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Author Archives: Carter Tracy

About Carter Tracy

Carter is a professional Astrologer and founder of Success in the Stars Astrology. She has her Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from Emory University with certificates in Women in Theology and Ministry, Clinical Pastoral Counseling, Motivational Interviewing, and Compassionate Communication. Carter received the Zen Buddhist Jukai ordination from Roshi Joan Halifax at Upaya Zen Center and is a 2nd Degree Reiki practitioner.

Elemental Power Tarot, by Melinda Lee Holms

Elemental Power Tarot, by Melinda Lee Holms
CICO Books, 978-1782499220, 64 page, 2020

Elemental Power Tarot is a beautiful deck, which uses rustic, muted tones and hand-drawn images to create an earthy look. What is unique about this deck’s approach to the tarot is that none of the cards feature images of people — only inanimate objects and animals are featured in the images.

The author and designer, Melinda Lee Holm, explains in the book accompanying the deck that it is her intention the querent superimposes themself in the images instead of see another person there. So, for example, The Fool card depicts a winding dirt pathway that meanders out off the side of a cliff, as if the querent themself were taking this risk instead of watching it be taken by somebody else. Likewise, the High Priestess, Empress, and Emperor all depict empty, yet appropriately decorated thrones. Meanwhile, the Heirophant depicts a Buddhist meditation shrine on the side of a path.

I quite like this approach as it challenges the querent to truly see themselves in the midst of the situation at hand and not simply as a passive observer. Some of the cards seem to present environmental messages as well — the Death card portraying a bee on a skull and crossbones, and Judgement shows pollution buried underground. Each Major Arcana features both an astrological symbol and a Hebrew glyph to invite the querent towards further insight into the meaning of the card.

However, the only thing I do not like about this deck is that the cards of the Minor Arcana only show the element (Swords, Wands, Cups or Disks) in the amount of the card’s number. There is no scenic image to help discern the meaning of the card. My good friend exclaimed as she picked up the deck that she would not be able to read the cards because she’s trained in the method of reading solely based in intuitively interpreting images. So from this light, this deck is not the best choice for someone who is on the newer side of reading tarot and doesn’t the meanings memorized. Still, the accompanying guidebook is thorough and easy to read, so really anyone willing to take the time can get an accurate reading using this deck.

The book accompanying this deck is actually quite exceptional. Holm starts off with instructions on how to perform a 5-element ritual to welcome the deck into your life and initiate its prophetic power. From there she includes suggestions on phrasing questions in “tarot speak” to get clearer results as well as an intuitive technique she calls “reading the room.” Holm offers her readers 3 different simple spreads to get started: classic 3-card, 5-card and 10-card spreads. The spreads are clear and easy to follow — the 10-card is based on the classic Celtic Cross spread for those who may be familiar.

The book also includes a chart of all the Hebrew glyphs and astrology symbols used on the Major Arcana cards in the deck. This quick-reference chart is something any tarot reader would greatly appreciate, as she side-steps all the esoteric rigamarole and gets right to the point with clear, one word meanings.

In terms of the individual card descriptions, the book offers each card in the deck a symbolic interpretation, a guidance, and a challenge (though it isn’t specified, a querent might favor the challenge if a card is reversed). What is remarkable about this deck is that in the book for each of the Major Arcana cards Holm includes a section called “Apothecary” where she pairs an herb with the card and offers instruction on how to use it.

For example, The Magician: “Cinnamon activates personal magick. Sprinkle it on porridge, boil the sticks to make tea, or use it as a room freshener in potpourri.”1 This was a wonderful addition that helps to connect each reading to the realm of nature, while also learning about the uses of different herbs in energy work.

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy Workbook, by Michael Lavabre

The Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Workbook: 30th Anniversary Edition, by Michael Lavabre
Healing Arts Press, ISBN: 1644110709, 256 pages, 2020

Many years ago, I’d studied aromatherapy under the guidance of a master-teacher. Though I never turned my studies into a professional craft, I have never not had essential oils on hand to make quick, handy blends since then.

For those not familiar, essential oils are distilled from aromatic plants in a steam distiller. They are equivalent to “lymph” in the human body — a liquid substance that flows between cell walls and aids the plant in cellular repair. They contain the plant’s chemical composition in an extremely concentrated form and are therefore used as a healing medicine with the glorious side benefit of exquisite aroma.

When I selected The Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Workbook, I thought, “Oh great, some new aromatherapy blend recipes to try.” Little did I know I was in for so much more. The author, Michael Lavabre, it turns out has been involved in the aromatherapy industry since the 1950’s when he was raised on a lavender farm in France. As an adult, he was one of the first practitioners of aromatherapy to introduce the craft in the United States. For in Europe and other parts of the world, it is extremely common for doctors and hospitals to use essential oils in their healing regimen for patients – that’s how powerful and effective they can be. In the United States, the craft of aromatherapy is more commonly associated with the beauty-wellness-New Age world and not mainstream medicine at all.

I write all of this because the book carefully documents the history of the development of the aromatherapy industry and its applications. In fact, this book gets quite technical into the medical applications of essential oils and how they are assimilated into the body as healing nutrients. The first half of the book is science-heavy, and I appreciated that. Though Lavabre doesn’t shy away from the spiritual effects of applying essential oils either, talking about morphogenetic fields and “action of essential oils on the spiritual plane.” 1

All of this comes before Lavabre talks about what each of the oils are and what they blend well with (the real reason I picked up this book!). For this, he offers a thorough encyclopedic reference with many lists, charts, and groupings. The most useful information for me is in Chapter 9, where Lavabre offers an alphabetically organized catalog of available essentials oils grouped according to their “Botanical Families.”  For example, Lavabre lists the Apiaceae group, or “plants of the air element.” 2 This group includes angelica, carrot and fennel.  Then in Chapter 10, he talks about “aromatic choreography,” which is the art of blending oils according the scent combinations. Here Lavabre even includes chromatography scans of the oils to demonstrate the complexity of the “aroma notes.”

In short, this colorful, straight-forward, and easy-to-read book supplies its reader with EVERYTHING you would ever need to know about the craft and the science of aromatherapy. The Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Workbook a must-read for any eager beginner and wonderful reference companion for a seasoned practitioner.

The Tree Angel Oracle, by Fred Hageneder

The Tree Angel Oracle: The Ancient Path into the Sacred Grove, by Fred Hageneder and illustrated by Anne Heng
Earthdancer Books, 1644110386, 1144 pages, 2nd Edition 2020

The Tree Angel Oracle by Fred Hageneder is a truly beautiful deck, illustrated by Anne Heng. The cards are illustrated with fairy-like figures ethereally interwoven with an image of a tree, creating a magical, endearing effect.  Printed on heavy, shiny cardstock, the cards felt special and charged from the moment I took them out of the box.  I delighted in selecting the cards that match trees that grow in my yard and around my neighborhood, such as Oak, Holly, Cherry, and Apple. I quickly choose all the cards matching the species of trees I have on my property and had a fun time envisioning these angels living in my trees.  The Tree Angels in these cards are drawn with such delicacy and care that I can truly get a feel for the character of the tree angels and also how they connect to that particular species of tree.

The book opens with an endearing introduction where Hageneder writes about a visionary experience he had while attending a Kundalini Yoga Retreat.  In his vision, he was invited into a sacred grove of trees and encouraged by the Tree Angels themselves to develop this oracle deck based on his experiences connecting deeply to trees.

However, unfortunately for me, the fantasy ended there.  In the first chapter of the book, Hageneder presents sort of a “woven tapestry” per se of world religions, their symbolism and mythologies, and how they each hold trees in high esteem.  He presents a particular interpretation on some ubiquitous religious stories, in particular the Garden of Eden story from the Book of Genesis. Here, he very matter-of-factly presents a remarkably modern and “New Age” summation of what that symbology means. Being somewhat of a nerd about classical Theology, I was miffed not seeing appropriate academic citations to back up his interpretative claims, and by the time I got past this, I was far from thinking about trees. Though his religious world-view is interesting — I probably agree with more of it than I disagree — I think it is problematic to present interpretations on religious symbolism as fact without contextualizing the scholarship that gave rise to those interpretations.  But we’ve strayed from the topic of trees, so let’s get back to that.

Obviously, there are hundreds of species of tree in the world and there are only 36 cards in this deck.  Hageneder has based his selection of trees on the “Ancient Irish Tree Alphabet” called the “ogham.” (p. 25) However because this particular catalogue of trees (and he doesn’t describe the “ogham” any further) all originate in a particular geographical area occupied by the Celts, he has omitted some of those trees in favor of wider diversity. For example, he included Ginkgo and Sycamore, which are native to other regions.

Hageneder offers several simple spreads to read the cards, though he emphasizes that choosing one card at a time is a great method for this deck.  I like the “Silent Guardians” spread which is a two-card spread where each card is part of a message relating to a transition in your life – passing from one phase to another.  The three-card spread suggested is called “The Primeval Doorway,” and in this spread the Tree Angels invite you to meet your guide on a journey into the Underworld.

The messages The Tree Angel Oracle cards offer are rich and long, with multiple meanings embedded.  Oak is one of my favorite cards because Oak trees are often associated with magic.

“The source of the life force nourishes your deepest roots with vitality, will, and power.  Make the world your own! But take care, hear the secrets of success, care for those in need, bring tenderness where emptiness once ruled.” (p. 57)

Oak is about being strong and enjoying vitality, but also about having integrity and being compassionate.

Sometimes the descriptions surprised me.  For example, the Ivy Tree Angel signifies humility, though in other sources I’ve known, ivy represents a protector and in other sources, an opportunist. So it seems to me that Hageneder is developing his meanings and interpretations from his own inspiration instead of drawing on ideas about tree spiritual energies that others have written about.

I am grateful for this deck, grateful for the window into deeper communion with trees that The Tree Angel Oracle offers. The cards are so beautifully illustrated by Anne Heng. The messages about the spiritual consciousness that is alive in trees is also beautiful – for this is something I very much believe in.  While Hageneder’s descriptions of the Tree Angel Oracle do not always resonate with me, I believe there is something profoundly magical and alive in these cards and there is a story to tell about discovering the consciousness in trees.

Year of the Witch, by Temperance Alden

Year of the Witch: Connecting with Nature’s Seasons through Intuitive Magick, by Temperance Alden
Weiser Books, 9781633411876, 224 pages, 2020

Year of the Witch: Connecting with Nature’s Seasons through Intuitive Magick by Temperance Alden is a charming yet quirky little book.  I say little because the book itself is a comfortable, hand-held size with wide pages and margins roomy for note-taking.  It makes the experience of reading it more pleasurable.  I selected it thinking it would be a guide to practicing with the pagan sabbat days, like Beltane and Yule.  It is, but it takes a meandrous journey getting there.  The author’s thesis is that a witch can customize their experience of “the witch’s year” to be an authentic communion with the Earth and not limited to a conceptual celebration of holidays reflecting seasons that do not align with lived experience in one’s locale. 

For example, the author resides in South Florida, and moved there after living in Montana – so her experience of autumn has varied widely.  She wants witches and people exploring a witchcraft practice to feel empowered to claim their own sacred Earth holidays.  Therefore, her personal annual celebration of seasons includes “Shark Season” and “Avocado Harvest.”. 1

Alden makes it clear from the get-go that her aim is for fledgling witches to develop a connection to the Earth and an appreciation for local nature spirits. She goes into great detail towards what this practice entails, beginning with what I found to be the very best explanation of what intuition is that I’ve ever come by (and a message I very much needed to hear):

“The most common questions asked by those beginning their paths of witchcraft usually boil down to a variation on ‘Am I doing this right?’…. These questions often indicate that someone is going too fast down the path…and trying to run before they learn to walk’…. It is necessary to first learn how to distinguish between the voices of anxiety, ego and intuition…. Intuition is the literal gaining of knowledge without any conscious thinking or reasoning.  Intuition hardly ever comes in the form of an impulse. More often it feels like a lazy afternoon breeze flowing through our lives without any effort.”2

In Chapter 2, “Cycles, Seasons, Death and Rebirth,” she talks about hormonal cycles, the cycle of the seasons, cycles in climate, and astrological cycles as well.  Here, the book takes a sharp and unexpected twist when [TRIGGER WARNING] Alden reveals that she does not believe in climate change and cites some academic sources to back up her point of view!!!  This is not what most readers seeking guidance on how to work with earth-based witchcraft are going to expect, and frankly I don’t know what to say about this.  We are all entitled to our opinion on whether the science supporting the actuality of climate change is accurate, but in this book, her opinion stands out like a big yellow caution sign.  Everything else in this book is wonderful (if not a bit divergent at times), but throwing climate change denial at an unsuspecting reader bites a bit.

From there in Chapter 3, “Elemental Magick,” Alden goes on to explain the elements — earth, air, fire, water and spirit — and their role in magic work. In Chapter 4, “Sheparding the Land,” she comes across as a true eco-activist, insisting that students of her magical-methods make it part of their spiritual work to create ways of reducing their footprint on the earth, such as not using single-use plastic water bottles, and buying seasonal produce from farmers instead of shopping big box grocery stores. 3

My only other criticism of Year of the Witch, is that in Chapter 5, “At the Gates of Witchcraft,” Alden deep dives into a rant about being called a “plastic witch.”  She accuses witches who use this term insultingly as spiritually bypassing their privilege.

“I believe the term plastic witchcraft is twofold in its meaning. First ‘being plastic’ refers to being superficial and fake. Second, [it] refers to using plastic products. However, the term itself is very condescending and shows an aggressive amount of spiritual bypassing. [It] allows for more privileged witches to ridicule and scorn less fortunate witches.” 4

For a moment, I forgot I am a 46-year-old woman reading a spiritual book of my chosen belief-system from the comfort of my favorite armchair, and I was transported into my 16-year-old-self up in my bedroom flipping through the latest issue of Sassy Magazine and reading an essay written by the staff intern who just passed Psych 101 with a B+.  All I have to say about that is I think this book aims at a younger audience….

Finally! After all that drama, and through some delightful ideas about creating altars and building spiritual gardens outside, we get to the end of the book where Alden presents the traditional “year of the witch” and explains the eight sacred sabbaths: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, and Mabon.  For each holiday she goes into traditional lore and a suggested practice for celebrating.  The chapters are brief, but they are well referenced and offer some fun ideas, such as bread-baking recipes to celebrate the harvest feast at Lughnasadh (also called Lammas).

Alden’s ending conclusion in Year of the Witch is that if you are a witch living in a region with a climate differing from the classical four-season year, you can make your own holidays and create your own personalized “year of the witch” to follow.  Adding to the overall charm, she put in a recipe to make your own Florida Water and also for cascarilla powder in the appendix, along with a calendar of all pagan holidays celebrated in different countries around the world.  Overall, this is a fun book!

Magic in the Landscape, by Nigel Pennick

Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries & Geomancy, by Nigel Pennick
Destiny Books, 1620558799, 176 pages, May 2020

Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries & Geomancy by Nigel Pennick is a history book about how magical practices and the routines of indigenous people are recorded in the present-day landscape – in this case, the landscape of Great Britain.  And though this is a book about looking to the past, with an introduction titled, “A Vanishing World in Need of Rescue,” Pennick makes it clear that his book is NOT an “attempt to reconstruct the past by creating a depiction of an ideal time when the writer perceives that the system under study was perfect or intake.” 1  Instead this book explores fragments of history where magic was present.

My favorite chapter came early on, Chapter two, “The Ensouled World,” where he talks about Land Wights, celebrated and offered autonomy in Iceland,2 and a haunting story about the DeLorean Factory (that classic sports car used as the time machine in the movie Back to the Future).  DeLorean’s are classic collectable cars because despite its slick appearance, the company was only around for three years before declaring bankruptcy.  According to Pennick, the DeLorean factory was constructed outside of Belfast in a field that was home to an enormous and aged hawthorn bush. The locals had long believed that bush had a soul of its own, yet it was cut down and dug up in order to build the DeLorean Factory.  Soooo why the did factory close after just three years?  Just a coincidence?  Pennick purports not.  About the subsequently abandoned factory, he says, “Blighted and derelict places where such establishments once existed are instances of the desacralized cosmos.”3

The violation of traditionally sacred spaces is a theme Pennick references frequently, whether it is highways being paved over an ensouled landscape or archeologists digging up sacred sites in the name of their research. Pennick makes a point that we may be unknowingly erasing a piece of not only cultural history, but of genuine magical presence. “If the sacred is not just a human construct, as some argue, but actually emanates from the power within the earth at particular places, then to dig there without traditional geomantic precautions runs the risk of destroying that power.”4

One part of this book which was unexpected, was Pennick’s thorough research on exorcisms and hauntings.  In the chapter simply titled “Boundaries” in the section titled Magic Circles and Conjuring Parsons, Pennick offers us many recorded examples of church ministers in small towns across England using magic to banish ghosts who were either haunting a site or haunting an individual parishioner.

“On January 9, [1965] [the Rev. William] Rudall made a secret journey to Exeter to visit the bishop…and having convinced him, was given official permission to ‘lay the ghost’.  When Rudell got back home, he worked out the astrological chart for the next morning and prepared his magical paraphernalia.” 5

The details Pennick has about these instances of “ghost-hunting’ in small-town English parishes are remarkable! Yet for me felt a little like a departure from the main trajectory of this book.  And that might be the thing: the main trajectory of this book might not have been what I was hoping for when I ordered it, not what I was hoping for when I picked it up, and not what I was hoping for as I devoured the first few chapters.

I absolutely love that Pennick is calling attention to the awareness of sacredness in the landscape – sacredness than might be inherent, such as an ancient tree or rock or even a scenic vista, or the sacredness of a Feng Shui inspired English garden planted in the late 1700’s — 200 years before Feng Shui was trending in the New Age community.6 I think it is also priceless to call attention to the ways in which modern development is literally plowing over ensouled landscapes, and in which common human secularized ignorance erases the filaments of magic offered to us by something vaster.  It is also priceless to consider that parish ministers practiced astrology, that Feng Shui’s influence over the West started much longer ago than most people think, and that forest spirits truly exist.

I guess my one disappointment though was that I wanted a little more of a “how-to” book.  I wanted to learn how to do something related to all the fascinating topics in this book.  This is not a criticism, but a praise in disguise.  For this book ignites the imagination and enchants the spirit in unexpected ways.

As someone who practices permaculture design – a spiritual philosophy of sustainable landscaping- it is inspiring to learn about how magical places and spaces have been understood in the past and in other cultures.  So now I might use those intentions, as well as sacred geometry and planet synergy in landscapes I’m working on, in hopes of infusing something sacred and enduring.  In the United States we don’t have the same history as Britain, yet the Native American people had profound magical sensibilities in their culture, so I can pay more careful attention as I stroll my neighborhood, knowing the land I live on once belonged to them.

Overall, Magic in the Landscape is a historical overview of different topics relating to the spiritual elevation of a place.  These topics span from the uplifting effects of scenic vista, beliefs that certain landscapes are home to magical beings, curiosity about spirits inherent in rocks, trees, fields and forests, awareness that the architecture of certain buildings contain magical intentions, the power of memorials and town commons to shape cultural narrative, and the craft of creating sacred space for safely interacting with the spirit world.

Queering Your Craft, by Cassandra Snow

Queering Your Craft: Witchcraft from the Margins, by Cassandra Snow
Weiser Books, 1578637218, 288pages, November 2020

From now on, whenever someone asks to me to recommend a book about getting started in witchcraft, this is the book I am going to recommend, whether or not that person is queer.  I say this because Queering Your Craft: Witchcraft from the Margins by Cassandra Snow breaks the practice of witchcraft down into simple components that can be picked up by anyone, anywhere and used however they wish, making the craft of magick much more of a personal celebration of creativity, passion and power.  To make the craft of magick-making accessible to a diverse, marginalized population, Snow guides their readers on how to customize their craft so that it can hold meaning and be powerful, even when practiced individually, on a budget and with limited resources. 

This is a “how-to” book on making magick and living a magickal lifestyle. First though, Snow tells us why we need a specifically “queer” magic textbook. The two most influential craft-based magical lineages in the West, Gerard Gardener’s Wicca and Alistair Crowley’s Thelema use symbolism and themes strongly rooted in gender-binaries, which can be alienating to the growing population of the magickally inclined who identify as non-binary. 1

For Snow, queering magic is recreating symbols, themes, and sacred space for a wide variety of gender and sexuality variance.  Their first step on this path is offering a “Queer Witch Manifesto” in the introduction of the book, which Snow refers back to repeatedly throughout the book as an ethical framework for practicing magickal craft and identifying as a witch.  Snow’s “Queer Witch Manifesto” acknowledges (in sum):

✨Infinite genders and sexual identities. (Throughout the book Snow uses the abbreviation LGBTQIA2SP+ whenever referring to queer-identified individuals)
✨The need to dismantle white supremacy and patriarchal power and the need for this dismantling to come from the non-white community.
✨The positivity of all expressions of consensual sexuality.
✨That anyone can invoke Goddess energy regardless of whether they have a uterus.
✨Physical, emotional, and mental disabilities do not make a person unable to practice magic.
✨Personal healing is a precursor to collective healing.
✨We must protect and heal the Earth.
✨We are all equals in magic.
✨All bodies can be magical, regardless of ableism.

I kind of want to needlepoint this onto a pillow! How about you?! 

Laying out this list (with much clearer articulation and more detail than my summary here) at the beginning of the book, the rest of the book is about practicing the craft of magic-making.  Snow knows history and as a result is able to deconstruct magical rites, rituals, and practices from their origins in order to present them as something simple anyone can start to practice. For example, they note the transformative magick of making lists, ““My money magick usually… starts with a list of my financial goals and immediate needs and then I add a list of long-term goals.” 2. Then for the the transformative magick of prayer to a spiritual being, Snow writes “Prayer is so easy, free, and accessible that anyone can do it…. A quick prayer that is literally just ‘thank you’ when you get unexpected luck or a despairing “please help” when you’re feeling your absolute worst is enough.” 3

Snow strongly advocates a DIY Witchcraft, which is making your magickal craft out of what is available to you and infusing your magick with intentions specific to you.  While she does discuss some examples of collective magick, such as covens or working spells in a group context for political aims, Snow acknowledges that for queer people, the most powerful accessible magick may be that which they create on their own from their own hodge-podge of wisdom, creativity, desire, and power. Snow even offers a “how-to” worksheet for designing one’s own spells.

My personal favorite parts of Queering Your Craft is the section on “Fashion and Style Witchcraft” where your magickal intentions can be enhanced by dressing a certain way. Snow writes, “I might pull out a purple outfit for creativity.  I also might pull out a long pencil skirt and a button-down to give myself that “professional writer” feeling.”4 Then later in the book, I also really like Snow’s list of LGBTQIA2SP+ aligned gods and goddesses, including Athena, Loki, and my personal favorite discovery — a Drag Queen God from the Voodoo tradition named Ghede Nibo.5

For the seasoned practitioner, this book may seem elementary.  Snow summarizes common methods of divination such as tarot, astrology, and runes.  They explain the significance of the Four Elements (five including “Spirit”) and how to call them in. They offer a guide to the Lunar phases and Sabbat holidays. This is truly an inclusive essential starter handbook, inclusive on all fronts! However, the manner in which Snow explains the cornerstones of witchcraft and presents them in regard to the Manifesto outlined in the front of the book widens the lens through which these practices are understood and used — and this is exactly the point.  For the purpose of this book is to make magick accessible to anyone and to make magick empowering to those who may not feel at so at home in straight cis-gendered spaces. 

Queering Your Craft concludes with a queer grimoire, including spells “A Protection Spell for Trans People in Small Towns,” “A Protection Spell for QTBIPOC,” A Spell of Protection Against the Patriarchy,” “An Anti-Gatekeeper Spell,” and “A Spell to Protect Activists,” plus many more spells to fill all categories.

Entering Hekate’s Garden, by Cyndi Brannen

Entering Hekate’s Garden: The Magick, Medicine & Mystery of Plant Spirit Witchcraft, by Cyndi Brannen, PhD
Weiser Books, 1578637228, 288 pages, November 2020

The Garden of Hekate, the great Mother Goddess from whom all the world flows, is the spiritual home for the practice of pharmakeia, the ancient art, craft, and science of plant spirit witchcraft.  This practice uses botanicals for corporeal purposes, the crafting of magical formulations, and the art of transcending. It is a holistic art transmitted by Hekate and her witches for our use today. 1

Entering Hekate’s Garden: The Magick, Medicine & Mystery of Plant Spirit Witchcraft by Cyndi Brannen is a book about plant spirit witchcraft, a craft which incorporates magick, medicine, and the mystery of botanicals through the use of both their physical properties and their spiritual essence.  This book is for anyone passionate about plants and magically inclined, ready to take a deep dive into the mysteries of the spiritual essences and consciousness of plants.  While more and more witches are carving out a career niche in the practice of clinical herbalism, Entering Hekate’s Garden takes it a step further and elevates the practice of working with plants into the spiritual realm by creating relationship to the soul of the plants and understanding their magical properties as well as there medicinal. 

Entering Hekate’s Garden reads like a sacred text. It begins with a poetic portrait of how the dark Goddess of Nature surrendered her guard to her lover, civilization, and was betrayed. This prologue is called “Medea’s Truth.”  It sets a tone that this text is a reclaiming of a lost art. That lost art is the tending of Hekate’s Garden. Medea is the darker of the two daughters of Hekate, an underworld Goddess and Queen of Witches known also as Regina Maleficarum. The other daughter is Circe. As Brannen write, “Medea’s energy and archetype speak to our shadow selves. Circe summons us to speak to embrace the transformation found by speaking our truth boldly.”2

In “Medea’s Truth,” the author channels the words of her Goddess’s despairing truth.

“Jason came to me, not out of affection, but out of greed.  He had heard of my powers…Jason’s gods preyed upon his ambitions.  They instructed him on how to seduce me.  Not only did I welcome him into Hekate’s garden, but I put a spell on…the Tree of Knowledge…. Now the time has come for you to remember the magick, the medicine, and the mystery. Return to Mother’s Garden.”3

 The book’s narrative spirals open like an actual initiation. The chapters following, each named in Latin, lay out a sacred system of working with 39 specific plant species which Brannen has selected to present – 39 being 3 x 13. Three for Mercury, God of gathering information, and 13 for the 13 moons in a Witch’s Year.  Though all plants have sacred properties, according to Brennan, for the purposes of this book, which is meant to be an introduction to the way of Hekate’s Garden, 39 was a sufficient number to work with. Throughout the book, Brennan offers detailed recipes for medicines and spellwork (and for her, medicine and spellwork are one) that the reader can replicate at home for their own journey.

The book unfolds as follows:

·      Origio: Meeting the three Goddesses through purification ritual instructions

·      PraeparatioA brief introduction to holistic healing and the practicing of true medicine.

·      Ratio: Understanding the language of archetypes, specifically the four elements, the seven planetary correspondences, the three worlds (lower, middle, and upper), and Seven Sacred Forces (passion, strength, sovereignty, power, discipline, awareness and integrity)Plus, there is a powerful initiation ritual called the Sacred Seven Ritual.

·      Practica: Physical formulations of plant medicine, such as how to tincture and make syrups and oxymels.

·      Gnosis: The 39 monographs of plants used in sacred plant magic.

For each of the 39 plant monographs, from basil to foxglove to saffron to walnut, Brennan offers a bit of lore about the plant. For example, “Thyme has been associated with the bumble since Greek warriors used them both to decorate their battle gear”.4 She includes a thorough list of properties and correspondences, such as zodiac sign, stones, and animal.  She also includes indications, formulations (for example, “Cats are often fond of thyme and it is safe for them”5) and a yummy recipe for goat cheese crescents.

The book concludes with Magikeia, and here reads very much like a classic grimoire with specific instructions on using plants in particular spellwork. She includes a long list of common types of spells and how to make basic formulations for them, which can be further customized as a practitioner gets more comfortable using the monographs.  The list includes popular spellwork topics like abundance, binding, attraction, and protection.

In sum, this book is absolutely beautiful!  It is easy the glean that Brennan is a true devotee to her path and her spirit possesses aeons of experience with her subject. The book has heart and what it offers is no less than an actual tangible portal into a magical realm, if you are willing to follow her steps and do the initiations she outlines. For a more casual fan of plants and gardens Entering Hekate’s Garden is full of fascinating and rare information about common plants – like that yarrow is one of the most powerful plants for honoring Venus! I strongly recommend this book.  It will remain a treasured piece in my own book collection for years to come and I hope to see a future hardcover addition with glossy photographs of all these wonderful, magical plants!