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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.

Three Books of Occult Philosophy, translated by Eric Purdue

Three Books of Occult Philosophy, by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, translated by Eric Purdue
Inner Traditions, 164411416X, 864 pages, November 2021

As a practicing astrologer and magician, of course I’ve skimmed Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Heinrich Corenlius Agrippa. It’s a foundation of Western occultism after all. But if I’m being honest, the editions thus far, such as the one edited by Willis F. Whitehead in 1898 or more recently Donlad Tyson in 2018, just never seemed to keep my attention. My experience reading Eric Purdue’s translation of Three Books of Occult Philosophy thus far has been entirely different though. I’ve been utterly engrossed, pouring over the information, meticulously researching references to other sources, and for the first time comprehending the text.

And I think this is because there is a prominence to this set. The sturdiness of the black box that houses the three books (The Natural World, The Celestial World, and The Divine World) takes up space, making itself known on my bookshelf. This is one of those sets I know I’ll return to year after year, making the quality of it very important. Plus, I feel pretty cool having it displayed in my living room. It is a truly collector’s item for one’s occult library, as well as a worthy investment for extensive amounts of wisdom within the text.

The books themselves are very big! I measured them, and they are over 10 inches tall and 7 inches wide. I personally love this because I am often referring to them in my practice and it’s helpful to have such a heavy-duty, substantial book where I am not constantly having to try to keep the pages open or squinting to read the writing. For instance, I’ve spent hours drawing the planetary seals for sigils and the size of the book makes it much easier, especially since sometimes I even lay paper over the images in the book to copy from.

Another significant thing about Purdue’s translation of the Three Books of Occult Philosophy is the first English translation published in the last 350, adding to the distinctiveness of this particular set. I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as found helpful, Purdue’s “Translator’s Introduction” that describes why a new translation was needed, in addition to how his translation differs from others. Some reasons cited for the need for this new translation include mistranslation, lack of technical knowledge of previous translators, archaic English that is distracting to read (yes, I concur on this one!!), and incorrect graphics. In some cases, Purdue explains, flaws in previous translations have continued to be compounded rather than corrected with additional translations.

Purdue’s intention in producing this translation was to create a new edition of the Three Books of Occult Philosophy directly from the original Latin and to cross-reference Agrippa’s sources.

“Our translation attempts as much as possible to cite sources that were available to Agrippa. This has allowed us to largely reconstruct Agrippa’s library and has demystified his method of obtaining it. This shows that Agrippa, rather than the writing from texts now missing or obtaining books from secret sources, instead was a mainstream scholar of his day, using texts widely available.”1

And this is where Purdue’s translation really shines, especially for any studious practitioner. The footnotes and sources provided have led me in so many new directions. Being able to look at the footnotes and see the source where Agrippa’s content is being drawn from has been immensely helpful in doing my own research. Two topics prominent in my practice, which I often write articles about, are the hierarchy of angels and numerology. It’s been tough finding primary sources on both these subjects, but suddenly, in reading this version of Three Books of Occult Philosophy, I have new leads from the detailed footnotes of books I can further explore. I am deeply appreciative of Purdue’s dedication, concentration, and effort to add these references into this translation. There is also a very interesting bibliography and comprehensive index in Book III, which again, is monumentally helpful for occult practitioners and researchers.

Another really interesting addition to this translation is quick summaries on the side of what Agrippa is talking about. For instance, in Book I’s section “Of lights and colors, lanterns, and lamps, and the colors distributed among the stars, houses, and elements.” there are side notes of what Agrippa is writing about such as, “The color of the planets.”2 and “The color of the humors.”3. These are incredibly helpful when doing a quick skim while looking for something in particular.

From a historical standpoint, Three Books of Occult Philosophy is the primary source of Western occultism, and it’s interesting to see how long some beliefs have existed, such as astrological correspondences or concepts about the elements. Even if one feels they are an expert, going back to these foundational texts really helps to see the origins of many occult beliefs embedded in our culture. It’s like a beginner’s 101 course, but one that is dated nearly 500 years and really encourages one to put themselves into the minds of magicians of the past.

However, what I’ve found most surprising is the relevance of the text centuries later. Not everything (I certainly cringed a bit reading about the bewitchment women use to lure men into love and the poisonous effects of their menstrual blood on crops), but a good majority of the text is viable for one’s modern magical practice. This is particularly true if one is drawn to arcane magical practices of times long gone, rather than the current trendy paradigms, such as chaos magic. And I think Purdue’s translation really aids in making the content of the Three Books of Occult Philosophy accessible for all.

Overall, this is by far the best translation I’ve ever seen of the Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Purdue has done such a great service in producing this new translation. From the physical heftiness of the book to the detailed footnotes, I’ve felt so connected to this set. It’s as though the arcane wisdom had just been waiting for the right translator to revive it to make it obtainable, on many levels, by a new generation, and Purdue was just the right person to do this. I highly recommend this translation above others, yes, even the free PDFs available online, because it feels alive with a potent spiritual energy. There is so much to learn from this new translation – sources to explore, wisdom to remember, and inspirations to be had.

How to Become a Mermaid, by Elyrria Swann

How to Become a Mermaid: Embodying the Elemental Energy of Water, by Elyrria Swann
Destiny Books, 164411450X, 128 pages, December 2021

I have one main goal for 2022. Are you ready for it? Promise you won’t laugh? It’s to become a mermaid. This has been blossoming for quite some time. I would say it started after I moved to the coast of Southern California, met all the wildlife along the shore, and started cultivating a meaningful relationship with the ocean. Overtime, I accumulated a seashell collection, which is now at nearly 300 different types of seashells, and focused on learning sea magic. I even have mermaid swim training with the tail booked for February at the LA Mermaid School.

When I discovered How to Become a Mermaid: Embodying the Elemental Energy of Water by Elyrria Swann, I was absolutely thrilled to read her perspective on this topic. It hadn’t crossed my mind that there might be a larger mermaid community out there or that I could learn from someone with experience in the mermaid realm. Lucky for me, Swann is the perfect bridge for beginner mermaids with the mermaid realm, teaching them how to cultivate a path to developing their own relationship with the mer-folk and embody the element of water in their daily life.

Swann’s approach to the topic of being a mermaid comes from her own experience, but it is filled with references to the works of others, which guides readers to new sources. It’s whimsical at times, and I would bet that quite a few might be dubious of her experience living as a mermaid, deeply connected to the elemental realm of water and astral realm of mermaids. I’ve always been someone who truly believes in angels, fairies, unicorns, and other mythical creatures, so opening up to Swann’s wisdom about mermaids wasn’t a far leap for me. But for some it might be, and that’s okay.

If a person can’t widen their perspective to include the possibility of mer-folk, then chances are this isn’t the path for them. I intend to review this book for an audience that has an interest in learning more about the topic, rather than try to convince a disbeliever of its merit. This being said, you might not be the right audience for this book if this concept seems far-fetched to you, as Swann doesn’t downplay her experience or restrain her knowledge of the subject to fit neatly into a “normal” lens of reality.

In fact, part of Swann’s reasoning for writing the book is to create a guide for those who feel called to working with the mermaid realm, or are even mermaids themselves, so they are a bit less lost in the world. At the same time, Swann repeatedly cautions readers about energetically connecting with mer-people. She asserts the need for an open heart and pure intention when working with the element of water, as well as knowledge of energetic protection and some preparatory basic skills of energy work.

One of my favorite sections in the whole book is about the mermaid’s energetic protectors in the astral realm: krakens, gorgon medusas, selkies, and hydras. These can become allies or foes, depending on one’s intention for the mermaid realm. Swann shares really interesting stories of engaging with these allies in the astral realm, as well as successful experiences of calling on them for protection in the world.

I enjoyed learning about these astral entities and their protective qualities, though I’m not sure I’d be ready for an alliance or communion with them just yet. Their presence made me more aware that the mermaid realm isn’t all fun and play; there are many energies in the astral that one has to be prepared to encounter, and I am grateful for Swann’s illuminating this.

The greatest change in my perception about mermaids came from Swann’s description of what a mermaid is:

“Mermaids are elemental beings that embody the vibration of water. A simple way to think of it is that they are the personification of the watery element. If water could talk, then it would be a mermaid. The purpose of the mermaid realm is to love and enrich the water element in the spirit world. “1

This definition heightened my awareness of the element of water being the primary aspect of being a mermaid. It might seem rather obvious, but previously I didn’t realize that working with mermaid energy is essentially learning how to engage with the element of water. While this can feel like a daunting task, as anyone who’s ever studied working with the elements can attest to, Swann offers practices to help one get to know their watery mermaid energy.

One example, recommended to be tried in the bathtub, is called “Meditation to Integrate the Spiritual Water Element.” I found this meditation to be quite helpful for discovering my own “unique signature vibration”2, as Swann describes it, of water. She also includes a “Meditation to Enter the Mer-realm” that I am looking forward to doing soon.

I deeply resonated with Swann’s call for mermaids to heal the world’s wounding and find a deeper meaning to this path:


“Donning mermaid tails, owning pet fish, and supporting mermaid merchandise companies is fun and makes life beautiful, but it is not enough. We must become what a mermaid (or merman) is. We must choose love, empathy, and “now” consciousness to be in alignment with a reality where Earth succeeds. We must take physical action when and where we can. Every decision we make can be conscious and rooted in a desire for the good of all.”3

One way that Swann suggests mermaids do this is through learning how to clean up the ocean not only physically, but psychically as well. This was a fascinating concept to me. Though, I have to admit, I tried doing the “psychic clean-up” of the ocean after a storm, where it is known that sewage overflows into the ocean, and I ended up with a sinus infection for two days. I definitely saw Swann’s point about the need for protecting oneself’ while working with the very fluid element of water. I got a feeling that the toxic energy I was trying to clear from the runoff caused a buildup in my sinus cavities.

As a result, I eagerly have been looking into the recommendation Swann provides to study the magical system called Hermetics developed by Franz Bardon in order to strengthen my relationship with water to learn more about on an element level. She describes how Bardon’s Hermetics system teaches about cosmic letters and numbers, which correspond to different elements and elemental properties. Swann writes these cosmic letters and numbers “are vibrations that are accessed through visualization , sound, concentration on imagery and feeling, and oneness with the element it represents.”4

For instance, Swan explains that M is the mastery of the water element. Through meditating on the letter M, people can strengthen their connection to the water element. I think this concept is extremely neat, especially since I love numerology and the correspondence between letters, numbers, and energy. This is yet another technique of Swann’s I plan on exploring.

All in all, How to Become a Mermaid is a wonderful guide for developing a relationship with not only the Mer-realm, but the element of water as well. Swann’s experiences with the mer-realm opens new doors of possibilities for those seeking to establish their own connection. She has lovingly, though with due caution, provided a guide for readers to create their own relationship with mermaids and discover the elemental pathway of water. This book certainly will give you a new perspective on what it means to be a mermaid and how developing the traits of a mermaid can change the world.

Spirit Life & Science, by Mahãn Hannes Jacob

Spirit Life & Science: Understanding Your Gifts of Healing and Mediumship, by Mahãn Hannes Jacob
O-Books, 1789043158, 424 pages, December 2021

At long last, evidence for the interconnection of spirit and science is becoming more widely accepted. Mahãn Hannes Jacob is one of the most prominent healers of this age, who actively works as a practitioner of mediumship and spiritual healing, as well as teaching and lecturing worldwide. Spirit Life & Science: Understanding Your Gifts of Healing and Mediumship is very practical advice from Jacob himself about the fundamentals of this pathway. It is essential ready for all of those seeking to better understand how to use energy to heal, develop mediumship abilities, and advance spiritual healing as a therapeutic modality.

Since Spirit Life & Science is imbued with Jacob’s energy, it’s important to understand the integral role he plays in shaping the future of spiritual healing as an ally to science. Jacob obtained a graduate degree from Arthur Findlay College in London to become a Professor of Mediumship. He is also a Spiritualists’ National Union Approved Healer. In 1990, he opened his own clinic in Switzerland, where he has been a practitioner of mediumship and spiritual healing. In 2005, Jacob founded the Swiss School for Healing and Mediumship, where he now serves as Director of the Fréquences. He teaches on topics such as spiritual healing, mediumship, Therapeutic Touch and meditation.

Needless to say, Jacob knows his stuff, and Spirit Life & Science is a compendium of his knowledge. There are twenty-six chapters in total, plus meditations, exercises, and secrets for healing. The content of this book is a nice balance between anecdotes and evidence-based information. With this style, Jacob effectively conveys his message because the reader gains an education about the data on the subject, along with a personalized tale of how mediumship and spiritual healing take place within real life rather than just studies.

The start of the book is a fantastic overview of mediumship in general, including information about who practices it and why someone would want to engage in mediumship. Next, the book covers a range of scientific data about energy transmission and the effects of using spiritual energy for healing. Following this, Jacob describes all types of ways to communicate with spirits, from different types of mediumship (trance, physical, etc.). Jacob does a wonderful job of bridging mind, body, and spirit to show the strong connection between them, inviting new ways of perceiving how they work together for optimal health and well-being.

Spirit Life & Science delves into many topics, making it relevant for both beginner and advanced energy healers alike. A beginner would benefit from the all-encompassing view of the fields of mediumship and spiritual healing since Jacob writes in a way that makes them approachable and easy to understand. He discusses prominent historical figures that have furthered the fields, many forms of meditation, breathwork, and healing modalities, as well as common fears and misconceptions people have who are unfamiliar with the naturalness of mediumship and spiritual healing. And for those already familiar with the subject, Jacob’s personal experience and innovative techniques are sure to enhance one’s mediumship and spiritual healing skill set.

What I like most about the book is the color illustrations. For instance, pages 300-320 feature full-length instructions for the Therapeutic Touch protocol and photographs of Jacob’s hand placements for patients both laying down and sitting. Looking through the photographs helps to see the physical movement of the practitioner on the client when performing the Therapeutic Touch protocol, and if I were a practitioner, the imagery would make me feel much more confident using it on a client than simply reading instructions would.

Another really neat photograph is on page 92, which shows the results of an energy transmission experiment Jacob performed on plants. He energized one plant, but not the other, and otherwise tended to them the same. There is a huge difference between the flourishing of the plant that was energized and the plant that was not. This is just one example of the many different studies recorded in the book, many of which also feature data tables or photographs to illustrate the results.

My favorite chapter in the book is “Extraction of Pathological Information (EPI)”, which is a unique method currently only practiced by Jacob. It reminds me a bit of psychic surgery, but it’s actually an information extraction method. He describes how he learned about this gift through healer Estor Bravo and then by a spirit too. Plus, there’s photographs of the mark EPI leaves on patients, as well as a handful of success stories. In a medically supervised study, this healing method had a 94% success rate.1

Jacob heals with this method by understanding that the manifested pathologies “are based on harmful information and when it is removed, a great many patients are healed and freed of their ills or improve considerably.”2His thoughts on the future of medicine were absolutely mind-blowing to me, but as someone who was able to shift belief and affect biology, his notion also really made sense. Jacob writes:

“Allopathic medicine neglects and does not recognize the notion of inscription or memory. Yet everything is based on this. Once again, I want to emphasize that the medicine of the future will be information medicine!”3

My only caveat about the book is that it does have a religious influence. Jacob’s writing is influenced by both Christianity and Buddhism. He is a practitioner of Kriya Yoga, and received his spiritual name, Mahãn, by Swamiji Dharmananda Sarawati Maharaj. Readers that do not feel connected to these religions might feel a bit at odds with some of the information presented. However, for me, this didn’t detracted from the wealth of knowledge still available in the book, particularly in regard to the science behind energy transmission.

Toward the end of the book are meditations and forty-six exercises to enhance one’s mediumship and spiritual healing abilities. These alone are worth the read for anyone called to this path. Some are individual, while others are better with a partner or in a group, so I highly recommend this section for people who are involved in a community of spiritual healing.

All in all, Spirit Life & Science is a fascinating read filled with practical information to enhance one’s mediumship abilities. It’s the perfect blend of story and facts, conveying Jacob’s one-of-a-kind insight into this topic. This book should be a foundational read for all spiritual healing, as it does such a wonderful job of helping readers to understand the basics of energy transference, as well as the potent potential this healing modality has for the future.

Goddess Luminary Leadership Wheel, by Lynne Sedgmore

Goddess Luminary Leadership Wheel: A Post-Patriarchal Paradigm, by Lynne Sedgmore
Changemaker Books, 1785354787, 208 pages, December 2021

Empowerment through Goddess-center spirituality is something very dear to me. Attending a Catholic college, I realize just how great of an inequality there was between men and women in regard to spiritual authority. This set me off on a path of reclaiming the Goddess, from studying about matriarchal societies to obtaining a degree in ecopscyhology, studying the relationships between ecology, psychology, and feminism. Meeting Starhawk, the person who awoke me to goddess-centered magic and spirituality, is a memory I’ll always cherish fondly. Therefore, I was quite excited to begin Goddess Luminary Leadership Wheel: A Post-Patriarchal Paradigm by Lynne Sedgmore and thrilled to realize she too was deeply attuned to this paradigm shift, writing about and studying the same sources I just listed – plus more!

This book opens readers to the many facets of goddess-centered worship through sharing background knowledge on the topic, and most especially, offering a pathway to Luminary Leadership. Doesn’t it just sound radiant? Sedgemore writes:

“I use the term Luminary to replace the more masculine word leader and all its associations, and to bring about a radical shift in how it is manifested. Luminary means ‘a person who inspires and influences others, someone prominent in their field’. It also means ‘a natural light-giving body, especially the sun or moon’, someone who illuminates.”1

This is the type of leadership I aspire to! And Sedgmore has made it easy for all readers to adopt this style of leadership through the Goddess Luminary Leadership Wheel (the Wheel for short). Sedgemore draws from her extensive knowledge on the subject of leadership, including over 40 years of leadership in mainstream and spiritual organizations and a doctoral thesis on spiritual leadership, to develop this post-patriarchal model.

Sedgmore has reframed all her experience in leadership to create the Wheel, placing the Goddess within the center of it. In this way, she uniquely bridges spirituality and leadership to reposition feminine values of love, beauty, and connection at the core of communities. The Wheel incorporates both the Moon phases and elemental energies, which are two of the shamanic elements of the wheel.

The other two are Goddess Gnosis and Luminary archetypes. Sedgmore defines Goddess Gnosis as “your personal unique truth of the direct experience and knowing of the Divine as Goddess, as sacred female.”2 Then the six Luminary archetypes reflect the six cycles of the Wheel that practitioners move through. Sedgmore describes them as “valuable metaphors for self-understanding and coming to wholeness”3

Also embedded within the Wheel are radical Luminary leadership approaches: “the Luminary Leaderful Way, States of Being, Paths of Power, and Ways of Knowing”4). These are the synthesis of Sedgmore’s leadership experience, integrated into the Wheel to foster new models of leadership. For instance, Ways of Knowing focuses on embodiment and bodily intelligence as a source of wisdom, which is often overlooked as integral to leadership. Together, these shamanic elements and Luminary leadership approaches make the Wheel both practical and adaptable; there’s both stability and a sense of flow, which ultimately allows each practitioner to develop their own relationship to the Goddess, as well as their leadership potential.

While all of these integrated aspects of the Wheel might seem a bit complex, Sedgmore does a wonderful job of explaining it piece by piece. And once one delves into the practice of using the Wheel, it feels intuitive. What’s also very helpful is that Sedgmore provides a diagram of the Wheel for readers who are more visual. There’s a general outline for each Cycle, but also a very natural flow to the book that guides readers through reflections, mythology, and new ways of relating that are embodied, present, and from a place of inner power.

One of the neatest aspects of Goddess Luminary Leadership Wheel is that the reader can move through the Wheel individually or create their own group to lead with it as a manual of sorts. Reading each cycle and doing the practices, reflections, and exercises feels like a sacred ceremony. There’s a ritual in each chapter, starting with a call in and check in and ending with a chant and reflection. Sedgmore has ensured we all know how to create a safe space to do this inner work, containing this transformative knowledge in a protected circle. It makes me want to  create a group to practice the Wheel collaboratively in a circle with others.

And this is why I am impressed by Sedgmore’s own leadership style, which is reflected in the way she presents the Wheel in the book. She genuinely hopes people all over will feel a connection to her method of Luminary leadership and put it into action. I always appreciate when leaders have faith in the autonomy of others to learn and do, which is exactly what Sedgmore demonstrates in offering this model for everyone. She put out the call, even writing a Luminary Charge for those who feel called to this path.

What I really like about the Wheel is how accessible it is. First of all, Sedgmore is very clear that this is an inclusive model for everyone who identifies as a woman. The archetypes end with x, such as Illuminatrix and Connectrix to reflect this notion.  Furthermore, she delves into topics such as feminist intersectionality, gender, and cultural appropriation, offering reflection questions to assist with personal reflection and awareness.

I also really enjoyed how part of the Wheel delves into shadow and toxic leadership. Cycle V The Brilliance of the Dark Moon, whose archetype is Wisdom Keeper, is where practitioners get to connect with the Dark Goddess. We learn about how the archetypes manifest themselves through this energy, examples being Saboteur and Imposter.

The exercises help to discover these shadow characteristics in one’s self, as well as an invitation to notice what one projects on others because they can’t see it within themselves. The Wheel’s exercises assist the reader in transforming their projections into a reflection of their own positive qualities.  There’s also information on surviving toxic leadership, which I think many people could benefit from reading. 

All in all, Goddess Luminary Leadership Wheel is a wonderful book for those who are looking to do inner work around leadership but are looking for alternative models for how this might look. This is also a must-have for anyone who holds space as a spiritual leader, particularly if you’re leading a group of women. The Wheel is a powerful model that will provide a lot of insight into one’s leadership style and potential in a way that fosters growth, awareness, and connectivity. I am happy to now be thinking of myself as a Luminary, rather than the traditional leader, and have felt very empowered exploring what this term means to me while making my way through this book.

The Relative Tarot, by Carrie Paris

The Relative Tarot: Your Ancestral Blueprint for Self-Discovery, by Carrie Paris
Weiser Books, 1578637627, 96 pages, 82 cards, November 2021

Ancestry has been a prominent theme for me this November. I’ve taken an ancestral astrology class, while also curating book club questions on Hiero for Badass Ancestors. The Relative Tarot: Your Ancestral Blueprint for Self-Discovery by Carrie Paris came along in perfect harmony with these other happenings. So far, it’s one of the most unique tarot decks that I’ve ever worked with. I’m just loving the bridge it opens between past, present, and future.

And this is exactly what Carrie Paris does best, as her work often allows for divination across the barriers of time and space. She holds a Masters in the Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination from the University of Kent, UK. Paris also has recently published Generations Oracle with Lisa Bonnice, which uses casting pieces, such as charms and coins based on the Lenormand Oracle, and a pendulum to connect with ancestors.

One of my favorite divination systems created by Paris is the Magpie Oracle, which uses small charms to cast divinations. I’ve always found her approach to divination very out of the box. It’s refreshing to have new ways to connect with spirit, and it’s clear Paris puts a lot of thoughtfulness into her creations.

The methodology for The Relative Tarot is just as unique. Paris asked her readers to send her photographs of their ancestors, and thus this deck was born of their images and stories. Initially, she planned for it to only be Majors and Court cards, but she received so many portraits and requests to be included that she decided to also include the Minor cards as well.

A sturdy box holds the cards. It has a side-flap for easy opening. Right when flipping it open, a mysterious woman with a mask and wings catches the eye, piquing intrigue and igniting curiosity in the reader. The potency of the deck can be felt as a glittering shimmer of magic that is decades old, now recreated to continue to flow through the veins of time.

The cards are absolutely stunning with their golden edges and beautifully crafted imagery. Old photographs are laid over colorful starry backgrounds with traditional tarot symbolism intermixed too. They feel of a different time, and this out of the ordinary sensation heightens the connection to the slip-space in the cracks of time, where intuition shines.

As I look through the cards, I wonder who these people were and what their story was. It’s like discovering a treasure chest of photographs in the attic, enchanted with memories, hopes, and wishes. You can see the personality of all the ancestral relatives on these cards shining through the looks in their eyes.

I am someone who enjoys historical non-fiction books because I enjoy the sensation of putting myself in someone else’s shoes and seeing what their life was like to live. I listen to their story and then integrate it into my own life, filled with the wisdom of those I have taken the time to learn more about. I feel like this deck gives me the ability to do this, only now these relatives are guiding me in regard to my spiritual path and potential future outcomes.

However, The Relative Tarot is not like a usual tarot deck, and as soon as you look at the guidebook you will see this. This deck is intended to help the reader “to create a divine Tarot Blueprint that will illuminate who you are, and what you’re here to do.”1 Paris writes this deck was created to experience your soul’s truth through an ancestral filter, helping one to see how ancestral influence is affecting one’s personal evolution and ancestral line.

Paris uses three types of cards for this ancestral and self-discovery method: Birth Cards, Annual Cards, and Significator Cards. Birth Cards are Major Arcana cards that represent one’s soul expression, including their personality, core ideals, challenges, unconscious urges, and ancestral agenda.2 Annual cards are also Major Arcana cards, but these change each year, offering a glimpse of the energies of the upcoming year, including opportunities for growth and key lessons. Then Significator Cards are Court Cards that connect the reader to their ancestral imprint, showing what might be impacting our choices and behavior.

To make it easy to navigate these calculations, Paris provides detailed instruction on how to find your cards through numerology. Then the Major and Court Cards in the deck are labeled with numbers to make pairing the cards together easier. The bottom left show the Birth Card numerological patterns and the bottom right indicates the corresponding Minor Arcana Cards with that Birth Card pattern.

For example, my Birth Card pattern is Universe, Hanged Man, and Empress. This pattern pairs with all the 3s in the Minor Arcana. However, it goes even deeper than this because within the Birth Card pattern, there can be shadow cards, whose energy is often unconscious or not tapped into.

To be honest, at first I found the entire system a bit confusing. I had to really concentrate and do the calculations and read the guidebook thoroughly for about an hour to start understanding this system. But Paris does a fairly good job of making this complex system approachable for readers. There’s even a Blueprint Review on pages 50-51 of the guidebook that is a fill-in-the-blank page for all the calculations.

In the end, I did get a lot of meaning out of using this process to learn more about my soul’s path and ancestral influences in my life. I think it would be especially helpful if readers also used this deck in combination with Mary K. Greer’s Archetypal Tarot, which focuses in-depth on birth cards. It’s also worth noting, this system is very different from simply doing tarot spreads to learn more about your ancestors, such as the process described in Ancestral Tarot by Nancy Hendrickson.

While this deck is phenomenal in what it offers, readers should be aware that it doesn’t give any descriptions of the tarot cards in the guidebook. For this reason, I recommend it to more experienced readers that are already comfortable with the traditional meanings of each tarot card, in case they want to use the deck to do spreads or read for others.

But it’s for this same reason that I DO recommend it to advanced readers because it’s a deck tailored to a different system of reading that can yield rich insight. Even though it takes a bit of time to learn it, I think once the general meaning of the Birth Card, Annual Card, and Significator Card is understood, this becomes a potent way to connect more deeply to one’s soul purpose, current lessons, and their ancestral line.

One last thing that really impressed me about the deck was how Paris designed it to have 82 cards, and this isn’t because she added new cards. Rather, Paris offers a much-needed option for tarot decks: the choice of three Lovers cards (one male/female, one female/female, and one  male/male). I thought this customization was just lovely to make the deck more inclusive to all relationships. Then Paris also allows readers to decide if they want Strength and Justice in the Major Arcana to be 8 and 11 or 11 and 8, depending on the system of reading they use.

All in all, The Relative Tarot is a really neat deck to add to one’s collection, especially for advanced readers or those interested in learning more about their ancestral line through the cards. The imagery is stunning and the process of reading with these cards is rich and potent with soulful wisdom. Paris has made a timeless deck that moves us into the liminal realm where our ancestors can speak to us and our intuition can be heard; past, present, and future weave together to open a portal for spiritual discovery and integration.

Our African Unconscious, by Edward Bruce Bynum, Ph.D.

Our African Unconscious: The Black Origins of Mysticism and Psychology, by Edward Bruce Bynum Ph.D. ABPP 
Inner Traditions, 1644113961, 408 pages, September 2021

“We are all connected intimately- neurologically, embryologically, historically, and by way of the collective unconscious – to the same shared human family.”1

Have you ever thought about the historical origins of humanity and how inexplicitly rooted they are in our psyche? In Our African Unconscious: The Black Origins of Mysticism and Psychology, Edward Bruce Bynum draws upon a myriad of research to shine a light on this repressed African consciousness within us all. Reading this book ignites an awakening process, though not in an abstract, “higher” consciousness sense. Rather, the information presented by Bynum creates a bridge to the deepest parts of our human origin, filling a gaping hole within our consciousness with the history, spirituality, and philosophy of Africa, the homeland of humanity.

I was interested in reading this book for several reasons. First, Bynum’s The Dreamlife of Families: The Psychospiritual Connection is hands-down the best book I’ve ever read about dreams. This work was immensely illuminating in regard to the connected power of dreams within a family and community, something very few dream authors tend to highlight. A bit of the content is covered in Our African Unconscious, but I still highly recommend reading The Dreamlife of Families to get the full-scope of Bynum’s wisdom.

The other reasons for reading Our African Unconscious had to do with my intuition that mysticism, religion, and depth psychology are overlooking ancient influences. From a historical point of view, a simple study of world history reveals what a dominant power Africa was shaping the ancient world. From a religious and spiritual point of view, I can hardly fathom how the general population still doesn’t see the archetypal resonance of Osiris in the story of Jesus Christ and how many branches of occultism (Kabbalah, Hermetic Philosophy, Theosophy, Rosicrucianism) stems from Egypt. Plus, I’ve always had a strong interest in the Black Madonna (good read: Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna by China Galland) and the origins of the Mother Goddess in Africa. Thankfully, all of this is covered by Bynum in the book.

Finally, although my master’s degree program was centered within depth psychology, it was exhaustingly focused upon the dominant, white, Western psyche. Sure, we read Jung in Africa, which focuses on the lasting impression Africa had on Jung, inspiring many of his theories. But the programs and lectures I have attended never made the leap to acknowledge the African psyche, nor the influence on the collective. There’s plenty of archeological data to support the origin of life in Africa, and Bynum has finally restored this missing link by these origins to realm of psychology and religion.

It has taken me about six weeks to make my way through this knowledge-filled book. Bynum doesn’t cut corners and takes the time to fully elaborate on every aspect of his study of this topic, which requires concentration and focus on behalf of the reader. Plus, there are ample citations and a bibliography for each chapter, making it easy to see where Bynum is sourcing information from.

“Only in Africa can we find the complete record and genetic blueprints of our species. This template, this basic genetic stock of humanity, is the source stock of all other unfolding branches of the human family. From this last family of travelers civilization was born. This story of stories is the archetype of all human stories.”2

Our African Unconscious begins with a deep-dive into the earliest records of humans on Earth, describing the different species of these primordial ancestors and how they evolved and dispersed through time. And from here, Bynum has traced and explained the African influence of nearly all major civilizations in history. He explains how African thought spread throughout Europe and into Asia, especially from Kemetic Egypt, to influence science, consciousness, medicine, and history itself.

A great deal of time is spent on the influence of serpent energy, or Kundalini, and how it has “profoundly affected almost every psychospiritual tradition from Asia to Mesoamerica, the Christian revelations, and throughout the sacred mystical Kabbalism of the Jews.”3

“The same genetic root and collective unconscious gave rise to civilization in Africa and spread throughout Europe and also over through Asia. Like the human embryo itself, unfolding from the neural crest, civilization in its earliest hours unfolded from a dark and creative synthesis of life forces along the umbilical Nile River, then moved along a dark line that, over time, evolved into discrete organs, trading centers, and functional cities, and eventually became interconnected over great distances. This early civilization is the origin of our first sciences of consciousness and also of a material technology.”4

Another really interesting topic that Bynum writes about is the influence of Africa on psychology, and how it was lost in Greece, who didn’t seem to understand the transcendent aspects of the mysteries. For instance, Bynum writes ecstatic Orisha worship that involves the engagement of the central nervous system, releasing a rush of bioenergy from the body to the brain, where a “kind of top-down cognitive psychology”5 emerges. This greatly contrasts with Greece, where exploring the mysteries for the sake of transcendence was lost and materiality reigned supreme. Later in the book Byum writes about the African origins of psychoanalysis with interesting ideas about how Freud’s Jewish background contributed to his practice.

I wish I could talk about all the fascinating aspects of Bynum’s theory in this review, but rather than give a water-downed explanation, I feel it’s more important to highlight the experience of absorbing the information. Moving through the book calls for a questioning of many assumptions, as well as a new perspective on history. When reading I also experienced a shift in myself, where I suddenly gained awareness of my original ancestors, who at some point in time must have come from Africa. I actually got so into this concept, that I signed up for a physical anthropology class starting in January!

The only thing I wish there was a bit more of in Our African Unconscious is a focus on the feminine. Bynum goes into great detail describing the African connection to the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but these religions are all patriarchal with little to no spiritual authority given to women. One of the only times spiritual women were discussed was as witches, who suck the energy from others and the community with their dark arts, in some indigenous African traditions, such as the Ibo and Kassena. More discussion about the Black Madonna, Isis, or roles of women in Africa would have been appreciated.

Towards the end of the book, in a section titled “Our African Unconscious as Expressed In the Work of the American Founding Fathers,” Bynum describes the Rosicrucian and Freemason influences in the formation of the American government. Both of these secret societies draw heavily upon African wisdom, primarily Egyptian, and the influence of their belief systems is easily noticed in places such as the nation’s capitol building, design of the dollar bill, and even the the Great Seal of America. I found this section extremely relevant to the upcoming Pluto return that will be a dominant theme in next year’s astrology.

A Pluto return, when the planet Pluto returns to the exact same astrological degree in a natal chart, happens approximately every 248 years. While civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome have had many, this is America’s first, since the nation was only founded in 1776. By looking at the events that occurred during other countries’ Pluto return in the past, astrologers know there is often a great shift that changes the identity of the nation. Pluto is known as the planet of death and rebirth or destruction and transformation, probing into the most intimate layers of psyche to point out weaknesses and foster strength.

“But this fascination with mere skin color is a surface structure obsession. In deep structure we are all the same species. Yet we cannot seem to let it go. This obsession reflects a deep and simplistic ambivalence about our origins and reveals our fear of ethnic dissolution. It has also been the source of untold sufferings on the part of not only dark-skinned peoples but also light-skinned peoples. Whenever we find disassociation from the life current it is associated with darkness and the coming out of the “unconscious.” In the unconscious we will find a fear of darkness, dark skin, and all things associated with the dark. Darkness, however, is not Blackness. For the ancient Kemetic Egyptians, darkness was ignorance, but Blackness was wisdom.”6

Given the history of Black people in America, including institutionalized racism and slavery, there’s a lot to be said about race relationships, which Bynum thoroughly covers in the chapter “The Present Confrontation in the Americas.” He describes how the use of imagery perpetuates motifs, racism, and misinformation. This section is an eye-opening description of how Blackness has been treated in America, and I think it’s important that more people take the time to integrate, process, and accept this history, rather than shying away from it and further repressing it. Despite the hostility shown towards Black people, Bynum shows how unconsciously the influence of Africa continued to spread in the Americas. 

My hope is that Pluto’s return will shine a light on race relationships and also bring to light in America our common African origins. It is only through this reckoning of commonality that tensions, mistreatment, and disrespect among humans will come to an end. Our African Unconscious is a step in this direction, which is why I have been recommending it to nearly everyone recently, from astrological colleagues to friends with an interest in social justice. I honestly think every religious, spiritual, or magical practitioner should read this book. There is just so much packed within these pages that has the potency to usher in a new narrative, thus shifting culture towards a more relational, understanding, and wise society.

All in all, Bynum has made a comprehensive case for the need to rekindle the connection to our African unconscious, which has not just been lost, but actively repressed. I’m deeply impressed with the objectivity Bynum maintained while writing so passionately about this subject. With a topic that could run high with tension and volatility, Bynum has taken a measured, level approach to present this information, and I admire how he calls for honoring and celebrating common roots, rather than further separation among humankind. I will absolutely be integrating Bynum’s wisdom for a while and I know I will be returning to Our African Unconscious time and again, as I’m sure there’s more to absorb with each and every read.

Conform or Be Cast Out, by Logan Albright

Conform or Be Cast Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists, by Logan Albright
Moon Books, 1789048427, 176 pages, December 2021

Conform or Be Cat Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists by Logan Albright was the dose of reality that I didn’t even realize I needed. In a time with conspiracy-theories abound and a ravenous cancel-culture, this book takes a unique approach of examining the phenomena of attributing individualism, nonconformity, and differences from spiritual to physical as rooted in demonic evil. Albright’s critical-thinking approach to the subject, along with his candidness takes the reader on a journey from biblical times through modernity to highlight how nonconformists have borne the brunt of society’s misinterpretation of them as devils and demons to uncover a  pattern in play.

Some might be surprised to hear it’s not only in religion that this demonization occurs. Albright’s has a wide lens when analyzing this phenomena. Initial chapters include Biblical origins, but they progress to demonization showing up in bright children who excel, saints and martyrs, witches and wizards, medicine and science, notions of individualism, art, movies, and eventually modern Satanic panic of recent times. While this might seem like a smorgasbord of information, in reality, it simply shows how prevalent this recurring pattern is within human culture.

And Albright’s approach is so well-researched that despite the many directions the book goes on, the central theme is easy to follow. There’s a ton of anecdotes from throughout history that keep the reader interested and engaged. I would say that Albright leaves no stone unturned in this quest to shine light on the demonization of nonconformists. He packs a ton of historical information to weave together a very clear picture of how time and time again those who choose to walk their own path, stand by their beliefs, or advocate for something outside the traditional norms often pay a steep price.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is how Albright explains how different notions of the devil, from the imagery of horns, hooves, wings to the concept of selling one’s soul, have been perpetuated by myth, folklore, stories, and songs. As Albright points out, a very small portion of people actually worship demons or the devil. Even Satanists do not have a theology centered upon demonic worship. Nevertheless, this imagery has persisted into modern day. Reading Albright’s research helps to break the grip of this collective archetype to start exploring what the energy is that’s actually being repressed through it.

Albright even draws parallel between the Inquisition and motives of Institutional Psychology, demonstrating many of the fear-based tactics are the same thing, just different covers. While we like to believe we’ve progressed as a society, many of the same patterns repeat. From assertions that the planets don’t revolve around to the Earth to choosing to play Dungeons and Dragons, being outside social bounds doesn’t mean the intention is evil – and it’s time we start to realize this and stop inflicting literal pain and torture on those who buck the norms.

While some revel with the accusations hurled at them, far too many people have paid a high cost for their nonconformity. Since reading this book, I’ve continually reflected on all the potential snuffed out and valuable ideas lost to the tides of time due to unwarranted fear. This book feels like a tribute to them, nodding at their accomplishments, even though the praise is much too late. Nevertheless, we can continue to learn from the scientists, saints, philosophers, writers, occultists, but most of all, free-thinking individuals that pioneered their own paths.

I think we often expect books to answer something for us or provide guidance. What was unique about Conform or Be Cast Out is that Albright doesn’t really do this for the reader. Rather, he lays it all out through his examination of history, mythology, folklore, occultism, philosophy, and even the arts and simply shows examples of this demonization, sometimes discussing where they arose from or what perpetuated, but otherwise just sharing his thoughts on the subject. There is no solution proposed; if anything Albright highlights how this is still occurring now in our culture, despite advancements that make it so we no longer have to be rooted in conformity in order to survive.

I gained a lot from reading the book, even if it’s hard to put my finger on. I can best describe it as a sense of liberation. Reading through all the different examples of how this happens when people break formation, whether it be for scientific advancement or spiritual callings, made me more comfortable doing my own thing, even at the cost of judgement. And as a rather avant-garde individualist, judgement and being labeled “bad” is something I’ve come up against rather often. I think that the past few years that I’ve been trying too hard to conform to escape this demonization, but to what avail, honestly? That is at the heart of what I’ve been questioning since reading this book.

And thanks to Albright, I have so much to research further! The browser tabs I currently have open are The Manufacture of Madness by Thomas Szasz, A History of White Magic by Gareth Knight, Envy by Helmut Schoeck, and Escape from Childhood by John Holt. All of these titles and more are part of the wide-ranging sources Albright draws upon in his exploration of this topic, truly demonstrating the depth and breadth of his accumulated wisdom and level of study in regard to this phenomena of demonization.

Conform or Be Cast Out is a book that I feel is going to stick with me for a while because it woke up something within me that needed attention. Albright’s keen insight brought the topic to life through time right into my present reality. And what’s most important about the way he’s done this is that it lacks fear and judgement. The facts, plain and simple, speak for themselves, and suddenly, the reader realizes just how ridiculous these notions of demonization truly are given the life story of the individualist.

The Ex Hex, by Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex, by Erin Sterling
Avon, 006302747X, 320 pages, September 2021

I was in the mood for a more light-hearted book, so browsing my current stack of library books, I picked out The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling. You can only imagine the laugh I got out of the first line, “Never mix vodka and witchcraft.”1 I hate to say it, but “been there, done that”, and it has never ended up good! At least for me it didn’t turn into the colossal f*ckery that it became for Vivenne Jones.

Brokenhearted by her Welsh summer beau, Rhys Penhallow, Vivienne is doing the best to cheer herself up with a soothing bath, candles, and a bit of cologne conjuring as she laments the loss of young love. Rhys had told her that morning he had to go sort out his betrothal with his father. Clearly, that didn’t sit well with Vivienne who had no idea her summer lover was on the market for another woman. Not only did she curse at him, while tossing his pants in his face, in an attempt to magic her way out of the sadness, Vivenne and her cousin Gwen decide to put a hex on Rhys.

For the most part, it’s all fun and games, to the point where they even throw caution to the wind about Aunt Eliane’s warning to not even do magic while drinking. Their curse for Rhys to always hit just a quarter inch away from a woman’s clitoris and never to have his hair do “that thing” seem like harmless antics, but with the words “I curse you Rhys Penhallow” uttered by Vivienne, their candle bursts into flames.

It seems something has been ignited, but they chalk it up to a gust of a wind and over the years forget about it. Though, it does seem like Vivienne never truly forgot the impact Rhys had made on her tender, young heart.. I mean how could she really when the college she works out is named after his family, who also founded the town she lives in.

Rhys too never truly seemed to forget Vivienne, but in the nine years since he’d been back to Graves Glend, he had created a successful travel business for himself. Sure, clients benefited from a bit of magic that ensured on-time flights and smooth vacations, but Rhys provided a one of a kind service that always got rave reviews. With so much going on with his business in London, It is over a half-a-year since he last saw his family in Wales.

When he stops in for a visit, his foreboding father requests that he return to Graves Glen, Georgia for the Founder’s Day celebration of his ancestor and recharge the ley lines that keep magic afloat in the town. Rhys tries to protest, but ultimately surrenders to taking the trip to America for the sake of family duty. However, the moment he’s within town limits, everything just seems to go wrong.

From an ominous storm to flat tires, Rhys can’t catch a break. Before he can even make it to his family’s house, he finds himself on the side of the road when headlights come right for him, nearly running him over. Turns out, it was Vivienne on her way home from work who nearly nipped him, had he not jumped into a ditch. And here’s where their story begins all over again!

I won’t give too much further away, but I will say they have a hilarious dynamic between them. There’s plenty of banter, despite the unresolved internal feelings of each character. Together, they wrestle witch ghosts, murderous wind-up toys, and potions gone wrong. It is up to them to figure out how to reverse the curse, something former witches don’t seem to leave much instruction on how to do, in order to save Grave Glen.

As far as magic books go, this one is very typical in its approach. There’s a town college for witches, hidden on the normal campus of Penhallow University, where Vivienne teaches Western Civ to incoming freshmen. It takes place during Halloween season, and there’s the focus on haunted houses and ghosts. Vivienne and her family must use magic to improve the small things in their life, from cleaning the apartment to creating a mood setting in the storage room of their shop Wicked Ways.

Sure, there’s the academic witches at the college, but they tend to shy away from Vivienne’s family, in fact, most people don’t even know Vivienne is a witch. She was raised by her mother who chose a normal life and equated magic with bad, so it was only later in life that Vivienne learned the full extent of who she truly was when she went to live with Gwen and Aunt Elaine.

To be honest, the book is more of a rom-com with a theme of witchcraft intermixed within it, rather than a book that truly delves into the craft. But like I said, I was in the mood for something light, and this perfectly satisfied that reading-crave for me. I enjoyed envisioning the setting of the small town and all the cute festivals going on during its peak season of Halloween.

I found both Vivienne and Rhys hilarious and relatable. There’s quite a bit of built up sexual tension and eventual snogging. It does have the traditional flow of a romantic book that culminates in a happy ending. But I think most readers expect that going into a book like this, yet we still enjoy reading the whole thing to see how it plays out.

The one warning I will give is that Rhys has a bit of a charming, frat boy mentality, but not to the point where he’s obnoxious. Actually, I really liked him as a sexy male lead in the book. He rushes into things without thinking, but you can see personal growth and transformation in him, which I think adds to my feeling of reader satisfaction. And Vivienne is a perfectly relatable woman, who has her moments of doubt, but is fierce in her anger towards Rhys and doesn’t back down in advocating for herself.

It’s fun in the meantime to see all the ways the curse goes wrong and how Vivienne and Rhys do their best to extinguish the small fires of disaster in town, which only seems to fan the flame between them. The ending was a little unexpected too, which added a bit more depth to the reasoning behind the curse.

All in all, The Ex Hex is a fun to read romantic comedy filled with witchcraft, magic, curses, and love. There’s plenty of wit, comedy, banter, and… sex! It’s perfect for a few laughs and light-hearted amusement. You’ll find out how curses are reversed and what can happen when two former lovers reunite.

The Midnight Bargain, by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain, by C.L Polk
Erewhon, 1645660079, 384 pages, October 2020

Female sorceresses doing all they can to escape the confines of marriage? Um, what kind of fantastically wonderful story did I get myself into the past few days? The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk! And I certainly enjoyed this exotically fanciful tale.

The story takes place in Chasand, which sort of reminded me of a magical India. It is time for Beatrice to make her way through bargaining season, but she’s set on locating a grimoire that will teach her how to bind with a greater spirit. She’s convinced that if she can do this, her father will allow her to use her influence as a mage to restore the family fortune rather than get married.

Why is marriage such an appalling future for Beatrice? Because Chasand custom forces married women to wear a collar that strips them of their magic in order to ensure they do not conceive a spirit born baby. The mages of this world know spirits are eager to enter the material world, and when this happens it’s pandemonium; the hungry, greedy spirit stops at nothing to satiate their endless desire, often even killing those who stand in their way. The only solution thus far is to prevent women from accessing magic — a solution suitable for male socreers, but absolutely appalling for the girls with innate magical abilities.

Turns out Beatrice isn’t the only one seeking an alliance with a spirit to escape the imprisonment of a husband. Ysbeta, who is the beautiful daughter of one of the region’s wealthiest families, also has her sights set on the grimoire. Beatrice concedes the book to Ysbeta, but Ysbeta does not know the secret code needed to read it. Thus, their friendship forms on the promise that Ysbeta will allow Beatrice to copy the pages of the grimoire in exchange for sharing with her what the book says and teaching her the skills needed to complete the ritual.

Meanwhile, Ysbeta’s brother, Ianthe, one of the most desirable suitors of bargaining season, is increasingly intrigued by Beatrice. When a spirit Beatrice is letting inhabit her body begs her to kiss Ianthe, the sparks between them ignite immediately. Ianthe is kind and open-minded. He empathizes with the situation of Beatrice, who openly speaks her mind on the injustice of women’s lot in society, and is determined to help her the best he can.

Beatrice has a lot to balance in her life. The pursuit of her goal to bind with a greater spirit while still going through the motions of bargaining season adds to the need to handle situations with delicacy and care. Most of all, she has her family to consider; their reputation, their fortune, and their future rest upon her finding a wealthy husband immediately. Much of the plot reminds of a Bridgerton, where competition is fierce and stakes are high, but with sorcerers and mages as eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.

This is one of those reads where you know the author has some background occult knowledge and isn’t just capitalizing on the popularity of magic-themed fiction. The description of the rituals and the spirits is unique, but also very detailed and similar to how it would be done in real life. Polk describes the importance of breath, hand signs, and visualization. I also really liked the mediumship aspect of the characters hosting lesser spirits in their body.

I grew really attached to Beatrice’s lesser spirit, Nadia, who was really funny and cute. It was very interesting to read about how Beatrice cast her circle for protection and bargained with Nadia. Nadia is a lesser spirit of good fortune, so in exchange for the luck she brings, Beatrice would lay out very clear terms of their bargain. For instance, Nadia’s luck for three cups of punch, star gazing, and a kiss until midnight. I think anyone who’s done this type of spirit work, which unfortunately always seem to be men rather than women even in real life, would find the writing very accurate.

Plus, it’s really kick ass to read about women choosing a life of magic and independence over the confines of marriage, even if it’s completely taboo to do. I can’t even imagine how horrible it would be to live in a society that would take away my magical ability, forcing me to be nothing more than a dedicated wife and mother. There’s definitely a theme of fighting for women’s rights, but I enjoyed how Polk didn’t set men against women. The book showed that men can be a huge support for women and part of a greater change.

All in all, The Midnight Bargain was a really wonderful read that I highly recommend, especially for women who are interested in summoning and working with spirits! This is one of the only books I’ve ever read with a main character that is a woman using this type of magic. I’m all for finding fictional role models, so if you’re considering pursuing a summoning ritual, this would be an entertaining book to read.

Even if you have no interest in this type of magic yourself, it’s still a fun book. There’s a lot of focus on the pomp and circumstance of bargaining seasons, adding the flair for romance and drama within the greater story of women’s right to choose their own path. It has made my soul very happy and fulfilled the next few days, so much so that I haven’t even raced onto another book because I’m still savoring this story!

Cackle, by Rachel Harrison

Cackle, by Rachel Harrison
Berkley Publishing Group, 0593202023, 304 pages, October 2021

I was in a mood yesterday, but a quick trip to the library always changes that. Cackle by Rachel Patterson had arrived for me. As soon as I got home, I dove in. Once I started, I couldn’t put the book down, and I finished by the early evening. This book was just the reminder I needed of how empowering it can be to fully utilize my own magic and not shy away from power.

The basic premise of the book is the main character, Annie, is going through a break-up with her beau of a decade. It’s rough and she’s truly on the struggling bus trying to cope, drinking too much and feeling very despairing about her singledom. Since she can no longer afford New York City rent, she takes a job in upstate and moves to a small town named Rowan. Immediately, she loves the charm and small-town feel of Rowan.

Her impromptu meeting of Sophie, the most well-known woman in town, helps her to establish herself in Rowan. But there’s something odd about the way the townsfolk treat Sophie. Annie chalks it up to a mixture of reverence and fear, but Sophie is so doting towards her, she enjoys the company regardless. Annie is one of those people that seeks validation from others and prefers company over being alone.

When she’s not putting herself down, she’s usually crying over her ex-boyfriend Sam. Honestly, at times her depressed, self-depreciation did seem a little old at times, but I think it had its place within the overall context of the novel. And Annie is at least funny, so at times her distorted self-image is a nice comic relief. If we’re honest, many of us have gone through what Annie is experiencing, feeling lost, confused, and unsure of ourselves and the path forward.

Despite all of the emotional turmoil in her life, Annie quickly becomes best friends with the mysterious Sophie, who happens to live in a giant, haunted house in the middle of the woods. Sophie loves sweets, often baking for Annie, and Britney Spears. She’s caring, wise, and just a little intimidating with her subtle jokes of eating hearts and all-black wardrobe. But Sophie looks out for Annie, taking her under her wing, and even curses those who are unkind to her.

Sophie also has the ability to control spiders, so this book will definitely make you see arachnids in a new light. Just an FYI, in case you’re not a spider person! I for one loved all of it and just can’t stop imagining having a cute spider pet now.

As Annie’s relationship develops, she discovers new parts of herself. While she still pines over her ex, just like many modern women who had dreams of a marriage and family, she also starts to realize she has her own power. Power to indeed cause harm to those who bother her, as well as making objects float to her. As if this all isn’t enough to contend with, Annie realizes there are those in town who do not trust Sophie. She must decide for herself if her new bestie is honest and trustworthy, as some townsfolk say otherwise.

Like I said, I read this book quickly, and that’s mostly because it’s one of those chick-lit fiction books, which I have to say I love. Annie has a typical “basic” girl attitude and through surrender is able to discover a whole new power within her. The term “witchcraft” is barely used, as Sophie doesn’t like the stigma associated with it.

In reality, she’s nothing more than a woman who truly owns her desires, doesn’t settle, and is content to be fully in her own power. She’s unafraid to stand up for herself to those who seek to hurt her and finds no reason to shrink herself to please others or make them more comfortable. As Annie learns to do the same, she realizes there might be no turning back.

The revolution of women deciding they want to claim their happiness and be powerful, whether it intimidates others or not is the most potent magic. And Harrison has captured this journey perfectly in Cackle.

Another aspect of the book I really liked is that Sophie and Annie enjoy playing dress-up, dancing, baking or getting drunk together, and simply spending quality time with each other. Cackle celebrates modern-day female friendship, not through bonds of solidarity, but through simple care, nurturance, and honesty.

Sophie is a friend who knows when Annie needs psychedelic mushrooms, whiskey, or simply hot tea. She also doesn’t mince her words and is quite openly against Annie’s pining over Sam, making her new clothes and even cutting her hair. Cackle portrays all the small ways female friends support each other that make all the difference. While it might be hard to see how one is changing post-break-up, with the support of Sophie, Annie emerges a new person. At its heart, this story has a strong theme of friendship, women’s empowerment, and a sprinkle of magic!

The final thing I’ll note that I enjoyed is how magic was not portrayed as malevolent or benevolent. Sophie openly feels comfortable using her power to curse, choke, and probably even kill those who seek to do her wrong. Soon, Annie is learning how to do the same thing. I liked that Cackle wasn’t afraid to show women standing up for themselves and that the full range of supernatural powers was acknowledged without judgement. Sure, at first Annie was a bit taken aback by what she could do, but in time, she learned to wield it wisely.

I think it’s important to know how to both manifest your desires and use your energy to keep that which seeks to harm you at bay. Inevitably, there will always be something a little bit scary about a woman who is fully in control of herself and willing to own this power. It’s the classic witch motif that has caused men to shiver for centuries, but is that a reason to stay small?

Us modern-women of the 21st century think not! And for those of us who need a little self-esteem boost, or a reminder that we can choose who we give our energy to and rewrite our story at any time, Cackle is the book for us! Harrison has done a marvelous job of mixing modernity and magic to inspire us to believe the two can co-exist, even if only in fictional tales that inspire us not to seek our happily ever after, but the true witch within.