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Author Archives: Alanna Kali

About Alanna Kali

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

The Sacred Sisterhood Tarot, by Ashawnee DuBarry and Coni Curi

The Sacred Sisterhood Tarot: Deck and Guidebook for Fierce Women, by Ashawnee DuBarry with illustrations by Coni Curi
Red Wheel, 1590035259, 80 pages, 78 cards, October 2021

Despite tarot reading becoming a booming trend in recent years, few readers seem to be discussing the esoteric foundation of the common Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck. Essentially, the RWS deck is steeped in tradition of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which drew from the Qabalah, astrology, numerology, Christian mysticism, Hermeticism, the religion of Ancient Egypt, Freemasonry, Alchemy, Theosophy, Enochian magic, and Renaissance grimoires. Talk about overload!

As a seasoned tarot reader and energy worker, I’ve been on a mission to find tarot decks with a different energy for my readings. The Sacred Sisterhood Tarot: Deck and Guidebook for Fierce Women by Ashawnee DuBarry has been so immensely rewarding to discover. A deck that isn’t steeped in occult traditions that I don’t practice NOR a patriarchal framework? Yes yes yes! This is what The Scared Sister Tarot offers.The energy feels so deeply resonant with my spirit, and the good vibes of this deck have been shining through in all my readings so far.

The box for this deck is hefty, and I love it. Looking at the image on the box makes me feel ready to take on the world. I love that there’s some weight to the deck. Yet, the cards themselves are the perfect fit for one’s hands. Measurements aren’t really my thing, but I would say they’re a little taller than normal play cards yet a bit more narrow in width. Basically, they fit in my hands perfectly and make it really easy to shuffle.

Opening the box is a color-pop of oranges, yellow, red, and light brown tones that make the cards feel infused with solar energy but also grounded. The back of the cards have lovely, luscious pomegranates on them, which is the perfect representation of Divine Feminine energy, as they are known for being a symbol of fertility and abundance.

Illustrator Coni Curi has done a marvelous job featuring a multitude of women in this deck. As you go through the cards, it becomes evident there’s one “no size fits all” model for women. This concept is bolstered by the intent of the deck to tap into the different facets of Divine Feminine wisdom, through both the major arcana and different suits of the minor arcana.

“The Sacred Sisterhood deck was created with inclusivity in mind, from trans folk to cis-gender- all are welcome, unlike the original tarot, which centered its images and descriptions around hte old gender roles. True sisterhood is all about coming together in a sacred space to support one another, no matter how  you identify.”1

The representation in the deck is remarkable. From multiracial relationships between women to women with disabilities, vast identities and body types are portrayed. And this diversity  imbues the deck with a feeling of empowering solidarity, as though I want to see “I see you! I know we’re all out here doing our best, learning what it means to embody this Divine Feminine feeling in our life.”  It’s beautiful because it feels so REAL. This is what womanhood looks like, and it comes in so many shapes, sizes, shades, and orientations, which is something worth celebrating.

While there is plenty of symbolism for each card, Curi didn’t stick to the traditional tarot imagery. I enjoy the modern take on the cards’ meaning and alternative representation to the traditional RWS tarot. One of my favorites is the Judgment card that has a winged angel playing a saxophone as two women dance beneath her. 

There’s a simplicity to the cards too. Each card has a solid-color background that emphasizes the main image on the card. This makes it so the reader isn’t lost in detail and can easily connect with the image that is popping out to represent the card.

Additionally, the emotion of the women featured on the cards is also something that makes this deck unique. Curi has clearly conveyed sadness, discontentment, happiness, and sovereignty. The women of the deck help to connect with the many emotions of life, tapping the reader into their own feelings. Beginner, intermediate, and expert readers all will be able to find meaning and resonance with the imagery of the deck.

Though, I will mention the one thing that threw me off a little at first: the card names are written in French! For instance, The World is called Le Monde and the Ace of Pentacles is called As De Deniers. Luckily, from the imagery and general knowledge of romance languages, I’ve been able to figure out what each card is, but it definitely was a stumbling block that  made initial reading not feel as intuitive as it might with a deck in English. Now that I’ve been reading with this deck though, I feel pretty cool for knowing the French name for these cards though!

Plus, the guidebook is a huge help for understanding the card’s meaning. I love it so much!! I think it’s one of the best guidebooks I’ve ever seen. It’s large, easy to read, and very colorful. DuBarry offers a complete guide to working with the deck, including tips for getting to know the deck, shuffling, and doing readings. What I liked most though is the suggestions for how to use the deck aside from just doing readings, which included things such as candle magic and shadow work. There’s also plenty of spreads to use with each card position thoroughly detailed.

The cards’ messages are all very meaningful. DeBarry clearly conveys each card’s essence through their interpretation. For every card there are keywords and meanings for the card upright and reversed, plus the best thing about this guidebook, which is the answer for yes/no questions.

HALLELUJAH! This yes or no meaning guide has been so incredibly useful. You often hear the advice to shy away from yes/no tarot questions, but so often I just want some quick insight about if I should do something or not, and this guidebook is perfect for those questions!! I so very much appreciate this being shared.

Moving through each definition, DeBarry strips away traditional meanings of each card, so that readers can see the card’s energy through the lens of the Divine Feminine. I especially loved the card and message for The Hanged Woman, traditionally The Hanged Man, which reads:

“Take some time out, as this will give you the space you need to pause for a moment and analyze what may need to be released for the sake of growth. The Hanged Women can also represent a person who looks at life in her own way, not allowing herself to be influenced by the actions or opinions of other people.”2

I’ve been reading tarot for over a deck, but this was the first time I identified personally with the card. Why had I never thought to view it as The Hanged Women? It’s like this simple shift of making it so I felt seen within the card completely changed the way I identified with it.

The Sacred Sisterhood Tarot has become my go-to for both quick questions and more reflective readings. Reaching out for the deck has started to feel like calling up my bestie to talk about life. There’s a gentleness to the deck, though it has consistently given me the honest advice I needed to hear in the moment. I trust it because I feel it has my best intentions at heart.

Plus, reading or meditating with this deck taps me into an empowered sisterhood solidarity, and I love envisioning other women also using it, pooling our collective Divine Feminine wisdom for healing, divination, and spiritual growth.  I highly recommend this deck for beginners, as it is perfect for getting to know the cards (with maybe the exception of the French! Lol), as well as intermediate to expert readers that are looking for a new way to explore the energy of tarot.

The Guardian Angel Oracle Deck, by Deia Circcarelli

The Guardian Angel Oracle Deck, by Delia Ciccarelli
CICO Books, 180065085X, 160 pages, 72 cards, January 2022

You’ve most likely heard of people having a guardian angel. Perhaps you’ve even prayed to your guardian angel or felt their protection, love, and guidance. But did you know that you can learn more about your guardian angel based on your birthday?

The Guardian Angel Oracle Deck by Delia Ciccarelli features the 72 angels of the Kabbalah, also referred to as the 72 names of God. Ciccarelli explains that there is a guardian angel for each day of the year and on the day we are born, certain angelic qualities are given to us through this guardian angel. Understanding the gifts of our angel reveals special qualities about ourselves and the purpose of our life structure.

“The guardian angel in Kabbalah is also referred to as “the Angel of the Incarnation,” and it tells us what we have come to manifest in ife and reveals our purpose. Knowing our angels helps us to understand how we work on an energetic level and what we need to change within us to transcend to a higher state of being.”1

As soon as I took the cards out of the box, which is nice and hefty for storing them safely, I was overcome with a feeling of calmness. This tranquility made me feel deeply at ease, initiating a moment of inner peace. I hadn’t realized how scattered and discontent I had been feeling until I was washed in this gentle, healing energy.

Each card is absolutely beautiful. In the guidebook, Ciccarelli makes note that angels are high vibrational energy and not the well-known imagery of a being with wings. Therefore all the images feature serene, elegant images of women dressed in flowing robes. It was comforting to see the feminine aspect of angels. There were some I thought might be male angels, but even if so, there is a very womanly feel to all the images in the deck.

Swirling energy and color give a sense of motion to this deck. The energy of the cards is not static; it certainly feels as though it’s flowing through the reader, but in the most gentle way possible. Holding the cards, or even just gazing at them, activates subtle healing and loving energy within me. Instantly, I feel safe and surrounded by a divine presence.

Ciccarelli shares different ways to connect with the angel of the deck in the guidebook. She suggests invoking the angels, meditating with the angels, and doing oracle readings with the cards. There are four spreads shared for readings, indicating what each card placement means when arranging the cards.

However, there is no divinatory meaning for each card like in most oracle decks. Rather, the reader has to piece together an intuitive understanding of the reading based on the attributes and qualities of the angel. I think it’s easiest to do just a one or two card pull, rather than the more complex spreads. I’ve found them to be especially useful for meditation and journaling.

The guidebook is a hard-covered small book. For all 72 angel oracle cards, there is an epithet, dates of their guardianship, name pronunciation, zodiac sign association, angelic choir level, and their associations and qualities. There’s also a picture of each card, making it nice to browse and learn more about the angels even without using the deck.

Immediately, I went to the guardian angel of my birthday: Manakel. I was very surprised and pleased to see that the listed qualities are some of traits I’ve always most loved about myself, including lasting friendships and finding work quickly. I’ve never hesitated to quit a job because I instantly get a new one! And I always cultivate meaningful, lasting friendships that last years, even decades. Knowing these angelic traits and aspects of my birthday make me appreciate these qualities in a new way.

Another one that I really felt connected to was dreams because I’ve always found meaningful symbolism in my dreams and even considered becoming a professional dreamtender. Now, knowing the qualitiesI feel like I know what aspects of my life to cultivate and grow because they resonate with my guardian angel Manakel. The deck is also very useful for learning the Hebrew names of the angels, as well as the different levels of the angelic hierarchy.

I’ve learned so much about each one through reading the associations, and I’ve enjoyed looking up friends’ and family’s birthday cards to see if they reflect traits about them – and they do! This has helped me when giving advice to people too; I could help them to see these attributes they possess, uplifting their perspective and attuning them to their inner gifts.

All in all, The Guardian Angel Oracle Deck is immensely illuminating. The beauty of the angels shines through each card, alleviating all negative feelings and bringing tranquility and peace to any situation. Connecting with your guardian angel is truly a life-changing experience. This meaningful deck will teach you more about your life path and purpose. It’s an incredible access point to connecting with the angelic realm at any time.

The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox

The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox
Graydon House, 1525833014, 368 pages, October 2018

My husband picked up The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox for me at the library because he knows how much I love my witch lit books (yes, what a gem!). What I was not expecting when I started reading was a marvelous GHOST story. As if the tantalizing antique drama coupled with romance is enough to draw one’s attention, there’s more; it’s filled with haunts and frights. Hester Fox has blended genres in this book, adding the perfect amount of spookiness to make it an eerie, yet delightful historical fiction read.

The Montrose family has just relocated from Boston to New Oldbury because scandal caused their reputation in society to be tarnished. While the town and their estate seem rather sleepy and boring, more is lurking beneath the surface than they realize. Though it does take quite a bit of time to uncover the secrets of the energies in play.

Sisters Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline are doing their best to adapt to life in their new town. Catherine, the eldest, desperately misses her life in Boston and is keen on finding a husband. Meanwhile, Emeline, the youngest, is focused on seeking mermaids in the nearby pond. In the middle, Lydia does her best to balance her relationship with both sisters.

Lydia and Emeline’s connection runs deep; it’s as though they are intimately connected in mind and soul. Whereas Lydia and Catherine’s relationship has always felt a bit tenuous and strained by competition and jealousies. Catherine is very confident, flirtatious, and self-centered, while quiet Lydia prefers a good book and little attention. When the dashing Mr. Barrett, their father’s new business partner, comes into the picture, both girls have their feelings stirred.

However, Catherine turns her attention towards Mr. Barrett’s friend, Mr. Pierce, leaving the romance between Mr. Barrett and Lydia to develop quietly, slowly. But that’s not the only thing blossoming in Lydia’s life; she’s being haunted by ghosts in her new home. There’s one who paces outside the window, another that wails throughout the night. Warnings from an ancestor beyond the veil tell her to be cautious, danger is afoot.

When tragedy strikes the Montrose family, Lydia’s life is turned upside. The hauntings start happening more frequently, and there is no one for Lydia to confide in about what she’s experienced. Meanwhile, her family is falling apart: her mother is ill and Catherine is keeping a secret that could utterly destroy everyone’s livelihood. Reality and the unknown are pushing Lydia to wit’s end.

At least she has Mr. Barrett to look after her. But as if all of the family demands, secrets, and hauntings aren’t plentiful enough to keep Lydia on her toes, her ex-fiancé Cyrus is desperately trying to marry her to save his family’s fortune. Willing to get what he wants at any cost, Cyrus threatens to destroy everything Lydia cares for by revealing Catherine’s secret – and one of her own – if she doesn’t agree to be his wife.

Oh yes, Lydia is also having a come-to moment about her own power. Recalling an incident where she harmed a young boy that had ruthlessly killed her pet bunny, Lydia must reckon with her own power she always had tried to deny. She’s strong, but has no one to guide her in understanding who she truly is or how to control the force within.

If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, it’s true! The Montrose family is filled with hidden secrets and the estate is filled with ghostly inhabitants. But what I love about the book is how Fox keeps a very tight storyline. Everyone is in the midst of their own crisis, but the interplay between the characters is brilliant. The book is never confusing or hard to follow, and the build-up makes it a real page turner.

Fox is truly gifted in the way she’s able to transport readers back in time. I felt immersed in the time period of 1820, from the decorum to the speech of the characters. The chillingly haunted aspects were very believable. This isn’t a far-fetched ghost story; it’s almost plausible for those who believe.

Whereas many stories about witches focus on magic as the theme, this was not the case for The Witch of Willow Hall. Though, towards the very end, Lydia realizes her talent with herbs, for the most part her power just keeps attracting ghosts hoping to communicate. I feel like this aspect of witchcraft, the openness to the spiritual realm, is often overlooked, and therefore I was glad that Fox focused on it. It also made for a scarier story than most witch-lit books.

There were little mysteries along the way to discover too, such as what the scandal was that made the Montrose family flee Boston and who the ghosts haunting the Willow Hall estate are. All the while, readers are taken on the journey of a heartfelt love story between Mr. Barrett and Lydia – don’t worry this is not a spoiler. It’s pretty obvious from the get-go, even though they have their twists and turns.

One very shocking event happens mid-story that completely changes the pace of things. I definitely shed some tears, as the sorrow was immense and Fox had done a fantastic job of building emotional connection with the characters. My heart broke right along with the Montrose family.

So there you have it: tragedy, love, mystery, witchcraft, and redemption. Sounds like the ideal blend for a book, right? I think so! The Witch of Willow Hall will definitely be high on my recommendation list. And I was excited to realize that Fox has written three more books since this one was published. I just requested The Widow of Pale Harbor and The Orphan of Cemetery Hill. Then in February, Fox’s next book is being released: A Lullaby for Witches. I’m looking forward to reading that too!

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary, by Tamra Lucid

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: My Seven Years in Occult Los Angeles with Manly Palmer Hall, by Tamra Lucid
Inner Traditions, 9781644113752, 160 pages, December 2021

I have quite the collection of Manly P. Hall books, which I have amassed because I live about two hours outside of LA and can score incredible finds at used book stores. From The Secret Teaching of All Ages to Man: Grand Symbols of the Mysteries, Hall’s books are what I am most proud to display on my bookshelf.

While recently I’ve been reading Hall’s The Secret Destiny of America to better understand the USA’s Pluto return this year, I will admit the aforementioned books haven’t been delved too far into yet. Most of the time, I’m intimidated by the sheer amount of history, knowledge, and occult wisdom stored in the books and feel like they’re not relics rather than learning manuals. I refer to them in dribs and drabs, taking what I need and then quickly shutting it again, almost afraid to unleash the power.

However, reading Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: My Seven Years in Occult Los Angeles with Manly Palmer Hall by Tamra Lucid has completely changed my perception of Hall – in a very good way! Lucid has painted a new picture of Hall for me, granting unique access into his life that reveals so much about his final years.

I love reading fiction books about people in history that I admire. Learning about their personality, daily life, and close association always puts their achievements in perspective for me. It’s easy to deify those we admire, but remembering they are an ordinary person helps to better understand their motivation behind their success.

Lucid and her boyfriend Ronnie, a troubled yet insightful man determined to make some changes in life, discovered The Secret Teaching of All Ages in the early 1980s. The content was life-changing, and they were surprised to find out the author, Hall, was not only still alive but gave talks regularly every Sunday morning. For over 50 years, every Sunday at 11am, Hall would give a lecture at his Philosophical Research Society (PRS) headquarters on various topics. Curious about the content of the book, Lucid and Ronnie decided to attend one.

Ronnie experienced a life-changing moment where it felt as though Hall was speaking directly to him, which many people in Hall’s life claim he had an uncanny way of doing. Following the lecture, Ronnie was eager to make a contribution to PRS, so he and Lucid decided to volunteer.

Ronnie wasn’t sure what he could contribute and was plagued by self doubt. Therefore, when Hall picked Ronnie to edit the bibliography of his alchemical books, he was honored yet doubtful he could fulfill the role. In fact, he told Hall no at first, but Hall insisted. And just like that, Lucid and Ronnie became a part of Hall’s inner circle, ushering in a whole host of characters in their lives.

There were tons of regulars at PRS; each there for their own reasons and the atmosphere was very open to ideas, research, and general philosophical questioning of the Universe. People from all walks of life from gurus to musicians gathered around the hall, making PRS an eclectic, thriving community.

Lucid describes Edith, a hip old woman that taught the couple astrology,  musicians Arthur and Lynn who called their home “New Temple of Freedom”1, Mr. Louis, who’d visit their house and go silently meditate in the corner, and many more! Reading about the variety of people, each on their own spiritual quest, coming together through the PRS community made me see how a sense of belonging can help one to flourish.

And this question of, “What brought you here?” is something that Lucid explores throughout the book for everyone she writes about. This makes the book interesting that she’s not merely just describing people, places, and events; she’s painting a picture of this time period, capturing the atmosphere and highlighting the deeper motivations and personal journey of everyone she writes about.

“We asked Steven what brought him to PRS. A dream. Dreams had been guiding him on an epic journey to gather information from all around the world about alternative and unusual methods of healing involving color, electricity, herbs, elixirs, the recipes of medieval sages like Paracelsus, and the advice of psychics like Edgar Cayce.”2

Meanwhile, Lucid and Ronnie are on their own spiritual journey. For instance, they begin visiting the Seer of the Sunbelt, Reverend Edward A. Monroe, “who would be answering questions about earth change.”3 through his Scottish spirit guide Jock. Another time, Ronnie was having trouble overcoming an illness, so Hall took him to Dr. Sabia to have a session with The Electro Stimulating Machine.

If you try to Google these things, no information comes up. And this is why Making the Ordinary Extraordinary is such a value book for one’s occult collection. There’s little to no records of these things that were happening. And reading about them opens so many doors of perception, as well as topics of research to further inquire about. When you consider this was all happening pre-Internet, you begin to see how unique of a scene this must have been. Reading Lucid’s story helps me to understand what occult Los Angeles was like in the 1980s, and oh how I wish I had been there!

In time, Ronnie began rising in rank at PRS, even delivering his own lectures on Sundays. There’s a really, kind of crazy story too at how Lucid and Ronnie wound up married because of the Halls, with Manly P. Hall as the officiant! Quite abruptly though, Hall subtly forced Lucid and Ronnie out of the PRS community. Things were changing, and Hall knew it.

What ended up happening to the community PRS, splintering and fracturing, was a heartbreaking story. For some reason, even with the great admiration and reverence I have for Manly P. Hall, I had never heard about the sketchy circumstances of his death. Lucid’s experience of leaving PRS and even warning Hall about the people he was surrounding himself with absolutely cast his death in a new light for me.

Hall did at least guide Lucid and Ronnie to this next endeavor: music. Their band Lucid Nation rocks. I totally went and listened to their music after I finished the book. Plus, I was inspired to check out all of Lucid’s other work including writing for Newtopia Magazine and documentaries Exile Nation: The Plastic People, End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock, and Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War. Totally, totally amazing stuff!

But there’s just one more person I have to write about, which I saved for last intentionally because she’s been all I’ve wanted to talk about: Marie Bauer Hall. Lucid delves into Marie’s fascinating theory that Sir Francis Bacon (and his contemporaries) was Shakespeare, detailing how she went to the Burton Church in Virginia to try to dig up his tomb. Marie’s cosmology also involved the Space Mother.

Lucid describes how “In her magnum opus, Inquiry Into the Nature of Space and of Life in Space, Marie expressed optimism that it would be the mother of humanity whose conscience and consciousness would first awaken.”4 I’ve gotten so into researching more about Marie that I even bought God as Mother by Victoria Jennings, who organized and shares Marie’s work in the book. I really hope that more occult historians focus on Marie, from her life as Manly’s wife for decades to her own cosmologies – there is so much to uncover! A real treat is that Lucid includes the recipe for Marie’s zucchini pancakes at the end of the book!

All in all, Making the Ordinary Extraordinary is a must-read for anyone interested in occult history. Manly P. Hall is one of the most well-known modern occultists of our times, and Lucid’s up close and personal stories of working for Hall and being immersed in the PRS is fascinating insider information. Lucid does a wonderful job of sharing her personal experience with objectivity and genuine insight and reflection about the past. While it focuses on time-passed, it opened so many new doors for me to explore going forward; occult Los Angeles lives on through Lucid and Making the Ordinary Extraordinary.

Payback’s a Witch, by Lana Harper

Payback’s a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove), by Lana Harper
Berkley, 0593336062, 352 pages, October 2021

New year, same me reading witch lit 🙂 And my latest book, which I discovered when cleaning out my garage – a perk of the effort, is Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper. As someone who’s read a lot of books, particularly in this genre, I can say with confidence Harper is one of the best writers I’ve ever come across. Payback’s a Witch takes the quality of this genre to a whole ‘nother level!

The premise of the story is that Emmaline Harlow (otherwise known as Emmy or Harlow) has come back to her hometown of Thistle Grove. As a scion of the one of the four magical founders of the town, obligation compels her to return to town in order to fulfill her role as arbitrator in the Gauntlet tournament, which is held every 50 years between the founder’s families to determine who will safeguard the magical wreath and benefit from its power.

But Emmy isn’t super pumped to be back home. Her first night back, she runs into her ex-beau, Gareth Blackmoore, who descends from the family of the most powerful witches in town. He’s a textbook narcissist who never really seems to get what he deserves. The same night though, Emmy also has a reconnect with Talia Avramov, another scion of the founding family most practiced in the dark arts. After quite a few drinks Emmy feels a bit better about running into Gareth and definitely notices a few sensual feelings budding towards Talia.

At breakfast the next morning with her longtime BFF, Linden Thorn, the fourth founder family’s descendent, Emmy is surprised to have Talia join them. Turns out, Emmy isn’t the only one who received the short-end of the stick of Gareth’s arrogance and schemes. He also two-timed Linden with Talia – or vice versa – point is, he was seeing them at the same time when both thought they were exclusive. Now, Liden and Talia want revenge, specifically at the Gauntlet tournament, and they are looking for Harlow to help out.

Harlow is well-aware of her duties to arbitrate without bias, and at first she’s a bit reluctant. She fled the town wanting to forget Gareth, and suddenly the whole time home seemed to be becoming all about him. However, when Talia and Linden point out this goes beyond petty revenge; the balance between the families has become skewed by the Blackmoores repeatedly winning, gaining magical advantage, winning again, and so on in a repetitive cycle.

This has led to them building a giant castle structure of Camelot akin to a Ren Faire that has drawn all the tourists away from more local shops, such as the Thorn’s farm and Aramov’s emporium. If balance is not restored, the unequal distribution of power could see foreclosure in the future for the Aramovs and Thorns. Understanding the greater balance of power among the founding families at risk, Emmy decides she’ll assist, and obviously, foresees some personal enjoyment in bringing down Gareth as well.

What takes Emmy by surprise is how happy she feels to be home. As her magic returns after her long departure from Thistle Grove, she starts to recall all the small joys of the town. Adding to her inner confusion is the romantic sparks between her and Talia. Talia can’t imagine a life away from their hometown, while Emmy is very proud of the life she’s built for herself.

As the Gauntlet plays out, in very twisted and unexpected ways, Emmy discovers there is more to her family’s lineage than she previously realized. Ultimately, she must reckon with the consequences of leaving her family and close friends behind, forgoing her claim to magic, and newly discovered feelings towards Talia to decide what her next step will be.

Luckily, the story doesn’t end here – there is a sequel coming in March! I am very pleased about this because I absolutely adored all the characters. I think there’s so much room for the story to grow. Plus, Harper really knows her stuff when it comes to magic. There’s plenty of diversity among the different types of magic practiced, and reading how they blend together or repel one another is an intriguing part of the story.

This was a fun read with surprising depth. There is the perfect amount of banter, tension, and love between the characters, with plenty of emotion balanced by humor and quirk. I loved reading it as a leisure book to relieve the stress of the day and tap into some magic.

The pace of the book is perfect with one chapter effortlessly flowing into the next, often on a cliff-hanger that compels you to keep reading. There’s also a great blend of fantasy with modernity, which gives the story very relevant magical realism. I love when this happens because I enjoy believing somewhere in Illinois a town like this might just really exist.

My favorite character was Talia since she practices the dark arts, particularly necromancy. Throughout the book, she chats with ghosts and summons her ancestor for guidance. The magical families that lean more towards “life-magic”, specifically the Thorns, are put off by the spookiness of the Avramov family, as Emmy is eager to see their magic, which is usually kept hidden.

Plus, Talia has a deeply caring and compassionate side, wanting to cook for and tend to the needs of those she loves. The relationship between Talia and Emmy is just beautiful to watch unfold. I absolutely love having some lesbian protagonists in a witch lit book! What’s better than two witches falling madly in love? THE ULTIMATE ENDING of the Gauntlet challenge, which is all I will say for now! 🙂

All in all, Payback’s a Witch is a 10/10 from me. Harper is one of the best writers I’ve read in a long time. The story has the perfect flow; the characters are very relatable; and the plot is enticing. I am very excited for the book in The Witches of Thistle Grove series!

Archangel Fire Oracle, by Alexandra Wenman

Archangel Fire Oracle, by Alexandra Wenman and illustrated by Aveliya Savina
Findhorn Press, 1644112787, 40 cards, 144 pages, April 2021

I love angels. Communicating with angels was one of my earliest spiritual experiences. As I continued to connect with angels through books and decks, I discovered sometimes angelic wisdom gets locked in New-Age conventionality and trappings. When I started to explore esotericism and discovered the work of John Dee, I realized there was a magical art to communicating with angels. Sigils became an important part of my work with angels. Since then I’ve been trying to rediscover the relationship between angels and alchemy.

Archangel Fire Oracle by Alexandra Wenman is a true delight to discover for this reason. It goes beyond the positive, affirming messages of other angel oracle decks, connecting the reader with the genuine essence of each angel. The deck is a blend of color healing, alchemy, and angelic knowledge intended to facilitate awakening in the readers. In addition to learning more about each archangel, Women guides readers to tap into the most divine aspects of themselves through the meditations and exercises that facilitate spiritual awareness, transformation, and a deeper connection to the angelic realm.

There are forty archangel cards in this deck. The archangels are grouped in seventeen suits, each based on a healing color ray or sacred flame. I really enjoy visually seeing the archangels through these different color prisms. It adds a visual connection to each angel, as well as helps to identify archangels that are similar in energy.

The cards themselves are beautiful and some of the best depictions of the archangels I’ve ever seen. It’s very clear the illustrator of this deck, Aveliya Savina, had a strong relationship with the angelic realm and a very intuitive understanding of these energies. There is tons of symbolism in the deck, from animals to flowers, that infuse the cards with meaning. All the elements are represented (fire, air, earth, and water), as well as connections to the solar system and earth. There’s also some mythical energy that opens the reader’s consciousness to different realms.

I have so many favorite images in the deck that it’s hard to choose one. For instance, Rikbeil (11) is shown almost wearing a space suit with sweeping pink wings engulfing his body. Then there’s UFO-like flying saucers in the corner of the cards. It’s neat because the cards aren’t pushing alien-angel connection or anything (I’m so leery of that!), but it is an innovative, modern display of the resonate energetic meaning of the card, which reads:

“Rikbiel is known as the “Chief of the Divine Chariot: – the Merkabah. This Cherubim is said to be the “Power of Love” and he helps us to recognize the incredible power of having loving thoughts. A harmonizing angel, who can influence centrifugal force and find the most loving point between two opposing forces, Rikbiel is especially helpful to call on when working in group situations. Rikbie maintains co-operation and promotes open communication. Like the cosmic diplomat in his oracle card, he shows us that when a group strives towards a common goal based in integrity, they can achieve great things.”1

But while Rikbiel has a cosmic unifier vibe, other cards, such as Asariel (22) have aqueous energy. In this card, Asariel is portrayed with a seashell crown, holding a trident. There’s a hermit crab and treasure chest at her feet, while dolphins and an orca whale leap in the background. I’ve loved gazing at it and inviting the marine energy into my aura. The guidebook explains how she calls us to move with flow, trusting our intuition and dreams.

This deck just really stands apart from others due to the masterful artistry, which is relatable and ignites the imagination, prompting readers to understand the archangel’s energy in a way that goes beyond traditional interpretations of them. Savina’s artwork is perfect for contemplation, meditation, and using the cards on an altar, which is what I’ve been doing most frequently.

The guidebook is phenomenal too! For each of the seventeen suits, Wenman provides the corresponding chakra, crystals, essential oils, magical sigils, and star system. This information alone was worth having the deck for because it opens up so many doors for connecting with each angel. I’ve always been very interested in the relationship between constellations and the angels, and this guidebook has been extremely useful for exploring this.

For every archangel, there is an overall description of their essence, a message from them (a quote of guidance, guidance on how to meet the archangel in the energetic realm through visualization, guidance for diamond fire alchemy with the archangel, and a section on becoming the angel (invoking their energy).

What I love about this wealth of wisdom is that it’s suitable for all levels. Beginners will be content to receive a message from the archangels and learn a bit about their energy. Those who are ready to experience the healing of the archangel might want to do the visualization to meet them or the diamond fire alchemy for spiritual healing or transformation. Then for those who feel experienced enough to invoke the archangel, the final section is very useful in how to embody the energy of the archangel.

While the techniques and exercise require a bit of a time or energetic investment on behalf of the reader, they are truly powerful. As I mentioned, I’ve been very interested in learning more about the archangels, their sigils, and their relationship to the constellations. But Wenman’s guide book helps to take my explorations to a new level through the visualizations and invocation exercises. It’s so useful to have guidance about how to connect with the angels in this way, rather than just having to trace sigils out of an old grimoire I found in PDF form.

Overall, Archangel Fire Oracle is the most authentic angel oracle deck that I’ve come across thus far. Wenman and Savina have successfully channeled the archangels into imagery and a guidebook that is relatable, easy to use, and most of all, soul-stirring. The archangels have been liberated from outdated forms and antiquated definitions of their energy. In this deck, the archangels’ essences shine through, opening readers into a current of love, peace, and spiritual transformation.

Confessions of an Egyptologist, by Erich von Daniken

Confessions of an Egyptologist: Lost Libraries, Vanished Labyrinths & the Astonishing Truth Under the Saqqara Pyramids, by Erich von Daniken
New Page Books, 1632651912, 208 pages, September 2021

Doesn’t it sometimes seem like Egypt holds all the secrets to the Universe? It’s easy to get lost in the ancient history of such a vast, expansive empire. I had previously read Erich von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods, and was curious what other hidden history might be revealed in Confessions of an Egyptologist: Lost Libraries, Vanished Labyrinths, & the Astonishing Truth Under the Saqqara Pyramids.

The book starts off with a very violent act of terrorism, but this sets the stage for the story of Adel H. to unfold, who was tragically murdered in the rampage. When the company Adel was working for needed a guide for von Daniken’s group, Adel volunteered, despite von Daniken’s notoriety for asserting his own information. Adel had read von Daniken’s work and was eager to have the opportunity to speak with him, sparking a decade-long friendship.

Throughout their relationship, Adel shares tons of insider information, having come from a family of grave robbers, with von Daniken. Confession of an Egyptologist‘s  primary focus is on one particular experience that Adel had in the Saqqara Pyramids, which changed his life forever and reveals fascinating information about what might still be hidden beneath the pyramids.

Adel had claimed that his family knew of underground structures that dated back even further than we could comprehend – tens of thousands of years at least. This sparked von Daniken’s interest, as he had written about books written longer than 2,000 years ago hidden in underground labyrinths. His own knowledge, plus what Adel shared sparked von Daniken’s curiosity.

“And I could help but wonder under which deserts, settlements, or sanctuaries these labyrinths must be hidden. Where were these lost, underground worlds from distant times? Had they been excavated and then covered up again? If so, by whom? Had these long-forgotten structures become inaccessible due to natural disasters?

And where are the millions of books that were written in the distant past? Were they burned? Damaged? Deliberately destroyed? And if so, again, why? Is the little that we see today all that there is? Or do secret libraries exist, accessible only to hooded guards or members of obscured orders? Who actually had an interest in writing, hoarding, and then hiding books for millenia? Who wanted to make these books disappear again?”1

Suddenly, I became curious about these questions, right along with von Daniken, and this made me eager to continue reading. It is of von Daniken’s opinion that the Egyptians hid these books because they feared a flood. However, humanity has also proven to be just as destructive of knowledge, from Caesar trying to burn down the Great Library of Alexandria to Pope Gregory IX burning Jewish books in the Talmud burning. (For more on the topic of book burning, I highly recommend Burning the Books: A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge by Richard Ovenden, which I’ve been reading this week too.)

As the different theories of why books would be hidden and where they might be, different theories come up between Adel and von Daniken based on their cumulative knowledge. One that was especially interesting was the concept of books being inscribed in precious stones hidden in the artwork on the underground walls. Von Daniken brought up the ancient text The Life of Adam and Eve, which describes how Adam learned how to communicate with a sapphire stone and learned all about astronomy and the earthly calendar.2 Adel had his own experience related to this:

“I saw a sculpture of the goddess Hathor carved into the wall in addition to the strange, tubular objects I described before. Between her eyes, in the middle of her forehead, was something like a precious stone. I clearly remember the indescribable awe I felt that prevented me from prying out the stone.”3

Is it possible that precious stones can communicate knowledge spanning millennia? If so, this would point to an advanced technology of the Egyptians, which might be hard to explain for some, but not for von Daniken. He asserts time is relative, and in both the past and present Earth has had visitors from the skies. Citing multiple witnesses of UFOs, von Dankien ultimately concludes the extraterrestrial intelligence that has come before is now present again on earth. 

To be honest, this felt like a stretch to me, but it was an intriguing concept nevertheless. I just wish it had been substantiated a little better than the assortment of testimonies von Daniken put together, leading to a kind of smorgasbord of ideas trying to pass as a credible theory. So while I wasn’t sold on the ultimately conclusion about alien life present on Earth, I did enjoy another focus of the book: the search for historical labyrinths and the experience Adel confided in von Daniken.

Before proceeding to discuss my thoughts on that content, it’s worth noting that the greatest flaw in the book is the lack of organization and skipping from one subject to the next without any clarity about how they are related. It feels like there could be some loose, easily broken thread connecting the different topics covered, but the book lacked a strong thesis, which made it hard for me to follow along with how one part of the book led to another. It felt like a mis-mash of information, which is often what makes me dubious of the veracity of the content.

As mentioned, the highlight of the book was Adel’s personal story of being stuck in the underground labyrinth of the Saqqara pyramids. While accompanying his father and uncle in a grave robbing expedition, he ended up getting stuck in the pyramid when a rock blocked his path back out.

Noticing a stairway that led downward led to mystical experience for him, filled with intimate relationships with a beautiful young woman and discovery of a mechanical throne, possibly linked to King Solomon’s. He was able to survive and escape with the help of a falcon that guided him to an exit. This is a quick summary, and his experience is recounted in much more detail by von Daniken, but it sounds incredible. It makes one wonder about what’s hidden in the unexplored tunnels underneath the pyramids.

Overall, I got some entertainment from reading Confessions of an Egyptologist. It was interesting to imagine the scenery and experiences of Adel, and I did learn some new information about Egypt from von Daniken. Just like many “conspiracy theory”-esque or outlandish ideas, the book has enough factual information to make it seem plausible, but it is simultaneously riddled with loopholes of confusion and inconsistency. So while I am not full subscribing to the tenets of the book, I am at least glad that I read it for consideration.

Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, by Natalia Clarke

Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, Slavic Earth Goddess, by Natalia Clarke
Moon Books, 1789048788, 104 pages, January 2022

I recently finished season two of the Witcher, which had a prominent focus on the Deathless Mother. The chant to call her goes, “Behold the mother of forests, the Deathless Mother, nesting in dreams. Turn your back to the forest, hut, hut. Turn your front to me, hut, hut.” As I watched, the Deathless Mother started to remind me of Baba Yaga.

I had first encountered (figuratively) at Philadelphia’s der Geischderschtrutz (Parade of Spirits) annually held in dark days of winter. The purpose of the Parade of Spirits is “observance of the shadow side of the self, of the murky times in shortest days of the year, and of shady entities and liminal deities.’1 My first year there, I was challenged to enter the hut of Baba Yaga, but unsure of whether she’d want to eat me alive or provide timeless wisdom, I kept my distance. Even if it was just a custom, the energy was potent and I felt a shiver of fear every time I looked in that direction.

It’s been years since that experience, and though I continued to respect Baba Yaga (my coven’s primary focus is the Sacred Hag, of which one might say Baba Yaga is a archetypal representation of), I had yet to muster the courage to embrace Her in personal life or magical practice. But Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, Slavic Earth Goddess by Natalia Clarke has changed my perception a bit, and I feel like I now view Baba Yaga with a new lens.

Clarke invites the reader to get to know Baba Yaga that goes beyond folklore knowledge. The book is filled with Clarke’s journal entries through the years as she established a connection with Baba Yaga and incorporated this relationship into her own spiritual practice. This presentation style of wisdom is less of a “how-to”, though some suggestions are provided for working with Baba Yaga, and more of a journey into possibility filled with rich, descriptive writing that sets the scene for the magic of this book to unfold.

I appreciated how the book integrated Clarke’s revelations and creative writing with information about Baba Yaga, as it provided a bridge towards Baba Yaga, who otherwise can feel very intimidating to connect with. I am a big fan of Clarke’s intuitive approach to spirituality as described in her book Pagan Portals – Intuitive Magic Practice. In this book, it’s as though she translates her natural intuitions about Baba Yaga into a reference for those wishing to walk Her path.

One of the most unique features of Clarke’s approach to Baba Yaga is her intention to explore Baba Yaga in the context of Earth-based spirituality, rather than fitting Her into “literary, cultural, or societal concepts and beliefs.”2 I find this approach extremely valuable, as my spiritual practice is deeply connected to nature.

In this passage, Clarke illuminates how Baba Yaga feels to her:

“She doesn’t feel like a grandmother or an old Crone with terrifying features. She’s a master shapeshifter, and her essence is that of nature itself. She’s the changing seasons, the leaves in the forest in the autumn and a smell of the coming snow storm. She’s footsteps on the ice and a cold mountain brook. She is like the wind as she flies and in the whooshing sound of a breeze she’s gone. She’s the smoke in the dark and she can be found in animal bones. She is in the smallest insect and the highest tree, the snake hiding in the undergrowth. Illusive, unobtrusive, hardly ever visible and fiercely private. Her dwelling is her own and, on her terms, where everything is just so. It is for no else to make sense of.”3

These words make me feel a spiritually tangible and embodied connection to Baba Yaga, as my senses are opened through envisioning these words. Clarke is able to convey Her essence in this book, which is no easy feat considering Baba Yaga is a deity that prefers to not bother with human affairs, preferring solitude over interruption. I think this is one of the things that in the end draws me towards Baba Yaga, based on Clarke’s experience and description of Her though.

I like that Baba Yaga isn’t for everyone, doesn’t directly answer one’s pleas for answers, and can’t be summoned on-demand. Working with Baba Yaga seems to take determination, self-awareness, and a bit of grit. There’s a chapter called “Bones, Skulls, and Skin Magic” about how incorporating Animal Magic, using bones, skulls, and skins of animals, can strengthen one’s relationship with Baba Yaga. These items aren’t just your typical herbs or crystals, and I think it speaks to the nature of Baba Yaga as a deity.

My favorite chapter in the Book was “Baba Yaga’s Apprenticeship” where Clarke prompts the reader with the question: “How well do you know nature and how you relate to it from within?”4 I thought this was a profound question, and Clarke encourages taking one’s time to find the answer. Meanwhile, to connect with Baba Yaga, Clarke details the necessity of awareness of the elements, seasons, one’s psychology, and one’s spiritual self. Clarke provides prompts on how to work within these areas to become an apprentice of Baba Yaga, leaving the reader with hope that they too can eventually be initiated into Her wisdom.

Another really interesting chapter was “Baba Yaga and Motherhood” where Clarke suggests working with Baba Yaga for “integrating your birth mother or your own inner mother when birthing and mothering you own children.”5 Baba Yaga is not a deity I would have ever considered working with for this purpose, but Clarke’s reasoning that it’s important to accept both the good and bad aspects of ourselves as mother and our own mothers was interesting. For this particular reason, I am feeling more drawn to working with Baba Yaga.

And the last thing I’ll say is that I really think The Witcher is drawing from Baba Yaga’s folklore, and especially even more so after reading the chapter “The Three Horsemen and the Masculine”. In this chapter, Clarke describes how Baba Yaga has three horsemen (red, white, and black) that “represent an archetype of the sacred masculine , in service to the sacred feminine/the Earth.”6 She then describes how the color of The Three Horsemen correspond to different stages of the alchemical process and how working with the cyclical nature of their energy can help to strength one’s bond with Baba Yaga. But red, white, and black as the colors of them? For anyone who’s watched The Witcher Season 2, this is very significant and something I thought was totally cool.

While initiating a relationship with Baba Yaga requires patience and willingness to accept hard truths, Clarke showcases the value of working with Her over time. Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, Slavic Earth Goddess is a wonderful book to learn more about Baba Yaga for anyone considering deity work with Her. And even if Baba Yaga doesn’t seem aligned for a personal deity relationship, there’s still a lot of value in learning more about Her in general, especially if one is interested in nature-based spirituality.

Hoodoo Justice Magic, by Miss Aida

Hoodoo Justice Magic: Spells for Power, Protection and Righteous Vindication, by Miss Aida
Weiser Books, 1578637562, 288 pages, November 2021

Why do so many magical practitioners shy away from getting their hands dirty with messy spellwork – the spellwork meant to curse, hex, harm, and eliminate those who perpetuate injustice? I am not a Hoodoo practitioner, nor do I lean towards baneful magic, but Hoodoo Justice Magic: Spells for Power, Protection, and Righteous Vindication by Miss Aida was calling to me. I felt the need to add some protection to my arsenal of magic, and by selecting this book, I was given an entire army of spells, metaphorically speaking, to fight for and defend myself.

Reading the contents of this book made me feel tough as nails. And this armor was probably necessary, as it can get pretty gruesome. Miss Aida is fierce, and she doesn’t pamper her readers with gentle counsel. You really need to be ready to delve into gritty topics of body fluids and revenge, but with her guidance you’ll have enough know-how to implement successful spellwork.

But what gives grounds for the use of justice magic? Miss Aida explains:

“Sadly, not everyone is guided by moral principles but instead may value power, status, wealth, notoriety, and/or gratifying their own desires. These people believe they are entitled to whatever they wish without having to work for it, and they can and will act out that belief at any cost and without regard for others. They are immoral people.”1

Therefore, those who suffer the consequences of these people need to have their own means of defense and protection. Reading this introduction to the text was a reminder to me that sometimes magical means are necessary to combat injustice, and I appreciated the list of “Immortal Tactics” that describes how this injustice is perpetuated, ranging from deception to theft to physical and emotional abuse.

However, even though I’d come to see the necessity of justice magic, I will admit opening to the concept and spellwork took a bit of de-conditioning. The idea of the meek inheriting the earth and turning the other cheek seems to run deep in my psyche, and though some might deny it, I believe this is true for many magical practitioners.

Miss Aida turned these notions upside for me by including many psalms and prayers, such as The Apostle’s Creed and Hail Mary as part of the spellwork. She notes that retributive Psalm 109 is estimated by historians to date back to 1060 BC, and therefore concludes “The proof of magical payback is right in our very own Holy Bible.”2

Despite being raised Catholic, as I read these verses through a justice magic perspective, for the first time I began to feel the strength and agency within the words. There’s even a section in the chapter “Spells for Justified Curing and Hexing of Your Enemies” that describes how to curse through prayer!

These aren’t the only tools Miss Aidea provides for justice magic though – oh no, this book is filled with tips and techniques ranging from candle magic to insect magic. (Yes, insect magic! I had never realized the power ants have to destroy relationships with the proper spellwork.) Her advice on candle magic is some of the best that I’ve ever read, and the book is honestly worth reading for that chapter alone.

Constantly while reading, I was reminded of the necessity of working with what’s available as a foundation in Hoodoo tradition. While some spells require a bit more preparatory work or specific ingredients, Miss Aida gives tons and tons of options for achieving one’s means quickly and with what is on hand. However, this doesn’t mean this type of magic should be performed willy nilly or immediately just because one feels slighted.

Miss Aida gives plenty of caution about how spells can misfire, including situations where her own spellwork has led to unintended outcomes. With the nature of this type of justice magic, permanent physical damage, even death, can result. Miss Aida reminds practitioners the retaliation should always be equal to what is being done by the perpetrator, and that it is best to wait while deciding if the magic is worth one’s time, energy, and supplies before casting any spells.

These bits of guidance from Miss Adia, along with detailed advice on how to prepare one’s magical space for the work and clear energy afterwards, go a long way in keeping practitioners safe while engaging in this work. I particularly enjoyed the chapter “What’s Your Strategy?” where she lays out seven steps for this work, which help one to discern how and when to pursue justice magic.

Miss Aida covers a lot in these steps, from proper timing to do’s and don’ts of summoning entities. She also does a great job conveying the importance of intention and provides prompts for one to consider when crafting their petition or request to make it as specific as possible, leaving little room for unintended consequences.

I don’t think of myself as a very spiteful person, but reading through some of the spells, such as “Gag the Gossip” and “Dog Doom”, which includes dog poop as a spell ingredient, got me thinking about some people I’d like to try these out on. Honestly, I probably won’t perform them in the near-future, but just knowing I can always pull from this book makes me feel more confident that I can take care of myself through magical means if necessary.

Hoodoo Justice Magic seriously seems to have a spell for just about every defensive, protective, and vengeful aim one might want to pursue. Chapter topic includes sending enemies away, binding enemies, cursing and hexing, and breaking up relationships. But it’s not a “how-to” manual. Miss Aida writes as though she’s right there next to you, giving you small tips and reminders from her personal experience.

One example of this is when writing about a sweetening spell, she describes how it might make one have positive feelings or thoughts towards you, but it doesn’t necessarily promote action and therefore additional spellwork may be required. That little gem of wisdom is valuable to know if one chooses to do that type of spellwork.

Where her expertise really shines in the area of using ingredients for spellwork that are often considered taboo, such as bodily fluids or excrements. From vomit to semen, Miss Aida teaches how these can be potent facilitators of energy for magic. And she really ensures, to the best of her ability as an author, that a practitioner will not harm themselves in the process of performing justice magic.

When discussing gathering items that contain the DNA of one’s target of the spellwork, she reminds the reader to never let the item also have their own DNA on it. Other practical tips include how to obtain, refrigerate, and store secretions. It’s all quite interesting, especially the section on dominating others through your own urine. There’s even a good deal of information on how to gather graveyard dirt.

While all these items are common for Miss Aida’s Hoodoo practice, for me this opened up a whole new world. While at times I felt a bit icky about things, reading about how to use natural waste and human fluids in my magic actually made me feel more at ease with my own human nature. I found myself saying “Yuck!” less and instead wondering, “How could I use this as a magical ingredient?” It’s really eye-opening to see how much goes to waste that holds magical potency. Miss Aida has a way of shining light on the magic within the mundane.

All in all, Hoodoo Justice Magic is a book I am thrilled to add to my collection. It’s out of my comfort zone in so many ways, but Miss Aida has done a wonderful job of making the spellwork accessible to all levels. I feel like I will be less scared to shy away from needed confrontation and more willing to take justice in my own hands when necessary because of the knowledge this book has given me. It’s by far the best book on defensive and protective magic that I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it to those seeking to expand their repertoire of spellwork.

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.