic flap closure that just shouts, “Look at me I’m important!”, right into my eye sockets. You can’t look away once you catch a glimpse, so much so I have to make sure the box is behind me while writing this to keep from going to play with it.

Structurally, it’s pretty tanky. Like it could handle a decent toss across a bed or into a bag with other items without dumping your cards everywhere. The flap is a bit tricky to get open one handed, so be aware of this if you end up having like 50 things going at once and only one free hand.

On opening the box the first thing we see is the guidebook. The book itself is a good size and fits well in my hands even if it doesn’t like to lie flat just yet. Inside, we have a quick foreword by Daniel Moler (“Author, artist, and a sanctioned teacher in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, a cross-cultural shamanic lineage”3). After this foreword there’s an introduction by our creator Red Feather and then four main sections where the card meanings and exercises are separated into.

In this introduction, Red Feather gives us her personal definition of empath. There’s five main aspects listed, and I highly recommend picking this deck up to learn more. It then talks of a couple ways to use this deck. Obviously there’s the regular reading method, but there’s also the meditative journey. You can opt to either work through each card in numerical order or do like a weekly draw and work with that card for a time.

A recommendation is made in the intro to “cleanse your deck with sage, sweet-grass, or palo santo”4 as a means to activate and bond with the cards. Yet, this makes me a little uncomfy. I get the cleansing bit, I really do, but why sage? Why sweetgrass? Why palo santo? I’d love to hear Red Feather’s reasoning, as well as a clarification on if it’s common sage or not, and possibly a note to make sure you source your stuff as ethically as possible.

“The deck has life force and each oracle has its own consciousness and message beyond the meaning written on the card.”5

The cards themselves have an energy. They make my tummy do flip-flops when I pick them up; good flip-flops but flip-flops nonetheless. Our front facing card in the first slot is called Abundant Universe, which is fitting. There is nothing but possibility ahead of us, we just need to see it. 

The cards in this deck make you think. There are no quick keywords in the meaning sections. You really need to sit down and think about the meaning of the cards you have pulled to really and truly understand them. I have been sitting with card 1 Abundant Universe since I got the deck (which has basically been a full month), and I am still pulling new meaning from it.

There is so much going on in these cards. The colors are wonderful, and if you can blur or unfocus your eyes, I highly recommend doing that at least a little bit when working with a card. Something about doing that opens new avenues of understanding for me and it might do the same for you.

Personally, I think the meditation route is the best use for these cards. This is because the shuffle feel is a bit off due to them being rather wide and the drastically different personalities contained in each card would distract me in a spread larger than a single draw. Our author provides us some spreads, but I doubt I’ll be using them except for the Ascension Initiation Sequence one. This particular spread outlines a smaller meditation sequence that is tailored specifically to what you need at this moment. Just an FYI, a plate stand makes a great card holder for use in meditations.

I would recommend Empath Activation Cards, even if you don’t identify as an empath. Slowing down and connoting to yourself and the wider universe is something we could all stand to do. I know it’s hard to sit down and slow the mind, but aren’t the challenging things the most rewarding in the end? So, start up a practice of slowing down, meditating, trying journaling on these cards or other things in your life. Your mind and body will thank you in the long run.

Plants of Power, by Stacey Demarco and Miranda Mueller

Plants of Power: Cultivate Your Garden Apothecary and Transform Your Life, by Stacey Demarco and Miranda Mueller
Rockpool Publishing, 1925924351, 352 pages, September 2021

“Go touch grass.” This is a sentiment that I really took to heart this past spring, summer, growing season or whatever else you want to call it. I ended up going ham in my little yard and definitely bit off more than I could chew this season. Clearing out the unwanted and planning for what I did want around me was rough and it’s still a work in progress. 

It’s through this little foray into the growing stuff side of life that made this book ping my interest radar. So, I waddled over to my shelf just to see what I had over there. Whelp, I will admit I had no books on plants. None, zip, zilch.

I want a practical plant space. I want it full of good strong allies ready and willing to help me out when I need it in exchange for the love and care I have to give. And with a hesitant chuckle, I began to read Plants of Power: Cultivate Your Garden Apothecary and Transform Your Life by Stacey Demarco and Miranda Mueller. This book is a good book, a great book even, and it has definitely taught me a thing or two.

I was aware that our ancestors, those who walked before us, had a deep connection to the land. It fed them, gave them the raw materials needed to build tools and shelter, the power to mend wounds and ease illness, all things we have lost touch with today. They found the plants that lessened swelling and eased a headache by observing what we nowadays can glean from a quick google search provided by science and electricity. This was their science; our science is much different. Don’t get me wrong, science is great, but it is also not so great. 

“Talk of how a plant might alter consciousness has increased the chance of that plant being banned by authorities, usually with a campaign of fear.”1

It’s the sad truth. We are so disconnected from the land and how to use it that we fear what should not be feared, we demonize what should be respected and we cherry pick which plants get this treatment. We do not shun the Lily just because it’s lethal to cats. We ignore the fact that the bulb of the Daffodil is bad for both us and our canine companions as we edge walkways with them. There are so many wonderful plant allies that have been done dirty just because we do not understand them the way we once did. I better cut this off here though and move onto the book proper here.

Part One

This book, past the intro, is divided into two main sections. The first part consists of six bite sized charters that covers a little about our authors and some general plant knowledge.

The first chapter is the meet-the-author chapter. Here we get an abridged version of their life paths away and back to the land. The next two cover nature and the land. The patterns that appear in nature have lessons to teach us if only we would slow down and listen, tending the land that we have is a great way to do this by the by. Be this land a full yard or a few pots on a balcony, it’ll do you some good me thinks.

The second half of the chapters are less about the land itself and more about the plants and what we can do for/with them. Did you know that plants can sense your intent? What about the fact that there’s two, two different ways to compost? What about using the moon and zodiac signs in your planting and harvesting? I sure as heck didn’t. I’d recommend paying extra attention to these sections, as they were quite eye opening for me and I’m sure they will also be for you.

Part Two

Here we get into the greenery proper. The plants are split into sections based on season and each plant gets a few pages to itself. These pages are laid out as follows. First, the common name at the top and the scientific one directly underneath it. Then, under that a box is further quick info like other names, planetary rulings, and a little correspondence list. Past the box is a quick blurb on the plant, some notes on its cultivation and foraging.

The really fun part of this section, the crafts section. In the crafts section, we get a bit of a mix bag from recipes for food like mint pesto and even mouthwash to meditations and salves centered on our plant in question.

Y’all my wallet gonna hate me this coming spring! I’m kidding…maybe… But in all seriousness coming out of the reading gauntlet (I tore through this book in three days) I have a deeper appreciation for the earth and the plants that I already have been tending. Which are a few mints, some common sage bushes, rosemary and a marshmallow, in case you were curious. My wishlist of plants has also become obscenely long, but it will be thinned out as I research further on which ones will grow best in my area. I hope to add at least two plants from this book as well as many, many more mint plants in pots so I can make all the mint pesto I want (recipe page 180).


I did have some minor issues with this book. Don’t you go scrunching your face up at these words, remember it’s physically impossible to fully please everyone with what you create and you just gotta roll with it. The biggest, most glaring issue is where is the index?! There’s usually an index in books like this. I don’t normally need to use the index, but in looking for the page with that mint pesto recipe, the index was sorely missed. I mean I eventually found it, but it would have been so much faster and less frustrating had there been an index.

These next two wishes were not mine originally. My wonderfully accepting and former chef father pointed out that some of the plants with an edible craft do not have a basic flavor profile. While this particular nit-pick isn’t a big one, it’s still something that might have been nice. The last one is phonetic spelling on some of the names. We spent a good twenty minutes debating the pronunciation of Comfrey over coffee one afternoon. While it was invigorating to whip out my phone and prove myself correct, this particular inclusion would have made the discussion unnecessary.

Overall Plants of Power is a great book, well worth the coin for this particular ware. This book would be a good fit for someone who doesn’t have much knowledge about plants and their real uses beyond being a pretty thing outdoors. As a beginner in the plant world there is so much more to learn but that’s what research is for and this book is a great place to start from.

The basic info provided is enough to get an idea of what you might want to start growing. This would help to keep the budding gardener from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things out there to learn. Why spend hours learning all the ins and outs of growing say an olive tree if you know for a fact you don’t have the space or proper growing conditions for one?

I would also think someone with an intermediate to advanced knowledge of plants would also find value in Plants of Power. Even if they don’t exactly learn anything “new”, the different perspectives these two authors bring to the table ought to open doors to revelations and breakthroughs that might otherwise have laid dormant.