✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Your Magickal Year, by Melinda Lee Holm

Your Magickal Year: Transform your life through the seasons of the zodiac, by Melinda Lee Holm
CICO Books, 1800650957, 160 pages, April 2022

What does it mean to live magically? If you’re on a journey to discover this for yourself, Your Magickal Year: Transform your life through the seasons of the zodiac by Melinda Lee Holm is the perfect book to use as guidance when cultivating a magical lifestyle. This book guides you through the year, tapping into the new and full moon through all the zodiac signs to facilitate personal growth and understanding through the transformation that comes from attuning to the lunar cycle.

“To follow a magickal year is to make a full lap of the stars, touching on each full and new moon, every solstice and equinox, to honor its influence and open yourself to receive it.”1

Holm is a tarot priestess, entrepreneur, and creative writer. She owns her own beauty line that creates all sorts of goodies, such as fragrance oils, natural deodorant, detoxifying cleansing masks, face oil, and more. She published her own Elemental Power Tarot deck and is also co-author of Divine Your Dinner: A cookbook for using tarot as your guide to magickal meals, which made me hungry just hearing the name and curious enough to order it.. review most likely coming soon. 🙂

But let’s focus on Your Magickal Year for right now! First of all, it’s absolutely stunning to look through with gorgeous, hand-drawn images by artist Rohan Daniel Eason filling each page. The beautiful blue hardcover makes it perfect to  keep on one’s coffee table for decoration and necessity, as you’ll need it every two weeks if you’re following the lunar cycle.

As for the interior, there’s the perfect amount of negative space in the content of the book to really allow one’s eyes to focus on the information and pictures to indulge in the joy of fantastic aesthetics. The visual appeal and organization is what makes this book perfect to work with because one can open to a page and fully immerse themselves without having to flip back and forth. Rather than be overwhelming, there’s an invitation to dive in that comes when flipping through the pages. What’s also really unique is how Holm’s Elemental Power Tarot cards are featured as sample readings and as depictions of the tarot cards to use in the rituals. If you love her deck, you’d really enjoy seeing all the artwork in this book.

Holm starts off by providing the reader with a 101 lesson on astronomy, astrology, and magick. From there, the essential tools of the book are covered: tarot cards, a journal, energy clearing tools, candles, crystals, and other supplies that might be needed, including herbs and oils for dressing candles or making offerings. Holm provides plenty of advice about these tools and how to use them, so even someone new to magical workings would feel comfortable getting started. There’s even a very helpful crystal guide of the energy each crystal is best for cultivating.

From here, Holm introduces the reader to four principles that will guide their work, as well as the four elements. She provides a brief overview on timing and preparation for working with the book and then offers answers to some FAQs about the book. The whole introduction is short and sweet, but definitely a solid foundation to begin with.

Now here’s the good part. For each astrological season, Holm writes about the zodiac sign’s symbolism, the magical energy of the season, tarot cards representing the sign, seasonal activities for this time of year, journaling for that season with prompt or suggestion about what to focus on, and a tarot spread for the season. She definitely provides a multi-layered approach to connecting with each season from both an intuitive and astrological perspective. Then there is a section on each zodiac sign’s new moon and full moon, with a little description about the significance of the time and how to connect with the lunar energy, and a ritual.

Since we are approaching a full moon, where the Sun in Taurus will be opposite the Moon in Scorpio, I’ll share the example of what Holm has to say about this time:

“The Taurus/Scorpio axis reveals areas of tension between stability and transformation. It invites conflict between our need to ground and our need to reinvent, what sustains life and what beckons the release of death. Whatever area of life you are ready to  bravely see, accept, and seriously overhaul is lit up by this moon.”2

The ritual provided is “designed to help you focus your energy on what you value most, releasing emotional attachment to things, tasks, situations, or relationships that are no longer important to you or relevant to your personal development.”3page 53[/efn_] The ritual involves use of a cleansing tool, the two tarot cards associated with Taurus (Hierophant) and Scorpio (Death), candles, oil, something symbolic of what you want to release, and purpose, white, and black crystals.

What I like about each ritual is they are fairly simple to do, but the combination of candles, tarot cards, and crystals makes them very potent. Admittedly, some people might not have all the materials readily on hand, so I suggest looking over the ritual about a week before to make sure you’re prepared. I also think this helps you to start connecting with the ritual and setting your own intention.

So far, I’ve worked with the Aries season of the book and the Taurus new moon. As an astrologer, I can vouch for Holm’s interpretation of each zodiac sign. She is definitely skilled in her craft and does an amazing job of translating the energy of the seasons into insightful, transformative practices that are fun to incorporate into one’s daily life. The journal prompts are helpful for focusing my awareness on the energy of the season, allowing me to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. And the rituals make me feel like I am grounding the energy and honoring the lunar cycles through my intentional alignment.

For easy access to the timing of the  lunar cycle, there is a “Key Dates” section at the end of the book with the date and time of all the new and full moons from 2022 to 2030. Plus, there’s a very helpful index for reference. For instance, if you’re reading with book with a background in tarot, you can quickly look up in the index a tarot card of interest and find the page it’s discussed on.

All in all, Your Magickal Year is an absolutely stellar book. It’s gorgeous, accessible, and most of all, extraordinarily mystical. I think it’s the perfect book for beginning a practice of connecting with the lunar year or deepening the practice you already have. As someone who’s actively worked with the lunar cycles for over a decade now, Holm’s rituals, journal prompts, and tarot spreads provided new inspiration and brought a breath of fresh air to my practice. We all deserve a magical life, and this book for sure will be of use when creating one.

Machine Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, by Luke Lafitte

Machine Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Spiritual Freedom and the Re-animation of Matter, by Luke Lafitte
Inner Tradition, 1644114062, 480 pages, February 2022

As the heft of its title might suggest, Machine Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Spiritual Freedom and the Re-animation of Matter is a huge undertaking. Luke Lafitte’s great endeavor is to take the reader on a journey through the history and transformation of America’s unique archetypal mythology so that we, in the present day, may better grasp the nature of who we are as well as our relationship to the world in which we live. It is certainly a fascinating journey, but also one that requires a high degree of vigilance and attention from the reader as Lafitte’s argument unfolds.

The gist of the book’s overarching argument is that America’s “cowboy” archetype – the self-reliant, individualistic person who explores the frontier and overcomes the challenges posed by Nature – has gradually been replaced by the “mechanical-man” archetype. The mechanical-man is inextricably intertwined with technology: as such, the primary qualities of this archetype are centered around information, communication, and control. This is not only communication with other people and gaining information and control of the external environment–these activities are directed more toward humanity’s relationship and integration with technology itself.

What makes Machine Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm truly unique is the detailed look at how American history and (science-)fiction are woven together, starting from the age of steam and progressing into the contemporary world. He has a great eye for picking up on the mythological motifs and patterns arising from fiction in several different scientific eras from the 19th through the early 21st century, and discusses them at length to show how societal attitudes toward technology change throughout these time periods. From the Wizard of Oz, to Tesla and Edison, to Azimov, Musk and Star Wars – both the scientific and fictive worlds are shown as playing off of and informing one another.

As someone interested in both science fiction and ethical issues, one of the many insightful points that really hit home for me, was Lafitte’s idea that science fiction not only allows us to explore new realms of possibility pertaining to technology, but that the genre shines a light on ourselves. Science fiction invites us to consider who and what we are in ways that weren’t really possible in the past. Moreover, he suggests that these considerations can’t even be captured in a straightforward, socio-political discussion, due to the increasing complexity of these issues.

“Because the trade-offs [between the beneficial and destructive potential of science] were becoming more complex, they could only–in terms of human-machine interactions–be understood in terms of myth and storytelling.”1

The idea that myth illuminates aspects of human experience which are consciously unavailable to the culture that produced the myth is a well-founded notion in mythological studies. However, Lafitte argues that the mechanical-man archetype takes us in a new direction, offering a new type of mirror with which we can examine ourselves. With the rapid development of technology throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, especially as “machines” began to be seen as possessing some form of vitality, this was the first time in human history that we had a kind of consciousness–similar enough to our own–which allowed us to probe our own nature in new ways.

While it’s easy to become swept up in the myths, biographical details, and historical trends Lafitte presents throughout the book, one must be careful not to lose sight of his broader argument. The quest, as Lafitte himself calls it, is aimed at not simply an informative discussion of these socio-cultural changes as America developed into a technological superpower. He is ultimately arguing that these developments are moving us toward a new paradigm of consciousness. Put in a way that might be familiar to those in spiritual circles: we are heading toward the point where human consciousness and Cosmic Consciousness merge.

This is a familiar idea that we might find in Vedanta, Buddhism, or gnostic traditions. But while these prior traditions and theories may leave the scientifically-inclined a little wary, Lafitte’s approach is couched in more recent historical and cultural trends. For certain, you aren’t likely to find the mechanical-man at the forefront of these other schools of thought, heralding the new paradigm. But as Lafitte suggests, as humanity appears to be moving into a new paradigm due to the increasing complexity of our world (due to the contributions of technology), we should expect to see the emergence of a cultural archetype which captures that spirit of complexity.

The earlier, more historically-focused, stages of the book are a fun and thought-provoking read, but upon entering the latter chapters, the reader will be more challenged by Lafitte’s main argument. Naturally, this part of the book builds upon the foundation laid throughout the earlier chapters, but the degree of conceptual discussion definitely ramps up to a whole other level. I’m not saying that this level of discussion detracts from the book–indeed, it’s the most important part!–but certainly demands more from the reader. Focused attention to the details of Lafitte’s discussion, as well as the broader perspective of the overarching quest of the book, are required to see how the ideas coalesce toward the author’s conclusion.

At the end of the day, I am deeply impressed with Machine Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm. Admittedly, it was a little tough for me to get into the book at the beginning: I was eager to dive into the conceptual discussion that lay in the second half. But as I continued to read, I found Lafitte’s insights regarding the evolution of the mechanical-man extremely valuable. The quest that Lafitte takes us on is magnificent in both scope and precision. He seeks not only to present the development of the mechanical-man as the avatar of our technological culture, but also to reveal what that might mean for our trajectory into the future. As with many processes of depth psychology, Lafitte digs into the depths (our past) in order to rediscover our spirit so that it may rise into the potentially limitless freedom of a new paradigm.

A Spellbook for the Seasons, by Tudorbeth

A Spellbook for the Seasons: Welcome Natural Change with Magical Blessings, by Tudorbeth
Red Wheel Weiser, 9781590035375, 224 pages, March 2022

It’s always wonderful to step into a new season. How inspiring to embrace the changes in the natural world – differences in the light, the weather, the plants, the holidays. A Spellbook for the Seasons: Welcome Natural Change with Magical Blessing by Tudrobeth is a companion to the seasons that will greatly enhance your experiences and show you in so many ways how we are connected to the natural world.

Tudorbeth invites the reader to embrace the seasons and to “investigate these festivals (that are celebrated), the practical magic that flows through our seasons, and the gods that rule over the different times of the year.”1 I particularly liked that the book opens with two blessings: one for sisters and brothers around the world and one for the seasons and the turning of the wheel of the year.

The book is divided into the four seasons, with focus on each season’s garden, crystals, goddesses and gods, and spells, blessings and rituals. As I read the book in the spring, I focused most of my attention on that season. The spring months are associated with the Celtic deities such as Ostara, Belenus (Beltaine), and Brigid. The spring’s spells, blessings, and rituals include those for encouraging flowering in the garden, a daisy love ritual, and Ostara fresh air spell.

I performed the Ostara ritual on Ostara Eve, as the ritual is meant to embody hope, and then I made Ostara magic salt on the night of the full moon in March. When sprinkled around the home or office, it ensures bright ideas and business success. I now have my jar of pink salt sitting in a glass jar, ready for use! I enjoyed following Tudorbeth’s guidance and felt these small magical acts really attuned me to the energies of the season of spring.

For spring cleaning, there’s a small section on decluttering. I loved the Charm of Manannan. As Tudorbeth explains, the Celtic god, Manannan is a “foster father to the many children he takes under his care, and as a protector god he cares deeply for his children.”2 The Charm of Manannan is meant to bring about a loving and caring family home environment.

Additionally, there are rain blessings and rain energy spells that are meant to be done in a spring rainfall. The section on Beltane traditions provided an overview of Beltane, a cleansing detox ritual, and a spring sage clearing ritual. The Charm of Belenus is meant to be done toward the end of spring. The Charm is meant to invoke a happy, fun, and prosperous environment.

My recommendation for using this book to full advantage is to read the section on the upcoming season prior to the season’s arrival so that you have time to gather the items needed for the spells. While some might need to be collected at the last minute, such as flower-specific items, you can be prepared with other items such as salts, colored candles, essential oils, and shells. And then take your time in the season, experimenting with what you’re drawn to.

The sections on the season-specific garden offered suggestions on bringing wonder and magic into your outdoor space and inviting in the fairies. For spring, they include bluebells, hyacinth, and lily of the valley. As spring is associated with rain and showers, Tudorbeth focused on the power of the rainbow, and the suggested crystals include the colors of spring that form a pentagram of rainbows. The five spring crystals are rainbow opal, rainbow moonstone, rainbow obsidian, rainbow pyrite, and rainbow quartz.

The one downside for me was that some of the items were not readily available where I live such as periwinkle flowers or hawthorn twigs but again, with advance notice (e.g. reading the season in advance) I probably could have searched them out.

The other seasons are also given justice. Summer focuses on love, featuring Aphrodite and Apollo, a spell to welcome nymphs into the garden, Midsummer salt, a Lammas gratitude ritual, and a ritual for Midsummer enchantment. For Autumn, among other things, there is a clarity spell, an equinox healing ritual, a Mabon success spell, a Charm of Minerva (one of the three Roman deities who rule over the Autumn months), and a Samhain remembrance potion. Winter offers a first snow spell, an ice wand consecration ritual (if you are able to get an icicle), a Charm of Odin, midwinter tea, and an Imbolc ritual.

The most amazing part of A Spellbook for the Seasons is all the colorful, informative pictures. This is a gorgeous book to have on a table in your home because of the aesthetics that make it soothing to read through. The beauty of this book naturally entices one to want to perform with all the potent magic within. I really enjoyed the many hand-drawn illustrations, along with how the text on each page was simple and elegant. There is no clutter in the book, making it easy to focus on the spellwork or ritual you’re performing.

Tudorbeth is a hereditary practitioner of the Craft. The rules and gifts of herb lore, scrying, healing, tasseomancy, numerology, and candle magic have been passed down to her through several generations. I especially loved her reminder that we are meant to “use the gift that nature brings with these spells, but in return give something back … We are all connected to one another and everything around us. We are nature.”3 I highly recommend A Spellbook for the Seasons with encouragement to plan ahead to be able to use the knowledge imparted within its pages to full advantage.

Angels in Waiting, Robbie Holz with Judy Katz

Angels in Waiting: How to Reach Out to Your Guardian Angels and Spirit Guides, by Robbie Holz with Judy Katz
Destiny Books, 1644113163, 144 pages, November 2021

In troubled times, it always feels good to know there is someone we can count on: our guardian angel and spirit guides. But too often we forget our divine, celestial team of support. Angels in Waiting: How to Reach Out to Your Guardian Angels and Spirit Guides by Robbie Holz with Judy Katz is the perfect reminder of the ample assistance available to us, if we just remember to ask. This lovely book opens the mind, heart, and spirit to the Heavenly realms, inviting in a bounty of loving, blissful energy.

Holz is an internationally acclaimed healer and medium. After healing herself of hepatitis C and fibromyalgia with Aboriginal spiritual practices, she went on to write Secrets of Aboriginal Healing and Aboriginal Secrets of Awakening. Currently, she offers healing sessions, guided by her team of spirits, to facilitate healing in clients through tuning into unconscious beliefs or emotional issues contributing to their illness or injury. Katz is a book writer, publisher, and promoter, who enjoys using her skills to connect authors and their audience.

The authors’ compassion and empathy seep through every word of Angels in Waiting, creating sacred trust between her and the reader, as they teach how to awaken to the connection with one’s guardian angel. The book moves at a pace that makes this spiritual practice easy to integrate into one’s life. While communicating with one’s guardian angel is always possible, it can still take time to learn to listen to the wisdom of one’s spirit team. The grounded and simple approach shared for connecting with one’s spirit team makes divine support accessible for all, regardless of wherever you’re currently at on your spiritual path.

“Communicating with these other realms is a process. Contacting angels and guides is not a matter of raising your face toward heaven and asking–even earnestly pleading–for assistance. All your problems will not be magically solved with the stroke of an angelic wand. However, if you take the process of “reaching out” seriously and learn to view it as a series of steps, I promise you it will yield exponential results that will impact your life in many positive ways.”1

And as the authors guide you through this process, it’s as though they intuitively knew the questions you might ask and wrote about it for you. Multiple times, just when I was starting to question something, the next section answered it! For instance, I was wondering how one distinguishes between information from their guardian angel and information from their mind, and Holz and Katz write all about this and includes a list of signs that one’s guardian angel is trying to connect with them.

Just like human relationships, the authors emphasizes that our relationship with our guardian angel and spirit guides shouldn’t be one way. I really appreciated her pointing this out, because I often forget this myself. I’ll pray or speak with my guardian angel in times of need, but our relationship would be strengthened by having daily practice. They recommends journaling, making a shrine, and meditating as some of the ways to include your guardian angel in your day to day life.

One thing in particular that is conveyed is the importance of trusting one’s own intuition.

“Your spirit guides and angels will not guide you through your fears. Rather, with great love they will guide you through your instincts.”2

I can’t tell you how many times I talk myself out of doing something I feel called to do, while mustering the energy to do something I don’t feel called to do but think I “should”. The authors’ framing of how our angels guide us through instinct has made me trust myself more since reading the book. I am remembering the purpose of my intuition is to guide my path forward, and that it’s important to listen to my instinct without overthinking things.

Our angels can help us with so many things, which Holz and Katz shares with us chapter by chapter. They covers how angels can help us with money and success, assist us in healing physically, overcome heartbreak, find love, work through life’s challenges, and change our self-hatred into self-love. All we have to do is ask!

It made me start wondering why I haven’t been reaching out to my angels more, and I started a practice of meditating with them for clarity and peace in my life. I am going through a bit of a career pivot right now and have been concerned about the future, so I also have been asking my angels for help, trusting the path forward is meant for me will be divinely guided.

“Let your angels and guides help you find the job, career, or passion you deserve, the one that will lead you to a fulfilling life based on love, not one where you are mired in boredom or frustration. Just know that there is always a way out of a stalled work situation if you listen to your spirit team and let them take the reins.”3

My favorite thing about this book is the variety of techniques used to assist readers, including meditations, case studies, and anecdotes of other’s spiritual journey. The case studies especially helped me to see angelic guidance, healing, and transformation are possible–others have experienced it, and so can I. I’m the type of person who really appreciates real life stories of success–they give me faith and motivate me to nurture my relationship with my guardian angel–and I am really glad that Holz and Katz included them as a teaching tool.

Another really neat thing the authors provides readers with in the Appendix is an explanation of the different dimensions. Many authors toss around terms like the 3rd dimension or 5th dimension without clarification. They discusses a shift in the heart that is changing the consciousness on Earth as more people awaken to the 5th dimension. Since she is using these terms, I appreciated that she clearly defines a dimension and then explains the first through sixth dimension for readers.

All in all, Angels in Waiting is an uplifting book that will help you to attune yourself to communication with your guardian angel and spirit guides. The authors’ approach is practical and down to earth, while simultaneously filled with a supportive, divine energy thorough as well. It’s the perfect book for those just learning about guardian angels. Those who already have a relationship with their angel will surely benefit also from reading it, as the case studies are inspirational and the wisdom of Holz and Katz is generously shared. This book is a small blessing that can most certainly lead to big transformations.

Empathy For the Devil, by Jerry Hyde

Empathy for the Devil: Make Your Demons Work for You. Without Selling Your Soul., by Jerry Hyde
O-Books, 1789047315, 160 pages, November 2021

I don’t subscribe to the whole idea of love and light as a spiritual path; I personally feel that we do ourselves a great disservice when we discard the darkest parts of ourselves in favor of remaining positive. Jerry Hyde’s book Empathy for the Devil: Make Your Demons Work for You. Without Selling Your Soul. is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Not only does Hyde straight up tell you that the whole book is shadow work, he actually explains why his book isn’t full of positive affirmations. He says: 

“Personal growth isn’t – and shouldn’t be – nice, it’s not about dream catchers, gong baths, or djembe abuse – it’s about going to the places where most of us have successfully avoided throughout our lives, facing our demons and taking responsibility for whatever we find in the dark recesses of our being.”1

This book might come across as particularly theatrical, and with good reason. Hyde’s extensive career in film, television, theater, and music comes across in the way he writes. Retraining as a psychotherapist has not diminished the flamboyant way he writes, and I am completely here for it.

Part confessional, part blueprint for excavating the deep crevasses of our psyche, this book is challenging in that it demands your full participation. Hyde writes as one who has been there and done that, and there is comfort to be taken from that. Personally, I want to be guided by someone who has done the work and not just have instructions and rituals barked at me: this isn’t a spiritual boot camp. Hyde takes great care to be as open and honest as he can; there is no coddling here, no room for those looking to take a short cut and emerge unscathed. As with most books of this type, there is a strong recommendation to travel with a therapist and to journal through the difficult emotions that are surely to arise.  

Hyde fully appreciates that this book is not for everyone and revels in the fact that those who seek it out are not the average Earth dweller. As for himself, Hyde states very matter-of-factly that he is not your average therapist, saying:

“What makes me – and any half-decent therapist – dangerous, is my understanding that true transformation is a process of death and rebirth, death and rebirth, death and rebirth, a constant never-ending cycle of destruction and creation, shattering and rebuilding, chaos and order with no objective other than to constantly be in a state of evolution.”2

It seems like a lot all at once but believe me when I say that picking up this book will save your sanity and just might save your life. Personal growth is exhausting despite the positive outcomes we may experience in conjunction with laying bare our most painful experiences. Sometimes we need to go through the patterns of excavating, re-experiencing, and healing many times before we can honestly say that we have dealt with the root cause, and sometimes we never even get close to discovering that root cause.

The book is broken into four parts which make a lot of sense once you get into the material. Keep in mind, this is not your average self-help book; this is a lifestyle changing guide designed to bring the reader back to themselves again and again. The first section, aptly titled “Here we go…” is a robust intro to both the writer and the materials that he will be addressing. It’s here we get our first taste of who this guy is and I will say that if I ever have the opportunity to meet him, I will no doubt shift into my awkward weirdo persona and say something inane like how much I love his shoes. I’m not great in those situations, is what I’m saying.

The remaining three parts are titled “Sex”, “Drugs”, and “Rock & Roll” and it’s here that we get what we came for. Hyde admits that there is no solid path forward in the acknowledging, exorcizing, and healing cycle that the reader is about to tread upon. What he offers is his approach, and it’s a good one.

There is an additional section called “Transformation” after each chapter and it’s here where we begin to realize what kind of an emotional roller coaster we just got strapped into. Depending on the kind of experiences the reader has had, these transformation segments are quite pointed and sometimes difficult to work through. These are the sections where some might find it useful to have a mental health practitioner with them, as the questions open up a variety of doors some of us may have nailed shut in our youth. It’s no easy feat to pry open these doors we’ve taken such great pains to keep closed, but trust me when I say it’s worth it.

Empathy For the Devil is not an easy book to read. There are a lot of questions and exercises in it that force a re-experiencing of situations that might have been buried due to how traumatic the event was. Personally, I rolled up my sleeves, poured myself a giant glass of wine, and threw myself into it. I did my best to tackle the hard questions and those I wasn’t able to deal with that I flagged and plan to go back to when I am able. If the desire to get to it and stop f*cking around is strong, pick this up, or gift it to someone who is in that headspace. It’s beautiful and life changing and mind blowing and provides just the right amount of trepidation as the chapters roll by. I’m not saying it’s a replacement for a mental health practitioner; I’m saying it’s a great way to get into the muck if you are so inclined.

Pagan Portals – Sekhmet, by Olivia Church

Pagan Portals – Sekhmet: Lady of the Flame, Eye of RA, by Olivia Church
Moon Books, 978-1789047134, 120 pages, February 2022

“Sekhmet is a Goddess for today’s world.  She fiercely protects right order, returning balance to the world, and just as fiercely protects those who celebrate Her.  Her name means “Powerful Woman” and She symbolizes courage and strength as well as inspiration and comfort.”1

Pagan Portals – Sekhmet: Lady of the Flame, Eye of RA by Olivia Church is one of those titles that seems synchronistically to appear exactly when it is needed, much like the Goddess Sekhmet Herself.  And, I would even go so far as to say that in general, the rising interest in the ancient Egyptian deities aligns well with the societal need for a way of devotional that is powerful and terrifying all at once. Sekhmet, as Candace Kant so eloquently expresses in the quote above, is exactly that energy.

This book provides the reader with the tools of information and inspiration that allow for the cultivation of a connection to Sekhmet at multiple layers of experience. Much like the Goddess Sekhmet, the many paths that lead to Her wisdom hold multi-layers of meaning in and of themselves. And, as is the way with the Egyptian Deities–each has many epithets that only give the smallest hint of what lay hidden as you get to know them more deeply. To that end, Church has separated her book into seven chapters that take the reader from ancient knowledge of Sekhmet and the mythos surrounding her and concludes with a more modern approach of devotion and worship. 

Preceding the Introduction there a several pages containing abbreviations used throughout the book and a timeline of Ancient Egyptian history, as well as a geographical map of the more prominent Egyptian sites relevant to Sekhmet. The reader is given a very clear understanding of the the book’s intentions and what can be expected in delving into the Egyptian pantheon.

“Sekhmet is instantly recognizable today from her fierce appearance, bearing the proud head of a lioness, crowned by the sun disc and cobra, with the lower body of an Egyptian woman.  As with many Egyptian deities, Sekhmet is a complex character with a dramatic mythology and enduring influence, which continues to inspire people today…. Sekhmet is a challenging Goddess and this introductory volume will present her without airs and graces…. She is a Goddess of contradiction, sovereign over violence and sickness, as well as patron of healing and protection; she is truly the Mighty One.”2

These few sentences offered in the Introduction set the tone for what Church follows though in providing to the reader in the chapters to come. Each chapter offers the reader the ancient practices, as we know them, of devotion and interaction with Sekhmet and concludes with a section entitled “A Contemporary Pagan Perspective”. Within its writings are ways that the modern practitioner can meld together the inroads laid by the ancients and make them more relevant and accessible within a modern culture. 

As a fitting beginning of introduction to this Goddess, “Chapter 1: Mythology” tells of two myths that convey the origins of Sekhmet.  The subject of Sekhmet’s actual birth is one that exemplifies the mindset of the Ancient Egyptians and the adaptability of their Deities to evolve/spilt and become aspects of various states of being and temperaments rather than singular notions of anthropomorphic overlay.

She is one of several Egyptian Deities that have rather ambiguous beginnings, depending on who is telling the story and where the first stirrings of Sekhmet take place. In reading these myths, we see another layer typical to the Egyptian Deities, where one Deity morphs into another, not quite a hiving off into another half, but in keeping with the Ancient Egyptian psycho-spiritual perspectives, the second becomes an aspect of the first’s personality. This also speaks to the overlapping and true interconnectedness of the Egyptian Deities. 

The first myth presented is the Myth of the Eye of the Sun (The Wandering/Distant Goddess) and the second, which has come to be the more familiar regarding Sekhmet – The Book of the Heavenly Cow/The Destruction of Mankind. In the second myth, Hut-hor (Hathor) through her destructive actions against humanity at the request of RA, her father, Hathor sets out to wreak havoc on those who had turned away from the adoration of RA.  

“Send out your Eye that it may smite them for you, those who have conspired so wickedly. May it descend in the form of Hathor (B.H.C. 10-15; trans. Wente,2003) . . “I have overpowered mankind, and it was agreeable to my heart.” And so, Sekhmet came into being. (BHC.14015)”3

Hathor becomes Sekhmet as another form of being that is the perceived antithesis to the loving and regenerating nature of Hathor and drawing upon that rage and anger, Sekhmet, independent of Hathor comes into being.

“Egyptian mythology makes it clear that Sekhmet “came into being” when Hut-hor (Hathor) manifested true rage within herself.”4

As the reader progresses through Pagan Portals – Sekhmet, the chapters provide a very clear and concise image of the breadth of Sekhmet’s attributions and how important a Deity she was to the Ancient Egyptians. Chapters two to four speak to her designations as “The Devouring Flame” (chapter two), “The Great Healer” (chapter three) and as “The Eye(s) of RA” (chapter 4). And, chapters five to six provide the reader with the ways in which Sekhmet was revered in her “Temples & Cults” (chapter five), “Rituals and Festivals” (chapter six) and the “Magic and Prayers” (chapter seven) offered in adoration and supplication.  

The final chapter, “Worshiping Sekhmet Today”, speaks to some of the powers that were attributed to Sekhmet in ancient times and how these were directly affected by Egyptian culture, geographic location, and more. And, in recognition of those energies, Church encourages the reader to also see from an alternative perspective that worship is impacted by their own culture, geographic location, and worldview.

“I believe that Sekhmet’s ancient manifestations according to the Egyptian ancestors should be considered alongside the perspectives shared by their modern Egyptian descendants and contemporary Pagan experiences of her… As a contemporary polytheist I do not believe that deities remain static and frozen in their first appearances in human culture. I believe the Netjeru, like deities from other cultures, respond to their devotees and changing times…. that they travel with their devotees and are not limited to a single landscape, although they will always retain the memory and connection to their original land and culture.”5

“The Appendix: Key Egyptian Names and Words” is a welcome addition to the book and contains the Ancient Egyptian name/word and its Greek counterpart after assimilation into the Greek pantheon. The encouragement given by Church is for the reader to familiarize themselves with the original Egyptian name–a key factor in aligning with their energies. The Bibliography is a lovely blend of titles that are academic/historical in nature and those more recently written that give an expanded view of the gifts of Sekhmet and the Egyptian pantheon and cosmology in general. 

The test of a valuable title is one that can engage the reader and stimulate interest in the subject matter whether the individual has prior knowledge to build upon, is simply curious or just ordered the wrong book. Oh, and by the way about that last statement of a “wrong book” there are no coincidences! Pagan Portals – Sekhmet is definitely in the category of valuable and informative.

Regardless of what path or tradition you have your spiritual roots anchored within, it cannot be denied that most everything relates back to the Ancient civilizations. And, the Ancient Egyptian world view, their Gods and Goddesses hold a particularly vital place in that lineage. However it is that you come to this book there is a wealth of wisdom in the energies of Sekhmet. And, there is so much more to Her story than a single title could contain. Church has piqued the interest of her reader and what lay within the fires and ferocity of that interest could just be the Divine birthright that changes worlds for the better. 

First Nations Crystal Healing, by Luke Blue Eagle

First Nations Crystal Healing: Working with the Teachers of the Mineral Kingdom, by Luke Blue Eagle
Bear & Company,  9781591434276, 264 pages, October 2021

Luke Blue Eagle shares ways to use thirty-eight different crystals and stones for healing in his book First Nations Crystal Healing. As he says on the back cover:

“Crystals and stones come from Mother Earth and indigenous medicine people have been using them to help and to heal for millennia. Their techniques, although simple, have proven effective through the innumerable healers who have handed down these teachings across the generations.”1

For over twenty-five years, Blue Eagle studied with elders from several indigenous tribes in the US and Canada.  He writes a blog that includes articles on many subjects, from animal totems such as the moose or coyote to crystals or the latest work on his fragrances or his original music.  He is also featured in several audio interviews online. His career spans over forty years as a healer and practitioner. A recent blog announces that he has retired from active work, having trained quite a few people to carry on these techniques.

This book is organized into five parts:

  1. Preparing for a Healing Practice
  2. Crystal Attributes and Correspondences
  3. Principal Practices for Crystal Use and Care
  4. Advanced Healing Practices
  5. The Stones and Their Properties

I have been interested in crystals and gemstones for more than twenty years, so this book really resonated with me.  When my husband and I began to study mediumship, we learned about a few crystals that can support spirit communication. From that time, I’ve loved to use crystals for channeling, healing, and energy clearing.  I was interested to learn more from Blue Eagle about indigenous techniques and practices.

In the initial section, I learned that the indigenous way of healing is truly “holistic” in that it works to treat the whole body system: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  Crystals are a natural part of the healing journey, since they come from Mother Earth.  Blue Eagle reviews the foundations of Native American practices and provides some preliminary information, including his own fundamental laws of healing.

Next, he discusses the attributes of crystals, including form and structure and the colors of crystals.  In the third section, he reviews ways to care for and use crystals and this was my favorite section.  From consecrating a crystal to programming a crystal, Blue Eagle gives the reader step-by-step instructions. He shares:

The consecration ceremony is a twenty-seven-day ritual that will help you commune with your crystal and perceive its specific gifts and then apply them to healing situations.  We use this ceremony to consecrate the crystal to act in a specific way, and in specific circumstances, in a sacred manner. All healing has a sacred component to it, if you understand the notion of holistic healing. The best time to start a consecration ritual is on the new moon.  If not possible on the new moon, any other time will do.2

After he covers how to “program” a crystal, he also discusses the importance of creating “sacred space” for all healing.  I loved the “Heart Meditation” that he shared in the book, which is a three-part meditation and is the first practice he teaches in all of his classes.

In the center of the book are color photos of the thirty-eight crystals, including several of the clear quartz crystal, which is the primary crystal that he uses for healing work.  In the next section, he covers all of the different colors of crystals and how each color plays a role in healing. He does a brief introduction of the color, or “color ray” as he calls it, and then lists specific crystals in that color and shares information about working with that crystal.  

Throughout the book, Blue Eagle adds what he calls a “Teaching Story” that contains a specific reference to an experience he has had that relates to the crystal or practice or healing technique.  One of my favorites was the one shared about Clear Quartz, in which he put a crystal around the neck of a beginning student.  The woman was helping him in his booth at a wellness fair and was becoming overwhelmed by the energy of the many people coming through the booth.  After he put on the crystal, she was able to work the rest of the day with ease and no dip in her energy.3

I was unaware of the ability of clear quartz to be used in this way.  I decided to test it out and wore a necklace I have with a clear quartz crystal point one day when I was going to my granddaughter’s gymnastics meet.  That day, I was able to stay longer than usual and did not feel my energy dip after I had been in the large gym for four hours.  I can’t wait to test out more of his practices and techniques, including his distance healing techniques and many of the meditations. 

On the last page of the book, Blue Eagle shares what he calls “the three fundamental laws of healing: unconditional love, nonattachment and intention.  The philosophical foundations that countless elders have passed down through the generations have great validity.  We must meditate on them so that we tread on solid ground, protecting ourselves and others with insight and wisdom.”4

Blue Eagle’s writing style is very conversational, and I appreciate the depth of his knowledge and experience.  It shines through on every page. The structure of the book is well-conceived, and the “Table of Contents” is handy for reference.  He also has an index, which is always helpful later, when you want to find and review a specific idea. 

In this easy-to-read book, Blue Eagle provides lots of tools and techniques that just about anyone can follow.  He recommends that you read First Nations Crystal Healing from front to back to fully understand the Native American way of living in harmony with Mother Earth. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about crystals, as well know and understand Native American healing techniques and sacred ceremonies.

Pantheon – The Norse, by Morgan Diamler

Pantheon – The Norse, by Morgan Daimler
Moon Books, 9781789041415, 152 pages, May 2022

Full disclosure: I am completely biased when it comes to Morgan Daimler. I adore her work and her no-nonsense approach to researching and writing, so much so that I end up adding her books to my already crowded bookshelves. Her latest offering, Pantheon – The Norse, is a welcome addition to my ever-expanding collection and is easily one of the best I’ve read on the subject.

Having already written two additional books in this series titled Pagan Portals – Odin and Pagan Portals -Thor, Daimler is well positioned to provide an introduction to the remainder in this latest offering, Pantheon – The Norse. The table of contents provides the reader with the information they need to determine where they will start in this book, as there is so much to choose from. Personally, I start with the Introduction.

The introduction sets the tone of the book, giving the reader the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the type of tone and language they are going to experience through Daimler’s writing. Straight forward, to the point, and without a lot of extraneous words, the introduction is the perfect set up for what the reader can expect from the rest of the book. For me, as well as many others, this is an opportunity to get a sense of who the writer is as a craftsman and what their style of writing is. 

Daimler separates the book into two parts, each part playing a role in presenting the information to the reader. She explains:

“In Part I we will be looking at the history, beliefs, and practices of Heathenry and in Part II we will explore who the Norse Gods are as well as related spirits that play an important role in the belief system. These parts are divided fairly equally in this book, as I feel that it is important to both have some basis in the beliefs as well as a solid source for information on the deities and spirits.”1

Additionally, Daimler is clear about what the book is not, and explains that her goal with the book is “not to create an in-depth, one stop resource for the subject but to offer readers a wide range of basic information to give a better understanding of the subject or help beginners seeking a starting place.”2

Being a solid source of information is something Daimler does best, as she clearly shares what she’s gleaned from her own substantial research. Honestly, reading her work is so refreshing as there is no guesswork or need to double check what she presents. While the book is a great entry into this world, it’s written in an elevated way to ensure that even the most learned person on the subject can come away with at least one golden nugget of information they didn’t have prior.

Daimler provides enough information to get you through the sections without causing too much overload. Her writing style is clear and loaded with clues that point to other paths within the topic being discussed; should you feel called to explore further there are useful endnotes included depending on how deep you want to go within the history and mythology. For many readers, the knowledge provided is enough to give the reader a sense of the overall system and while some might feel like exploring, there is no sense of pressure to do so.

The chapters are clearly laid out and sequenced nicely, with one topic naturally flowing in the next. Providing bite-sized chunks of data within the context of the overall idea of the chapter is something that not all writers are able to do with such ease. There is enough info provided to give the reader something to chew on before the next idea is presented. That is something that I look for in this type of book. Don’t just spoon feed me a few bits of trivia; make the subchapters relate back to the main idea of the chapter but also make sure they are entwined in some way. That’s storytelling within the parameters of imparting knowledge and Daimler is a master.

There are many similarities and parallels between this pantheon and others most readily seen in the section called “Celebrations and Prayers”. Many of the celebrations observed in the Norse pantheon are also part of other traditions, albeit under different names. The commonality inherent in these old “religions”, through the use of similar names, dates, and themes of the celebration, makes it easier to understand as a reader if a similar spiritual path is being followed.

I love this book for the simple reason that it has all the elements I look for when exploring different paths: beautifully presented research in bite-sized chunks that are easily understood, a robust resource section, and so much more. I didn’t even get into the sections on Gods and Goddesses, which is one of my favorite sections.

Pantheon – The Norse is perfect for those who are interested in a ground level introduction to the Norse pantheon without all the fluff. Yes, there is a lot of information to digest and sure, there might be some ideas or concepts that don’t quite make sense for a variety of reasons. That does not take away from the parts of the book that will resonate with those wanting a deeper understanding of this pantheon. As with most books in this vein, take what you like and leave the rest.

Witch, Please, By Victoria Maxwell

Witch, Please: Empowerment and Enlightenment for the Modern Mystic, by Victoria Maxwell
Red Wheel Books, 9781590035320, 200 pages, March 2022

I love a book that opens with a powerful statement. Victoria Maxwell’s beautifully written offering, Witch, Please: Empowerment and Enlightenment for the Modern Mystic, starts by telling the reader that the magic isn’t in the book they are holding: the magic is inside them. This type of tone setting is precisely why this book belongs in everyone’s collection, whether they view themselves as witchy, spiritual, or simply just an interested passerby.

A modern mystic and spiritual teacher, Maxwell is devoted to serving her community through her online classes, in person workshops, private sessions, and a variety of social media groups and subscription offerings. Her focus is on helping those she works with reconnect to their own light, their inner guidance, spiritual path and power so they can live out their best and highest lives.

The book is set out cleanly, with two parts as well as an introduction, glossary, acknowledgements and index. There is also a special addition that I wasn’t expecting but makes perfect sense why it was included: “The Next Chapter’” It’s a page and a half long and resonated deeply with me when I read it. Maxwell sums up the spirit of her book in five points that reflect the depth of care she feels for those searching for their place in the spiritual world. It’s a beautiful way of ending the book and imparting a feeling of completion.

The book is divided into two parts. Part One deal with the basics: laying foundations for your practice, tools, actual practices, aligning with friends in spirit, and making magic. Part Two talks about practical magic: relationships, setting up a home sanctuary, money magic, magic for careers, and living your purpose. The glossary is a high-level collection of terms used throughout the book that some who are venturing down this path for the first time might not be familiar with. For me, it was interesting to see how Maxwell defines terms that are used often within the spiritual realm.

The introduction establishes Maxwell’s early influences as well as her personal journey through spiritualism. Her writing is clean and purposeful, with no excessive verbiage and easy to understand language. That’s not to say that her work is basic: this book is far from that. While certainly geared towards those who are just starting their journey, there is a lot packed into this book. For me, reading similar information isn’t monotonous: it’s interesting for me to see how different people interpret similar themes. I am also curious to understand how others view their own craft and how they personally practice whatever form of magic they subscribe to. 

Maxwell talks at length about protection in the first part of the book, which is something I feel is somewhat overlooked at times. We assume that those reading know how to protect themselves and their energy and Maxwell’s decision to include a lengthy section on various practices is wonderful to read. She understands that some of protection work is shadow work, in that you cannot protect yourself from creating your own negativity if you are not aware you are doing it. She says, “We can’t walk thought life protecting ourselves against others without doing a bit of shadow work and paying attention to what we are putting out there too.”1

She mentions being aware of the type of energy we bring to certain situations and ensuring that we are doing our best to raise those vibrations intentionally and mindfully. She pairs this practice with clearing, which makes damn good sense! She explains the process:

“We can protect ourselves all we like, but we must also clear out the energetic gunk we pick up along the way…If you are full of someone else’s thoughts, emotions, or energy before you start a spell you may end up manifesting things you don’t really want.”2

Sections of the book are printed in a different color and are designated as action items, for want of a better phrase. These sections include prayers, lists of bullet points for consideration, recipes, and so on. I found the different font to be quite useful in helping sort and separate the book visually as I progressed through it. For those who can discern color, the eye immediately tracks to the different font and recognizes it as important, something that I very much appreciated as sometimes I become lazy and let my eyes skim over text without truly absorbing it. 

The blend of shadow work with the various spiritual practices is very much my jam and I am fully appreciative of how Maxwell entwined these two themes seamlessly in this book. Throughout the book, there are references to clearing your energy and examining your relationships to various things like money and career, and all of these things resonate deeply with me. I have found that the best magic I have ever done for myself has always come on the heels of some deep excavation I’ve done in the dark hours of the night. I am happy to see that Maxwell has illuminated this very important aspect of working magic in her book.

Some people might pick up Witch, Please and dismiss it because it’s pink and cute and looks like a beach read. Those people don’t deserve this book in their hands so let them put it down and then make sure they never see it again. Grab a copy for yourself, for your aunt who is always making you teas, your best friend who loves flowers, and the office mate who always seems extremely put together. Each one will get something different out of this book, which is precisely the point. Personally, this is the book that I will pull down off my shelf when I feel a bit off as it’s a beautiful reminder of encouragement to stand in my power.

Spiritual Cleansing, by Draja Mickaharic

Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection (Weiser Classic Series), by Draja Mickaharic
Weiser Books, 1578637287, 144 pages, February 2022

I’ve been on a deep dive into research on spiritual protection lately, and therefore was thrilled to come across Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection by Draja Mickaharic. Originally published in 1982, this Weiser Classic Services book is just as relevant 40 years later. The added foreword by Lilith Dorsey, author of Orishas, Goddesses, and Voodoo Queens, is an added bonus. I value magical wisdom that stands the test of time. Sometimes it seems like recent and best books are merely repeating the same things based on current readers’ taste and market trends. But this book stood out to me from the get-go, and I knew I wasn’t going to be getting the same old while reading it.

Mickaharic’s experience as a magical practitioner grants him the ability to convey expertise tips and tricks that are both practical and reliable. He’s definitely tried, tested, and witnessed the many outcomes of spellwork gone awry and implemented to success; as a result, he feels like a guide I can trust.

“All of the procedures in this book are simple, safe, and effective, when the directions are followed. They are all natural in their operation, and no special training or capacity is required on the part of the user. All of these cleansings have been tested in my personal practice, as well as in the work of others.”1

Before delving into the many methods of cleansing and protection, Mickaharic provides readers with an understanding of the need for them. He notes the physical and spiritual nature of life on Earth, the latter which often is dismissed in favor of the tangible senses. But we all have felt the lingering sense of a negative energy present after interactions with certain people or being in a specific location.

“The spiritual energy field, like the quality or vibration of people, places, and things, is not detectable through the physical senses. Once we can make a distinction between the physical and the spiritual parts of the human constitution, it becomes easy to understand just how spiritual cleansing works.”2

He further goes on to explain how religious rituals have their own methods of cleansing, but that this book can be used whether one has a religious practice or not. If one does, Mickaharic suggests that the practices in the book do not interfere but rather enhance it. And I might add this book does refer to Bible passages and Psalms as part of some of the recommendations for spiritual cleansing. I have no problem with this, as for over a decade I’ve explored the intersection of Christianity and spellwork, but others who take a more firm stance against Christianity should take note prior to reading. There’s still plenty to gain though, and much of the content is independent of any religious connotation.

The four main types of cleansing focused on in this book are cleansing with baths, water, eggs, and incense, which all have their own detailed chapter. There’s also chapters on the malocchio (evil eye), protection while asleep, quieting one’s mind, and finding a mentor. And all together, this book has become my go-to for spiritual cleansing. Rather than sharing all the potent cleansing practices Mickaharic covers, I will share some of the really interesting things I learned, what stood out to me most, and my favorite parts that I feel distinguish this book from others.

First of all, there is a ton of information on ritual baths! Many times, I see a list of ingredients for cleansing or spellwork bath, but Mickaharic goes into full detail about how to prepare for a ritual bath, history of ritual bathing, and even words of caution. Plus, there’s so many sugged: Psychic Tension Bath, Coffee Hard Work Bath, The Money Cinnamon Bath. And the majority of the baths include household items that one wouldn’t have to go on a goose chase to find.

I learned a lot about properties of different types of water from the chapter “Cleansing with Water”. Mickaharic describes the different energy and usage of sea water,  rain water, waterfalls, spring water, and lake water. For those who regularly use water in their practice, this information would be useful to know what is best for which type of magical working one is doing. Also included are different herbs that can be added to water to achieve a desired effect.

Eggs are something that I’ve used for over a decade to cleanse a new home, but Mickaharic showed me new ways to use eggs for spiritual healing. He suggests ways to use them for physical and emotional healing, ending a relationship, protection while asleep, and cleansing your pets or the sick. I love this method of cleansing because I nearly always have eggs on hand, and they are a quick and easy way to shift energy.

Of all the sections, though, incense cleansing had the most insight into how I could enhance my practice of burning incenses. I had never realized that certain smells attracted specific spirits, nor that some incenses are good for banishing spirits, while others are intended to call them in.

“When we use incense to clean a place, we are calling those forces of the astral universe which regularly act to remove negative influences. We are simply calling them and asking them to work in a particular area. When we burn incense to improve the vibration  of a place, to give the place a more “spiritual” vibration, we call on those forces which naturally act to improve spiritual vibrations. Each incense, or blend, is a sort of “telephone number” which is answered according to the sincerity of our request. If we burn incense with no real purpose, we may find the forces decide we are calling a wrong number–and they will not act in harmony with our desires.”3

Mickaharic gives instructions on how to properly burn incense and offers many suggested blends. He describes cones and sticks and even how to fumigate oneself. I really liked learning about frankincense and myrrh; I had never previously heard about their connection to the astral realm, and it was interesting to learn in light of their significance to infant Christ.

Finally, I was thrilled for a whole section on the malocchio. My Italian family often spoke of it, and my great-grandmother knew the method for removing it at the strike of midnight on a new year. But I have rarely been able to find additional information about how to remove it. Not only does Mickaharic go into detail about the history of the malocchio and how it is transmitted, he also offers a Beer Bath to remove it, along with suggested charms and amulets to keep it at bay.

All in all, Spiritual Cleansing has been a great aid in my spring cleaning this year. When I am seeking to cleanse myself or my home, I’ve been able to find quick suggestions to shift the energy. Plus, the ritual baths are sure to make any water-lover eager to perform some spellwork. There’s so much value in knowing not only how to protect yourself, but cleanse yourself too. Spiritual hygiene is a practical, and honestly essential, craft for all those who perform energy work. But quite frankly, we can all benefit from a good energetic sprucing up!