✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Upside Down Tarot, by Joan Bunning

Upside Down Tarot: How Reversals Add Depth to Your Reading, by Joan Bunning
Red Wheel Weiser, 9781578638420, 176 pages, July 2024

When I saw the book Upside Down Tarot: How Reversals Add Depth to Your Reading by Joan Bunning, I knew I just had to have it. I’ve been reading tarot for about twenty years and was taught to “ignore” reversals by my first two teachers. What could this book teach me?  How could these principles strengthen my own understanding of tarot and bring a new light to my readings? I brought these questions to my review of this book. 

Bunning graduated from Cornell with a degree in social psychology and worked as a computer programmer and bookstore manager before becoming an author and editor. She has written five other books on tarot, including The Big Book of Tarot, which I also have in my library. In 1995, Bunning created a website to teach tarot basics:  www.learntarot.com.  Through the website, she supports thousands of people as they learn tarot. Bunning currently lives in Virginia with her husband.

This book is divided into two parts: “Part One: The Hidden Meaning of Reversals” and “Part Two: Reverse Card Descriptions”.

In her Introduction, Bunning carefully explains a little about the 78 cards in tarot, some of her experiences reading tarot, and her approach to reversed cards. She discusses the “energies” in reverse cards. She explains that these energies can be “absent, early phase or late phase.”1 She goes on to explain:

“Upright cards stand for energies that are strong and well developed. They have a clear, active presence…. Reverse cards stand for energies that are absent, weak or undeveloped…. They are not clear and obvious…. An energy does not become its opposite when reversed. A card’s essential nature stays the same no matter what its orientation.”2

This makes so much sense to me!  For years, any teacher I encountered who taught reversals said that a reverse card meant the opposite of the upright card, and I knew on a deep level that this was just not true! Bunning says that when we understand the “energy phase,”3 we can better interpret or intuit the meaning of a reversed card within a spread.

The best clue to identifying the energy phase will come from an awareness of timing. A reversed card is in the early phase if you haven’t really experienced its energy  yet. It may be new or tied to some upcoming event; a reverse card is late if you’ve already experienced its energy. It has been active in the situation in a way you can easily recognize but is now past. In the next section, she shares examples of both of these phases. 

Bunning also discusses “absent” energy.  “Its level is so low that, to all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist. . . . The energy may be so new that you can’t perceive it yet.”4 She goes on to share that she is also including information on this “absent” energy for each reversed card, as well. 

Next, Bunning goes into more detail regarding early phase and late phase, including questions to ask to figure out in which phase your reversed card may be found.

“Knowing that energy tends to repeat helps you appreciate the subtle shifts that occur at the reversed card stages.”5

Finally, the author provides seven concrete steps to take to evaluate a reversed card. She follows the description of the steps with an example of a question about a problem at work. Bunning ends this discussion with stating, “These steps offer one way to discover the meaning of a card’s energy. The benefit of a strategy is that it helps you avoid floundering during interpretation.”6  I appreciate that she also adds a note about how this system may seem “analytical.”  However, she adds a reminder that the steps will become routine as you allow your intuition to guide you.

The next section includes two pages on each card in the Major Arcana. There are also black and white drawings of each card for reference. The deck featured is a standard Rider-Waite-Smith deck.  However, the book will complement readings for any deck that uses similar symbology or archetypes. Next, Bunning features commentary on each card in the Minor Arcana.  Some cards include two pages and others include only one page of notes.

Note that each write-up also includes the Upright meanings for each card. From this description, Bunning pulls one to four key words or key phrases, listing them along with the Absent, Early, and Late meanings for each card.  

To give the book a test drive, I devised a spread for learning more about a job offer that a friend of mine was awaiting (She texted me earlier in the day to inquire about this situation). I drew 3 cards for a spread I use often called “Mind, Body, Spirit”.  I drew all 3 cards in reversed placement!  (As my husband always says, “You can’t make up this stuff!”) The cards landed in this order for my spread:

  • Mind:  The Magician – Reversed
  • Body: 4 of Cups – Reversed
  • Spirit: 10 of Wands Reversed

Following along with Bunning’s notes for each card, I created the following reading for my friend:

Your mind wants to “do” something, but you can’t take action right now.  It’s time to withdraw and focus on your inner life. No need to struggle, because at this point, the struggle is with yourself.  Allow your Spirit to guide you and take this time to rest and recharge.

I did a FaceTime with my friend, and she was smiling as I shared the message.  She thanked me for confirming what she was feeling about being patient and waiting on the job offer.

It was interesting to me how the right key words seemed to leap off the page and I knew how to combine the notes for one cohesive reading. 

Bunning’s writing is very easy to read and the book is easy to navigate. After reviewing the introduction and section on the concepts of the three phases of the energy of the cards, I was equipped to use the data for informing my readings. While I initially felt that there was a lot to cover for each card, my real-life experience showed me that when I used my intuition with the notes, the answers came easily.

The book is printed in black and white, including the card graphics. I feel that by using the black and white drawings, the card images take a secondary role and help the reader to remember the cards, rather than overshadow them. I like the fact that Bunning used visuals of Rider-Waite-Smith, which is one of the more widely used tarot decks. 

I recommend Upside Down Tarot for tarot readers of all experience levels.  A new reader will really benefit from the information to support any of their readings that contain reversals. Bunning explains reversals in an easy-to-understand style that takes a lot of the drama out of the equation. And for the more seasoned reader, the notes will add another layer to the guidance that they share. I highly recommend this book for tarot lovers and look forward to using it for my client readings.

Little Book of Neville Goddard Quotes, compiled by Jen McCarty

Little Book of Neville Goddard Quotes – The Pocket Guide to Mysticism, Manifestation and Imagination, compiled by Jen McCarty
Muse Oracle Press, 9780645885019, 290 pages, August 2024

Neville Goddard, a profoundly influential figure in the realm of metaphysical thought and spiritual teachings, left his mark on the world with his unique perspective on the power of the mind and imagination. Born on February 19, 1905 (Pisces!), in Barbados, Goddard grew up in a large family before moving to the United States to pursue his ambitions. It was in America that Neville embarked on a journey of spiritual and philosophical exploration, ultimately leading to the development of his central thesis: that the human imagination is God, and that individuals can manifest their desires into reality through the power of thought and belief.

Goddard’s teachings, which spanned over three decades from the 1930s to his death in 1972, emphasized the scriptural interpretation not as literal historical accounts, but as metaphors for inner psychological and spiritual truths. He urged his followers to practice the art of assuming the feeling of their wish fulfilled, positing that such a practice could lead to the manifestation of their desires. His lectures, books, and lessons, many of which he generously offered for free, centered around the practical applications of this philosophy, aiming to empower individuals to shape their reality through directed thought and imagination.

Neville Goddard’s legacy is a rich tapestry of spiritual insights and practical wisdom. His work continues to inspire and influence countless individuals seeking to unlock the power of their minds and achieve greater control over their lives. Despite the passage of time, Goddard’s teachings on the creative power of imagination and the interconnectedness of the human psyche and the divine remain as relevant and compelling today as they were during his lifetime.

Little Book of Neville Goddard Quotes – The Pocket Guide to Mysticism, Manifestation and Imagination compiled by Jen McCarty is a concise and thought-provoking collection that distills the essence of Neville Goddard’s teachings into bite-sized, easily digestible passages. This book captures the core of his philosophy through a carefully curated selection of quotes, making it an ideal introduction for newcomers as well as a handy reference for long-time followers.

In the introduction, in which McCarty describes the impact of Goddard on her spiritual path, she writes:

“When you realise that you are the sole operative power in the universe, you fully awaken to God consciousness. As God consciousness, you are never a victim of circumstances; you are always in creator mode.”1

Jen McCarty has done an admirable job in selecting quotes that encapsulate the transformative power of Goddard’s ideas. Each page offers a nugget of wisdom that encourages deep reflection and personal growth. She’s managed to search through a vast amount of material put forth by Goddard, gather the most meaningful quotes, and then organize them into chapters that make it easy to either read through sequentially or jump to passages that resonate with their current state of mind. This flexibility makes the book not just a one-time read, but a timeless companion for those on a journey of self-discovery and manifestation. There’s twenty-eight chapters of different quote types, ranging from “Inner Speech” to “Mental Diet”. The more religious chapters include “The Bible”, “The Father”, “Christ”, and “Shepard”.

Admittedly, some of the content might seem a little dated to the modern spiritual seeker, as Goddard’s thoughts are a bit at odds with current trends (all the quotes refer to man rather than woman, so I can’t help but notice the gender bias). The antiquated quotes on bride and groom especially made my husband and me chuckle. I also struggled a bit to connect with all the biblical language, often referring to Christ and God. Yet there’s still so much to be gained from learning this philosophy, even if it’s outside the normal realm of one’s spiritual studies.

What sets this book apart is its accessibility. Goddard’s teachings, while profound, can sometimes be dense and complex. McCarty’s selection simplifies these concepts without losing their depth, making it easier for readers to grasp and apply them in their daily lives. Whether you are seeking inspiration, affirmation, or a deeper understanding of the power within you, Little Book of Neville Goddard Quotes serves as a compact yet powerful guide to transforming your thoughts and, consequently, your reality.

My favorite quotes is in the chapter “Imagination”:

“It is a marvelous thing to discover that you can imagine yourself into the state of your fulfilled desire and escape from the taps the ignorance has built. The real man is a magnificent imagination, and it is this self that must be awakened.”2

And for those who consider themselves reality manifestors, there’s so much guidance on how to perfect your process. Here’s another quote that really resonated with me and gave me the confidence to live as though my wishes have already been fulfilled:

“Put yourself in the proper mood, and your own consciousness will embody it. If I could define prayer for anyone and put it as clearly as I could, I would simply say it is the feeling of the wish fulfilled. If you asked, “What do you mean by that?” I would say I would feel myself into the situation of the answered prayer, and then I would live and act upon the conviction. I will try to sustain it without effort. That is, I would live and act as though it was already a fact, knowing that as I walk into this fixed attitude, my vision will harden into reality.”3

Overall, Little Book of Neville Goddard Quotes is well suited for readers who are interested in the New Thought movement, which emphasizes the power of positive thinking and the idea that one’s thoughts and beliefs can shape their experience. This is a great read from a historical context to better understand the roots of manifestation mindset. Whether or not you resonate with the Christian terminology, the potency of Goddard’s inner knowledge shines through. It might take a little bit of time for the quotes to sink in, but reading through makes one feel empowered and in control of their potential. This book is a wonderful reminder that we are sacred creators, and when we align ourselves with a higher power, all we desire can be ours.

Dance of the Sun Goddess, by Kenneth Johnson

Dance of the Sun Goddess: Pagan Folkways of the Baltic Coast, by Kenneth Johnson
Crossed Crow Books, 1959883240, 220 pages, March 2024

The eastern shores of the Baltic Sea glitter with amber, the golden tears of petrified resin shed by prehistoric pines. Nicknamed the Amber Coast, this magical region was the last part of Europe to be converted to Christianity, and forgotten pagan traditions, preserved in the lullabies of folk songs, rock its gilded cradle.

In Dance of the Sun Goddess: Pagan Folkways of the Baltic Coast, author Kenneth Johnson introduces readers to a vivacious pantheon of Baltic deities whose powers can be invoked with sacred trees and beautiful sigils that may be painted or carved on wood. Johnson draws pagan lore from Baltic folk songs to reconstruct the pre-Christian beliefs of the Latvians and Lithuanians. 

Johnson is a professional astrologer who has a B.A. in Comparative Religions and an M.A. in Eastern Studies, and he has written several books paganism, astrology, and magic, including Jaguar Wisdom: An Introduction to the Mayan Calendar, Witchcraft and the Shamanic Journey, and Flight of the Firebird: Slavic Magical Wisdom and Lore.

While Johnson is not of Baltic descent, he is passionate about sharing the mythology and folk practices of the Amber Coast with the world because of what they reveal to us about authentic European paganism. In the “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book, he explains that the Lithuanian language is the closest living relative to the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. 

“This original language had its own religion, and this vanished faith has been the origin of all our Pagan mythologies—Greek, Latin, Norse, Celtic, Slavic, and Baltic,”1 Johnson says. Like a prehistoric insect fossilized in an amber coffin, these root pagan beliefs have been preserved in the living language and active folk practices of the Baltic lands, giving us a rare glimpse into the past. 

In “Part I: The World Tree,” Johnson introduces readers to the Baltic vision of the cosmos. Heathen readers will be delighted to learn that Baltic paganism bears many striking similarities to Norse mythology, beginning with the Latvian World Tree, called the “Tree of Dawn,” which resembles the Nordic Yggdrasil.2 The Tree of Dawn is invisible to mortal eyes. It is a bridge between heaven and earth, and only the gods and Baltic shamans can see it. In a Latvian folk song Johnson shares, the Tree of Dawn is poetically described as an iridescent rose that lifts one to heaven upon its ascending petals. This multi-colored rose may remind readers of Bifröst, the shimmering Rainbow Bridge that leads to Asgard, the realm of the gods, in Norse mythology.

Parts II and III introduce readers to the Baltic pantheon of deities, nature spirits, and folk heroes. As indicated by the book’s title, Dance of the Sun Goddess, the Baltic deity of the sun is the life-giving goddess named Saulė, while Mėnuo is the god of the moon. Saulė is one of the most important deities in the Baltic pantheon, since she sustains all life on this planet. The magical amber that sparkles on the Baltic shores is a gift of the sun goddess, and in the Bronze Age, it was the Baltic equivalent of gold, bringing prosperity through trade. Other prominent deities include Dievas, the Sky Father; Perkūnas, the god of thunder, who resembles the Norse god Thor; Velnias, the Lord of the Underworld; Žemyna, the earth goddess; and Laima, the goddess of Fate. 

In the Baltic worldview, the gods are intimately associated with trees.

“Too often, we walk past a magnificent tree without even looking up from our cell phones, unaware that we are in the presence of Laima, whose sacred tree is a linden, or Perkūnas, whose tree is the stately oak,” says Johnson.3

Throughout the book, Johnson includes several magical workings that help keep readers mindful of the divinity in nature. For example, as a magical working for honoring Milda, the goddess of love and indolence, in the month of May, Johnson suggests readers “take a vacation from work and relax among the flowers and the trees as her contemporary devotees do.”4

An appendix at the end of the book provides nineteen Baltic sigils and guidance on how to use them to invoke the blessings of the gods. One of these beautiful sigils is Perkūnas’s “Cross of Thunder,”5 which protects one’s home and family, and may be carved or painted on the door of a house or barn.

Most of these deities were unfamiliar to me, so it was a real treat to learn a new pantheon. One of my favorite Baltic goddesses is now Medeina, a beautiful forest maiden with green hair who is the Lithuanian version of Artemis/Diana. Like her Greco-Roman counterpart, she is a chaste huntress who haunts the wilderness, accompanied by an entourage of hares and wolves, her most sacred animals. Even though she is a huntress, it is the animals she protects, not human hunters, and sometimes she shapeshifts into a wolf to defend her pack. Her Latvian name is Meža Māte,”the Mother of the Forest.”6

I have a preference for chthonic deities, so I found the Baltic Underworld to be particularly fascinating. It is ruled by the Lithuanian deity Velnias, whose name is etymologically derived from the word vele, meaning “the dead,”7 and “his world is the world which lies in the tangled roots of the great tree, the world of darkness and the dead.”8 According to Johnson, the Underworld mirrors our realm. “It even has its own World Mountain, Mt. Anapils, and this is where Velnias dwells, just as Dievas dwells upon Sky Mountain in the world above the great tree,”9 Johnson says.

Although the Christians associated Velnias with the Devil, his role in Baltic mythology was far more complex. “Velnias is a world maker,”10 Johnson says. The creation of the world was a joint effort by the Sky Father Dievas and the Underworld Lord Velnias, “the two opposite polarities of life and death working together.”11 However, Dievas plays a passive role, and his will is carried out by his son Perkūnas, the temperamental Thunder God, who sometimes lashes out at Velnias when they don’t see eye to eye. Velnias escapes the wrath of Perkūnas by slinking in the shadows and hiding beneath stones or in the hollows of trees.

Being a shapeshifter, Velnias is a master of beasts, and since humans may reincarnate as animals, he is also lord of the dead who have been reborn in bestial form. I was particularly fascinated by this aspect of his character because it reminds me of the Devil card in tarot, and the bestial nature of both the Devil and Adam and Eve, who are depicted with tails. I was aware that shapeshifting can be a metaphor for dying in fairy tales, but it didn’t occur to me to link the Devil with humans reincarnating as beasts until I read about Velnias.

Ragana, the goddess of witches, is the Baltic Baba Yaga. Just as Velnias diametrically opposes the Sky Father, the winter goddess Ragana is the counterbalance to the celestial fire of Saulė, who must be banished on the summer solstice so that her life-giving powers do not overwhelm the earth with greenery and sweltering heat. Likewise, Saulė must regain her strength to break the dark spell of winter that binds the earth in chains of ice. At the winter solstice, Velnias leads an army of the dead and conquers the forces of darkness so that Saulė can return to thaw the frozen land. This divine tug of war between the forces of light and darkness spins the wheel of the year.

In the chapter on “Nature Spirits,” one of the most intriguing Lithuanian fairies is the aitvaras, a house spirit that looks like a rooster with a fiery tail when it is inside the house, and takes the form of a dragon or a meteorite when it streaks the countryside, stealing grain and gold for its master.12 While the aitvaras is a source of prosperity for the household, it can also bring misfortune if the theft is exposed. 

In “Part IV: The Wheel of Life,” Johnson guides readers through the Baltic wheel of the year, the seasonal festivals, and the Old Prussian zodiac. I was fascinated to learn that Cancer, the sign of the Crab in Western astrology, is called Azē, meaning “The Goat” in Prussian, and takes on the qualities of Capricorn, the Sea-goat, the opposite sign of Cancer, because “this is the time when Saulė has reached her fullness and is turned back upon her course by Ragana the Witch Goddess.”13

According to Lithuanian folklore, every person has a star in the heavens that appears when they are born and watches over them like a guardian angel. When they die, that star guides them through the Otherworld. In other star lore, the Big Dipper is “The Wagon of Perkūnas”14 and Polaris is his goat.

The deities and spirits I have shared here are just a sampling of the rich and vibrant pantheon of the Amber Coast, and any lover of mythology will relish in the pages of this book. The detailed descriptions of festivals and sigils will also enable readers to incorporate Baltic traditions and magical workings into their personal pagan practices as they celebrate the eternal Dance of the Sun Goddess.

Yoga and the Five Elements, by Nicole Goott

Yoga and the Five Elements: Spiritual Wisdom for Everyday Living, by Nicole Goott
Mantra Books, 978-1803412672, 208 pages, December 2023

“The five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space are easily recognizable as forces existing around us all the time. As with the axion, we are a microcosm of a larger macrocosm, this is true of the five elements existing not only around us in the Natural world but also within us, in both physical and metaphysical terms.1

Yoga and the Five Elements: Spiritual Wisdom for Everyday Living by Nicole Goott is an interesting read that focuses on Eastern practices but can be seamlessly woven into any spiritual practice to make a deeper connection to a fivefold-structure of being. The book is separated into twelve chapters and covers from start to finish a well-structured plan of approach to the subject matter. 

This thoughtful manner of disseminating information is carried out from the start with the addition of a few pages of note regarding Sanskrit and transliteration.This little addition offers accessibility to all regardless of your familiarity with the terminology commonly found in Eastern studies and practices. 

Goott provides the reader background in the Introduction for her seeking of the origins of the five elements as applied to Indian philosophy. I appreciated her story of searching in Martial  Arts practices, Ayurvedic disciplines, Hatha Yoga, as well as Tantric and Vedic literature. This demonstrates a well-intentioned approach rather than the cursory attempts at finding overlays and connections that may not truly be found.

The concluding sections (of more than 20+ pages) are supportive of those readers wishing to explore further and are inclusive of References, Further Reading, a robust Bibliography, Glossary and Index; something not always included as a source of quick reference for a title such as this. 

Chapters 1-3, covering subtle bodies, cosmic principles, and the five elements,  are invaluable resources and lay a dense and comprehensible foundation before moving out into deeper exploration of each of the five elements separately. Chapters dedicated to related concepts and knowledge can be found in “Chapter 7: Mind”, “Chapter 9: Karma”, and “Chapter 10: Space”. Finally, all that has been learned in previous chapters is integrated and put into practical application with “Chapter 11: Balancing the Elements” and “Chapter 12: Heart Consciousness”. 

I especially enjoyed “Chapter 9: Karma” and the way in which Goott has interwoven a concept that has many interpretations and levels of understanding. She dispels the common thoughts around karma and proposes that it is not something over which we have no control because of the “bad “ or “good “ stuff we did. Instead she gives a very hopeful definition:

“Using the analogy of an apple tree… the causal chain begins with a seed (thought) like the seed of an apple (form). This seed is full of potential , holding within itself the possibility to create a new tree (manifested form). It may or may not germinate if the conditions required are not present….when a seed does take root, all the potential that was dormant now begins to ripen. A tree is born (results).”2

She then aligns karma with the element of fire in its aspect as the “light of illumination, wisdom and higher knowledge or insight”3. This reminds the reader of our nature as creator of our own realities and consequential scenarios.

Goott provides charts of comparison of the elements and approach throughout the book, supporting a broader perspective of mind that is not simply limited to the Vedic practices. There are exercises, questions, journaling suggestions and more to allow the reader true experiential moments of the five elements and how their dynamics change depending on the context. And, adequate reference is given to writers such as Annie Besant and the Theosophical spin on the elements, and their use. 

Would I Recommend?

Yoga and the Five Elements is an important read intended to be digested, integrated, put into action and then returned to frequently. Regardless of spiritual practice, the broad approach to the fundamental organic make-up of humanity, the world we inhabit and the Cosmos of which we are a part, provide the tools for stepping more fully into who we are meant to be, especially now as we stand at a crossroads as a species that has increasingly become disconnected from ourselves and others. The quote below beautifully sums up the reasons why this book and its studies are so important, particularly now:

“We can embrace the lessons we are given or resist them. The degree to which we embrace each step along our path determines the level of satisfaction and joy we experience…the more that each of us wakes up to the realization that we are so much more than the brain’s chemical processes and imperfect body, the greater the possibility for the collective consciousness to rise to its fullest potential.”4

About the Author: Nicole Goott

Goott is a teacher, author, advisor, and spiritual healer motivated to guide others in their journey of self-discovery and how to live a joy-filled life. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nicole moved to the United States when she was twenty-four years old. For two decades she has studied Yoga, Ayurveda, and related healing arts practices, as well as mindfulness-based approaches to self-healing. Learn more about Nicole’s work at her website.

Food for Thought, by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson

Food for Thought: Mindful Eating to Nourish Body and Soul, by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson
CICO Books, 978-1800653221, 160 pages, April 2024

Recently, I’ve been seeking to change my relationship with food. Instead of jumping into a new food trend or committing to a diet that doesn’t feel maintainable, my focus has been on cultivating new habits by making one little change at a time. Food for Thought: Mindful Eating to Nourish Body and Soul by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson has a motivating source of supportive on my journey to changing my eating patterns.

“You may be ready to give your eating habits a complete overhaul straight away, or you may decide to just change one thing to start with. Do tell yourself that whatever you can do right now is right for you in this time and place, and is absolutely worth it.”1

Food for Thought serves as a comprehensive guide to transforming one’s relationship with food through the practice of mindful eating, delving into the philosophy that eating is not just a physical act of nourishment but also an emotional and spiritual experience that can lead to improved health and well-being when done mindfully. The authors, Bartholomew and Pearson, combine their expertise in nutrition and mindfulness to present a harmonious approach to eating. They teach readers that by being fully present during meals, we can achieve a deeper appreciation for the flavors, textures, and overall experience of eating, which can lead to better digestion, reduced overeating, and a more satisfying relationship with food.

This book is filled with practical exercises, thoughtful insights, and easy-to-follow advice aimed at helping readers slow down, savor each bite, and reconnect with their food in a more meaningful way. There’s also plenty of delicious recipes throughout the book, such as a carrot and lentil dip, spiced oatmeal cake with cinnamon and chocolate frosting, falafel with minted yogurt, and slow-cooked lamb salad.

Plus, the colorful pages and easy-to-understand content, enriched with little graphics, make this book not just a resource but an experience as you move through it. There’s plenty of moments to pause, as the authors have included “Mindful Practices”, encouraging readers to stop and savor not only their meals but also the moment and the sensations that come from integrating this information as they read. These practices are perfect for reflection and create the space to truly deepen your connection with the information being presented.

What I like most about the authors’ approach to eating is how they believe we can intuitively know what our body needs. Instead of going to extremes in our eating or obsessively seeking out new information, we can instead learn to listen to our inner voice, and honor what our body is telling us. They write, “Your instinct will often point you in the right direction if you slow down and make space to connect with this inner wisdom.”2 And I’ve found that taking time in the morning and before bed to read a chapter of Food for Thought or taking time to reflect on what I’ve learned–the important of having a direction, staying organized with my meals, affirming new beliefs–helps me to stay on track with my goals.

The well-rounded content brings a level of mindfulness to food triggers, cravings, and lifestyle factors that influence one’s health and eating habits in a way that feels gentle. These topics can feel very painful to acknowledge, especially if they’ve been unconscious while we eat on autopilot mode. But change requires doing a bit of deeper questioning about the way we are fueling ourselves in order to pick more nourishing options. The authors’ approach is compassionate, caring, and very helpful in a practical way, paving the way for this inner work becomes a practice of self-love.

Bartholomew and Pearson also have taught me that making changes to my eating habits is not just about the act of eating–it’s about reshaping one’s entire approach to food. They emphasize the importance of choosing foods that are nourishing to both the body and the soul, advocating for a diet that is as good for the planet as it is for the individual, helps me be more conscious of where I am sourcing my food from, the time (or lack thereof) that I take to prepare it, and the impact of the speed I consume my food and my attention while doing so.

With its blend of nutritional science and mindful living practices, Food for Thought is a valuable resource for anyone looking to foster a healthier, more conscious approach to eating. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner of mindfulness or new to the concept, Bartholomew and Pearson’s insights offer a refreshing perspective on how to enrich your life through the simple act of eating. I recommend this book both for those looking to create more conscious eating habits to enhance their overall well-being and those who are seeking to expand their mindfulness practice to include meal time.

The Easy Way to Learn Astrology, by Alison Chester-Lambert

The Easy Way to Learn Astrology: How to Read Your Birth Chart, by Alison Chester-Lambert
Findhorn Press, 9798888500392, 175 pages, June 2024

As a student of astrology for almost twenty years, I was interested to learn about Alison Chester-Lambert’s teaching style and process, which she calls The Easy Way to Learn Astrology.  Within six chapters, Chester-Lambert breaks down the complex topic of astrology and offers the reader access to a Facebook group and YouTube videos for additional learning aids.

Chester-Lambert first became interested in astrology after reading Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs in the 1970s. She studied astrology at the Faculty of Astrology in London, as well as The Center for Psychological Astrology at Regents College. Later, she earned a master’s degree and took advanced studies in psychology, astrology, and astronomy. After working for over two years with a live, call-in horoscope service, she relocated from London to Tamsworth and began writing columns, doing readings, and teaching. She has founded and runs the Midlands School of Astrology and travels and lectures all over the world.  Chester-Lambert has written three other books and published two decks of cards.  You can learn more about her at her website.

After a brief introduction of polarities, including masculine/feminine, Chester-Lambert presents one of the most complete charts of the zodiac signs I have ever encountered.  In one, easy-to-read table, she shares the yin and yang of the signs, as well as how the elements of fire, earth, air, and water interplay with the twelve signs. She also talks briefly about sun signs and how well-known astrologers and published horoscopes focus on this one aspect of the natal chart:  

“So, what does Sun Sign mean? Before I answer that, I must explain that we have more than one astrology. Many astrologies. Plural. Lots of them.”1

Chester-Lambert goes on to say that each person has a natal chart with twelve houses and twelve signs and that to understand astrology, you may want to focus on more than just your sun sign. This is an important distinction since you will “want to know the psychological meaning of each of the signs and houses…. Just in case you were tempted to go straight to the signs you know and ignore the rest, let me explain that we all have every sign in our birth charts.”2

Next, Chester-Lambert takes us through the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water. She provides keywords for the four elements and then goes into each element, including the three zodiac signs that hold that energy. She then takes us on a deep dive into each zodiac sign and we learn the psychological components, qualities, and characteristics of each sign.

However, I want to point out that she goes into much more depth for each of the four elements than any other book or instructor I’ve encountered. It’s so interesting and I can see how this knowledge forms the foundation for your true understanding of astrology and the natal wheel. She spends almost 100 pages on the elements and signs.

In the last part of her book, Chester-Lambert shares the modalities (cardinal, fixed, and mutable), does a brief review of the elements, and then discusses the importance of opposite signs on the natal chart. She follows this with a discussion of the houses and how the zodiac signs travel around the wheel in counterclockwise fashion, always in the same order. I love how she relates each house to an element and a modality and provides a chart for visual reference.

Each chapter, as well as groups of related chapters, end with a review of the materia– just as you would do in a class. It is so helpful! She also gives a sample reading that is based on a woman’s query. Then she discussed The Cross, which is comprised of the AC (Rising Sign), DC (Descendant), MC (Midheaven) and IC (Imum Coeli) and the importance of the four quadrants that the cross designates. Lastly, she provides us with another sample reading of a birth chart, before telling us that we are now ready to read our own chart.

Chester-Lambert adds resources for creating your own chart online, a complete bibliography, and a detailed Index. Not only does she refer the reader to a website for getting a natal chart, but she also gives detailed instructions for creating the custom chart.  Very few authors do this.

The Easy Way to Learn Astrology would be perfect for anyone who wants to study astrology, from the total newbie to a more seasoned student. I learned so much more about the psychological qualities of each element and sign, as well as the qualities of the houses on the natal wheel. I plan to take a fresh look at my natal chart and review each sign, element, and house.  The information I learned about fire signs alone has given me new clues as to why I act the way I do and how to support myself and my energy levels. I will also share this new information with my clients.

Glamour Witch, by Sophie Saint Thomas

Glamour Witch: Conjuring Style & Grace to Get What You Want, by Sophie Saint Thomas
Weiser Books, 978-1-57863-775-1, 210 pages,  January 2023

Self-expression through personal style and appearance has the power to make or break a situation. Think of the feeling behind a new haircut or an outfit that looks and feels amazing (and may have pockets!). When we allow ourselves to express who we are, things seem to flow easier and it’s almost as if being in alignment with our spirit opens doors. Weird how that happens.

Sophie Saint Thomas’s book Glamour Witch: Conjuring Style & Grace to Get What You Want, is an exploration into the world of glamour magic and how it can be used on a daily basis to help ease the stress of everyday life. Does that mean there will never again be a bad hair day? No such promises are made; however, it appears there could be fewer of them ahead if Saint Thomas has anything to say about it!

Based in New York City, Saint Thomas is a journalist and author originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is published in a variety of magazines with a focus on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll as well as the occult and other subcultures. Author of numerous books in the realm of spirituality with a lean towards self-help, she consistently weaves accessibility throughout her work no matter the topic. Her writing is approachable, and I enjoy reading her books as they impart useful information and provoke thoughts around my personal beliefs.

Separated into two distinct sections, “Glamour 101” and “Glamour Grimoire”, the book covers a lot of expected topics plus a few interesting additions. The opening section tells the story of beauty, which some might find off-putting if they picked up the book under different expectations. I am a firm believer in learning the rules before breaking them, so seeing this information contained in one comprehensive section was delightful. It’s also interesting that the author calls out practices that some of us are already doing and calling it glamour magic. She explains, “…you’ll realize that you’re likely already practicing glamour magick, such as taking a lavender-infused bath to unwind.”1

One thing I love about this book is the inclusivity. Nowhere does the author criticize any specific style, no matter how outrageous. Being seen in an industry that catered to a select few for so long is such a gift and Saint Thomas goes out of her way to include examples of beauty trailblazers of all shapes, sizes, and sexual orientations. About damn time, I think.

The purpose of this book, from what I can see through my own absorption of it, is to provide a foundation of understanding of beauty as it relates through time in order to help the reader decide how to move forward with their own definitions and personal style. I like that so much of the book is this foundational section, as there is so much to learn from previous eras.

Something I found incredibly interesting is the idea that a vanity is an altar. I’ve found that on days when I’m not feeling my best, a quick swipe of mascara and some lip gloss can make me feel better and help me face the world. Saint Thomas expands on this idea, saying:

“As we move through this book, I want you to start thinking of your body as an altar – a beautiful living altar to Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, and abundance. Your shoes, the way you walk, your posture – it can all become a dance of intimidating beauty.”2

Tying color theory and astrology together is intriguing, and completely different from the color matching done in previous eras that was all the rage! This is a more deliberate look at color and how best to use it in a variety of ways depending on the desired outcome. Chapters on clothing, jewelry, perfume, and others give the reader a strong base from which to begin to build their living altar: themselves.

The spells in the grimoire section are easy to follow and produce results. One thing I will say here is that the spell ‘Sacred Pain with Piercing’ was effective and helped me make the appointment to get my septum pierced. I’d wanted it done forever and hadn’t because I thought it would hurt too much and that it could interfere with my corporate life;  also, what would people say? I took a deep breath, followed the steps, then made the appointment and got it done. I have never felt more myself: I look amazing and now am planning the next poke.

If you are looking for a quick fix to jumpstart your beauty routine, Glamour Witch might not give you what you want. If you are more interested in curating an experience for yourself each time you get ready to face the world, grab this book. There is a lot of information packed into it and although some topics might not resonate with you, there is enough here that undoubtedly will.

The Writer Who Inhabits Your Body, by Renée Gregorio

The Writer Who Inhabits Your Body: Somatic Practices to Enhance Creativity and Inspiration, by Renée Gregorio
Park Street Press, 1644119234, 192 pages, March 2024

I was unexpectedly surprised by how much I enjoyed moving through Renée Gregorio’s new book, The Writer Who Inhabits Your Body: Somatic Practices to Enhance Creativity and Inspiration. Although I can heap many praises on this book: remarking on its clean and direct writing or its superb organization and flow, what stuck out to me most was Gregorio’s stunning variety of helpful exercises. Whether you are a writer seeking to engage ever more deeply with your craft or someone simply wishing to explore your inner landscape and enrich your experience as an embodied being, you’ll find plenty of juicy content to engage with!

The text is clear and easy to digest, as one would expect from an award-winning poet. And while poetic writers can sometimes lean into style and expression a bit too heavily, potentially obscuring informative content, Gregorio demonstrates her supreme skill at communicating and evoking feelings from the reader without sacrificing the clarity of content. I believe her ability to walk this line with such grace comes from the very subject of the book–tapping into the somatic dimensions of your lived experience.

“I literally feel the words as they move through my body.It’s as if language fully occupies me, from the inside out, so that language is then born out of the body. It’s as if language and the body are really one.”1

Gregorio invites us into this exploration through her prolific use of exercises, which range from breath work and meditations to a variety of movement practices. Many of these exercises are deeply informed by Gregorio’s decades of practicing aikido, drawing upon her somatic (embodied) experience of this martial art to discover the powerful language hidden in the depths of one’s own body. Although one might think that martial arts and writing have little to do with one another, aikido has been an invaluable teacher for Gregorio because of how it relies on the interplay of energy between practitioners. By learning how to recognize, channel, and redirect the energies between herself and a partner on the sparring mat, Gregorio transmuted these insights to the dynamic between a writer and their own unique language that lies buried in their blood and bones.

At times, the amount of exercises Gregorio shares with us–usually two, if not three, per chapter!–can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re the sort of person who likes to try each and every one before moving on to the next section. But not to worry, Gregorio advises the reader to pick and choose from among the exercises in each of the four main Parts of her book. As with any embodied practice, each person will have a unique experience and must experiment to discover which practices speak to them most powerfully. Thus, Gregorio’s plethora of exercises works perfectly for this method. In finding a couple exercises in each part which suit you and your writing needs, you establish a core set of practices which you can change or expand upon in the future.

As I moved further into the text, I found great appreciation for the overall organization and structure of The Writer Who Inhabits Your Body. Each of the four main Parts of the book contains seven or eight chapters which support the theme of each Part: Center is Everything, Opening the Body to Language, Turning Obstacles into Doorways, and The Roar of Your Writing. Part One begins with the most general discussion and exercises about tuning in to one’s somatic experience. Each subsequent Part then turns more directly toward the act of writing and bringing one’s embodied language out into the world.

I found this progression to be extremely helpful and well-designed to facilitate the reader’s gradual immersion into their somatic depths before trying to actively apply this to writing. As much as this book is about discovering one’s most authentic voice as a writer, it is also about unfolding one’s embodied soul through the medium of writing. Even though the practices in Part One are fairly universal–developing somatic sensitivity regardless of whether I wish to empower my writing–each contains a journal prompt that works toward integrating somatic experience and language. This led into Part Two, which focuses on creating space for your embodied writer to emerge, and deepening your relationship with that writer and the practice of your writing.

Part Three is my personal favorite, as it addresses common ways that we can get in our own way as writers. Whether fear is holding your words back, or difficult emotions and memories block you from your truest expression, Gregorio provides the means to transform each type of creative dam into a roaring river of expression. Finally, Part Four centers around harnessing the latent power of your somatic writer to bring forth the fullest and most authentic voice to your writing. This means not only discovering what you–and only you–have to write about, but also how to let your words roar off the page that can shake your audience to their core.

Sharing an insight from one of her students, Gregorio writes “at first roaring was about ‘standing up, being seen, being heard, making a difference,’ but that her definition of roaring evolved into also ‘knowing and accepting yourself so much that it is not you that roars but the words.’ Roaring is the ability to feel confident and sense your competency.”2

One of the reasons why I think this book is so effective is that many of her practices mirror those in various forms of psychological therapy. For example, exercises such as “Identifying Your Historic Patterns” and “The Mask of Self Doubt” function similarly to methods used in Internal Family Systems theory, used to help recognize and prevent one’s subpersonalities from detrimentally interfering with one another. Likewise, “Giving Shape to the Unseen” and “Accepting What’s Behind You” are reminiscent of Jungian-style shadow work. Although the practices may be similar, Gregorio’s somatic focus adds dimensions of our embodied experience that can often be overlooked in therapeutic settings.

Overall, The Writer Who Inhabits Your Body is one of the most helpful books about improving your writing that I’ve ever encountered. Even without a current writing project in my life, the range and depth of exercises are already yielding fruit. Exploring my somatic experience and journaling about my findings is certainly valuable, and has also helped in delving the depths of my soul. I definitely plan on returning to this text (over and over) to try out the different exercises, and hopefully loose my own roaring words upon the world. I don’t think it too bold to say that The Writer Who Inhabits Your Body is so approachable and applicable that it would find a home on anyone’s book shelf, regardless of their creative pursuits.

The Way of the Will, by David Shoemaker

The Way of the Will: Thelema in Action, by David Shoemaker
Weiser Books, 1578638267, 240 pages, May 2024

The vicissitudes of life can strip away everything that grants mortals an illusory sense of identity and stability, but hidden within the core of every human being is a microcosmic star, an immortal spark of divinity, which is the immutable true self. The mystical tradition of Thelema, founded by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), is a philosophical path for magicians seeking to discover their true selves and align with their life purpose, or True Will, through the alchemical Great Work of personal transformation. (Thelema is a Greek word meaning “will,” specifically the will of a divine being.1) In The Way of the Will: Thelema in Action, author Dr. David Shoemaker provides Thelemic exercises for spiritual growth, utilizing Qabalistic psychology, the Tree of Life, astrology, and excerpts from Crowley’s writings.

Dr. Shoemaker is a Jungian clinical psychologist, magician, musician, and composer. He is the chancellor and prolocutor of the Temple of the Silver Star, and has been a member of O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis, which is Latin for the Order of Oriental Templars, or Order of the Temple of the East) and A∴A∴ (Astreum Argenteum, or Silver Star) for over thirty years. He is also the author of The Winds of Wisdom: Visions from the Thirty Enochian Aethyrs (2016) and Living Thelema: A Practical Guide to Attainment in Aleister Crowley’s System of Magick (2022), which is a companion text to this present work.

Part One of The Way of the Will focuses on working with the Qabalistic Tree of Life and how the sephiroth relate to the various initiatory grades of Thelema. The exercise provided in Chapter 1 helps the reader balance their internal Tree of Life by identifying how each sephirah is manifesting in their daily life and consciousness. For example, if one is being swept away by a tsunami of chaotic emotions and behaving irrationally, then Netzach may be out of whack, and that emotional energy needs to be sublimated in more constructive ways.

In Chapter 2, titled “Qabalistic Psychology in the New Aeon,” Dr. Shoemaker explains how parts of the soul correspond to the Tree of Life. Malkuth, the earthly sphere, is related to guph, the “physical body.”2 Nephesh, the “animal soul,”3 which is the seat of our primal instincts and procreative drive, corresponds to the lunar sphere of Yesod. Dr. Shoemaker likens the nephesh to one’s inner child, which must be guided by the parental figure of ruach, the “breath”4 soul and conscious mind.

“The ruach needs to parent the nephesh in a compassionate and nonjudgmental way—a way that clearly conveys to the nephesh that its instincts, its drives, its sexuality, its life force, are all divine and perfect,”5 says Dr. Shoemaker.

Part of Thelemic initiation involves cleansing the nephesh of the shame, guilt, and body negativity of the Old Aeon, which Dr. Shoemaker compares to “child abuse”6 perpetuated by oppressive aspects of Christian ideology. In the New Aeon, the inner child, or nephesh, must learn to trust in the wisdom of the inner parent, the ruach, instead of seeking external validation from a spiritual savior or someone else’s ruach.

The ruach encompasses several sephiroth on the Tree of Life, including Yesod (intuition) and the five spheres of Jungian ego: Chesed (memory), Geburah (will), Tiphareth (the spiritual hub of consciousness), Netzach (emotion), and Hod (intellect).

The neshamah is the transpersonal aspect of the soul, or superconsciousness, and corresponds to the supernal triad of Kether, Chokmah, and Binah, with an emphasis on Binah in particular. “This supernal consciousness transcends our everyday egoic strivings, wants, and desires and contains archetypes, spiritual ideals, and symbolic material in its highest forms,” writes Dr. Shoemaker. [40] It is through contact with neshamah (superconsciousness) that the ruach (ego/conscious mind) discerns one’s True Will, and aligns with the immortal true self, which resides in the khabs, or star-self aspect of the soul in the center of our being. 

In terms of human evolution, humanity learned during the Old Aeon that we could transcend our animal drives (nephesh) and temper them by developing and identifying with our egoic higher consciousness (ruach). The downside of this process was the tendency to reject the animal aspect of the soul and feel ashamed of our bodies and primal urges, but the mind-body connection can be healed by recognizing the innate sacredness of both. As we transition into the New Aeon, human consciousness is evolving to transcend our over-identification with the ego and align with the superconsciousness (neshamah).

Reading this chapter was an incredible spiritual download for me and enhanced my personal relationship with the Tree of Life. Lately, I find myself drawn to working with the lunar sphere of Yesod in particular, and learning from this book that Yesod is associated with nepesh, the animal soul, aligns with my conscious spiritual work to heal the mind/body disconnect by honoring the sacredness of the animal kingdom and rewilding myself. Over the past few years, my personal healing work has involved nourishing my animal soul by caring for cats, growing more of my own food, and raising chickens for eggs. I daydream about working with goats and bees in the future.

I think Dr. Shoemaker’s parent/child analogy for ruach/nepesh is easily adaptable to humanity’s relationship with animals as their caretakers. I’m deeply disturbed by humanity’s disconnect from nature and the decline of traditional animal husbandry in favor of the unceremonious and inhumane slaughtering practices of industrial farming. We don’t value animal life or see animals as sacred, and that’s clear in how we treat them. We also shame our own animal souls, our physical bodies, and seek to transcend them, either through repressing and denying them via unbalanced spirituality or by trying to control or alter natural biological processes through pharmaceutical and medical interventions.

In Chapter 4, “Saturn and Jupiter in the Life of a Thelemite,” Dr. Shoemaker explores the magician’s juggling act of balancing the universal energies of expansion and contraction, represented by Jupiter and Saturn in astrology. The life challenges and constraints imposed by Saturn can sometimes serve as redirections that steer us back on the path of True Will rather than egoic will. I appreciate Dr. Shoemaker’s approach to the astrological taskmaster Saturn, as he encourages readers “to think inside the box, consciously striving to accept and learn from the restrictions that appear to bind us.”7

Saturn is associated with Binah on the Tree of Life, the archetypal womb of the Great Mother, and the Grail, or cup of Babalon. Dr. Shoemaker explains that the Saturnian Grail gives shape and form to creative energy in the same way that a chalice contains and restricts the flow of liquid. For an artist, limitations can stimulate creativity. By adhering to a certain structure or form, creative breakthroughs can occur.

Embracing the fated restraints of Saturn brings us into ecstatic union with the Great Mother. In Thelema, the Egyptian sky goddess Nuit, whose infinite body is spangled with stars, is “the goddess of all possibilities and realities.”8 One way to worship her is through acceptance of our current circumstances and surrendering to all of our experiences, regardless of how unpleasant they may be, rather than resisting, repressing, or denying them, which is an ego-based response. Dr. Shoemaker compares this to softening and surrendering to the sensation of physical pain, such as stubbing a toe, rather than clenching the muscles in resistance. Surrender as an act of worship enhances our intuitive receptivity to the superconscious wisdom of neshamah, which can help us navigate life’s challenges more effectively.

One devotional practice of surrender he suggests involves mindful and radical acceptance of everything one encounters by taking “regular walks through both attractive and unattractive surroundings,” and accepting “all of these things as perfect manifestations of Nuit.”9 This holistic approach should also be applied inward, through radical acceptance of one’s strengths and weaknesses and recognizing that all aspects of the soul are in service to one’s True Will. 

Reading about radical acceptance was synchronous for me because lately I’ve been thinking about how certain negative experiences aligned with my soul purpose but were painful and traumatic for my ego to endure, yet I had no choice but to surrender to them, and seek a higher purpose through them. I personally believe that the Western concept of free will is more ego-based and illusory, while the Thelemic concept of True Will aligns with the Divine and the mysterious workings of fate.

“Part Two: Thelemic Practice in Detail” provides exercises for shifting from ego-centered consciousness to cosmic consciousness, as well as advice on how to craft potent invocations and achieve “a ‘talismanic’ state of consciousness”10 for divine embodiment in ecstatic ritual. This section also devotes chapters to exploring the magical symbolism of Crowley’s Gnostic Mass and the influence of the Golden Dawn on Thelema, as well as giving guidance on seeking out a Thelemic teacher or organization to join, if one so desires.

Part Two opens with a chapter on “Advanced Thelemic Meditations” that assist with “disidentification with the ego and its thoughts.”11 For example, one exercise from Crowley’s Liber Iod involves breathing through the nose while imagining sending breath to the Ajna chakra (the third eye, or brow chakra, in the center of the forehead) instead of the lungs. With practice, other sensations, such as pain, can also be transferred to Ajna.

Attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is the ultimate magical invocation, which involves the integration of one’s Holy Guardian Angel, or HGA, who is the angelic personification of their True Will, with their consciousness. The final chapter of this book is Dr. Shoemaker’s memoir of his personal epiphany of his Holy Guardian Angel, which he experienced in December 2004. This chapter is one of the most valuable in the book because so few magicians talk about this experience, and it will be inspiring for readers considering attempting the ritual because it gives them an idea of what to expect.

Dr. Shoemaker reveals that all the unique life experiences of the magician, both good and bad, are utilized by the HGA to make them a proper vessel for enacting their True Will, and the HGA will unite with the magician at the right kairos (the Greek concept of sacred time).

“Everything you think of as yourself has been there to enable you to be a better talisman of your HGA—an attractor and vessel for the indwelling force of the HGA,”12 Dr. Shoemaker says.

I love that he likens the cleansing and refinement of the initiate’s soul to the consecration of a “talisman,”13 which empowers the initiate to live in accordance with their True Will. It’s such a beautiful analogy that emphasizes the sacredness of all aspects of the soul.

In my personal exploration of the Tree of Life, I’ve been working from the ground up, and after spending a lot of time contemplating the lunar sphere of Yesod, I feel like I’m about ready to enter the solar sphere of Tiphareth. When working with Yesod, I often have visions of a spider, which I think of as my shadow totem, and I recently learned that Crowley considered the spider to be sacred to Tiphareth, which is a startling confirmation of the significance of my spider spirit in relation to the Tree of Life. The sephiroth surrounding Tiphareth do visually resemble a spider’s web, and Yesod and Malkuth could be imagined as a spider descending upon a silk thread. I believe the spider of Tiphareth corresponds to the Native American Grandmother Spider, who carries the sun on her back, and I imagine she could also be a symbol of Nuit, whose starry body is the night sky, bearing infinite suns.

In Dr. Shoemaker’s memoir, he shares an insight regarding Tiphareth that makes me excited to move forward with that sephirah:

“The way I think of it, the HGA ‘lives’ in Kether, but you first encounter it with full conscious awareness in Tiphareth. This is your point of contact—the marriage bed where the balanced and awakened human ruach is joined with the descending power of the path of Gimel from Kether.”14

The Way of the Will offers a holistic approach to spiritual development, which embraces all aspects of the soul, from the lower animal self to the divine star-self. As someone who is not initiated into Thelema and has limited knowledge of Crowley’s teachings, I found this work to be accessible and enlightening, and it’s been a wonderful complement to my own personal exploration of the Qabalistic Tree of Life.

However, this is not an introductory text, as it assumes that the reader has some basic knowledge of Qabalah and other Thelemic concepts. Throughout the book, Dr. Shoemaker recommends that the reader refer back to his previous work, Living Thelema, which I haven’t had the opportunity to read yet, but I managed to follow along without much difficulty. I’m grateful that Dr. Shoemaker is making his insights available to the public, and I’m adding Living Thelema to my reading list so I can reference the two works together in the future.

Tarot Meditations, by Heliodor Press

Tarot Meditations: Draw a Card and Take the Next Step on Your Spiritual Journey, by Heliodor Press
Heliodor Press, 979-8990089808, 178 pages, March 2024

The past few months, I had lost my tarot spark. The cards felt repetitive, or perhaps it was my reading style that had grown stale. I could intuitively grasp the reading and I knew the meanings of each card, but I wasn’t feeling any deeper immersion. It wasn’t until I read Tarot Meditations: Draw a Card and Take the Next Step on Your Spiritual Journey by Heliodor Press that my tarot practice was revived. This book makes me excited to do tarot readings again, and I’ve been enjoying the meditative perspective it frames each card in.

Tarot Meditations offers a unique and enriching approach to understanding and connecting with the tarot. Rather than focusing solely on traditional interpretations and fortune-telling, this book takes readers on a journey through meditative practices that deepen their relationship with the cards. This method encourages readers to move beyond rote memorization of card meanings and instead cultivate a more intuitive and experiential approach to the tarot.

The book is thoughtfully structured with each chapter dedicated to a different card from the deck, starting with the major arcana and moving through each suit in the order of cups, wands, swords, then pentacles. There’s a short description of the card, a table with information about the color, crystal, and astrological symbol associated with the card, and then a guided meditation designed to help readers internalize and personalize their understanding.

This meditative method of getting to know the card you’ve pulled encourages readers to move beyond rote memorization of card meanings and instead cultivate a more intuitive and experiential approach to the tarot. Additionally, within each meditation there are affirmations readers are encouraged to announce aloud to the universe, further integrating the card’s energy with one’s spiritual journey.

For instance, part of the guided meditation for the King of Cups reads:

“With each breath, feel the soothing energy of the aquamarine crystal washing over you, bringing a sense of calmness, clarity, and communication to your emotional state… As you continue to breathe deeply, imagine the King of Cups guiding you through the turbulent waters of your emotions with grace and poise.”1

The readers are then encouraged to repeat affirmations, including:

“I lead with empathy, nurturing understanding, and healing in myself and others.”2

“My presence is a sanctuary of peace, where love and compassion reign supreme.”3

What I love about this approach is that it instantly taps you into the energy of the card, revealing insights from within the card’s perspective that awaken inner knowledge in yourself too. The meaning of each card isn’t just “out there” or in my mind; rather, the card and I become one, and its energy infuses my spirit with the affirmations needed in that moment. The introspection helps to reveal what’s going on inside of me, guiding me forward with more understanding and awareness.

Another thing I appreciate about the meditations is how they often include the contents of the table within the meditation. The table states rose quartz is the crystal associated with the Four of Wands, the astrology symbol is Venus, and the color is gold. The meditation includes all these symbolic aspects, asking one to envision a golden hue and bask in it, then later the meditation moves to imagining a rose quartz crystal’s energy radiating outward and the Venus symbol above one’s head, “infusing every cell of your being, reminding you of the support system that surrounds you and the bonds that sustain you.”4

The inclusion of the table contents in the meditation helps me to understand these symbolic associations of the card, yielding insight that goes beyond just the traditional meaning of each card. Not only am I reading the table and learning, the meditation is then opening my mind’s eye to these energies too, further connecting me to their energies and blending them with my aura.

Now, I will acknowledge that it might be hard for some to simultaneously get into the meditative state and also read the guided meditation at the same time. As an avid reader, I have no problem reading the words and letting my mind drift into that deeper state to be fully immersed at the same time. But for those who want a more concentrated meditative experience, I would suggest either recording yourself reading it before and playing it back or having someone read the guided meditation to you.

Overall, Tarot Meditations is a wonderful resource for those looking to connect with the cards from within. The emphasis on using the tarot as a tool for self-reflection and spiritual growth makes it accessible to both beginners and seasoned practitioners. The affirmations and incorporation of symbolic associations are sure to deepen readers’ understanding of the cards’ meanings and foster a new relationship with their deck. I’m so grateful for this book bringing back the introspective aspect that my readings had been lacking, infusing my spirit with fresh energy as I connect with the cards in a new way.