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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.

Astral Realms Crystal Oracle, by Dark Moon Crystals

Astral Realms Crystal Oracle: A 33-Card Deck and Guidebook, by Dark Moon Crystals and Prism + Fleur Design Studio
Rockpool Publishing, 1925946282, 33 cards, 128 pages, September 2021

Gorgeous pink oracle cards covered with dazzling crystals? Yes, please! I have been adoring the way Astral Realms Crystal Oracle by Dark Moon Crystals and Prism + Fleur Design Studio looks on my altar recently. Plus, the accompanying guidebook has really inspired me to step-up my crystal game and made me more dedicated to my spiritual practice.

I was initially drawn to this deck for its aesthetics. Pink is my favorite color and it is the background of all the cards, which have tinted pink edges as well. The vibe of the deck reminded me of Work Your Light Oracle Deck and The Starseed Oracle created by Rebecca Campbell with artwork by Danielle Noel. The design on these cards, by Prism + Fleur Design Studio, is more ethereal and simplistic, but each one is absolutely beautiful.

I have gotten the most out of the deck by spending time meditating with the cards and looking at the beautiful images. There’s a soft feminine feel to the deck, which opens intuitive portals to connect with the crystals. I really like the layer done, where some cards have faded images in the background with other images bold and center. Glyphs, seashells, columns, mushrooms, and flowers fill the cards, bringing them to life with potent spiritual symbolism.

The deck has a really unique approach, which extends the meaning of the cards beyond just the crystal energy. By combining astrology and chakra energies, divination occurs trifold. The guidebook states:

“Seeking insight from the astrological transits of celestial bodies, turning within to enhance and unblock flow through your energetic (chakral) field and utilising the healing and empowering frequencies of crystals is what we call the ‘trifecta’, a divinely guided approach to raising your frequency and deepening your connection to the astral realm.”1

These different energies are perfectly integrated with the cards’ design. At the bottom of each card is an energetic signature, or word which encapsulates the trifold meaning of the card. On the left side of the card is the crystal messenger, or the name of the crystal shown on the card that can be worked with to further enhance the energetic connection. Then on the right-side of the card is the supporting element, which is either a celestial body, chakra, or earth element. At the top of the card is a number to make it easy to find the card’s message in the guidebook.

I especially love the incorporation of the supporting element because as an astrologer and Reiki master, it really expands my understanding of both the crystal and its message. For instance, Card 18 has Clarity as the energetic signature, citrine as the crystal messenger, and Sun as the supporting element. Through understanding the astrological energy of the Sun, I feel a more solid connection to citrine. When I close my eyes, in my mind’s eye, it’s like I’m blending all the energies together and feeling the essence of Clarity emerge. While I am drawing upon my astrological knowledge to learn more about crystals, others who know more about crystals can do the opposite with the cards to learn more about astrology or chakras. 

The guidebook is also really helpful for learning more about crystals. For every card, there are additional keywords, along with a description of the trifecta, activation guidance for the energy, and an affirmation to recite. The trifecta description delves into the energy of earth element, chakra, celestial body, and crystal to assist the reader in understanding how they all come together within the card.

Then the activation guidance is an activity the reader can do to further connect with the card. Some examples of activation guidance are journal prompts, taking a ritual bath, breathing exercises, visualization, and meditation. Most of them are easy to do right away, but some are more involved, such as buying a plant or doing a yoga pose. There’s one instance where it even calls to look up your South Node in astrology, which I think is definitely useful for everyone to know!

Using this deck makes me feel calm and inspired. While the astral realm might feel spacey or out-of-reach, these cards ground the energy for me. I like how I can hold the gorgeous cards, which tangibly link me to the energy. Looking at the images stimulates my mind’s eye, and the colors soften my energy to be receptive to my intuition and the guidance of these different energies. I also have found it helpful to pull out a card if I am feeling called to work with that energy. For instance, meditating on the Moonstone card to activate my Crown Chakra. There’s a ton of ways to work with Astral Realms Crystal Oracle; it’s versatility makes it both unique and useful to have nearby.

All in all, Astral Realms Crystal Oracle is a wonderful deck for all spiritual seekers. It combines so much wisdom! The mixture of astrology, chakras, and crystals is potent. Combining different energy systems and drawing upon one to bolster another is extremely beneficial. Dark Moon Crystals has done a wonderful job of both weaving these trifecta energies together, as well as making it a great access point for all levels of experience. I highly recommend this deck for those hoping to practice the art of integrating energy and those who simply appreciate art because it’s so well designed! This deck will definitely be on my altar for quite some time.

Sit Down to Rise Up, by Shelly Tygielski

Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World, by Shelly Tygielski
New World Library, 1608687449, 256 pages, October 2021

Self-care is all the rage right now, but how often does it extend outwardly to encompass a community? Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World by Shelly Tygielski is a beautiful reminder of what can happen when honoring the need for mutual support and community as part of our self-care practice. This isn’t a “Ms. Independent” tale of how self-care is synonymous with “me-first”; it’s a potent story of struggling to make one’s way through life amid challenge and still choosing to show up each and every day for yourself and the people who count on you.

Through this book, Tygielski candidly recalls stories of her past, even some of her family’s tales too, as she guides readers to rediscover meaning in their life, overcome limiting mindsets, and build encompassing communities that redefine the structures of society. She starts off by reminding readers of their own agency, which she likens to free will. In the section “Forget the Guru, Find the Yuru” (which I loved!) she writes:

“We all spend a lifetime climbing the proverbial mountain with an expectation that we’ll find a wise person at the top who will tell us the meaning of life. This person doesn’t exist, I promise. The ability to thrive, love, be happy, and fulfill all comes from within. Every single bit of it. It comes from the realization that we have been bestowed with the gift of agency to choose how and when to cultivate it in ourselves.”1

Once the reader has been reminded of the importance of them actively participating in their journey, Tygielski moves through a whole range of heartfelt wisdom she’s cultivated in life, channeling through her relatable stories of how she built this practice for herself. I for one always love hearing someone else’s story; it gives me motivation and affirmation that if they can do it, I can do it. Chapters include “Good is Good Enough”, “Not Broken”, “Familiarization”, “Sustainable Self-Care”, and more.

I will delve into each a bit more, but I wanted to mention how much I like Tygielski’s style. Tygielski has a way of writing about her experience without making it feel like this book is a tout of her success. It’s almost as though a close friend is having a heart to heart with you about all they’ve gone through recently, revealing their own vulnerabilities, fears, and doubts, as well as how they mustered the strength to keep going.

For instance, Tygielski writes about “deconstructing” ourselves to learn more about the narratives shaping our lives (many of which aren’t the healthiest and deserve some care from us) and then “reconstructing” ourselves in more realistic ways that allow for self-acceptance, grace with our mistakes, and affirmation that we are enough.

I tried this practice myself, after a few months of feeling woefully inadequate and caught up in a comparison-game with others, and found it to be very relieving. It helped me to see what stories I was telling myself and then actively reshape them into a more accurate and honest perspective, bolstered with a dose of “good enough” and self-love.

One of Tygielski’s defining moments in her life is finding out she has uveitis, which is an inflammatory disease of the eye, when she woke up blind one morning! I honestly can’t even imagine how scary this would be for her. She described the sensation, as well as how she had to get her toddler son ready for school without her sight, trying to remain calm until a friend could take her to the hospital.

Since it’s the leading cause of what makes people under 40 go blind and she’d require treatment the rest of her life, being diagnosed with this was a huge shift in her life. Naturally, she spun down a rabbit-hole of fear, but she made a decision to lean into her emotions, rather than try to suppress or deny them, inviting the reader to also stop masking their own pain and find happiness that isn’t based on the condition that things are all good. Tygielski writes, “I came to recognize that by changing my perception of these problems, or if I saw even the worst experience in a different light, I experienced them all differently. I felt set free.”2

It was at this point in her journey that Tygielski began examining her Jewish faith, taking up meditation, and learning more about the path of Buddhism. She describes racing thoughts and the challenges of starting this practice. However, by breaking things into small chunks, she was able to move forward with her goal of practicing self-care.

One of my favorite things Tygielski did was creating “chunks” in her to-do list (which she shares an image of!) that breaks things down into categories. I started doing this with my own to-do this and have found the organization of it to be both practical and pleasing. So, the book has not only meaningful inspiration, but also real examples that can be practiced in one’s life to cultivate this foundation.

Tygielski realized this path to change wasn’t going to happen overnight, yet her dedication to working towards getting to the root of her negative thinking, make changes in her life, and develop self-care practices never waivered. Through trial and error, she was able to find a self-care practice that works for her. And while she suggests times to include self-care, such as when transitioning from one thing to another during the day, her message encourages readers to find self-care practices and routines that fit their own lifestyle.

She also reflects on the importance of authentic self-care, as well as how it has been misconstrued in society “by corporations to create a very profitable industrial wellness complex, one that focuses on beauty, happiness, and comfort in the name of self-love and self-compassion.”3 YES! I am really glad she pointed that out, while also explaining how self-care is a key component to making the world a better place through participatory transformation.

What I like most about Sit Down to Rise Up is how Tygielski brings it outward to her community. During the pandemic, she created a grassroots mutual aid organization called Pandemic of Love. She explores the importance of mutual aid, which once was the center of community-life, but has recently disappeared in our modern culture.

Reviving this solidarity and calling upon the strength of one’s village is a self-care practice in itself, one that has a power to change the very fabric of society as people choose to offer love, kindness, generosity, and support, even to those who seem very unlike themselves. Tygielski’s organization has grown exponentially, and I’m glad because she has her priorities straight and an agenda that is truly devoted to service.

“The success and growth of Pandemic of Love proved that mutual aid goes beyond charity by mobilizing humans on behalf of humanity. It provides us with a powerful vision of the type of alternative society that is possible, one where we can be a global community connected by cooperative compassion and where we are no longer consumers in endless capitalist competition.”4

I am all on board with this call to practice self-care on behalf of not only oneself, but the entire world, so perfectly framed by Tygielski. If this message speaks to you, if you’re ready to change the world by going through the effort of changing yourself first, then Sit Down to Rise Up is definitely a must-read. It’s inspiring, empowering, and liberating to one’s spirit. As we change ourselves, the world around us changes too. By caring for ourselves, we learn how to create communities that care for others as well. I’m thrilled to see Tygielski’s community thriving — its success definitely points to what the heart of society is longing for right now.

Revelations from the Source, by Barbara Hand Clow

Revelations from the Source, by Barbara Hand Clow
Bear & Company, 1591434319, 352 pages, October 2021

It started with Revelations of the Ruby Crystal (2015), then came Revelations of the Aquarius Age (2018). Now, at long last, Barbara Hand Clow has completed the trilogy with the most recent book Revelations from the Source (2021). I have eagerly been anticipating this latest release after having grown quite fond of the tight-knit community of characters in this series. All my hopes and expectations were exceeded in this dynamic final book, which expertly weaves together multi-dimensional layers of information, inspiring revelations, and reconsideration of how things truly are in the world.

Before diving into things, while this book can be read as a stand-alone, I highly recommend reading the first two books before this one. Clow doesn’t spend too much time introducing the characters in this final book, and the few sentences to summarize the characters’ relationships for those who aren’t familiar hardly does justice to the complexity of their bonds. Plus, the characters have naturally evolved, and therefore their current circumstances in this book are directly related to the previous ones.

This being said, Revelations from the Source was a thrilling read because it has an up-to-date timeline of current events. While not every event in the book happened in real life, the story intends to parallel current events. From the election of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit to hold the position, to political tensions in Iran and the presidency of Donald Trump, all the way up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the book focuses on the characters’ experiences of events.

As I read, I was reflecting on having lived through these experiences, many not too long ago, with a new sense of perspective, as well as room to integrate what I was feeling as I moved through them. This is because all of the characters in the story are very tapped into the zeitgeist, all from their own point of view, such as a psychotherapist working with clients’ processing to an artist capturing energetic transmissions of sound in painting to awaken the masses. Another character is a reporter, who previously covered events in the Middle East but is now a correspondent for a newspaper reporting on the happenings in the Vatican.

My favorite character point of view is Claudia, esteemed fashion-designer and astrologer. Since I am an astrologer myself, I could remember all the full moons and conjunctions described, during which characters perform initiations or simply muse about the world. I especially recall the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto in 2020, which was a significant moment in the book as well, as the characters work together to perform a ritual uniting the nine dimensions. I think those prone to reflecting on the placement of the stars, as well as the tumultuous events of the past few years would have a lot to gain from reading the insights of the characters in Revelations from the Source.

Clow’s astrological background is effortlessly integrated into the fictional narrative of this story. For instance, there is a lot of discussion about the nine different dimensions, with certain characters having more of a connection to each one. Clow previously authored the book The Alchemy of the Nine Dimensions, which I’m sure this story’s plot is based on. I’m always a fan of reading fictional stories where I can relate to a character’s feelings, thoughts, and experience, rather than just a non-fictional explanation of some phenomena. And it’s for this reason that I enjoyed this book so thoroughly. Other topics that Clow has woven in from her previous books include Mayan Codes (The Mayan Code), energetic influence of Chiron (Chiron), connections to other star systems (The Pleiadian Agenda), and lots of raising sexual energy as a form of altering consciousness (Astrology and the Rising of Kundalini)!

However, Clow doesn’t hesitate to venture into some of the deepest, darkest shadows in our culture as well. At times, it was hard to stomach parts of the story, especially the sexual abuse of priests on young children, which is a prominent theme in the entire series. This book really covers a lot of the energetic forces of the Catholic Church, as well as how the energy of youths has been inappropriately harvested for power, money, and prestige. Once again, while the story is fiction, it mentions events that really happened such as the Boston Globe story which revealed the extent of abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.

Quite a few characters leave the Church, and by the end of it, I felt more confident in my resolve to do so as well. I was born and raised in the Catholic faith, even attending a Catholic university for my undergraduate studies. However I am increasingly finding it hard to find faith in a religion that does not value the spiritual authority of women and is rife with abuse and misconduct. The characters’ journeys were really empowering in my own spiritual path, making me see that I could follow their lead, rather than continue to go along with the corruption that has taken hold in the Catholic religious community. There’s so much history packed in the story, as another character is a scholar of early-Christianity, that I was constantly Googling new topic ideas, such as “Marconi” and “Mithraism.”

Other controversial topics include climate change, vaccinations, 5G towers, and the public-safety response to the pandemic. I will admit, sometimes the beliefs did feel a bit “conspiracy theory-esqe,” but I kept an open mind without discrediting anything. I was especially intrigued by the explanation for the coronavirus springing to life when it did, which had to do with telluric interference. Now that is a thought that has never crossed my mind!

At its heart, Revelations from the Source is a tale of the characters’ awakening into the Age of Aquarius. Due to their reputable, affluent, and influential families, the characters in the story are keepers of secret history, serving as a bridge between past and present. In this way, they serve as foils to modern society, clearly showing where humanity has veered off course, thus resulting in evil forces being unleashed through social strife, political controversy, intimate violence, and looming threats of war.

Clow clearly shows through the plot that the transition isn’t an easy one, and there are many forces at work during this tumultuous time. However, with the right perspective, and tools (art, past-life regressions, astrology, writing), humanity will be able to pull through. What’s most important is that we remember the importance of connection, building trust, and working together to overcome the destructive forces both within ourselves and the world at large.

The story’s theme of friendship and community is a prompt for the reader to find their own community to assist during this changing of ages. And most of all, for readers to continue to do their own investigations and express their revelations with a broader community. In this age where the people have the power and the power is the people, increasing our ability to transmit thoughts, energies, and feelings effectively will be a key to survival.

Overall, I am immensely satisfied with the culmination of this trilogy. Revelations from the Source is a treasure-trove of alternative ideas woven perfectly into the seemingly-static fabric of our 3-D reality. Filled with history, ancient and secret knowledge, as well as esoteric understandings of humanity’s place within the greater star systems, this book will bring you into new realms of realization. By delving into the defilement and debasement of some of society’s most corrupt institutions, the truth is exposed. Something we will be seeing more of as the Age of Aquarius dawns.

I highly recommend not only this book, but this entire series, for those looking for a fascinating read that delves into many dimensions, facets of history, and opens a doorway to a future unlike what we’ve known thus far. The writing is engaging, and the characters will soon feel like an extended friend group (I certainly wish I could call on them for advice!). More and more, those awakening to the shifts will be looking for answers, and while it’s fictional, this book is sure to be the key that unlocks readers’ perception.

360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny, by Ellias Lonsdale

360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny: A Zodiac Oracle, by Ellias Lonsdale
Destiny Books, 1644112825, 416 pages, August 2021

As a huge fan of Sabian symbols, I was eager to read Ellias Lonsdale’s latest book 360 Degree of Your Star Destiny. While this book is based on Chandra Symbols, which differ from Sabian symbols, I very much enjoyed reading about the esoteric wisdom of each degree in the zodiacal wheel. Lonsdale’s poetic writing brings astrological energy to life, filled with metaphor and imagery, going beyond the static, traditional interpretations of these potent power points.

Before diving in, I think it’s beneficial to highlight the differences between these various star degree systems. Sabian symbols were channeled in 1925 by Elsie Wheeler, along with assistance from Marc Edmund Jones. The story is actually quite lovely and can be read here. Master astrologer Dane Rudhyar  was fascinated with the symbols and interrupted them through his own lens.

However, Lonsdale, who has studied with both Rudhyar and Jones, drew inspiration for this book from the Chandra system, which was channeled by John Sandbach in 1983. Sandbach’s spirit guide, Chandra, which is Sanskrit for “Moon”, shared the symbols with Sandbach in the span of four hours one afternoon. He intended for those symbols to facilitate new awareness in astrologers, going beyond the labels of some degrees as “negative” and some as “positive”. His aim was for astrologers to be able to tune into the energy of these points, which is ever changing, without overthinking or over-rationalizing the symbolic meaning.1

With this foundation laid, Lonsdale has continued the work. 360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny is a collaborative work between Lonsdale, his current partner, Sharuna, and his former partner Sarah, in the form of spirit guide Haven, having passed beyond this world. It was channeled while Lonsdale and Sharuna lived in a “wildly open state”2 in the Singing Hills, bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It has taken them nearly 25 years to write this book based on the original transmissions.

Tapping into the Chandra Symbols’ energy is very intuitive when following Lonsdale’s method. Detailed are the “core activator”, or word image, for the nine planets, along with Rising Sign, Moon’s nodes, and asteroids Vesta, Juno, Ceres, and Pallas. The core activor descriptions of the planets are intended to help the reader connect with the esoteric wisdom of astrology. The descriptions of the planets based on their core activating imagery really adds a new dimension to one’s relation with each planet. For instance, here is part of the description for “Pluto as Winged Prophecy”3 (core activator: winged prophecy”):

“The true Plutonian depth process keeps us perpetually in the dark, yet it is a laser that reveals whatever we need to know to move deeper in order to get through the underworld. Clairsentience shows us that we do not need to see nor hear in the physical or subtle worlds. All is vibrationally and immensely re-creative.”4

I find there’s great advantage in relating to the planets through this core activation imagery. It brought the planets alive for me in a new way. Two that were especially revelatory for me were “Mercury as Intonation”5 and “Mars as Being and Becoming”6 Lonsdale’s elucidation on this word imagery renewed my  connection to the planets, inviting me to relate to them in a way different that I normally do.  He reminded me that planetary energy is both malleable, ever-changing, and multi-dimensional.

“In this way each planet opens as a portal and an evolutionary impulse into uncharted waters. So the planets don’t just tell us how it has always been. They reveal the mystery of what can be, as all is moving forward and deeply through us at any given time.”7

After opening the reader to all the planetary energies, Londales then delves into all the Chandra symbols and their star spark, which is the interpretation of the symbol. The book moves from Aries-Pisces, starting with the first degree and moving upward. In this system, the degree should always be rounded up. For instance, my natal Sun at 29 degrees Aquarius would be rounded up to 30 degrees. And speaking of this, let me share my star spark to give you an idea of Lonsdale’s poetically thought-provoking writing style:

“Aquarius 30
A large pool filled with white water lilies in bloom
Light in the spirit food that permeates the ethers of the planet with all that we need to grow and evolve. It’s a signal, a direct emanation of that sense that there is so much more where this came from. To inhale light in abundance is to be greatly blessed, honored, show the way.”

This is only a small snippet, yet I felt like there is so much wisdom in just this paragraph that I want to meditate on it for a week. I mean, naturally, I was so eager and curious that I read through all my natal planets immediately. But now that I went and did that, I can spend time with each Chandra symbol and let it’s insight reveal itself to me as I ponder the star spark and how it energetically shows up in my life. I have been taking it slow to absorb the information, and this delicacy with the imagery and interpretation has made all the difference.

I am trained in depth psychology, and one of the greatest things I learned is that you can’t rush the unconscious mind, which views the world in symbols, metaphor, myth and imagery. What is hidden must be accessed by indirect routes, allowing the mind to open and reveal itself as it feels ready. You can’t force the process, though it can be guided with the right words and images. This is what 360 Degrees of Wisdom has been for me: a subtle and powerful guide into the more esoteric wisdom of the planets, as well as the more subtle layers of energy in play within my own astrological chart.

Another way that I have been connecting with the Chandra Symbols is through drawing. By sketching and coloring the symbol, I feel like I am opening up new channels within myself for information to flow through. I have even tried translating my interpretation of the symbol and star spark into poetry. The beauty of this book is the invitation to be creative in how one approaches planetary energy and becomes attune to it in their own life.

Lonsdale writes how the reader can use the Chandra Symbols to learn about their natal chart (as I have been doing), as well as a form of divination by opening to a page to take in its meaning, following meaningful transits, and looking back on special moments in life to see what the planetary energy was at that time. These symbols and star sparks help to create meaning about one’s  astrology journey.

I plan on moving more slowly through the star sparks in my natal chart, moving towards each planet as it calls to me. Right now I am really wanting to work with Mars a bit more closely. The star spark feels SO resonant that it’s soul-warming. Here’s the Chandra symbol and part of the star spark for my natal Mars:

“Capricorn 15
A woman wearing a necklace of skulls
At the center of the maze, in the heart of darkness, she stumbles on the power that is given her, the power she cannot deny. She goes anywhere and everywhere in her search to become the other. Then she returns to the place she started from and the magic is right there, stronger than ever, refusing to be held within the structure and forms she tries to impose on it.”8

I have been reading this paragraph to myself every morning. I feel it within me, and it taps into an inner source of power I often overlook, though I cannot consciously describe what hits me so deeply. The imagery is especially potent for me since my middle name is Kali, a Hindu goddess often portrayed wearing a necklace of skulls! I have even thought about purchasing a necklace with a skull on it to remind me of my Mars energy. And this is what is so amazing about all the ways the Chandra symbols can be integrated into one’s own practice.

The core activators of the planets are not closed-off, bound definitions of each planet, nor are the star sparks walled-in interpretations. There’s so much room for contemplation, application, growth, and revelation within Lonsdale’s system, which make it mighty appealing to this philosophical astrologer.

I am also excited to refer to the Chandra Symbols and star sparks during certain impactful transits, such as Saturn crossing my descendent. I feel like going into the energy of that degree, while keeping in mind the planetary activator of Saturn, will help make the experience more meaningful. I certainly believe this consciousness to our transits can impact how we experience them, and I’m grateful Lonsdale has shared his channeled wisdom about each degree to help guide us in the process.

I highly recommend 360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny for those looking to expand their relationship with planetary energy. As I’ve said, these are not text-book definitions. Lonsdales has done a wonderful job of translating multifaceted, ever-changing energy into imagery that one can use as a starting point to delve deeper into the insight of the stars.

If you are someone who enjoys working with imagery, either as an artistic, writer, or depth-psychologist, this is definitely a must-have for one’s astrological collection. Because of the simplicity of the method and boundless possibilities of integrating the Chandra Symbols and star sparks, I think this is a great book for astrological beginners. Though even those who have lived by the stars for quite some time are sure to find something meaningful in Lonsdale’s works.

I keep thinking this book would be great to explore as a group, perhaps through meditation, art, or poetry. I would really enjoy discussing it with others, and for that reason, I plan on recommending it to friends. There’s something about it that calls to be shared, as though the information doesn’t want to be static and wants to keep moving. Perhaps it’s been passed along to you now! 🙂 

Seasons of the Witch: Yule Oracle, by Juliet Diaz and Lorraine Anderson

Seasons of the Witch: Yule Oracle, by Juliet Diaz and Lorraine Anderson
Rockpool Publishing, 1925946223, 44 cards, 144 pages, September 2021

Even though we are quickly approaching one of my favorite sabbats, Samhain, my mind recently has been wondering towards Yuletide already. This is because I’ve been doing daily pulls from Seasons of the Witch: Yule Oracle by Lorraine Anderson and Juliet Diaz. While I know the first deck in this series, Season of the Witch: Samhain Oracle, might be more appropriate for the current season, I haven’t made the switch just yet. The insight I’ve been receiving from Seasons of the Witch: Yule Oracle is just too good to await the winter to use!

I want to start off by saying the deck is absolutely beautiful. With gilded green edges, it feels like I’m holding a shiny present in my hand. Images of candles, Fir trees, and furry animals make the deck come to life. There’s a gentle warmth that radiates from the deck, which reminds me of the sense of community and hope that we naturally call on to make it through the dark days of Winter. Simultaneously, cards such as Solitude and Crone remind us of the inevitable necessity of going inward and facing one’s own depths during this season too.

As I look through the deck and do my daily pull, I find the oracle cards perfectly capture all the cozy, snowy, magical feelings of the Yuletide season. I am genuinely impressed with Anderson and Diaz’s choices for card names, such as Chills and Ringing of the Bells, which instantly tap me into the sensation of Winter. I enjoy how the deck includes Reindeer Medicine and Bear Medicine, along with Poinsettia, Mother Mary, and Father Christmas.  The cards are a soulful reminder of all the special parts of the Yuletide season for one’s craft. As the authors write:

“Christmas is a Christian tradition but its roots are based in pagan ways. Familiar symbols such as Christmas trees, stars, lights, giving gifts, and even Santa Claus are threaded through pagan cultures and predate the Chrsitian celebration.”1

My favorite cards feature traditional Yuletide snowy scenes with silhouettes of a witch on her broom riding in the sky. The folklore of La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch, is near and dear to my heart, so I truly enjoy seeing a witch in action outside of the usual Halloween imagery. I like imagining there’s a Christmas witch that watches over us all, delivering presents of the heart to us as we are hunkered down inside for the cold Winter months.

Each oracle card features a beautiful image, the name and number of the card, and a short one-sentence oracle message. The guidebook then elaborates quite eloquently on each card, offering keywords and heartfelt messages that have been spot-on every time I’ve pulled a card so far. Along with advice for working with this deck, including spreads and magic tips for some cards, the guidebook is also filled with Yuletide imagery. It’s a pleasure to look through it, as images of mistletoe and holly line the pages. It’s worth noting this guidebook does not provide reverse oracle meanings as the guidebook for the Samhain Oracle does, but this didn’t bother me at all because I hardly use reverse cards in oracle readings.

One spread I really like is The Evergreen Wreath, which assists the reader in figuring out where they are now and where they want to go. Another one I thought is creative is The Christmas Cross Tarot Spread, based on the traditional Celtic Cross, but framed in the perspective of Yuletide (ex. Card 2 is Winter Storm, while Card 5 is Ghost of the Past), once again heightening the connection to the season. I’m also looking forward to The New Year Ahead spread once it gets closer to the start of 2022.

I’ve come to trust this deck, which doesn’t always happen instantly for me, and not just because my first pull was the card Squirrel Medicine, when squirrels are my favorite animal ever. It’s something more; Yule Oracle feels imbued with good vibes and an openness, which I believe stems from the author’s intention when crafting this deck. There is a really heartfelt section in the guidebook about reclaiming the witch, in which the authors write: 

“The way we view magic needs to change. It’s time to reclaim this world for yourself. To reclaim magic means to honor yourself through the magic you create. If your magic is pink and purple with glitter and that feels good to you, then it’s your right to express that magic in this way. If you love beautiful things and aesthetically pleasing design but are also a witch, know that your magic is no less valuable because you also value art. If your magic is about rolling in the dirt under a full moon to connect with the earth, then so it is. Your magic is beautiful in its dirty rawness.”2

This meaningful passage really made me appreciate the mindset of the authors. It also reaffirmed that my magic, which I will say leans towards the pink and glittery kind, is valuable, even if it’s not the traditional imagery of gothic witchcraft. I feel like there’s this greater reclaiming of our inherent magic, and within this shifting of the imagery, there is limitless potential of how everyone’s unique magic will be expressed. I have a lot of respect for Anderson and Diaz for acknowledging this as part of this introduction to this deck, especially since they also acknowledge the lack of diversity in Samhain Oracle.

All in all, I can say I’m in love with the Seasons of the Witch: Yule Oracle. There’s just something about the traditions and sentiments of this season that always brings up the good tidings. The range of oracles in this deck provide inspiration and divination from all sorts of guides: animals, sacred symbols, Yuletide folklore, and the simplicity of winter life. I think this deck will be the perfect present for Witch Switch gift swaps or to give as a meaningful gift to your inner coven of loved ones.

And, just to get you excited, I found out via Google that there will be a Seasons of the Witch: Beltane Oracle coming in March 2022! Woohoo! 🙂 I’m a very seasonal person, so it’s a thrill to have decks to embrace the energy of the season. Speaking of which, it’s probably time to pull out my Seasons of the Witch: Samhain Oracle!

Inner Practices for Twelve Nights of Yuletide, by Anne Stallkamp and Werner Hartung

Inner Practices for the Twelve Nights of Yuletide, by Anne Stallkamp and Werner Hartung
Earthdancer Books,1644113244, 144 pages, October 2021

I’m sure we’ve all felt that liminal in-between realities that occurs between Yule and the New Year, where we are often left wondering “What day is it?” This year, rather than getting lost in the transition of time, I plan to actively integrate the past and divine the future based on what I’ve read in Inner Practices for the Twelve Nights of Yuletide by Anne Stallkamp and Werner Hartung. Filled with meditations and journal prompts, I am  looking forward to delving into the spiritual energy of this sacred time. Reading this book has made me very excited for the Yuletide season, though I am still not fully on board with all of its information.

Originally published in German, this book has been quite the success. Stallkamp and Hartung are a married couple and both are dedicated to spiritual healing. Stallkamp teaches classes on geomancy and spiritual healing, while also working as an interior designer who clears energy in living spaces and arranges to foster energetic balance. Hartung is a medium who also leads workshops on geomancy and spiritual healing, as well as channeling. Both Stallkamp and Werner are Reiki masters too.

I’ve always felt there was a special energy between Christmas and the epiphany, though I’d never realized that other cultures and traditions honored this time as a sacred pause. Stallkamp and Werner briefly mention this, but choose to not delve further into detail, though I wish they had done so to provide a bit more background information. Rather, the book opens with a channelled message from Minerva, known for being a Roman goddess, who asserts herself as a Elohim, or energetic being, in the transmission. Unfortunately, this seemed like a detour from what I had hoped was going to be a book about the Yuletide season; I suppose I was looking for something more grounded and rooted in tradition.

What follows is Stallkamps and Hartung’s system for the twelve nights of Yuletide. For the most part, the twelve nights correspond with traditional Pagan holidays of the solstices and equinoxes, along with cross-quarter days. However, there are some corresponding dates that are not explained at all, plus there is no information about why these dates were selected. I longed for a deeper explanation of how this system works and where the information came from, rather than just a general overview from a channelled message.

The premise of doing these inner practices during the twelve nights of Yuletide is to both reflect upon the year prior and discover what the year ahead will hold. Since there are twelve nights, each one corresponds to a month of the year, though the days vary and this is not thoroughly explained as I already mentioned. Readers are prompted to use reiki to heal and integrate the past year, while also looking to God, the Creator, and our dreams for guidance about our future during this time.

Meaning, by page 20, we are somehow incorporating channeled messages from a Roman goddess/Elohim for Gaia, while corresponding the nights of Yuletide to Pagan holidays, and now we’re supposed to be doing a Japanese form of energy healing and engage in dream interpretation to determine God’s plan for our lives in the next year. Needless to say I was befuddled about the way the authors have presented this system, as it doesn’t seem to have any coherent spiritual basis and is rather a grab-and-go mash up of whatever spiritual path seems suitable for their purpose.

Not to say things can’t all be integrated, but I think it’s too much to piece together in just the opening pages. The remainder of the book is mostly Christianity-centered, even quoting the Old Testament at times, though it does include prayers to Mother Earth. So, if you’re looking to approach Yule from a Pagan perspective, this probably isn’t the best choice.

Now that I’ve vented my frustrations with the book, I will highlight what I like about it. The actual practice of connecting with the past and present during the sacred pause of Yuletide seems like a meaningful spiritual practice. The authors do provide great questions for reflection, meditations, and energy exercises to integrate the past and prepare for the future. I think I will refer to the book during this time and practice some of their suggestions. Though, I will be doing this based on the tenets of my own spiritual practice, rather than the mix-and-match method suggested by the author.

At the very least, this book heightened my interest in the twelve nights of Yuletide and prompts me to be more intentional this season. I will be looking for signs as to what the year might hold for me during this week, as well as consciously tying up loose ends of the past.

Unfortunately, Inner Practices for the Twelve Nights of Yuletide is not a book I will be recommending this holiday season. However, if a reader is willing to look past the spiritual inconsistency and open to the idea that this is a sacred time of transition, they may benefit from engaging in the practices suggested by the authors. I sincerely hope another book is published on this topic, as I feel there is great value from honoring the traditions of this time during the transition from one year to the next.

Crystal Oversoul Cards, by Michael Eastwood

Crystal Oversoul Cards: Attunements for Lightworkers, by Michael Eastwood
Findhorn Press, 1644111764, 66 cards, 224 pages, November 2020

I was drawn to the Crystal Oversoul Cards: Attunements for Lightworkers by Michael Eastwood because of the intricate geometric crystal designs on the cards. I thought this deck might help me connect with the sacred geometry within different crystals, hence changing my state of consciousness in meditation. While these cards have shown to be useful for attuning to different perceptions, overall they are quite different than I expected in both positive and negative ways.

First of all, the cards are very big and bulky in my hand. Unfortunately the large size of the cards seems to have detracted from the crystal images on the card. They don’t appear to have enough pixels for the amount of space they take up on the card, similar to if you’ve ever tried to make a photograph bigger and all it does is lose the quality and look stretched out. The only redeeming quality is that the box is nicely designed; it has a magnetic strip along the side, allowing for easy opening and closing, that keeps the box securely shut when being stored.

I also think I underestimated just how New Age these cards would be as an oracle deck. I’m a big fan of working with crystal energy, and I can be receptive to ideas about Lemuria and Atlantis. However, my first impression was that this deck pushed it a bit too far and was very untethered in its approach to attuning to these crystals energies. The whole deck requires knowledge of working with additional chakras beyond the traditional seven: the eighth chakra, the ninth chakra, and the Earth Star chakra. I wasn’t familiar with this, nor could I find much information on them. Leery of channeled information, I will admit I approached this deck with a bit of skepticism.

Eastwood has previously published two card and book sets, Crystal Oversoul Attunements and Crystal Oversoul New Earth Attunements, which he combined to make this deck. An Oversoul is described as “the collective soul or matter all individual crystals in their field will identify and communicate with.”1 I take this to be almost like a common soul of the crystal, which people can communicate with. According to Eastwood, in the past humanity had a closer connection to the Crystal Oversouls, but they still can play a role in our evolution to new levels of consciousness and spiritual awareness. He compares the Crystal Oversouls to mandalas or templates, writing:

“Their visual manifestation as mandalas serves as a clear purpose and the intricate, never ending and overlapping patterns within each temple mirror the differences and uniqueness. Every fine detail stimulates our consciousness to remember specific aspects of our vastness; to reconnect with the awareness of our being part of a greater unfolding, of our divine self.”2

After sharing his own experience of working with crystals and describing how co-creating with them can be a spiritual path, Eastwood moves into teaching the deck user about attunements. I finally became more comfortable with his concept of an Oversoul because he also discusses how the crystal is overseen by a Deva, which I have read much more about and am already familiar with. This made the leap into understanding the Oversoul not quite as far as I had felt it was before. He writes, “When we direct our healing or intent through a crystal, it is amplifying back the consciousness of an Oversoul and Deva directly into our aura.”3 This provided me with a more grounded understanding as proceeded with my first attunement.

Another surprising thing I discovered, which made me more confident in getting started with this deck, is that Eastwood recorded meditations for cards 45-66 because they are especially important energies for the awakening of humanity. There is a link to download them through Inner Traditions website. Hearing Eastwood’s voice was soothing, and it helped me to feel more connected to the cards than when I read the description in the guidebook. I honestly wish he had done the meditation for all the cards and not just these final ones in the deck.

At last, I decided to do a supportive attunement, intending to learn from the image and information. I chose the card Petalite. This card spoke to experiences I was having at the time, including desiring to integrate both intellect and intuition, as well as cleanse my energetic field to release outdated patterns and limiting beliefs. It felt particularly apt for the timing of the pull too because it was during a waning moon phase, which is the time frame this card corresponds with. I spent time holding the card to my chest, envisioning the energy of Petalite merging with my own. This was when I started to feel a sense of reciprocity with the Crystal Oversouls. As I opened myself to their energy, I did indeed start to feel new levels of relaxation, awareness, and wisdom emerge from within.

I realized I had misjudged this deck. My first hasty pull upon receiving it has been hoping for an immediate answer, which the guidebook does not provide. Eastwood offers an attunement for the deck user to open up to the crystal’s energy in their own life. The essence of this deck is engaging in one’s own energy work to facilitate this relationship with the Crystal Oversouls. One will get out of this deck the energy that they put into it.

While this might not be a deck I pull from every day, I feel reassured knowing I can call on the Crystal Oversouls in my spiritual journey as allies. It is interesting to connect with the crystals energetically, merging my auric field with their Oversoul, rather than just touching my crystals or meditating with them physically. There is a subtle dimension of consciousness at work here, and the cards do a wonderful job of facilitating this relationship even without the crystals themselves being in my physical presence.

Therefore, I highly recommend Crystal Oversoul Cards for energy workers who are looking to enhance their connection with the crystal realm. Whether or not one wishes to make the connections to the distant past, such as the time of Lemuria or Atlantis, there is still a great benefit for the future in reuniting with the wisdom of the Crystal Oversouls. Yes, to use this deck requires tapping in beyond the ordinary senses and opening up to new perceptions and ideas, such as the additional chakras, but energetically it will be impactful

Yemaya, by Raven Morgaine

Yemaya: Orisha, Goddess, and Queen of the Sea, by Raven Morgaine
Weiser Books, 1578637430, 208 pages, September 2021

Back in May, sitting atop a small mountain in Joshua Tree National Park and meditating as the sun rose at dawn, the word “Yemaya” came through the silence. Instantly, I felt a sense of peace rush through me. I knew Yemaya was a great ocean goddess, but that was my extent of knowledge about her. When I returned home after this experience, I followed an intuitive nudge to bring some cowry shells down to the ocean and honor Yemaya, thanking her for the beauty of the ocean that I enjoy and the calmness that it brings me.

While I felt a call to continue developing this relationship and explore this quiet prompting from either my intuition or the Universe (not sure!), my summer travels took me away from my home on the California coast and into the canyons of Utah, woods of the Sequoia trees, and cities of the east coast from Philadelphia, PA to Providence, RI. Within my heart though, I kept remembering Yemaya and doing my best to connect with her energy wherever I went.

Now that I’m settled into my daily routine again, back to combing the beaches for seashells and spending my weekends reading on the beach, I felt ready to explore this budding relationship a bit more. However, I will admit I didn’t know exactly where to get started. The Orishas have always felt unreachable for me, a white American woman with European ancestry, due to their African heritage. I am well aware of the training and dedication that goes into becoming a devotee of the Orishas, and I also know how inaccessible these traditions can be to outsiders.

Therefore, you can only imagine my joy in discovering the recently published book Yemaya: Orisha, Goddess, and Queen of the Sea by Raven Morgaine. It was all I’ve been searching for and more!

Morgaine is a spiritual artist who has dedicated his life to Yemaya. He practices Candomble, New Orleans Voodoo, Santeria, and witchcraft. He also owns his own shop, Familiar Spirits, in Coventry, Rhode Island. Most of all, he’s an incredible storyteller that brought all facets of Yemaya to life in this wonderfully written book. His inclusion of practical wisdom, anecdotes, recipes, recipes for making oils and candles, along with plenty of Orisha stories made my connection to Yemaya so much more tangible and alive.

In fact, there were times reading this book when I would put it down and have my thoughts be washed away in feelings of love, tenderness, and security. It felt as though I was coming home to a mother who wanted nothing more than to make me feel loved, nurtured, and supported. While I am only in the beginning phases of building my altar and figuring out what this relationship is going to look like in my life, Yemaya assured me this pathway is open to all and that I will find my way.

Filled with his own written prayers, blessings, and spells, this entire book is imbued with Morgaine’s energy in the best way possible. His love and reverence for Yemaya streams through every word written, from warning those seeking to develop a relationship with Yemaya about what she does not like (never put metal on her altar or use it as a ritual tool, also she’s not a dog person!) to all the ways one can win her favor (beautiful combs, pearls, mirrors, white roses). Morgaine does not cut a single corner in laying out the foundation for establishing a relationship with Yemaya, and he happily delves into stories to illuminate the meaning behind why the practices are done the way they’ve always been done.

I truly loved learning more about many Orishas, from Yemaya’s younger sister Oshun to Shango and Eleggua. Morgaine’s writing was one of the most inviting introductions to the Orishas I’ve ever come across, and for the first time, I felt welcomed to partake in and honor these gods and goddesses.

Though, I will also admit, Morgaine’s solemn warning of what is involved in creating and maintaining a relationship with Yemaya is both awe-inspiring and a bit nerve-wracking all in one. More than anything, he conveys that she is not a goddess to call upon on a whim or to instantly demand quick results from. She is royalty, and thus she wants to be treated with respect, care, and devotion. She enjoys her lavish praise and will actively pursue what she wants, letting the practitioner know what does and does not please her.

The experiences shared by Morgaine of working with Yemaya for over 35 years made me realize just how misconstrued my previous assumptions of this great ocean goddess had been. I particularly enjoyed how he went through all the different facets of Yemaya, naming each one and sharing a bit of background information related to that incarnation of her, so that a more well-rounded picture of her was painted.

Morgaine openly shares trials from his own life, from despair at the end of an abusive relationship to being evicted at a very sensitive time in his life following his brother’s passing, to show readers Yemaya’s ever-present compassion for her children. Likewise, he also recounts times where she graced him with her presences, highlighting that Orisha gods and goddesses are more than just abstract energies; they are dedicated protectors, guardians, and way-showers of the natural world and humanity.

What has me most inspired is the descriptions of how to build an altar. I am looking forward to creating the time and space to do this soon. I knew I had been collecting seashells, sand dollars, and mermaid figurines for something! And thanks to the wisdom Morgaine has imparted in Yemaya, I also plan on creating cleansing and protecting my house as well.

Once again, I must impart how thorough Morgaine is in his details of doing these things. He even describes how it’s good to have an altar with drawers to store sacred objects, where to find affordable old furniture, and how to cleanse the furniture. At other times, Morgaine reminds the reader to use a dust mask or that a certain spell might smell weird, but that’s okay. His conversational writing style makes it feel like I am directly receiving this valuable information from a beloved teacher, mentor, and friend.

Somehow, Morgaine finds the perfect mixture of lightheartedness and seriousness to impart these lessons with care and consideration both of Yemaya and the well-being of the practitioner. He very much wants to ensure Yemaya is honored in a way that is pleasing to her, and he also wants to make sure practitioners don’t make foolish mistakes that can have detrimental impacts. Truthfully, he’s the perfect mediator between both, an ambassador if you will, in establishing this relationship.

And what’s so special about Morgaine’s perspective in Yemaya is that it’s inclusive. For him, having a relationship with Yemaya is not limited by one’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or cultural background. He draws parallels between Mother Mary and Isis with Yemaya, as well as acknowledging that many pagans choose to work with deities outside of their own culture’s pantheon. There’s a lovely section on how different aspects of Yemaya are protectors of people of all gender and sexual orientations — Yemaya is mother to us all.

Oh, I could keep raving about this book forever! All in all, Yemaya is a wonderful book to begin a relationship with the great mother ocean goddess. Morgaine teaches the reader how to cultivate a spiritual practice dedicated to Yemaya through telling her stories with the Orishas, sharing her many aspects of self through reincarnation, what offerings she loves and what things she dislikes, and how to establish a relationship nearby or far from the ocean. The anecdotes, recipes, magical associations, and practical wisdom from Morgaine are enough to get someone started on this path for at least a few years!

Mister Yam, by Yeng K Tan

Mister Yam, by Yeng K Tan
Independently published, 9798450939674, 236 pages, August 2021

I will admit that I did not know what I was getting myself into when I started reading Mister Yam by Yeng K Tan. The bold, contrasting colors on the front of the book, overlaid by a red sheep with golden wings wasn’t much of an indication of what this curious book might be about.

Sure, sure I had read the back-cover description: a twenty-something year old guy disillusioned by corporate life finds his life re-examined when a series of events propels him to embark on a mysterious quest to find answers only he can discover. Kind of generic, right? But let me tell you, this book was so much more than your run of a mill adventure pursuit of the unknown; it’s filled with transcendental wisdom, intimate psychological revelation, and a lot of good eats!

Mister Yam lives a pretty routine life: he has a steady job, though he’s not much interested in career ambition, visits his favorite local bar, enjoys watching the evening news, recently experienced a break up with his girlfriend, and most of all, is always thinking about his next meal.

However, after attending a career fair with his buddy Lorenzo, a series of strange events start happening in his life. It begins when a bald man with a big hat gives him a small wooden box with a lock but no key on a train. Then Mister Yam starts getting phone calls from a person eerily familiar with small details of his life, such as what he’s doing at that moment.

Since the box remains a mystery to him, Mister Yam takes it to a local pawn shop to see if they can tell him more about it. Looking up a data search of the box reveals map coordinates, but nothing else. After learning that his friend Lorenzo has gone missing in the midst of all these random and unexplainable events, Mister Yam feels like he must follow the coordinates to find his friend.

He continues his journey to find answers on a bus headed towards Montana. Oddly enough, at a stop in Idaho, he notices the girl from the pawn shop is also on the bus, and they decide to share lunch. She invites him to travel with her for a bit, and he accepts the offer.

As they ride around in her van, Emma reveals her own experience with the bald man and how her life was inexplicably changed after meeting him. Once a Mormon, the bald man even connects to why she’s back in Idaho at that time. Mister Yam isn’t the type of person to overthink things though, and rather than probe her about who this bald man might be, they just get stoned and hook up.

The next day, Mister Yam continues on his journey to Montana. Once again he meets a woman, Sappho, who assists him in this journey. She had seen Lorenzo check into the hotel with the bald man just a few weeks prior. While they were staying at the hotel, she had an odd experience that matches a dream Mister Yam has been having, where they enter a dark room filled with candles.

Together, they set off into the snowy Montana mountain side to find what is located at these mysterious coordinates. However, this is where my summary will end because what comes next is one of those endings that makes you really question concepts of perception, reality, and the feats of consciousness.

I realize this summary seems rather basic, but do not let it deter you from picking up this book! I intentionally left out a lot of the mysterious events, such as a strange play called The Life of Boris, and the many references to sheep that keep revealing themselves.

Plus, what really makes the book worth reading is the revelations the character has about perception. He’s a foodie by heart, and his descriptions of what he’s eating created a craving in me quite a few times. But most of all, he’s a rather unassuming person who’s open to letting the mystery reveal itself without working too hard to grasp it. Yes, he’s curious, but he’s not over thinking about all the events occurring; he’s more like a passenger on a great voyage of sublime divine planning.

At times I didn’t know what to think about the events, and I really had no idea how it would turn out. But I felt reconnected to my own awareness through reading the book, and I was enticed to be more mindful in my day to day routine. This plot moves along a general path, but it has detours, just like life does. There’s something very “in the flow” to how it progresses.

As mysterious as it seems, there’s always a gentle pulse of love and higher knowledge that seems to be guiding seemingly unconnected events to make it a cohesive narrative. The pieces are all woven together in due time, and I valued Mister Yam’s “take it as it is” style in the matter of getting to the heart of the truth.

Reading Mister Yam instantly reminded me why I adore independently published books. Tan’s writing style is unique, fresh, and one of a kind. This story doesn’t have the same narrative plot that’s been churned out over and over again, making the read a wash-rinse-repeat type of experience.

What I liked most about it overall was the stream of consciousness narration of the main character. I really got into his inner dialogue. And while I did feel like he was very much a dude (I will admit the male mind seems very foreign to me), I completely vibed with Mister Yam’s observations, thoughts about the world, and motivations. It reassured me that as a millennial, we do see things in a way other I want to say older but am trying to not create an OK Boomer moment) view things.

From the disillusionment with a corporate lifestyle to insights about current politics, I felt like Mister Yam was immensely relatable. And therefore, I was more inclined to be interested in how the story unfolded. (To be honest, I was actually very interested and read this book in one day because I just wanted to keep going!) He had valuable insight into the world, and he was also a great tipper. His respect towards those around him reflected his good nature.

The other aspect of this book that I enjoyed is how well it captures the “spirit of the land”. From San Francisco to Montana, I felt the narrative come alive through the character’s interaction with the landscape. Whether it be walking around Berkeley to being hunkered down in the snow of Montana, Tan does a wonderful job of painting a vivid picture for the reader. Even when it was just Mister Yam sitting at the bar, I could see it, taste it, feel it, and hear it.

Overall, Mister Yam is like the millennial’s version of a Burning Man revelations within one’s ho-hum life through a strange series of events that help Mister Yam get at the truth of the matter. There’s a mixture of Jung’s synchronicities with psychedelic revelations that come via perception of the mind, filled with the many tastes of Food Network. If this feels like a random jumble of things, I’ve made my point clear. There’s no one way to explain the deep message of Mister Yam, but reading it is a journey in itself — one that I highly encourage.

The Age of Witches, by Louisa Morgan

The Age of Witches, by Louisa Morgan
Orbit Books, 9780356512587, 528 pages, February 2020

Horses, poppets, and duels within a family of witches? Add a splash of romance and you’re got the magical ingredients for The Ages of Witches by Louisa Morgan. This is a definite must-read for witchcraft-fiction readers. Featuring strong women protagonists and actual occult wisdom, this book was a lovely read. What’s best is that Morgan’s writing flows at a gentle pace, making it so I didn’t rush through it in just a day or two and allowing me to really get wrapped up in the tale.

The story is centered around young Annis Allington, who cares more for horseback riding than afternoon tea and marriage. There’s no riding side-saddle for this young lady; she has a natural repertoire with her horses and enjoys the strength she feels galloping around the streets of New York.

Unfortunately, her scheming step-mother, Frances Allington, has other plans for Annis’s life in order to fuel her own personal desire for a place among society’s elite. What Annis doesn’t realize is that Frances is a witch, who specializes in the use of the maleficia, or dark magic used to control others. Her specialty is working with poppets to control her target and make them bend to her will, which is how she landed Annis’s father as a husband.

Wishing to separate Annis from her beloved horse and lure her into a royal marriage, sealing a title to enhance the family’s reputation, Frances brings her to London to meet with a potential suitor. Well, from Frances’s point of view, the match will be guaranteed for she’s prepared to magically make it so, regardless of the feelings of either party.

James, who recently became the new Marquess of Rosefield, has the weight of the world upon his shoulders now that his family has passed. Coming to terms with the family’s dwindling finances and his father’s debt has put James in the position of having to make choices about how to best secure a future for the Rosefield estate. His mother, Lady Eleanor, eagerly and continually suggests finding a wealthy woman to marry, thus ensuring the future of their family’s legacy.

Conveniently, she has invited Frances and Annis to visit with them, hoping for there to be a spark. Well, there certainly is strong chemistry between James and Annis, but not the way their parents had hoped for. James is appalled at Annis’s forwardness in regard to her desire to become a horse breeder, and Annis cannot stand Jame’s conventionality or views on what is and is not appropriate behavior for a woman.

After the first day though, the feelings between them begin to shift. Annis can sense something is off about it; she’s experiencing embarrassing sensual feelings for James, whom she knows she is not truly attracted to at all. It’s clear that James too is feeling the allure, suddenly looking at Annis in a very different way.

Annis doesn’t know what to make of this and is truly worried about her predicament. She knows that Frances is trying to corner her into this marriage, and she’s also fearful of the consequences, such as losing her beloved horse, if she doesn’t play along.

Luckily, Harriet Bishop, Annis’s aunt and Frances’s cousin, has been following along with what’s happening in her family’s bloodline. Readers are introduced to her at the very start of the book, and I for one was instantly taken with her. I only wish I had an aunt watching over the development of my own magical gifts.

Both Harriet and Frances shared a great-great- grandmother, Bridget Bishop, who was hung for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. Bridget had two daughters, Mary and Christian, who each went down their own witchcraft path. Christian followed in Bridget’s footsteps, freely using the maleficia to have her magical way, while Mary chose the path of magic that does not impede the will of others. Frances’s mother, unlike Harriet’s, had come from the lineage of Christian, who practiced the dark arts without discretion.

Harriet and her grandmother found Frances after her mother had passed. Living in squalor, they awakened her to the secret of the family’s witchcraft lineage and took her into their home to oversee her training. They had hoped she would not succumb to the maleifica’s strong powers, but ultimately the pull was too strong. Frances decides to make her way in the world using the witchcraft that compels, controls, and consumes others, expertly using her poppets to get what she needs in life.

“Witch should be a beautiful word, signifying wisdom and knowledge and discipline, but it isn’t used that way. It’s been made an insult, implying evil, causing fear. The word has been perverted.”1

I know I certainly feel this way sometimes, hesitant to share my personal spiritual path as a witch. Therefore I often found myself agreeing with Harriet’s thoughtful sentiments. She is an admirable witch and herbalist, maintaining discretion about her client’s personal needs. Though, she also knows how the beauty and power of witchcraft can be used for ill and malice towards others.

Stepping into to prevent Annis from the harm Frances wishes to callously inflict on her (though France might truly believe what she’s doing is for the best interest of all despite the lack of freedom of choice or ethics concerning the welfare of others), Harriet ventures to London herself to reveal the secrets of their family to Annis before it’s too late.

As for the summary, I’ll stop here. This is hardly a full synopsis of all the twists and turns the book takes, but it’s hopefully enough to convey the essence of the plot. Once Harriet, Annis, and Frances are in London together, it’s truly a battle of wills for the direction that magic will take.

What I love most about the book is Morgan’s portrayal of witchcraft, which I believe can only come from true reverence for the art, along with a bit of practical experience in the craft. There’s even a character who is a strega! This was especially heartwarming for me to read since I come from an Italian lineage.

Throughout the book are fun cantrips, such as the following:

“The touch of this remedy will move the heart
So kindness is the better part.
Leaf and root and flower bless
The heart that always answers, Yes.”2

The spellwork of the witches, especially with the poppets, is always described in detail. From the herbs used to make a salve to the description of using a piece of hair for the intended poppet, Morgan truly captures what goes into magical workings. She even includes the witches mixing in blood for their spell potency, as well as the use of an adder stone to give the work a boost.

Morgan also does a wonderful job of capturing life in the 19th-century for women. While Annis has budding feminist notions, there’s also still societal rules about what constitutes appropriate path’s for a woman’s live. Offering the option of witchcraft to a young woman is one of the most remarkable gifts to be handed down generation after generation — it’s more than just an alternative path, it’s a route to self-discovery and a life beyond the constraints of social norms.

Magic aside, Morgan has created some memorable characters. I really enjoyed the various cooks, maids, and personal attendants who accompanied the main characters. I can picture the different accents the characters used, thus further amplifying my connection to the story’s setting. I was especially taken aback by Annis’s intimacy with her horses, which gave me a new appreciation for the relationship between horse and rider. At times, I wished I could just hop on a horse and go for a little trot around the block!

All in all, The Age of Witches was a very fun read. I almost want to say it was relaxing. Yes, the plot was interesting, and at no time did my attention stray, but the pace was easy-going. This book had all the elements of a good story: family conflict, romance, and a whole lot of heart. Plus, It made me think about what type of magical practitioner I consider myself to be, and it inspired me to be more active in my herbalism and word craft for spellwork. I highly recommend it as an engaging witchcraft-fiction read!