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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.

Conjuring Dirt, by Taren S

Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards, by Taren S
Moon Books, 1803413328, 176 pages, October 2023

I love dirt. My father is a ceramic artist, so unlike other kids whose parents might have tried to keep them tidy, I was always encouraged to play in the mud and eventually learn how to shape clay into bowls and mugs. From there, my enjoyment of dirt, and nature in general, led me down a path of environmental science; I’ve studied the microbes in dirt and learned how soil’s nutrients are vital for the growth of plants, which keep us alive through a balanced ecosystem.

But beyond the mind-blowing scientific study of interconnectedness through the ground beneath our feet, I’d never realized the potency of dirt from a magical perspective prior to reading Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards by Taren S. This book has opened a whole new realm of magic to me, which I’ve been eager to embrace!

Taren is a seasoned magical practitioner with roots in the Carolinas, though she now lives in California. For over a decade she’s worked as a spiritual counselor and tarot card reader at a Haitian Voodoo Doctor’s botanica. She is initiated as a High Priestess within American Witchcraft and as a Mama Bridget within American Voodoo/Hoodoo. In Conjuring Dirt, she shares a lot about her personal path, giving readers perspective into how she’s learned this craft as well as the traditions behind the content of the book.

“We all have sacred and special dirt specifically to us. When we go back through memories we can ground into the land, and we can build new memories through the land. This in itself is a magical spiritual journey.”1

In this book, Taren teaches readers about three categories of dirt: Graveyard, Crossroads, and Purposeful (Footprint). She dedicates lengthy chapters to each one, giving the reader a full sense of the powerful energy held within the dirt and the many ways each one can be utilized in magickal workings.

She starts with Purposeful Dirt, noting that it’s the “most common and easily accessible”2 kind. Since it’s very versatile, Taren describes ways this dirt can be used for cleansing, banishing, and spellwork. She teaches about the types of spirit of place, such as Ancestral spirits and Land spirits, and how to connect and work with these spirits. Then she covers “spirit of the root” and how to unite with plants as allies. The list of plants and herbs and the way they can be used, which spans a whole ten pages, is immensely valuable to all practitioners, especially those new to working with plants and herbs.

Reading over parts of this section made me think of the land in a new way; did you know you can use the dirt from banks, casinos, and libraries for magickal purposes such as prosperity spells, amulets, and building knowledge?! Prior to this, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the dirt or spirit of these places. Now everywhere I go, I’m thinking about the energy of my surroundings, taking time to pause and attune to the spirit of the place, and think creatively about how the dirt might be utilized.

Crossroads Dirt comes from the liminal spaces where “two different environments meet or intersect but is technically neither extreme.”3 At these intersections, boundaries are thinner; it can feel like stepping out of time as multiple directions become available, prompting initiated action before the moment passes by.

“The meaning of crossroads is all about liminal space. Liminal space is that in-between point that means both we are neither here, nor there. Liminal space as represented by crossroads points to 100% potential and opportunity. It is the place where magick happens because it is that slight crack when/where anything can happen.”4

In this section, Taren provides an overview of the global lore about crossroads, revealing similarities between cultures while also highlighting each one’s unique lore. She also covers crossroads and witches, crossroads in dreams and modern magic, the significance of ley lines, and offers a crossroads tarot spread.

After sharing about crossroad magic in general, Taren goes more in-depth about Crossroad Dirt specifically. She teaches readers about the different types of crossroads one might gather dirt from and the significance of soil from each one. She covers how best to collect the dirt, petition the crossroads, and offers a ritual to open the crossroads. Other workings Taren provides are for propensity, a spell to forget, and banishing.

Last but not least, the section on Graveyard Dirt. Taren explains Graveyard Dirt “is used to employ the spirit of the one buried for your intentions.”5 Taren covers so much in this section, from symbols on grave markers to gathering dirt from the roots of cemetery trees, and it completely opens new doors for readers. This section alone could be a whole book! But one emphasis that comes through strongly is showing respect for the deceased. I like how Taren always reminds readers to mind their manners above all else!

While reading the section on Graveyard Dirt, I’ve decided it’s high time I go visit my ancestor’s graves and leave an offering. I don’t plan on taking any dirt this time, but I would like to begin cultivating a relationship with them, learning more about who they were in life and how I can maintain a relationship with them in their afterlife. To start, my dad and I decided we are going to begin purchasing grave markers for the family member’s burial sites he’s found that do not have them.

All in all, Conjuring Dirt is a wonderful resource for all spiritual practitioners. I would go as far to say it’s been my favorite magical book I’ve read in 2023! Taren does such a wonderful job sharing all she knows to help readers begin to incorporate dirt in their workings. Her style of talking straight makes readers feel she really has their best interest at heart, ensuring they’re doing things the right way and not making trouble for themselves down the line. This book is sure to reshape your perception of the land beneath your feet and give a deeper appreciation for the magic held within the dirt we often take for granted or overlook.

Magical Tarot, by Madame Pamita

Magical Tarot: Your Essential Guide to Reading the Cards, by Madame Pamita
Weiser Books, 1578638119, 272 pages, November 2023

As a tarot reader for over a decade, I admit that I take the cards face value. I no longer really see the imagery, rather I just notice the name of the card and immediately jump to my own interpretation of it. Reading Magical Tarot: Your Essential Guide to Reading the Cards by Madame Pamita has been an opportunity to slow down my readings and truly connect with what is being depicted in the artwork of each card, unlocking new perspectives about the spiritual messages being revealed.

“Much more than a device to see the future, the tarot is a powerful book of esoteric knowledge in the form of cards.”1

Madame Pamita is a Ukrainian-American witch and quite an accomplished occult practitioner. She runs an online spiritual apothecary called Parlour of Wonders, hosts workshops, teaches witchcraft, reads tarot for individuals and group events, and hosts podcasts Magic and the Law of Attraction and Baba Yaga’s Magic. Her previous publications include The Book of Candle Magic (the best book on candle magic I’ve ever read!) and Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft.

In the introduction, Pamita describes how she wrote this book for her students to ”guide them as to the meanings of the cards from the truly positive perspective that the cards contain, but also show them how they can expand far beyond traditional readings and use the cards as tools for manifesting and attracting the best life experiences ever.”2

To achieve this goal of manifesting greatness, Pamita starts with the basics for readers, explaining the law of attraction and how magic can be used to focus one’s intention. After a quick esoteric history lesson on the tarot, she shares suggestions for how readers can build their own relationship with the cards. Pamita then describes the art of affirmations to the readers and teaches readers how to get quick, magical manifestation results using the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot cards. 

The bulk of the book though is her description of each tarot card, leading the readers through the whole deck suit by suit, starting with the numerical minor arcana cards (Ace-ten), then covering the court cards, and finally moving onto the major arcana cards. I appreciated this approach of beginning with the minor arcana and slowly going suit by suit, rather than immediately diving into the major arcana, which is the approach of many other tarot books.

For every card, Pamita goes into depth about the imagery on the card and what the different symbolism means in regard to its overall meaning. Then Pamita supplies a list of the key symbols in the card and what they represent, a list of what the card signifies in a reading, a journal question to explore the card more deeply, and an affirmation.

Her analysis draws attention to aspects of the cards one might normally overlook or simply might not have the background knowledge to see in the way she’s explaining. She sometimes refers to the numerology of the card or brings up unique ways of how to view the card, such as seeing the Knight of Cups’ relationship to Hermes due to his shoes. For the Three of Pentacles, Pamita writes about the way triangles being pointed upward and downward represent the different elements alchemically. All these little tid-bits of information come together to open the reader’s perception of what’s really going on in the card beyond just the surface level visuals. I found her explanations to be very grounding, as in they make you think from within the card’s settings. 

While the general meaning of each tarot card is easily found online, the more nuanced mystical symbolism of the cards is not as readily accessible. Pamita does a good job of turning the cards on their head for readers to gain new insight to the essence of energy of the card. For instance, the Seven of Swords has always been a card that I associate with deceit or theft with a negative connotation, but in her analysis of the card, Pamita writes:

“What if the guys he’s stealing from are some really bad dudes and he’s one of the good guys stopping them from slaughtering innocent people with those swords? What if he’s just taking back what rightfully belongs to him? What if he’s not stealing the swords from an enemy but playing a prank on some friends? Maybe he’s not taking the swords at all, but merely rearranging them. One of the things that this card always awakens in the savvy reader is the idea that there may be more than one side to the story and that the way of the Trickster is to show us that are not always what they appear to be.”3

This insight was really impactful and helped me to shake out of the habits I have when reading the cards. For those like me who are often looking for concrete meanings, Pamita helps to widen this perspective to encompass the “what if” and see the energy of the card in a new light.

I also really appreciated the journal questions and affirmations included. All questions were meaningful and prompted me to explore inwardly for a few minutes to come up with an answer. I also have been enjoying using the affirmations daily when I have a moment to reflect. My next step is going to be intentionally using the affirmations magically, choosing the cards whose energy I want to work with rather than just being more passive right now and exploring what card comes up in my daily pull.

Overall, I highly recommend Magical Tarot for those looking to bring a bit more perspective into their readings. This book would be perfect for beginners, but it also can be immensely beneficial to skilled readers that feel their practice has grown a little stale. Discovering the esoteric secrets of the tarot symbolism is quite illuminating, opening new psychic doorways through visual engagement. You might even find yourself, like I am, starting to doodle the symbolism, deepening my connection with imagery on the cards. There are new worlds waiting to be explored and Pamita has done a wonderful job of guiding us over the threshold into magical terrain.

2024 Witch’s Diary, by Flavia Kate Peters and Barbara Meiklejohn-free

2024 Witch’s Diary – Northern Hemisphere: Reclaiming the Magick of the Old Ways, Flavia Kate Peters and Barbara Meiklejohn-Free
Rockpool Publishing, 1922579289, 160 pages, June 2023

A witchcraft diary is a unique and personal account of an individual’s experiences and practices within the craft. It can serve as a valuable tool for self-reflection, growth, and learning, as well as a historical record for future generations. Yet as many times as I’ve made the resolution to keep better records of my magical workings, inevitably I lose focus or realize I’ve started in one journal only to switch to another, mixing up all my writing. This year, with the intention to track my practice throughout the year, I’ve done myself a favor by getting a copy of 2024 Witch’s Diary – Northern Hemisphere: Reclaiming the Magick of the Old Ways by Flavia Kate Peters and Barbara Meiklejohn-Free.

“The 2024 Witch’s Diary, a magickal tool from which you can draw ancient wisdom, enables you to thrive in balance and harmony with a sprinkle of very real magick. This practical guide will show you how to harness the magick of nature, claim your personal power through the discovery of ancient wisdom and embrace the divine feminine.”1

Peters and Meiklejohn-Free are a formidable duo as prominent leaders in the witchcraft community. They published their first Witch’s Diary in 2022, making this one their third joint creation. Peters, also known as the Faery Seer, is a hereditary witch and high princess of Arnemetia and The Morrighan. She is a medium, clairvoyant, and published author of works such as Your Dark Goddess. Meiklejohn-Free, also known as the Highland Seer, is a hereditary and eclectic witch who is an initiated high priestess of Isis and the Cailleach.

This planner is a great tool for any practicing witch. It offers a comprehensive guide to the phases of the moon and eclipses, seasonal spells, and other important dates to keep in mind when planning rituals and spells, such as the birthday of famous witches. Also included throughout the dairy are witchy tips, innovations, details about the Wheel of the Year, planting and harvesting timing, and recipes! All this information would be especially helpful for beginners on their witchcraft path, as the month to month  guidance helps to establish a year-round practice.

One of the standout features of the witchcraft planner is its beautiful design. The pages are adorned with stunning illustrations and wisdom that inspire and motivate. The contrast of black and white work in tandem to aesthetically coax out the magic within. Plus, the diary is sturdy and well-made; it will be able to withstand daily use and travel.

Even though I haven’t started writing in the diary yet, I’ve been making use of the incantation provided for October and November. For instance, there’s a really powerful chant titled “Samhain Incantation” that I recited on Halloween. It begins:

Cauldrons boiling, lanterns are shing
Ghouls and ghosts, groans and whining
Parties sweep across the land
Children, adult, hand in hand
Time of fun but must remember
As fires burn bright and glow with embers
Our ancestors who walked before
We honour thee and ask for more
2

Other interesting things I’ve read about in the pages transition from October to November include kitchen witch information about elderberry and a recipe for making a cordial to fight the flu and sinusitis, a pentagram incantation for protection, weather magic and incantation, and moon magic ritual. The authors also provide an overview of November from a magical perspective, writing “These harsh, biting days are a good time to defend  yourself and define your boundaries with others and for darker magick to ward off harm.”3

As someone who often consults various books to find incantations, it’s absolutely lovely having so many to choose from in this planner. Even better, the authors have arranged them in accordance with the seasons, making it so the timing of the incarnation is always good. The #lazywitch in my is thrilled to have this all laid out for me in advance.

Overall, 2024 Witch’s Diary is an essential item for any witch looking to organize and enhance their spiritual journey. Its beautiful design and useful information make it a valuable tool for both individual and group practice (coven organization!). I am confident this diary will be immensely beneficial to my craft, assisting me with gaining new insights into my practice and deepening connection to the natural world through honoring the seasons of the year. I highly recommend this diary for other magical practitioners seeking an all-in-one place for tracking and planning their craft.

A Tea Witch’s Grimoire, by S.M. Harlow

A Tea Witch’s Grimoire: Magickal Recipes for Your Tea Time, by S.M. Harlow
Weiser Books, 1578638216, 208 pages, October 2023

I read the most delightful book recently: Afternoon Tea Is the New Happy Hour by Gail Greco. This book gave me plenty of tantalizing ideas for teas, small plates, and other sweet treats to enjoy, BUT it didn’t venture into the magical aspects of tea, which is what I’m always looking to include in my daily routine. Luckily, A Tea Witch’s Grimoire: Magickal Recipes for Your Tea Time by S.M. Harlow has amply provided the mystical wisdom of tea that I’ve been craving.

“In the daily practice of the magical arts, the spirit desires enlightenment but also seeks nourishment and comfort. By our hands, we create earthly substances of vast power, and by our hearts, we tend to the fires of our soul.”1

Tea witch Harlow infuses this whole book with love for her craft. She shares how her grandmother, “a true Wise Woman”2, was constantly healing family and friends with her unique conceptions, seeming to just know what remedy was needed. In the same spirit of generosity and warmth, Harlow carries on the tradition of passing along knowledge by sharing what she’s learned in her on-going journey of mastering tea magic with readers.

The book starts right at square one, providing a description of tea, guidance on how to prepare and store herbs, covering the tea tools needed for this practice. I remember when I first got into drinking loose-leaf tea that I didn’t have the right items to steep it in, nor did I have a proper tea cup. So it’s worth reviewing the basics just to make sure you’re ready for the endeavor, especially if you’ll be preparing your own herbs too.

As for the teas Harlow shares, where do I start?! Well, she beings with remedies, which includes things such as happiness tea and purification tea, but also psychic protection and astral travel tea. I see this section as having all the tea rituals for what people would usually cast a spell for (binding, courage, friendship are just a few more teas covered!). She then covers teas for the moon phases and esbats (full moon each month), tea for every zodiac energy, and sabbat teas (Imbolc, Mabon, and so on). There’s even a section on creating blossoming tea, where the leaves unfurl when put in water.

For all of these teas, not only does Harlow provide the exact recipe, she also leads readers through the entire ritual, from what items are needed, how and when to prepare the tea, and what to focus on when drinking the tea. Some tea rituals are a bit more elaborate than others. It can vary from Harlow simply recommends a certain color mug to drink it from to  a long list of specific items such as crystals, candles, salts, honey, and more.

For instance the items called for November’s Yarrow Moon Tea Esbat include “a black altar cloth, 1 white candle, heat-safe plate, 8 snowflake obsidians, an oil burner, Wisteria and lilac with a base oil, 1 bay leaf, a black and white mug, strainer.”3 I have no doubt all of these items blend together to truly create magic, but I certainly wouldn’t have these things lying around! Therefore it’s important to plan ahead and make sure you have time to gather all the ingredients and items needed for your tea ritual.

As for the ritual, Harlow guides readers to do a variety of things to enhance their spells. There’s the usual visualizations and chants, but at times she encourages readers to spit into their tea (break hexes), salute the energies around you, or speak aloud your intentions. Harlow also provides an entire section on reading tea leaves for divination, known as tasseography, where a list of symbols helps readers to know the messages coming through.

Beyond the specific rituals, Harlow provides a plethora of information about tea magic in general, including tea sigils, properties of various crystals, and uses of tea remnants in spellwork. Additionally, there’s an entire chapter on potions, as well as guidance for creating aromatic oils and vinegar, alcohol and milk tinctures, and moon water.

Finally, the chapter “Tables and Correspondences” is worth its weight in reference gold. It includes a table of brewing times based on tea type and a table of measurement conversions. There’s also a list of intentions/goals and the herbal correspondences, along with a sections on the elemental attributes of herbs and herbal substitutions  o further help readers learn how to successfully create their own tea blends or alter the recipes she’s provided based on what one has available.

The book itself is a sturdy hardcover, which makes me feel it will be resistant to the spills that will ultimately happen as I am trying to turn a page while brewing my tea! There’s a whimsical quality to the illustrations, and they really provide an aesthetically pleasing browse through the text.

For those just learning about the magical aspects of tea, A Tea Witch’s Grimoire is a great place to start, though experienced tea witches certainly will also appreciate the compendium of recipes and rituals. Readers can reference this book year-round to trying out the different tea rituals as the seasons change, establishing their own relationship with the herbs. Or they can use the guidance of Harlow to manifest their will through the tea rituals, attracting or banishing what they want from their worlds, while also looking to the leaves for messages about the future. Harlow has created a true treasure trove of tea wisdom, and I for one am excited to start crafting my next brew!

Celebrity Spirit Oracle, by Kerrie Erwin

Celebrity Spirit Oracle: Inspiring Messages From the Famous Icons, by Kerrie Erwin and illustrated by Ellie Grant
Rockpool Publishing, 1925946584, 112 pages, 36 cards, August 2023

Celebrities have a magnetic pull; there’s something about them that draws millions of people’s attention worldwide, serving as an icon, role model, and inspiration for the general public. We look up to them, and in turn they provide us with entertainment, inspiration, and guidance on how to live our best lives. It’s not surprising then to realize their impact continues beyond their life on earth, living on in spirit, with their strong presences still intact. In Celebrity Spirit Oracle: Inspiring Messages From the Famous Icons, Kerrie Erwin channels the wisdom of some of the most beloved celebrities of our time, opening the doorway for readers to feel their energy and receive healing messages.

“These authentic and very real messages are simply for inspiration, wisdom, healing, and to inform and encourage self-reflection, which will lead to action and create change.”1

Erwin is a medium and clairvoyant who has also studied hypnotherapy, past-life regression, Australian Bush & Bach Flowers, reiki, and crystal bowl healing. She is also a talented writer and has published numerous books including Mediumship: Your Guide to Connect, Communicate (2021), Clearing: Your Guide to Maintaining Energy (2019), Sacred Space (2016), and Learning to Work with the Tarot Cards and Energy as a Light Worker (2013). Her most recent book is Spirit Rescue: Clear Negative Energy and Free Earthbound Souls, published in April 2023.

The illustrations for Celebrity Spirit Oracle were created by Ellie Grant. Her style, which absolutely shines through in this deck, is bright and colorful. Her website describes her style as “inspired by sci-fi and fantasy art, pop culture, comic book art and mythology,”2 all of which come together to capture the larger-than-life persona of these celebrities! Other decks she’s illustrated include Angels Among Us and Goddesses Among Us (one of my personal favorite decks!).

Each card in the Celebrity Spirit Oracle showcases the celebrity how we best remember them, whether it be in their sports jersey or an iconic outfit, along with the card number, their name and a one-sentence message. All the images are jazzy and exuberant. And what strikes me most about the cards is how well Grant has captured the essence of the celebrities in their facial features! The way she has illustrated the celebrities makes it feel like you’re truly locking eyes with them, creating a spirit to spirit connection.

While the cards are numbered, making it easy to look up and find out more about the meaning of your pull. In the guidebook, Erwin also explains how the celebrities in the deck are categorized by their dominant archetype; there are twelve archetypes in total, making it three celebrities per archetype. Every archetype has its own affirmation and goal, which provides further insight for readers about the card they pulled.

Looking at the description of each card, you’ll see the celebrity name, their archetype, the one-sentence message, additional keywords describing the celebrity, a little biography, the message shared from the celebrity during Erwin’s seance with them, and the meaning of the card.

Yes, you read that right, Erwin used her skills as a medium to communicate with the celebrities during seances. Reading about the celebrities’ energies in the séances and the messages they share is my favorite of this deck; this aspect really makes it feel like more than just the usual oracle deck, though the messages are just as impactful! Here’s what she shares about Marilyn Monroe:

“When Marilyn came through in the séance she was childlike, funny and gentle. She talked very fast about how she loved a lot of people she had left behind and was sorry for the mistakes she made in trusting the wrong people.”3

The card that I’ve pulled two days in a row now is Prince, who has two archetypes: outlaw-magician. It’s some fun energy to be working with. 😀 Part of the message of this card reads:

“If you have chosen this card it may be reinvention time. Dig deep within and find the passion and expression to connect intimately and intuitively with the cosmic force of the universe and all its beauty.”4

Not only does this message really resonate with Prince’s energy and what he inspired others to do during his life, it also speaks to the stage of life that I’m in right now. I can feel the waves of changes coming in. Rather than be scared and try to shut out this new energy, this card reminds me to open up and connect more deeply with the forces in play; I can let myself merge with the flow and find joy in how things all come together.

Overall, Celebrity Spirit Oracle is a quite fun and interesting deck to work with. Erwin has done an amazing job channeling the wisdom of the celebrities into practical messages. Plus the mediumship aspect of the deck reminds readers how our spirit and energy live on, and we too can tap into the energies of these celebrities to manifest change in our life. Whether you are new or experienced when it comes to oracle decks, this Celebrity Spirit Oracle is approachable, genuine, and very enjoyable to read with!

The Madonna Secret, by Sophie Strand

The Madonna Secret, by Sophie Strand
Bear & Company, 159143467X, 608 pages, August 2023

A tale as old as time, the tragic story of lovers parted by fate, is what one might expect for a Shakesphere play, but the roots of Christianity? Not so much. Yet the tale artfully woven together in The Madonna Secret by Sophie Strand is by far the most epic love story I have read to date.

Strand is an enticing writer, drawing the reader slowly into the stories with descriptive words that bring the setting to life. Her website describes how her work “focuses on the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, and ecology” 1 These themes clearly come through in The Madonna Secret, which is a historic fictional novel based on the gospel through a feminist lens.

The story is centered upon Miriam of Bethany and her family, including siblings Lazaros (Lazarus), known for his resurrection by Jesus, and Marta (Martha). The family dynamics are centerfold for this story, highlighting gender inequalities and “norms” in both religious and social context. Miriam dances to the beat of her own heart, but struggles with finding her place when she doesn’t fit in with the women and yearns for the knowledge of scripture limited to men’s access only.

Through attending births with her housemaid Kemet, who is from Egypt, Miriam learns the secrets of herbal healing and that she, surprisingly, has the ability to heal people with her touch. However, she is also prone to fits and fainting, which others believe is from demon possession. Her ability and episodes sparks many questions as she seeks to know more about her healing ability – why can she heal some and not others? Is this a power from God or could it be used for harm too? How is she even able to perform such feats?

Despite her deep internal quest, Miriam’s life as a young woman of this time continues forward, and she becomes betrothed to a wealthy spice merchant. Yet when she suffers another episode, her family decides it’s in her best interest to seek healing. Miriam and Lazoros set out on a quest, and soon enough, they find themselves at the camp of Yochanan. Yochanan is not the only healer here though; much of the community also revels in the stories of Yeshua around the campfire. There’s a subtle undercurrent of a growing divide between the two men.

At this juncture, Miriam and Yeshua both feel the inexplicable pull of destiny as their paths cross more. However, now that she’s been healed, Miriam returns to her life in Bethany. Without giving too many spoilers into the twists and turns of their love story, I will say the rest of the story follows the passionate romance between Miriam and Yeshua. Their similarities and contrasts both, pulling them together and repelling them at the same time, shaping the fate of the world in the meanwhile.

Now that the general premise is outlined, and keeping in mind this is a 600-page book filled to the brim with details, textures, and revelation that my short synopsis hardly covers, I need to share my own feelings about the text: I have been permanently internally shifted, turned around, and rearranged after reading this book on the deepest level. The profound places Strand’s writing was able to take me within myself, uncovering buried parts of my psyche and cracking open my heart, has left me a new person. I know this might sound dramatic or perhaps an embellishment, but it truly is not.

Thus far in my life, as an avid reader, I have never experienced the afterglow I’ve been basking in from this book. All the sorrow, grief, and love bundled within have been pouring through me and silently working their magic. It’s been over a week now and I haven’t been able to move onto a new book yet because everything else feels shallow in comparison. The Madonna Secret has hold on me; the message of the story has sunk deep into my bones, activating my consciousness, allowing me to perceive the evolution of Christianity in a new light.

As someone who has studied Christianity through a feminist lens, nothing has tied pieces together for me more than this book. And I think it’s the power of narrative, which Strand has mastered, that is what propels shifts in consciousness. It’s one thing to read the actual gospel, another to read feminist theologian’s perspectives based on their academic research, but to take the source material and transform it into such a profound story is brilliance and talent beyond comprehension. I’m so thoroughly impressed by Strand’s writing ability and keen insight into how all these pieces fit together.

The Madonna Secret is a story that will continue to live on in my heart forever. Upon reading the last sentence, I quietly – and completely unconsciously – whispered to myself, “This is the best book ever…”. I had no words; the activation of my soul was in motion. I’ve done my best to string together cohesive thoughts in this review, yet even as I’m writing, all I’m feeling is the love within my body that has taken residence since bearing witness to Miriam’s journey. 

Strand has truly rewritten the narrative of Christianity in a way that makes sense and heals. I hope to see the activation of this book spread far and wide, which is why I have already gifted copies of it to those I know will be open to its message. Little by little these shifts in consciousness, which reconnect the material and spiritual, realigning humanity and nature, masculine and feminine, and the mundane and divine, is what will create a new world view. Strand is a pioneer voice, reshaping the mythos and landscape to give voice for those who need it most: the land, the animals, the outcasts, and the women!

As Miriam says:

“I am here for the trees. The women. The children. The birds. I am not here for the men who would hurt them all.”2

Lunar Tarot, by Jayne Wallace

Lunar Tarot: Manifest your dreams with the energy of the moon and wisdom of the tarot, by Jayne Wallace
CICO books, 1800652658, 64 pages, 78 cards, October 2023

The gentle energy of the moon always soothes and calms me, especially when I’m feeling unsettled or anxious, as it reminds me of the cyclical nature of life. Often while stargazing, I find myself wishing I could bottle up the sense of peace and tranquility of the moon’s lights. While I’ve yet to capture the moon’s rays in a jar, Lunar Tarot by Jayne Wallace has done quite a wonderful job channeling the energy of the moon for me to draw upon for guidance and advice when in need.

Wallace is a naturally-gifted clairvoyant who specializes in intuitive counseling, angel cards, psychometry, and tarot cards. She’s previously published tarot decks, including The Angel Tarot, The Moon & Stars Tarot, The Mythic Goddess Tarot, and The Magical Nordic Tarot.

This deck is similar in design to her others with the name of the card at the top and a keyword or two at the bottom. But the images are unique and fitting for the theme of lunar energy. Wallace writes in the guidebook, “I teach you how to tap into your lunar intuition and capture the power of the Moon when you read the cards.”1

In the colorful guidebook, Wallace offers three spreads: Moon Cycle, Crescent Moon, and The Lunar Clock. Each spread draws upon the divine wisdom of the moon, and Wallace shares the best time in the moon cycle to do the reading. My favorite part of her offered spreads is that she provides a short incarnation for each one to begin the reading.

Wallace provides keywords, meaning, insight into the imagery, a lunar message, and moon mantra for every major arcana card. She provides lots of information about the moon phase featured in the card, often going into the astrological correspondence of the card too. The cards all have the traditional tarot meaning, but Wallace frames her interpretation of the card’s meaning with a gentle, self-reflective energy, prompting readers to question deeper or take necessary action.

For the minor arcana, Wallace goes into detail about the suits and moon phases, describing the relationship between each one. Wands have New Moon energy; Swords have First Quarter Moon energy; Cups have Full Moon Energy, and Pentacles have Third Quarter Moon Energy. Though I am a seasoned tarot reader, seeing the cards through this lens provided new understanding and an opportunity to expand my perception of the cards. Wallace also provides a reference table for the theme of card numbers, regardless of suit, and a helpful paragraph on the significance of court cards.

While the minor arcana cards only have keywords, meaning, and a paragraph-long description of the card’s meaning, with the extra layers of the moon phase and numerology to reflect on too, there’s more than enough to draw upon for insight.

The major arcana cards all have a color palette of blue, greys, and whites, making them feel mysterious like the Moon. Meanwhile, the minor arcana cards are color-coded by suit and simply have the number of symbols representing the suit (i.e. five cups for the Five of Cups). The court cards feature characters with a mixture of skin tones and facial features, making this deck feel very inclusive to all people.

My favorite major arcana card is the Empress. The Empress has a crown of stars above her head, while her stomach is the ripe full moon, which she cradles protectively. The keyword on the card is “Rebirth” and the guidebook reads:

“Look and you will see the evidence and benefits of your recent efforts. New life, beauty, and abundance should abound. You will also want to nurture yourself to try to reclaim your equilibrium.”2

Meanwhile, my favorite minor arcana imagery is Pentacles. The pentacles look like big gold saucers with a star in the middle and jewels around the edges. A big, bright full moon shines in the background of these eye-catching yellow cards.

One thing I really like about this deck is the balance of masculine and feminine energy. The Moon is typically associated with feminine energy, but Wallace does a wonderful job of bringing a soft energy to the traditional masculine cards, such as the Emperor, Hanged Man, and Hermit, which makes them more approachable. For those who have found these energies a bit foreboding, this deck offers a chance to discover a more relatable bond with these cards.

Overall, this beautiful and mesmerizing deck yields readings that feel open-hearted and intuitive. I highly recommend Lunar Tarot for my fellow selenophiles that want to further connect with the spiritual wisdom of the moon. This deck is a good way for those who enjoy tarot to get better acquainted with the moon cycles and tune into guidance that each phase holds. Wallace helps readers to find balance in the ever-changing flow of life, creating opportunities to discover the magic through it all.

Real Sorcery, by Jason Miller

Real Sorcery: Strategies for Powerful Magick, by Jason Miller
Weiser Books, 1578638003, 256 pages, July 2023

Sorcery, the wielding mystical powers and tapping into otherworldly energies has captivated human imagination since the dawn of time. It is no wonder that sorcery has been a popular subject in literature, movies, and even video games. But what exactly is sorcery? How does it work? And can it really be practiced in the real world? These answers and more can be found in Real Sorcery: Strategies for Powerful Magick by Jason Miller, who assures readers that magic is real and with consistency and dedication everyone has the ability to become a sorcerer.

I was drawn to Real Sorcery because I knew that Jason Miller had lived in southern New Jersey, where I currently live, and connected with the “spirit of place”; he’s well known in the magical communities around here. I’ve always enjoyed his “keep it real” style of writing and the frank way he shares his magical insight. While I’ve been on his email list for quite some time now, which I highly recommend as an introduction to Miller’s work since he leads group spellwork and offers live classes throughout the year, the only book of his I have read previously is Financial Sorcery. Given that Financial Sorcery absolutely shifted my mindset in regard to wealth, aiding me in finding more lucrative jobs and creating a better financial situation overall, you would think I’d have picked up his other titles, such as Protection & Reversal Magick and Consorting with Spirits.

Luckily, like the titles just mentioned, Real Sorcery was recently republished with new commentary on Miller’s original text; in this case, Real Sorcery is the updated version of The Sorcerer’s Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick (2009). The additional text from Miller adds a new layer of depth to the previous work, inviting readers old and new to see how his thoughts have changed (or not) over the past decade.

The content itself is rich as ever, filled to the brim with practical advice for readers wishing to learn more about how to take their magic practice to the next level. What I like most about Miller as a teacher is that he expects something from his students. He writes:

“If magick is a fantasy for you, then of course you want it all to just jump to life because of how magickal you are, but if we accept that Sorcery is real, with everything that implies, then that expectation should dissipate like fairy dust, revealing the truth that it takes work to get good at things, and that discipline and persistence will outperform natural talent at every turn.”1

Miller reminds the readers that magic is real, but so are certain conditions of our reality. Therefore, instead of relying on magic alone, his strategy is to work with the conditions in play rather than against them. And it goes without saying, this often takes a heap of self-awareness, willingness to learn from one’s mistakes, and resilience in the face of disappointments. For some, this might feel like a stripping of enchantment from their practice, but for many it’s a reassurance that with time and practice, one can improve their sorcery.

“Part One: Basic Training” is dedicated to teaching readers the basic magical foundation he operates from as a sorcerer, and it’s certainly eclectic! What stands out about Miller’s imparted wisdom is that he isn’t afraid to learn and work with various magical systems, as he recognizes the universal similarities that underlie different traditional systems. I want to frame it as a distillation of many great truths into a workable system for readers, but I say this without implying it’s reductive in any sense. In fact, I find his approach extremely liberating, and it helped me to see how the magical working of different paths and traditions are all working with the same planes and principles.

“Part Two: Strategic Sorcery” has chapters focused on various types of magical workings: divination, influence/persuasion, finance, protection, love/lust, and more! All the sections have information that is both magic and mundane, making it easy for readers to employ Miller’s wisdom in their practice at their current skill level. While sharing spells, chants, and other general “how-to” guidance, such as gesture and vocal commands and creating altars, Miller imparts so much first-hand knowledge of his own experience. I find this invaluable as a reader; I want to hear the stories of magical workings gone right and wrong to have a more well-rounded idea of what the heck I’m doing and the myriad of potential consequences.

While there’s plenty I’ve learned from this book, the current takeaways that are still churning in my mind are the reminder that I can determine my own magical ethics – Miller absolutely works in the gray area, leaving room for readers to decide what workings they’re comfortable with – and the concept that I don’t have to obsessively protect myself. For all I’ve learned about protection magic, Miller was the first person to acknowledge that too much protection and defense can actually hinder other types of magical working, such as spirit communication. These two insights overall seem to be pointing to a rebalancing of my current workings, giving me the confidence to venture into a new magical landscape.

For those of you ready to delve into the secrets of sorcery and explore the fascinating world of magic, Real Sorcery is a wonderful place to begin. Miller provides a wonderful foundation to begin your sorcery path or enhance your current level of skill. From the different types of spells and rituals to the potential benefits and risks of practicing magic, Miller cuts through the fluff to provide clear guidance. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is serious about starting or furthering their magical practice.

Old Stars, New Light by Daniel Guirchovitch

Old Stars, New Light: Astrology, Tarot and Runes, by Daniel Guirchovitch
Daniel Guirchovitch, 979-8987826300, 597 pages, April 2023

As someone who has studied astrology and tarot for over a decade, it can become quite boring reading the same reiterated information over and over again. While these descriptions of the characteristics of Sun in Capricorn or the Lovers card can provide insight at times, more often than not, it feels like there’s a general script being stuck to, ensuring the card is conveyed in the “correct” way. As a natural rebel and information seeker, I yearn for a fresh perspective on the esoteric arts. Old Stars, New Light: Astrology, Tarot, and Runes by Daniel Guirchovitch provides just that, and reading it over the past months has revived my passion and curiosity for the celestial insight and divine knowledge accessible when we extend our perception and invite in wisdom from beyond.

This book is unique in the span of time it took to collect the material and the methodology of how the information was obtained. For over 26 years Guirchovitch spoke with Elias, energy personality essence channeled by Mary Ennis, about topics related to astrology, tarot, and runes. Elias is fascinating, and I recommend learning more about him and Mary’s process of exchanging energy with him before reading the book by looking at the website www.eliasweb.org. There’s plenty of interesting transcripts and audio records you can read dating back to 1995. I really appreciate how the website is so well organized, making it easy for viewers to see the topic of each session.

Guirchovitch describes:

“The book reflects my journey to become a professional reader, which included a spectrum of challenges ranging from self-doubt, to re-examining the fundamentals, to learning to synthesize multiple factors and to flow with the interpretations.”1

The content reads as a dialogue between Guirchovitch, who goes by his first name Dan in the book, and Elias in a style of Socratic questioning, the thoughtful dialogue between the two exposing new truths and unraveling frames of mind to see beyond limited perception. As a reader, I gained just as much from Guirchovitch sharing his viewpoint and the questions he asks as I did from Elias’s thought-provoking answers.

Sometimes the dialogue is short and sweet, just a few sentences back and forth. Other times Dan shares an elaborate idea or perception with Elias and Elias shares his response, which ranges from a one-word agreement to a paragraph-long explanation.

Here’s a little sample from the section from Chapter 32, focusing on rune casting and other applications:

“Dan: So the divination aspect of the Runes, as in describing and helping to fine-tune situations, helping people to find the most beneficial alternatives.

Elias: Yes. Yes. Giving information, in a manner of speaking. They can be used for scrying. They also, because there is that element of magic, they can be used to be collectively expressing a type of intuition. Which, if you are defining intuition correctly, intuition is that communication that answers questions. Even if you don’t know you are asking a question, your intuition is answering your questions that you might be leaning into subjectively, or that you might be expressing an energy that is moving in a certain direction.

Now this is NOT precognitive or expressing predictions. But you can engage in a particular direction, and although you don’t necessarily see some aspects of that direction that involves the future that you are already engaging, and you may not see that objectively, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t already engaged [in] doing it. And your intuition can actually express that. Therefore, that may also be some of the questions that intuition is answering at times.

In this relation to Runes, they can be used in a very similar capacity except in relation to the collective energy – not simply individual – therefore expanded.”2

While one could certainly read this book cover to cover, it’s also very helpful to use the table of contents and find exactly what you’re seeking to learn more about. The book is chronologically organized into 39 chapters, starting with transcriptions from November 2013 and ending in November 2021. In the table of contents, underneath the chapter number and date, the topic(s) of the discussion is listed. For instance, Chapter 9 May 30, 2016 covers “Aries, Taurus, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Cancer.”3, while Chapter 29 January 20th 2020 covers “The Temperance Card.”4

Whether you’re into astrology, tarot, or runes, I have no doubt the content of these dialogues will leave you inspired, contemplative, and with a fresh perspective on things. So far for me the most revelatory passages were in Chapter 19 May 16, 2019 covering Leo and Aquarius. My ascendent is in Leo and descent in Aquarius, along with my Sun, North Node, and Mercury also there too. I’m still processing and journaling about all the insights from Guirchovitch and Elias about the relationship between these two signs!

What has stood out the most is Elias describing Aquarius by stating, “.. they are not as concerned with outward expressions, therefore they aren’t as concerned with whether everything is flowing, but rather whether they are flowing.”5 This passage was notable to to me because I feel like I rarely want to impede the flow of others by expressing myself, and I also deeply believe that everyone just lives in their own flow that things work out best. In reflection, my flow is definitely what shapes the landscape of my life and relationships – and I get very annoyed when external forces impede this inner flow!

Not only does this book provide information for self-reflection, it also is an opportunity to get a glimpse into the art of chart reading. Guirchovitch speaks with Elias about different aspects and planet placements, seeking guidance into their meaning. For those who read charts, this content is worth reading as it showcases the process “seeing” an astrological chart and slowly revealing the intricacies of the person through careful rumination on their chart.

For those who are students at heart, willing to see things in a new way, Old Star, New Light will open doorways for you to better understand astrology, tarot, and runes. This is a book one can come back to time and time again for a deeper understanding of their mysteries. Guirchovitch is generous in sharing his insights from Elias with a greater audience, choosing to gift the answers he’s received to readers rather than keep it all to himself. I think this would be a wonderful resource for a group to study together, as the material lends itself to discussion quite readily. But even read solo, these conversations are a starting point into our own dialogues about these topics, which are essential when contemplating and enacting our practice of these sacred arts. Be prepared for the “aha” moments that spring up as you read!

The Fright Before Christmas, by Jeff Belanger

The Fright Before Christmas: Surviving Krampus and Other Yuletide Monsters, Witches, and Ghosts, by Jeff Belanger and illustrated by Terry Reed
New Page Books, 1637480156, 200 pages, September 2023

I absolutely love the Yuletide season; I proudly consider myself a Christmas witch. There’s such a potency of magic in the air, especially during the darkest nights of the year. But as I’ve grown in my spirituality, embracing the darker side too, I’ve come to learn there’s much more than the glistening of lights, merry festivities, and myths of jolly Santa; there’s a twisted, rebellious side to the season as well. The Fright Before Christmas: Surviving Krampus and Other Yuletide Monsters, Witches, and Ghosts by Jeff Belanger brings the shadow realm of Christmas to the forefront, inviting readers to learn more about the underbelly hidden beneath the glitz.

As the Emmy-nominated host, writer, and producer of the New England Legend series and podcast, Belanger is the perfect guide for a reader’s journey into the hidden characters of Christmas. He is a natural storyteller with a knack for quips at the right time, leaving one chuckling with wicked delight. During a moment of exasperation in hanging his wreath, Belanger started to question the “why” of the Christmas season, leading him “down a dark and sinister rabbit hole”1 of research into tales of monsters that punish, spank, and sometimes, even eat, the naughty.

Before launching into these tales of Christmas horror, Belganer firmly roots the reader in the history of the yuletide season. Beginning with the Winter Solstice, he paints a picture of how this season of cold weather and little light is good cause for fear. We forget in the modern era just how deadly the winter months can be, everyday a fine line between survival and demise.

Despite the harrowing weather conditions, the Christmas season for centuries has been a time of celebration, debauchery, and merrymaking. Belanger invites readers to the party as he describes Romans dressing up for Saturnalia, the Norse hanging their evergreen branches, English workers wassailing, and more! While the common theme seems to be heavy drinking and revelry, Belganer does a wonderful job describing how the traditions of times past have contributed to aspects of our current Christmas season.

And what a cast of characters you’ll meet in this book! From my personal favorite La Befana, who might clean your house for you, to the dashing beast Mari Lwyd tryin to catch stray souls, to murderous Père Fouettard, there’s no telling what you might encounter as the nights grow long this holiday season. Did I mention there’s also mischievous elves and killer cats too?

There’s even plenty of information about the gory bits of Christian history too, including St. Nicholas’s backstory and feat of reviving butchered children from the dead. Try telling that to some of your more religious family members! Oh wait, I did bring it up at dinner after reading that story in the book, and they all stared at me incredulous, wondering if I had made this up. Definitely some good tidbits of information in this book to pass along!

One thing that I found very interesting is how many of these monsters are making a revival thanks to the internet. For decades, even centuries, much of this monster folklore was confined to the countries of origin. While the characteristics of the monster are still situated in the culture of their origin, as these tales continue to spread, inevitably, these monsters too will adapt to modern times, even in different regions.

For instance, Krampus, who has a very long historical past, including the church trying to eradicate him in the 13th century, became popular again in the 1800s in “Austria, Bavaria, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.”2 Until around 2000 when the tale of Krampus started to spread online, this folklore remained primarily in these regions.

Now Krampus has become a popular folk figure worldwide, and I’ve had the chance to participate in quite a few events in his honor! Last year, there was a photoshoot with Krampus at Scarehouse in Pennsylvania, the annual Krampus festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and the Parade of Spirits in honor of Krampus in Philadelphia. Clearly, my area has been influenced by the Krampus tradition; just Googling “Krampus events” I can see quite a few lined up for this year already!

One more thing to note about The Fright Before Christmas is the design! The book is a hardback cover with one of those built-in bookmarks for added convenience. Illustrator Terry Reed has done a great job depicting each monster so that readers have a visual. Plus there’s tons of authentic vintage visuals (postcards, advertisements, photographs, etc) showcasing what Belanger is describing in the text. It would be a perfect book for a coffee table or as a fun gift for a pollyanna!

All in all, this book is a perfect mixture of delight and horror, history and lore. Belanger gives life to the monsters of Christmas, providing readers with a new perspective on the traditions we enact each year. After reading The Fright Before Christmas, you’re bound to be one of the  most interesting people to chat with this holiday season as you regal others with facts about the hidden origin of Christmas traditions. And given that you’re now aware to face these monsters, probably also the person most likely to survive the winter!

For those who like myself feel a connection to these monsters, I have great news: there’s a kickstarter for Yuletide Monsters Oracle Deck! Currently the estimated delivery is December 2023, so if you make a pledge, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do some spooky Christmas divination. According to the kickstarter, this “40-card oracle draws on the traditional structure of tarot, the  efficiency of the Sicilian Scopa Deck, and the whimsy of an Oracle deck.”3 How cool! 😀