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Author Archives: Alanna Kali

About Alanna Kali

Alanna Kali is an astrologer, numerologist, and pioneer spirit that loves to explore life through the lens of depth psychology. She has a passion for studying the humanities and social trends. Her academic work is centered upon reuniting body, mind, and spirit through eco-psychology. She loves reading, spending time in nature, and travel.

The Creative Pendulum, by Joan Rose Staffen

The Creative Pendulum: Keys to Unlock Your Innovative Spirit, by Joan Rose Staffen
Red Wheel Weiser, 9781578637515, 288 pages, June 2022

The Creative Pendulum: Keys to Unlock Your Innovative Spirit by Joan Rose Staffen got me out of a creative rut in the most fun way. It had been a while since I’d used my pendulum, but after a quick dust-off, I remembered how much insight I used to get from this method of divination. It seems I had forgotten the myriad of possibilities that came from tuning into my higher consciousness in order to figure out what was needed in my life.

Until reading this book though, I had never thought to practically weave together my creativity and work life by dowsing with my pendulum. But Staffen provided me with a marvelous gift of ingenuity in this book that inspired a renewed interest in the pendulum as a divination tool while also relighting my spiritual spark.

I will say right off the bat what I liked most about this book is Staffen’s openness, humor, and willingness to think outside the box that pours through every page. This pendulum technique is so unique and quickly ignites new insights. And I feel this technique works because Staffen has pulled from her life experience to create a method that is practical, creative, and spiritual all in one.

Anecdote after anecdote showcases how Staffen deepned her creative practice and expanded her wisdom through trusting the process. For instance, how she once “spent a year asking God/Goddess for my right, perfect place, opportunity, and company”1 before launching her business venture. Reading her stories is not only amusing, but also reaffirms that we always have the opportunity to try new things, learn, and grow; this has helped her navigate through plenty of career changes and shifts in life circumstances. Through the ups and downs in life, Staffen reminds us that the Muse is always present – all we need to do is tune into the energy at hand.

But even though this book is wonderfully infused with Staffen’s spirit, the focus remains centered on readers expanding their life, overcoming roadblocks, and connecting with their own creativity. Staffen has created Intuitive Creativity Charts that the reader can use their pendulum to gain a deeper understanding of what is being called for in their life right now. The technique she teaches in this book involves dowsing with the pendulum over the Intuitive Creativity Charts for guidance that goes beyond simply “yes/no” answers, the more simple and commonly used method of working with a pendulum.

For those of you who might not know how pendulums work through the process of dowsing, Staffen provides a great description:

“Dowsing has both scientific and mystical elements that help us tap into both our subconscious and super-conscious minds. Using the pendulum can help us to center emotionally and spiritually, and we can more easily open to a meditative state, where we become calm, relaxed, and receptive to the suggestions presented by the pendulum and charts.”2

Chapter two, “Learn to Dowse with the Pendulum,” provides all the information needed to get started, even if you’re completely new to this method of divination. Staffen provides details such as where and when to use one’s pendulum, how to center yourself for accurate results, and what to do if your dowsing isn’t working. She also shares with readers step-by-step instructions for how to dowse, which is very easy to follow along with. As with anything, practice is important, so even if at first you’re a bit skeptical or unsure, I recommend keep going!

Now, while the main premise of the book is teaching readers how to use the Intuitive Creativity Charts, it includes a heap of creative life-coaching. Staffen goes chapter by chapter explaining the significance of each chart, illuminating how it can be used for insight, as well as explaining all of the potential chart pendulum answers to clarify the messages that might come through. But these aren’t static explanations, such as “If your pendulum lands on this then it means xyz..” Rather, it’s almost like Staffen is coaching you through understanding the answers revealed. 

Oftentimes there are exercises to do, like meditations and journal prompts, to ground the insight and find out what it means for you personally. And it’s this delivery from Staffen, focused on process more than result, that makes the book so creatively stimulating. Dowsing with the Intuitive Creative Charts is not meant to be a one-size fits all approach! And I was amazed at all the guidance available using the charts. Staffen has done a great job of charting questions you might not even have ever thought to ask.

There’s a chart for answering questions about one’s creative process (“What literary/performing/visual art should I pursue?” and “What artistic needs do I have?”), timing (“When’s the best time to take action?”), energy work (“How can I clear my chakras?” and “How can I overcome negative beliefs?”), business strategy (“How can I market my art?” and “What is the best income stream for me?”), plus so much more! I honestly have spent hours trying out different charts and am always so surprised by the accuracy of the pendulum responses.

And this guidance is tailored to recognize a multitude of paths, rather than a prescriptive “it has to be this way to work” model, that opens new doorways, especially when one starts to layer and sift through all the insight they’re getting from the perspective of each chart.

Once you’re comfortable with the technique, I’ve found it’s useful to use charts in combination. For instance, I use my pendulum to dowse for questions related to my creative identity and how to improve my income stream. (I try not to ask too many questions at once, even though I want to!) Quickly, I saw how the answers were interrelated and urging me in a new direction.

One really neat thing about The Creative Pendulum is how Staffen shared two chapters on using the pendulum and Intuitive Creativity Charts to coach yourself and others. She offers tips for coaching oneself with a reading and includes two personal assessments worksheets that help you to clarify the issue you’re working on and hone in solutions.

Then there’s also an entire chapter on coaching others by discovering their talents and motivating them to take action. Staffen offers guidance about preparing for a session with clients, along with client assessment forms that can be used when working with them. I so deeply respect Staffen’s choice to so transparently share her Intuitive Creativity Charts method with others and teach them how they can use it to coach others. 

And it gets better – Staffen saved some of the best material for last, such as the chapter “Paint on Your Hands: Art Prompts” that are “fun exercises…to help beginners spark their own brave, intuitive creative within.”3 As a creative at heart that often needs a nudge to indulge, I loved the prompts to draw, create collages, play with finger paints, and more! It got me motivated to actually take out my art supplies and enjoy/explore myself.

In the final chapter, Staffen suggests starting a “creativity cluster” of “like-minded people who want to learn to dowse, journal, and play together!”4 Now I’m certainly wanting to do this, and I’m thinking about starting a Meet-Up group once I relocate next month. 

Overall, The Creative Pendulum has been such a breath of fresh air! I highly recommend this book for those seeking to expand their horizons. When read with curiosity and an open-mind, the possibilities of what you might discover about yourself through the process of dowsing with Staffen’s Intuitive Creativity Charts are endless.

From discovering your creative identity to figuring out what business steps you should take next, this book is useful on so many levels, which opens doors for readers to make their dreams a reality through the aid of their pendulum. It’s certainly a book one can come back to time and time again, whenever you are feeling called to use the guidance of the charts for both yourself and teaching others.

Pagan Portals – The Temple Priestesses of Antiquity, by Lady Haight-Ashton

Pagan Portals – The Temple Priestesses of Antiquity, by Lady Haight-Ashton
Moon Books, 128 pages, 1803410280, August 2022

I think it’s very common for modern witches and priestesses to feel a connection to our predecessors, at least this is true for me. Reading about the lives of priestesses, oracles, and healers of the past builds a bridge between past and present, reminding me of the timelessness of the Goddess. Pagan Portals – The Temple Priestesses of Antiquity by Lady Haight-Aston was a very interesting read that took me through the cultures of priestess traditions dating back to 12,000 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia all the way to the present age.

“Whether Oracles, Seers, Psychics, and Sibyls, or Sacred Dancers and Healers, the ancient Temple Priestesses wove a narrative of both realism and mythology. They held court in every ancient civilization with their mysterious and mystical powers. These empowered women enthralled those who sought their advice while always serving the Goddess they revered.”1

Lady Haight-Aston’s resume is quite impressive. She is a Third Degree High Priestess of both Gardnerian and Cabot Hermetic Tradition, as well as High Priestess of Sacred Moon Coven and the Iseum of the Graceful Goddess. She is also a professional psychic, trance medium, Sacred Dancer, teacher, and tarot reader. In 2019, Lady Haight-Aston published Pagan Portals – The First Sisters: Lilith and Eve. The vastness of her knowledge of different traditions and forms of Goddess worship shine through every page of this book.

The most prominent priestess cultures covered in this book are those of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, including Goddess cults of Isis and Hathor, the Oracle of Delphi, and the Vestal Virgins. But I was surprised to learn about other traditions that I had previously not heard of before, such as The Ank Priestesses of the Isle of Iona and the Cumaean Sibyl that presided over the Oracle of the Dead in Baia, Italy.

I will admit each section is short; this isn’t a full deep dive into any one priestess tradition, but rather a small sample of each one. But there is still plenty to learn from this book, and I found it valuable to read about all the different priestess cultures side by side. I noticed similarities and differences stand out more than when I study one priestess culture on its own. And as someone who has studied different priestess cultures previously, devouring any piece of literature I could get my hands on, Lady Haight-Aston still provided me with plenty of new revelations.

As she weaves her way through periods of the past, Lady Haight-Aston notes different speculations of academics and clearly informs readers where there is a lack of archeological evidence to make assured claims. But simultaneously, she adds her own perspective as an initiated priestess to share missing links of herstory. I deeply appreciated her point of view and am always glad for a feminist version of history, but for those who this might not be appealing, there is ample reference sources provided at the end of each chapter for readers to investigate themselves and draw their own conclusions.

I mean, if we’re being honest, priestess cultures have hardly been given the academic recognition they deserve, especially in comparison to the study of different priesthoods. To this day, putting together the pieces to better understand these cultures is still quite a challenge. As much as I value the efforts of historians and anthropologists, I feel there is value in having a modern-day Priestess share her thoughts on the significant findings too, providing an experiential interpretation of the artifacts and records.

One of my favorite chapters was “The Modern-Day Oracle Priestess” where Lady Haight-Ashton discussed prominent women that have helped to keep the Priestess tradition alive in recent times, such as Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Sybil Leek. In this section, Lady Haight-Ashton also shares more about friends of hers that have created different communities. I was thrilled to learn about these, especially Woolston-Steene Theological Seminary (the only degree program in the United States for Wiccan ministry) and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church International.

All in all, Pagan Portals – Temple Priestesses of Antiquity was a fantastic read that expanded my knowledge of the influence Priestesses had on cultures of the past. Lady Haight-Aston’s personal path of Priestesshood helps to shine light on what the experience of these devout women of the past might have been within the context of their unique cultures. This book serves as a reminder of the spiritual and political influence women have had through time, and it inspires hope that the way of the Goddess will someday thrive again. For those interested in the pathway of the Priestess, Lady Haight-Aston provides many resources to explore as one finds their own path towards serving the Goddess in the modern world.

Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden, by Nicholas Pearson

Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden: Plant Spirits in Magickal Herbalism, by Nicholas Pearson
Destiny Books, 1644113007, 512 pages, April 2022

While doing a chakra meditation, I discovered that my heart chakra was calling for me to deepen my relationship with flowers, which surprised me. I appreciate the beauty of flowers, but aside from my herbalist astrology teacher’s reference to the properties of different flowers, I hadn’t really ever delved into flowers or their potent magical essence before. Luckily, Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden: Plant Spirits in Magickal Herbalism by Nicholas Pearson had just been released, and I decided this book might be a good starting point.

This book is packed full of valuable information! I feel like I received my beginner’s introduction that steadily progressed to expert-level advice as I continued reading. Pearson makes flower essences approachable for all, while simultaneously sharing patiently accumulated wisdom and knowledge that will benefit all who work with flower essences.

Pearson begins by sharing his journey to working with flower essences and then dives into a very thorough explanation of what exactly is a flower essence. Right off the bat, this description of what flower essences are and are not was very helpful in clearly understanding how the essence, or vibration, of the flowers can be used for one’s magical practice. Plus, the chapter “The History of Flower Essences” provided great insight into how the use of flower essences has evolved over time, situating the information being shared within a larger historical context.

“Flower essences are indeed magickal, because magick is medicine for the soul. Essences are infused with the life force, healing virtues, and consciousness of the plant kingdom. They offer safe, economical, and environmentally friendly ways to connect with plant spirits and add their blessings and powers to your magickal practice.”1

Another way that Pearson lays a good foundation for the use of flower essence is teaching about spirits of nature, including devas, plant spirits, and green familiars. He notes the similarities between a green witch that works with plant intelligence and the practice of using flower essences, both of which draw upon the spiritual force of the “guardian consciousness of the plant itself”2

Exploring the realms of “green intelligence” makes it so readers of the both have access to greater range of understanding the consciousness of plants. And included exercises, such as Plant Spirit Attunement and Seed-to-Flower Meditation, further help the reader to connect with the spirit essence of plants before getting started with flower essences. My favorite exercise was Journey to Hecate’s Garden, where one is guided to explore the plants of poison and power there.

It’s not until nearly 100 pages in that Pearson gets into the making of flower essences, and let me say, he does not skip one step! It’s like every question I could have asked about the process was being answered as I read on. He covers materials needed to get started, making the essences, bottling the essences, dosages, and so much more!

And with the practical “how-to” clearly laid out, Pearson turns to the subtle art of creating flower essences. He writes about the significance of the number of petals of a flower, planetary correspondences, elemental signatures of flowers, and the meaning of different colors. This information is the foundation for someone to really start getting creative with their flower essences, fine-tuning them to their specific intention. And for those who are unsure, he offers methods such as dowsing, kinesthetic intelligence, and communing with plant spirits to discover what one needs.

It is at this point that Pearson moves into writing about flower essences in one’s magical practice. Topics include anointing candles with flower essences, flower essence charms and amulets, incense, bottle magic, and even potions, which he provides ample formulas for things such as making flying blends, love, and even countermagic. I personally really liked the sabbat formulas shared to create essences that bolster and balance the energy of each one.

Pearson even goes into spagyrics in the chapter “Plant Spirit Alchemy”, at which point you know you’ve really advanced in your flower essence education!  He shares how to make an alchemical plant tincture, as well as flower essence spagyrics. This part was very interesting because I love alchemy, but for the time being a little too beyond my skill set. It does motivate me to practice creating and working with flower essences enough to get to that level though, plus it’s very valuable alchemical knowledge for those who also share an interest in the topic.

The final chapter, “Dictionary of One Hundred Flower Essences”, spans over 200 pages and is so handy to have at one’s fingertips! For each one, Pearson provides elemental, planetary, and zodiac signature, corresponding chakra, magical use, and therapeutic indications, along with multiple paragraphs of additional information to provide readers with a full understanding of the flower. I’ve both read through the chapter, just to learn more about each essence, and turned to it when trying to decide what type of essence to create; in all cases, the dictionary has been immensely helpful. For example, in regard to Hawthorn, Pearson writes:

“Hawthorn lore teeters between light and dark. The more pleasant tales of hawthorn depict it as a tree of healing, love, and connection to other worlds. Hawthorn fruit and flowers were sometimes used in divination, especially to dream of your future while, while their thorns have been used to defend again malice and harm, to break curses, and to cast out spirits and other malevolent beings.”3

I also really appreciated a list of flower essences suppliers, including their websites, in the Appendix. Just in case I’m not up for making my own, it’s good to know where I can purchase high quality flower essences.

All in all, Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden has been a very insightful read. I’m deeply impressed with how Pearson laid out the book so perfectly, thoroughly educating the reader from the ground up, to give a full-spectrum education into flower essences. The level of detail is astounding, from the history and lore included to the charts and tables that help one to visually understand different properties of the flowers–everything you need to know is covered. This book is a one-stop-shop for those hoping to delve more into flower essences.

I highly recommend it for beginners and experts alike, as so much is covered within these pages that it’s well worth having nearby for reference. I feel like a whole new layer of magical working has opened for me after reading this book. I plan on making my own flower essence and then using it for candle magic. I’m excited to see how the results unfold!

Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints, by Denise Alvarado

Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and  Hoodoo Saints: A Guide to Magical New Orleans, by Denise Alvarado
Weiser Books, 1578636744,  276 pages, February 2022

My spirit longs to visit New Orleans, but alas the time has not yet come. So I decided to delve into Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints: A Guide to Magical New Orleans by Denise Alvarado, letting her words transport me to the “sacred supernatural geography of the city”1. I’ve been completely absorbed in this book; Alvarado has done such a wonderful job illuminating the spirits and folk saints of this beloved city with a rich cultural history that I’ve hardly put it down.

Alvarado is a New Orleans native, who has been studying the indigenous healing traditions of the area for more than four decades. She teaches South conjure at Crossroads University and is also a rootworker in the Louisiana folk magic tradition. Alvarado has written quite a few other related books, including The Conjurer’s Guide to St. Expedite, The Magic of Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook, and The Voodoo Doll Spellbook. She also has an online shop at creolemoon.com with plenty of magical items for sale.

“As anyone who has been to the Crescent City will tell you, you get a feeling when you are there that screams “elusive and mysterious.” It’s a gut-level feeling–you know there is more to it, but you just can’t put your finger on it. All you know is that you want to see more, know more, and ultimately, feel more–more of that good old N’awlins supernatural vibe.”2

This is definitely how I’m feeling! But after having read Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints, I feel like I know the potent visible and invisible world of New Orleans a bit more. In this book, Alvarado shares her research and experience about twenty influential Louisiana spiritual figures. With such a rich tradition, being as New Orleans is a merging place for multiple cultures, it’s hard to put all the people and spirits covered into one category. From folktale hero Annie Christmas, warrior-for-the-people Black Hawk, Voudou Saint Jean St. Malo, African Diaspora god Papa Legba, and even Catholic Saint Joseph, Alvarado delves into adoption of these figures into the spiritual tapestry of New Orleans.

Chapter by chapter, with each one focusing on one character, Alvarado shares all she knows, which I am positive is more than even locals know because of her studious research. It’s very clear that Alvarado has put dedicated time and effort into finding out all she can about these figures. And what I really appreciate is that she sticks to source material, which range from oral stories of New Orleans residence that were documented, old newspaper clippings, or even original source documents. If there’s a story that Alvarado can’t find source material for, she shares it but also lets the reader know she hasn’t found information to back it up, keeping the reader fully informed.

Alvarado also sometimes presents different views, offering the reader diverse perspectives on the figure she’s describing. This might be the different ways certain religious traditions portray a certain spirit, or differing versions of folktales. Alvarado lays it all out for the reader to truly see the full picture. And this made for a very interesting read because that’s how real life, and even more so spirituality and magic, tends to be – there’s no definitive answers and we’re doing our best to piece together information based on sources, experience, and stories from others.

Oh, but each story Alvarado shares is just so interesting! And her writing style is very conversational; her colloquial way of writing really draws the reader in! Alvarado successfully engages the heart, soul, and imagination all in one with these stories. You feel the pain of the spiritual figures, or those in need praying to them; you can taste the offerings being laid out; you can feel the culture the figure’s life took place in; you can see the Voodoo queen going about their daily lives. The weaving together of so many stories is tantalizing and will certainly have your mind wandering, hoping you get the chance to see these places in real life soon. And just in case you don’t get to right away, there’s plenty of pictures included throughout to provide visuals of what Alvarado describes.

This book is also beneficial for those who are hoping to expand their magical practice. If you’ve felt drawn to work with some of these figures, Alvarado provides useful insights. Now, I don’t mean you’ll suddenly be able to create your whole Voodoo or Hoodoo practice based on this book. That would require a much more in-depth study, obviously! But there’s plenty of information about what to offer certain spirits, what they like on their altars, and basic prayers or spellwork that can be done. For instance, burying an upside down statue of St. Joseph to sell one’s home or creating lucky garters to attract a generous man of means based on Lala Hopkins’ grimoire.

For each figure, Alvarado does a wonderful job describing who they were (their life story, spiritual origins), the impact they had in their life, why one might call on them, and what offerings are best to make if one does decide to create a relationship with them. Plus, there’s plenty of information about how different New Orleans spiritual practitioners or traditions work with these figures too for broader context.

Overall, Alvarado does a wonderful job teaching readers about the supernatural element of folklore vibrant in the city, opening them up to the multifaceted magic of New Orleans as an introduction to this very special place. Story after story, filled with historical information and practice magical how-tos, make this a very interesting book to read. Alvarado has skillfully pieced together tons of information to give the readers a fascinating guidebook about the figures that remain present in New Orleans folklore and culture, offering both blessings and curses depending on how they’re called upon.

If you’ve ever felt the pull of New Orleans, Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and  Hoodoo Saints is perfect for learning more about the spiritual roots of the unique city; there’s so much insight and knowledge packed into these pages, you’re bound to learn plenty and have quite a few laughs along the way with these tales!

Spirit Weaver, by Seren Bertrand

Spirit Weaver: Wisdom Teachings from the Feminine Path of Magic, by Seren Bertrand
Bear & Company, 1591434351, 256 pages, May 2022

Spirit Weaver: Wisdom Teachings from the Feminine Path of Magic by Seren Bertrand was balm for my aching soul. Recently, I have been rather withdrawn, tending to my inner world over making strides towards accomplishments in the external world. I’ve been quite content exploring and feeling into the changes taking place within myself as I enter a new phase of my life

But amid the soul-shifting happening, I was being quite hard on myself, lamenting about “not being productive” and chastising my need to remain in my domestic sphere, which has felt quite like my safe haven or nest during this time. It wasn’t until I spent two days in bed, switching off between deep-diving into the wisdom of this book, journaling, and napping, that I felt a very rooted, authentic connection to my own feminine magic was restored.

“We have to nest. Not to always be somewhere else.

Wild creatures know how to nest. They know how to leave–and how to return.

There is great spiritual power in pottering–in the garden, in the kitchen, just being around the house, the home. Tending the herbs in the garden, making a fresh-brewed tea, the sensual art of cooking. Or entering the prayer chamber of the sofa, lounging with God, in intimate conversations and occasional snoring.

Nowhere to go, nothing to do. No grand theories to unite. Just to relax and be.

Home brings us back down to Earth. It makes us real. It grants us “enrealment.”

It is imbued with Womb magic; the power of Earth, of life, of love, of the real.”1

Bertrand is a skilled spirit weaver and visionary creatrix, who has done so much research on the lost global feminine wisdom traditions. She has also co-authored Womb Awakenings and Magdalene Mysteries with her husband Azra. Both of these books were life-changing for me, and I highly recommend them as well for anyone interested in feminine magic.

What sets Spirit Weaver apart from these other two books though is that this one feels more personal and the wisdom shared can be easily incorporated into one’s life. Whereas Womb Awakening and Magdalene Mysteries are both 560 pages of historical, anthropological, and spiritual revelation, Spirit Weaver is about half the length and is based on Bertrand’s personal insight and heartfelt experience of living the path of feminine magic.

Her first-hand perspective really hit home for me, as it felt like an invitation to walk alongside her as she shares what she’s learned throughout her journey, much like listening to a friend. Her soothing way with words was a more creative approach to sharing the mysteries of this path, intuitively opening new chambers within my own psyche and soul to explore. And it’s definitely worth noting though she explores feminine magic worldwide, Bertrand’s personal narrative of her ancestry to her homeland of England is a prominent theme.

“Sitting at the heart of these essays I share with you is the story of my personal ancestral lineage at Mam Tor (Mother Mountain), in the Peak District of the Old North of England, once the grail lands of Maid Marian and Robin Hood and the ancient tribe of the Brigantes–who worshiped the goddess Brigantia, the ancien mother of the old north–who were once led by powerful queens. These lands are an ancestral soulmate within me, the earth placenta of my childhood.”2

The book is composed of 50 essays divided into five sections: “Spinning Our Web”, “Growing Our Roots”, “Weaving Our Healing”, “Dreaming Our Magic”, and “Enchanting Our World”. While the sections have essays relevant to the overall theme, each one stands alone as a unique, insightful reflective piece of writing. I choose to make my way through chronologically, but one could absolutely pick and choose the essays or sections that feel relevant to them in each moment.

One thing I loved about this book was the brilliant paintings throughout the book that was rich with symbolism, featuring images of women, animals, spirals, and more. It felt as though each picture was perfectly placed, inspiring revelation as I turned the page after reading a specific essay to see a creative expression of the essence, energy, and themes Bertrand is describing. Sometimes, I would end up staring at the imagery for a good five to ten minutes, sometimes contemplating its message and other times just admiring the beauty. Plus, there is variation in font color too, which adds to the beauty of the book; it’s not just black and white, but alive with color for visual appeal.

In addition to paintings, there’s also some photographs included too, such as wells, festivals, and even an ancestral photograph of Bertrand’s family. These pictures definitely made Bertrand’s writing more realistic because I could see exactly what she was describing, even if I haven’t visited these places myself or experienced the culture of the lands she describes, especially her homelands of northern England. Now I just want to go take a pilgrimage!

Another thing I really enjoyed about Spirit Weaver is how Bertrand offers ideas for self-reflection or advice about how to integrate what she’s just written about in her essay. For instance, following the essay “Feminine Archetypes: The Witch and the Priestess”, Bertrand invites the reader to reflect on which one is more resonant to them right now. Following another essay, “Rooted Power: Feminine Spiritual Path”, Bertrand shares a way to find the balance between one’s rooted power (embodiment check-ins) and their infinite love (affirmation). While not every essay has something like this at the end, these prompts definitely helped to integrate Bertrand’s writing.

Overall though, I think my absolute favorite thing about the book was the content. Bertrand delves into many aspects of the feminine with such insight. As someone who also walks the path of feminine spirituality, it felt like a homecoming to read Bertrand’s thoughts and reflections. I’m constantly vacillating between whether to call my path one of witchcraft or priestesshood, while also contemplating how to embody this practice in my daily life. Mary Magdalene and the Christ path has always had a special place in my heart, which is definitely not discussed much in witchcraft, so I loved soaking up Bertrand’s wisdom about that.

But the topics covered a wide range of feminine spirituality, such as Moon magic, Celtic traditions, Dankini magic, working with the shadow, romantic love as a spiritual pathway, the wisdom of Grandmothers, mermaids, and so much more. This might sound like a smorgasbord, but it wasn’t at all like that; it’s a rich tapestry of all aspects of the feminine skillfully woven together.

What I was most surprised at was her essay called “Lady Saturn: Lineage of the Cosmic Witch”. I recently did a whole astrology presentation about the feminine aspect of Saturn as Crone, and I was thrilled to read another’s perspective about the VERY overlooked female attributes of Saturn. Bertrand writes, “Lady Saturn is the darkness of wisdom, of Sophia. She is the grand cosmic witch.”3 This just set my passion ablaze and spurred me on in my own research!

I was also just overcome by what I read in the section “Epiphany: Three Wise Witchy Midwives” where Bertrand discusses the Christmas Witch La Befana. As an Italian-American, the past three yuletide seasons, I’ve been deepening my relationship with la Strega Noel, and Bertrand provided more information in this section than I had been able to find thus far. I loved learning about how “The sacred Christmastime of Epiphany was once the heartland of the feminine mysteries, celebrated by many feminine folk traditions.”4 Suddenly, it made a lot more sense why this has become such a special time of the year for me, as I walk this path.

All in all, Spirit Weaver is a treasure trove of wisdom about the magic of the feminine mysteries. I highly recommend this book to all who feel called to walk the path of the feminine spirituality, in whatever form this looks like for them. Bertrand covers such a wide-range of topics that each reader is sure to take away something meaningful for their own personal journey. Bertrand truly continues to do such a service to the feminine spiritual pathway, educating readers with her research and courageously sharing her own experience to illuminate the way for others. This is a book that I know I will be returning to time and time again, as I continue to weave my own way immersed within the all-encompassing divinity of the feminine.

The Healing Power of the Sun, by Richard Hobday

The Healing Power of the Sun: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunlight as Medicine, by Richard Hobday
Findhorn Press, 164411402X, 224 pages, December 2021

Who doesn’t love the feeling of warm sunshine shining down on them? I know I certainly do! Whether it’s during a warm summer afternoon or a chilly winter’s day as I quickly make my way indoors, the sun never fails to bring a moment of happiness to my day. But until I read The Healing Power of the Sun: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunlight as Medicine by Richard Hobday, I had no idea the extent to which the sun affects our health and well-being. This illuminating book gave me a whole new perspective on sunlight and the many benefits spending time in its rays can have on my daily life.

In the introduction, Hobday immediately addressed the hyper-focus on the sun’s negative effect on the body: skin cancer. He notes that modern medicine is obsessed with the damage sunlight can have on skin, while neglecting the many other ailments that sunlight prevents, including “breast cancer; colon cancer; prostate cancer; ovarian cancer; heart disease; multiple sclerosis; and osteoporosis.”1 Instantly, I was intrigued by these bold claims–can sunlight really prevent these diseases? Luckily, Hobday provides ample scientific evidence to support his position.

There are a myriad of topics covered throughout the book, but all bolster the main thesis that sunlight is a natural form of medicine. Topics in the first chapter, “Your Body and Mind in the Sun” include the importance of vitamin D and how it can reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure, melanin and different skin types, how sunlight can impact blood and promote growth. Hobday also talks about the psychological importance of the sun, such as regulation of hormonal and biochemical processes, as well as seasonal affective disorder.

With the foundation for the benefits of sunlight laid out clearly, Hobday then explores the how humanity has greatly decreased the amount of time spent in sunlight:

“We can now work, rest, play, shop and travel in an artificial environment, and have very little direct contact with the outside world. One consequence of all this is that, for many of us, sunlight plays only a small part in our daily lives. It can be quite instructive to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and work out just how much time you spend indoors each week. Some estimates put the average figure at about 90 percent…”2

Personally, I despise sitting in doors all day and intentionally try to spend as much time outside as possible, but if I’m being honest, most friends and family don’t spend nearly as much time outdoors as I do. I clearly see what Hobday was pointing out about our world dominated by artificial light that is drastically different from earlier time periods in civilization where “sun-gods and goddesses were often worshiped as deities of medicine.”3

And it’s for this reason that I appreciated Hobday’s chapter “How to Sunbathe Safely”. One thing he mentions is how the use of sunscreen actually makes people more prone to sunbathing at inappropriate times. By following the provided advice, I feel like I am now able to maximize my sunbathing without being over-reliant on sunscreen, allowing for more direct contact with the sunlight. I’ve been intentionally going outside for early-morning sunshine, which is one recommendation of Hobday, as well as doing short trips outside to enjoy the sun to avoid prolonged exposure. These methods have been great for developing a tan while avoiding sunburn, and it’s been fantastic starting my morning connecting with the sun.

Admittedly, as an astrologer, I’ve always been focused on my spiritual connection to the sun, but after reading about the different methods of using sunlight as a form of medicine throughout time, I became convinced using sunlight should be more integrated in treatment. For instance, Hobday talks about Dr. Bodington’s pioneer open-air treatment for tuberculosis, Dr. Finsen’s sunlight treatment for smallpox and lupus vulgaris, and Dr. Bernhard’s heliotherapy for war wounds. He also mentions Florence Nightingale promoting sunlight for healing too, along with other examples of doctors who have sunlight as a part of treatment.

What I found most interesting was how drug-resistant infections are becoming a severe problem for hospitals. Sunlight remedies, including things such as incorporating sunlight in treatment and even simply having well-lit rooms, can help to combat the increasing spread of infection. Hobday shares many experiments showing that sunlight and natural light reduce infection levels, promoting the idea that our indoor environments should try to recreate outdoor conditions, rather than appeal to the desire for comfort, luxury, or utility. The section on this topic really made me question how buildings, especially hospitals are designed, and even how my own home could be modified to let more sunlight in during the day.

All in all, The Healing Power of the Sun was a very interesting and eye-opening read. It inspired me to spend more time outdoors and explore how I can improve my health by spending time in sunlight. From opening my mind to what medicine can look like (and how it can be so simple and natural) to learning more about the best ways to sunbathe, this book covers a wide-range of information any reader would benefit from learning. My greatest takeaway is that there’s no need to fear the sun; the medicinal properties greatly outweigh the potential harm. Plus, when you choose to safely spend time in sunlight, along with being mindful of what you’re eating and your daily exercise routines, it’s safe, even necessary for one’s well-being, to bask in the golden rays. 

The Twilight of Pluto, by John Michael Greer

The Twilight of Pluto: Astrology and the Rise and Fall of Planetary Influences, by John Michael Greer
Inner Traditions, 1644113112, 176 pages, April 2022

There’s no doubt Pluto has a stronghold within astrology, especially Evolutionary Astrology, where Pluto is considered the “starting” point for understanding the entire natal chart. Maybe you’ve heard recently about the Pluto return of the United States and what it may mean for the fate of the nation, or perhaps you’ve learned about the destructive, yet purifying nature of Pluto within your own chart.

But why is it that many astrologers overlook that Pluto is no longer technically considered a planet? And what might this mean for the planetary influence Pluto has moving forward? These are the questions John Michael Greer explores in The Twilight of Pluto: Astrology and the Rise and Fall of Planetary Influences – a must read for anyone with an interest in astrology.

I’ll confess, I was firmly in the astrologer camp that believed this “small” astronomical change of categorization had no impact on the influence of Pluto. I’ve enjoyed working with Pluto in my natal chart over the years– the way Pluto squares my North and South node, the significance of Pluto in my 4th house, the transit of Pluto through my Capricorn stellium the past decade, most notably conjunct Saturn and Venus in recent years.

Pluto has felt very significant to my astrological understanding of myself, but not once did I question what the change of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet by astronomers in 2006 might mean for the astrological fate of Pluto moving forward. With this book, Greer has completely shifted my point of view about the influence of Pluto, not only providing insight into what I went through on a personal level but also reshaping the way I perceive the influence of Pluto as an astrologer.

“It’s an irony of no small proportion that the downgrading of Pluto took most astrologers completely by surprise. While astronomers discussed the dwindling estimates of Pluto’s mass and laid the foundation for the decision in 2006, and (as we’ll see) many of the distinctive phenomena of the Plutonian era declined at roughly the same pace, astrologers by and large went blithely on their way treating Pluto as a planet, making predictions that assumed it would continue to retain its planetary status forever.”1

Greer’s main thesis in The Twilight of Pluto is that Pluto’s influence is waning now that it has been reclassified as a dwarf planet. To back this claim, Greer shows how the rise and fall of other celestial bodies, both those proven to exist, as well as bodies that were only hypothesized to exist, such as Ceres, Lilith, Vulcan influenced the world during their prominence in astronomy, but faded away once they were either reclassified or determined to not exist. He also discusses the impact of discovering new planets, such as Uranus and Neptune, and the impact of these planetary energies on culture.

The key domains that Greer examines to document the rise and fall of Pluto’s planetary status are nuclear fusion, space travel, communism, psychoanalysis, and modern art. Pluto brought out a focus on despair, apathy, divergence, separation, a lack of symmetry, and breaking things down to the smallest parts in order to make sense of the whole.  And everything Greer points out about the emergence and decline of these characteristics in these main domains was utterly fascinating.

“These examples from the past offer important guidance for the future. As we will see, the core nature of Pluto can be summed up straightforwardly as opposition to cosmos. The ancient Greek concept of cosmos–literally “that which is beautifully ordered”–lies at the heart not only of astrology but of most of the world’s traditions of spiritual philosophy and practice. . . During the Plutonian era, that vision was in eclipse.”2

However, luckily, it seems the doom and gloom of the Plutonian era is fading, as a return to unity in the cosmos happens once again as Pluto’s influence continues to wane. Greer dedicates an entire chapter, “After Pluto”, to his thoughts about how astrology will continue to evolve, as well as the changes he foresees happening in the Plutonian domains examined. There’s plenty of thought-provoking material to reflect on, especially for practicing astrologers. Greer asserts the potential implications of Pluto’s classification as a dwarf planet leads to the need for future investigation about the planetary influence not only of Pluto, but the dwarf planets too: Ceres, Eris, Makemake,and Haumea.

The final chapter, “The Cosmos Reborn”, highlights how despite believing modernity, often characterized as a abandonment of the cosmos, including all of magic, spirits, and inherent symmetry within the cosmos, will continue on this way, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. Greer explores how Pluto’s planetary declassification actually aligns the ten planets with the Tree of Life, and explores the placement of each planet within the Tree of Life. This was fascinating to read about.

Overall, I really enjoy how The Twilight of Pluto blends history, astronomy, and astrology. Too often, I feel astrology is divorced from the scientific study of space. This book is helpful in getting astrologers to break out of habits, such as the focus on Pluto in the chart, and reconnect with the present moment. I think my favorite take-away of the entire book was the reminder that both astronomy and astrology are constantly evolving as new information comes to light. I enjoyed Greer’s thoughts about the future of astrology, as well as areas in the field where he believes there’s room for more exploration.

This is by far the most influential astrology book I’ve read this year, and Greer has done a great service to the astrological community for sharing his careful study and observations. I highly recommend this book to every single practicing astrologer, as well as those interested in history and the potential for the future in general. If you’re interested in learning more, one of my favorite astrologers, Aeolian Heart, interviewed Greer about the book, which can be listened to here.

Medium Mentor, by MaryAnn DiMarco

Medium Mentor: 10 Powerful Techniques to Awaken Divine Guidance for Yourself and Others, by MaryAnn DiMarco
New World Library, 1608687635, 224 pages, April 2022

Anyone else ever feel like they’re immensely intuitive, or maybe even a natural psychic, but have no idea how to cultivate this skill set? If so, Medium Mentor: 10 Powerful Techniques to Awaken Divine Guidance for Yourself and Others by MaryAnn DiMarco is a must, must, must (did I say must enough yet?) read! As someone who has considered themselves somewhat psychic since childhood, but has continually tried to ignore or repress my inner knowing, this information in this book finally gave me the empowerment to start taking this gift more seriously.

MaryAnn DiMarco is an internationally recognized psychic-medium, author, and healer. Teaching comes naturally to her, as she’s mentored spiritual influencers such as Gabby Bernstein, Jordan Younger, and thousands of students worldwide. Her workshops and classes focus on how to cultivate one’s intuitive gifts and be of service to others. This is her second book, following Believe, Ask, Act: Divine Steps to Raise Your Intuition, Create Change, and Discover Happiness published in 2016.

I felt a connection to DiMarco right away when I started reading Medium Mentor. I liked her style; there’s a sincerity within her writing. I could tell she wasn’t someone to sugarcoat things or beat around the bush.  You can tell that DiMarco genuinely wants to serve others and teach them to the best of her abilities. And I think it’s her personality, which comes through in her writing, that makes me trust her as a teacher.

Plus, the guidance in this book is unique. I’ve read a bunch of books over the years about developing one’s psychic gifts, but DiMarco touched on things others neglect, such as the need to take this work seriously and how to practically go forward and serve others with one’s psychic abilities. Best of all, DiMarco emphasizes that there’s no prescriptive one-size fits method of psychic development, and she continually prompts the readers to experiment and do what’s best for them.

“When we are able to sustain a connection with spirit and keep our lives in balance, our intuitive abilities gain the fertile ground they need to truly flourish. Getting balanced includes setting boundaries and reassessing priorities. It is intuitive and dynamic, and it’s absolutely key to our ability to move through the physical world while honoring the psychic world, too.”1

DiMarco covers topics that can be useful for a personal psychic practice, such as managing your ego, overcoming fear, setting strong boundaries, trusting one’s imagination, and use of different tools to enhance your readings. But she also covers extensively reading for other people by delving into topics like mastering how you convey the information (as well as learning to discern if information should even be shared), developing a sustainable spiritual practice and not just dabbling, integrating psychic abilities and daily life, using one’s psychics abilities to serve others, and feeling worthy in one’s path as a lightworker.

As a tarot reader who temporarily “retired” as I prefer to phrase it for previous clients or the recommendations they often send me, I realized that following DiMarco’s insights might actually help me create the appropriate structure to sustain doing readings once again. I often noted I would have “spiritual hangovers”, as DiMarco refers to them, when I didn’t have clear boundaries with my clients or was trying to do many readings at once. Her advice on managing these practical aspects of being a divine channel, based on both her own experience and that of her students, made me see that I could try this again but with more commitment this time.

So many psychic books make it seem like anyone can cultivate these abilities, and while DiMarco affirms this, she also acknowledges the challenges that come from integrating them with your daily life, from having to develop confidence in one’s chosen career, which is bound to get some odd looks occasionally, to fully committing to follow the guidance of spirit in order to release the ego and serve from a place of openness and love. I really appreciated that DiMarco highlights that when you delve into this kind of work, you will ultimately get to a point where you’re not just playing around anymore and you truly need to commit to take it to the next level.

“There comes a time in every psychic’s life when things get serious. Don’t get me wrong – it can still be fun. In fact, a light-hearted attitude is required. Humor, joy, and laughter are always welcome. Yet at a certain point, that spontaneous, joyful experience needs strong grounding for us to really flourish. The spiritual steps we take become dependent on our ability to take our role seriously.”2

And I think this book is perfect for people who are in this position of being called to develop their psychic abilities through a combination of trust, laughter, and hard work. It’s not to say a beginner wouldn’t benefit from this book; certainly anyone with an interest in cultivating their psychic abilities would gain immense knowledge from reading this book. But I feel like it’s a truly perfect fit for those who have some experience, perhaps using divination tools (crystals, oracle cards, tarot cards) or in mediumship or past-life regression, that are looking to take their practice to the next level.

The expertise of DiMarco’s teaching shines through in the book through the different techniques at the end of each chapter. As she describes in the introduction, she is focusing on the “DIY aspect of psychic development.”3 And as someone who learns by doing, this was incredibly helpful for me. I took the time to do every single one as I made my way through this book, and by the end, I had reestablished a connection with psychic self and spirit team, learned so much about fears holding me back, and felt much more empowered in my identity as a spiritual practitioner.

I’m still benefiting from what I uncovered from taking the time to connect with myself and move through each technique. They were so fun and insightful to do because it was a hands-on way to integrate DiMarco’s lessons. For instance, one technique helped me to get really clear about what my fears were, which surprisingly were not what I thought they were. Another one helped me to check in on the health of my chakras and feel into what each one needed. I learned my sacral chakra needed lemons, prompting me to make lemonade and buy a lemon essential oil, while my heart chakra needed flowers, so I’ve been getting fresh flowers for my house weekly and taking a walk each day to smell all the flowers in bloom. I also used one of the techniques to establish a spiritual schedule for myself, making me more likely to meditate and cleansing my space on certain days because I am developing a routine.

My favorite one of all was creating a spiritual mission statement because it gave me the confidence to shine my light and acknowledge the gifts I have to share with others. The way DiMarco guides readers to discover their mission statement was actually through acknowledging the way they judge others. She moves us through the process of taking negative emotions and turning them into a purpose that can move us forward on our path. I am definitely giving a summary, and it’s 100% worth reading the book to do this yourself, but I just loved DiMarco’s creative approach.

All in all, I can’t recommend Medium Mentor highly enough. Medium Mentor is filled with the guidance my spirit needed to take my psychic abilities to the next level. DiMarco has reflected on her insight as a medium to craft a how-to guide for readers that is the perfect mixture of left and right brain thinking, combining intuitive creativity with practical application. The techniques are bound to yield meaningful insights, and by the end of the book, you’ll most certainly feel more connected to spirit team offering divine guidance than when you started reading.

Your Magickal Year, by Melinda Lee Holm

Your Magickal Year: Transform your life through the seasons of the zodiac, by Melinda Lee Holm
CICO Books, 1800650957, 160 pages, April 2022

What does it mean to live magically? If you’re on a journey to discover this for yourself, Your Magickal Year: Transform your life through the seasons of the zodiac by Melinda Lee Holm is the perfect book to use as guidance when cultivating a magical lifestyle. This book guides you through the year, tapping into the new and full moon through all the zodiac signs to facilitate personal growth and understanding through the transformation that comes from attuning to the lunar cycle.

“To follow a magickal year is to make a full lap of the stars, touching on each full and new moon, every solstice and equinox, to honor its influence and open yourself to receive it.”1

Holm is a tarot priestess, entrepreneur, and creative writer. She owns her own beauty line that creates all sorts of goodies, such as fragrance oils, natural deodorant, detoxifying cleansing masks, face oil, and more. She published her own Elemental Power Tarot deck and is also co-author of Divine Your Dinner: A cookbook for using tarot as your guide to magickal meals, which made me hungry just hearing the name and curious enough to order it.. review most likely coming soon. 🙂

But let’s focus on Your Magickal Year for right now! First of all, it’s absolutely stunning to look through with gorgeous, hand-drawn images by artist Rohan Daniel Eason filling each page. The beautiful blue hardcover makes it perfect to  keep on one’s coffee table for decoration and necessity, as you’ll need it every two weeks if you’re following the lunar cycle.

As for the interior, there’s the perfect amount of negative space in the content of the book to really allow one’s eyes to focus on the information and pictures to indulge in the joy of fantastic aesthetics. The visual appeal and organization is what makes this book perfect to work with because one can open to a page and fully immerse themselves without having to flip back and forth. Rather than be overwhelming, there’s an invitation to dive in that comes when flipping through the pages. What’s also really unique is how Holm’s Elemental Power Tarot cards are featured as sample readings and as depictions of the tarot cards to use in the rituals. If you love her deck, you’d really enjoy seeing all the artwork in this book.

Holm starts off by providing the reader with a 101 lesson on astronomy, astrology, and magick. From there, the essential tools of the book are covered: tarot cards, a journal, energy clearing tools, candles, crystals, and other supplies that might be needed, including herbs and oils for dressing candles or making offerings. Holm provides plenty of advice about these tools and how to use them, so even someone new to magical workings would feel comfortable getting started. There’s even a very helpful crystal guide of the energy each crystal is best for cultivating.

From here, Holm introduces the reader to four principles that will guide their work, as well as the four elements. She provides a brief overview on timing and preparation for working with the book and then offers answers to some FAQs about the book. The whole introduction is short and sweet, but definitely a solid foundation to begin with.

Now here’s the good part. For each astrological season, Holm writes about the zodiac sign’s symbolism, the magical energy of the season, tarot cards representing the sign, seasonal activities for this time of year, journaling for that season with prompt or suggestion about what to focus on, and a tarot spread for the season. She definitely provides a multi-layered approach to connecting with each season from both an intuitive and astrological perspective. Then there is a section on each zodiac sign’s new moon and full moon, with a little description about the significance of the time and how to connect with the lunar energy, and a ritual.

Since we are approaching a full moon, where the Sun in Taurus will be opposite the Moon in Scorpio, I’ll share the example of what Holm has to say about this time:

“The Taurus/Scorpio axis reveals areas of tension between stability and transformation. It invites conflict between our need to ground and our need to reinvent, what sustains life and what beckons the release of death. Whatever area of life you are ready to  bravely see, accept, and seriously overhaul is lit up by this moon.”2

The ritual provided is “designed to help you focus your energy on what you value most, releasing emotional attachment to things, tasks, situations, or relationships that are no longer important to you or relevant to your personal development.”3page 53[/efn_] The ritual involves use of a cleansing tool, the two tarot cards associated with Taurus (Hierophant) and Scorpio (Death), candles, oil, something symbolic of what you want to release, and purpose, white, and black crystals.

What I like about each ritual is they are fairly simple to do, but the combination of candles, tarot cards, and crystals makes them very potent. Admittedly, some people might not have all the materials readily on hand, so I suggest looking over the ritual about a week before to make sure you’re prepared. I also think this helps you to start connecting with the ritual and setting your own intention.

So far, I’ve worked with the Aries season of the book and the Taurus new moon. As an astrologer, I can vouch for Holm’s interpretation of each zodiac sign. She is definitely skilled in her craft and does an amazing job of translating the energy of the seasons into insightful, transformative practices that are fun to incorporate into one’s daily life. The journal prompts are helpful for focusing my awareness on the energy of the season, allowing me to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. And the rituals make me feel like I am grounding the energy and honoring the lunar cycles through my intentional alignment.

For easy access to the timing of the  lunar cycle, there is a “Key Dates” section at the end of the book with the date and time of all the new and full moons from 2022 to 2030. Plus, there’s a very helpful index for reference. For instance, if you’re reading with book with a background in tarot, you can quickly look up in the index a tarot card of interest and find the page it’s discussed on.

All in all, Your Magickal Year is an absolutely stellar book. It’s gorgeous, accessible, and most of all, extraordinarily mystical. I think it’s the perfect book for beginning a practice of connecting with the lunar year or deepening the practice you already have. As someone who’s actively worked with the lunar cycles for over a decade now, Holm’s rituals, journal prompts, and tarot spreads provided new inspiration and brought a breath of fresh air to my practice. We all deserve a magical life, and this book for sure will be of use when creating one.

The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova, by Ruth Hogan

The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova: A Novel, by Ruth Hogan
William Morrow Paperbacks, 0063075431, 304 pages, September 2021

Sometimes I dream about having the life of a boardwalk fortune teller. What could be better than being near the ocean with the continuous swirl of entertainment and merriment as visitors enjoy their vacations. But as a professional tarot reader, I know there’s a deeper, more hidden side to the profession. And this mixture of the enjoyments and secrecy is what Ruth Hogan has captured perfectly in The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova: A Novel.

This heartwarming tale centers upon Madame Imelda Burova, beloved tarot reader, palmist, and clairvoyant1, and a young woman named Billie who just lost both her parents, her job, and marriage. Madame Burova shares a trust and photograph given to her from Billie’s birth mother, then the mystery compels Billie to find out the truth of her origins.

Grappling with the news, Billie forges a relationship with Madame Burova, who happily brings her into the fold of the eccentric community of the boardwalk.Though, the memories of the past do drum up old hurts for Madame Burova. Though recently retired, she’s feeling a bit lost without her fortune-telling, which remained her core identity.

Madame Burova must confront her own past and the truths that Billie uncovers to resolve matters of the heart that have weighed heavy on her for decades. Flashbacks between past and present weave an intriguing story of romance and deception, as the readers try to piece together who Bilie’s birth mother and father truly are.

What’s so neat about the story is how it depicts Madame Burova’s beachside fortune-telling lifestyle. Hogan does a wonderful job of portraying the emotional intricacies of being a tarot reader. From the secrets people confess to the intuitive knowledge that one knows but can’t be spoken, the full experience of having the gift is revealed. Anyone who does tarot reading themselves or understands the fine line clairvoyants walk between the seen and unseen world would really resonate with her character.

Then in contrast, Billie is just the average woman doing her best to come to terms with this new insight. I enjoyed her as a character because she wasn’t mopey or self-pitying. She had much self-awareness and wholeheartedly chose to embrace the cards that the Universe dealt her to remake her life. She is considerate towards others and willing to open up and cultivate the relationships with the new people in her life. Her story was one of hope, optimism, and friendships cherished and made.

Plus, how the two stories interweave is just brilliant! Hogan really did a great job of keeping the reader guessing who the mother and father might be. I had quite a few different suspicions throughout reading the book, but the end was even better than imagined! All the pieces are there, right under the readers’ nose the whole time, but the way it all comes together is very well done. It felt good to read a mystery that for once wasn’t about a murder! And I just loved the fortune-telling aspect woven in too.

This isn’t a magical, enchanted story. Rather, it reads as though it could be real life. It portrays Madame Burova family, job, and relationships realistically, and they are all quite endearing. There was plenty of backstory about Madame Burova too. Hogan did a wonderful job of highlighting Madame Burova’s roots with her Romani gypsy mother with a vardo in the back coupled with her Russian father that loved to cook. When she does find true love, it’s very funny to see how her parents encourage it. And for those who love dogs, it’s worth mentioning that Madame Burova has two constant companions through the years, Dasha and Mabel, whose antics always bring a levity to the situations in the book.

All in all, The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova was a 10/10 read for me. It’s so rare to read fiction that depicts the normal life of a tarot reader, rather than having it be all about magic or sorcery. This was plain and simple a lifelike story that takes the reader on a journey of the full range of human emotions and comes together for the most perfect ending. Sometimes it seems the past and present intersect at exactly the right time to open the door for a fresh start, both individually and as a community.