✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Healing with Clay, by Ran Knishinsky

Healing with Clay: A Practical Guide to Earth’s Oldest Natural Remedy, by Ran Knishinsky
Healing Arts Press, 9781644114834, 144 pages, April 2022

My dad is a potter, so I grew up with messy hands and covered in clay-filled hugs. When I began to research natural remedies, I realized that clay has many healing properties, which was convenient because of its ready availability. At first, my interest was in using clay for face masks and soothing my skin. But later I learned eating clay had health benefits. I couldn’t find enough reliable information on the Internet, so I shelved my curiosity for the time being. But when I discovered Healing with Clay: A Practical Guide to Earth’s Oldest Natural Remedy by Ran Knishinsky, my intrigue was sparked all over again.

Knishinsky is the perfect guide for those interested in eating clay as a nutritional supplement, as he’s been doing it himself for more than 30 years. His background is in both naturopathic and allopathic medicine, which adds value to the information he shares because it is not one-sided. He even has his own line of edible clay called Detox Dirt for those who are interested in starting to incorporate clay into their own diet. In addition to this book, he has also authored Prickly Pear Cactus Medicine and The Prozac Alternative.

The book starts out with Knishinsky’s own health journey of a ganglion cyst that led him to deciding to try clay as a natural remedy. Then he details the history of eating clay and the reasons why people do it. These reasons include medicinal use, mineral supplementation, religious rites, instinct, detoxification, and as a food delicacy. There’s also a whole chapter on how culturally in some parts of the world it’s the norm to eat dirt during pregnancy, which I found absolutely fascinating.

To ensure readers have a full-scope understanding of clay, Knishinsky writes about the scientific and geological properties, as well as sharing the different types of clay and how the minerals in clay facilitate both adsorption and absorption in the body. He even delves into Graham Cairns-Smith’s idea that life might have begun as clay crystals and the hypothesis of the department of nanoscale science at Cornell University that wet clay might have been the first breeding ground for life.

Knishinsky shares with the reader the classification of active natural components obtained from plant, animal, or earth sources as nutraceuticals, which are not sold as drugs, but as dietary supplements in the United States. As a result, nutraceuticals do not offer the same claims as FDA approved drugs. Nevertheless there are benefits to be derived from them, which other included research studies have shown. For instance, there are quite a few studies related to clay’s ability to protect those who digest it from the harmful effects of Aflatoxin, which is a liver carcinogenic present in a wide variety of foods. 

Aflatoxin is the most dangerous form of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are fungal poisons that contaminate as much as ¼ of the world’s food supply. Potential sources of mycotoxins are alcoholic beverages, corn, wheat, peanuts, and many more than Knishinsky lists for readers. The Aflatoxins are especially harmful because they damage DNA and have been known to lead to cancer in different animal species. Eating clay helps to reduce and prevent harm from the Aflatoxins through reinforcing the intestinal walls and binding to the toxins.

“Before they have a chance to be adsorbed by the gut, the clay simply captures these toxins by adsorbing them into the space between the crystal structure, rendering them as unabsorbable by the gut.”1

This was so interesting to read about, as I had never heard of mycotoxins before! And thanks to Knishinsky, I also gained a better understanding of the mineral components of clay. Aside from taking supplements or vitamins, a good balance of minerals in our bodies often seems to be overlooked in the pursuit for good health. Knishinsky reminds us:

“Why are minerals so important to the chemical reactions in the human body? The cell is like an electrical battery, with positive and negative charges. When the energy of the battery begins to weaken the cell becomes sick and weak. However, if the dying cell is charged by an electrical current it will become living once again. Minerals themselves hold positive and electrical charges. The exchange of these charges accounts for the mineral’s action.”2

I learned clay contains minerals such as calcium, chlorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, zinc and more. Knishinsky notes clay can also contain harmful minerals though, such as arsenic or cadmium, which is why it’s important to know where the clay one is consuming comes from. His recommendation is montmorillonite clay. It is considered the most suitable for eating because the minerals are very small particles and when combined with water adsorptive and absorptive properties of the clay are enhanced.

My favorite chapter was on the religious significance of clay, as I had forgotten that many religious texts claim humanity arose from clay. Reading about these things helped me to step out of the dominant narrative that clay is dirty and sense of superiority that comes from being couth and clean. Knishinsky’s words really reignited me with an instinctive, wild part of myself that felt aligned with the information he was sharing about the benefits of eating clay.

I did end up ordering montmorillonite clay, as it is Knishinsky’s recommended type of clay to use for this purpose. I haven’t tried it yet, but I am eager to see the results. If you too are feeling called to explore the health benefits of clay, I would definitely check out Healing with Clay. Knishinsky presents the information clearly and with full scientific backing. I look forward to connecting with Earth’s oldest remedy in a spiritual way too, as I think healing our bodies with nature is how things are meant to be.

Angelology, by Angemi Rabiolo and Iris Biasio

Angelology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Celestial Superheroes, by Angemi Rabiolo and Iris Biasio
Red Wheel, 978159003529-0, 287 pages, March 2022

Described as a pop-illustrated encyclopedia, Angelology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Celestial Superheroes by Angemi Rabiolo (author) and Iris Biasio (illustrator) is an introduction to the angelic realm that presents them as celestial superheroes, much like your favorite comic strip. The book covers angels from various religions and belief systems, and its aim is to “accompany readers on a spiritual journey to discover the power of angels.”1

The central theme of the book resonated with me, namely, “the idea of completing a path – a path that begins with God and leads to humans through the hierarchy of the angels.”2 Although, I’m not convinced that path is completed, for me it is more so walking the path, coming to a point, and then re-walking another path, this still resonated. The author encourages the reader to work with the angels on one’s spiritual evolution. Questions that generally accompany such an evolution include asking who am I, what is love, why is there suffering in my life (specifically) and in the world (generally).

And the Rabiolo and Biasio definitely met their intent of arousing curiosity and stimulation new reflections. The book is not a traditional angel encyclopedia in that the book’s purpose was not meant to “include everything ever written about angels.”3 The writings do, however, drawn on a variety of sources including angels found in the Bible, the Book of Enoch, the Koran, and from non-monotheistic religions such as those found in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Persian belief systems. The hierarchy of these beings of pure spirit is described from the Divine to the human. Included are writings on guardian angels as well as angels associated with certain zodiac signs and planets.

Eleven archangels are profiled as are 213 angels found in various religions traditions in angelic order. Archangels each have a specific task that “influences the existence of every human, and their incessant work permits humans to live their earthly life and to achieve spiritual fulfillment.”4

A Symbol Legend is provided for the archangels and the angels that shows Powers, Classifications in Islamic Tradition, Classification in Catholic Tradition, Classification in Hebrew Tradition, Belonging to the list of guardian angels according to Classification according to apocryphal texts and ancient astrology, theological, and theosophical traditions, as well as esoteric traditions, including evocative magic, peasant culture, and mystery religions, and Belonging to the list of guardian angels according to the Jewish-Catholic classification.”5

The section on the archangels contains more information that on that of the “regular” angels including the respective “power” of the archangel. It’s substantial in its information and includes a blue page for each archangel that writes about a topic pertinent to that specific archangel. For example, the blue page on Uriel describes why this archangel is not one of the archangels recognized by the Catholic Church. Since Sandalphon is the archangel associated with the Earth, the blue page on Sandalphon touches on the Elementals, the spirits of Earth’s elements.

The section on the 213 angels provides one page on each, including the meaning of the angel’s name and its powers. Other information might be its associated zodiac sign (Adnachiel for Sagittarius) or planet (Takiel for Jupiter), who it is the guardian angel of (Manakel for people born between February 15-19).

I enjoyed Biasio’s illustrations that portrayed angels as superheroes as would be found in a comic book. The main colors of yellow, red, and blue made the images pop. The image of Laylahel who governs all nocturnal phenomena, has a figure opening a blue cloak the inside of which is covered in a yellow moon and stars. Hesediel, the archangel of desire and benevolence is portrayed holding a cornucopia from which coins fall. All are fun!

I recommend Angelology as an introductory to the angelic realm. It provides a great overview and is chock full of angels (over 200!) from which one can choose to work with on any area of interest. If you want to work with the Zodiac angels, you’re covered. The planets? You’re covered. Areas such as generosity, peace, or relationships? You’re covered. However, if you are looking for deeper work with the angels, this book does not contain things such as affirmations or meditations on the angels. The book presents the angels in a non-threatening manner and as such it invites the reader to open up to working with these beings who are here, of course, to guide us.

Turn Your Fandom into Cash, by Carol Pinchefsky

Turn Your Fandom Into Cash: A Geeky Guide to Turn Your Passion Into a Business (or at least a Side Hustle), by Carol Pinchefsky
Career Press, 1632651971, 224 pages, March 2022

Carol Pinchefsky’s Turn Your Fandom Into Cash: A Geeky Guide to Turn Your Passion Into a Business (Or at Least a Side Hustle) is one of the most helpful and applicable books I’ve picked up in a while. It overflows with extremely practical advice about how to tap into your personal creative pursuits to help put some extra jingle in your coin purse, or even launch the entrepreneurial adventure of your dreams!

As the title implies, this handy guide is definitely marketed for those who want to let their geek flag fly – using your knowledge and passion of whatever fandom you are a part of to bring your creations into the world. Whether you love fantasy, sci-fi, horror, cos-play, comic books, and the infinite subgenres therein, this book is a quick read to get you started on your way to Bruce Wayne-level wealth! A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but there are some success stories Pinchefsky brings in that definitely inspire the reader in that direction. And even if you aren’t interested in creating something for a fanbase like these, the author’s advice is often general enough that you could apply it to almost any type of creative venture.

Naturally, this book isn’t just about hyping you up about how to generate income from the passions you already have. The whole second chapter of the book is all about the careful considerations you’ll need to take when capitalizing on a fandom – how to do all of this legally. For some, this may feel like you just hit the inertial dampeners. . . hard. But in reality, if you are going to market a product or service related to a beloved fictional work or genre, you’ll need to be very vigilant, lest you be #lawyered back to square one.

Even though I’m a writer and editor who works with some popular intellectual property (IP), e.g. the world’s most popular roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons, there were some legal details that I hadn’t been aware of. Of course, the material in this book isn’t thorough enough to substitute for full-on legal advice (as she pointedly reminds the reader, many times), she does an excellent job of going through the main concerns while helping you learn the difference between copyright, trademarks, IP licensing, and much more! Moreover, her playful tone, frequent fandom references, and motivational style keeps this potentially boring legal stuff from feeling like a bog of eternal stench.

Other informative topics you’ll find throughout the book are: business and marketing strategies (both for your product as well as for yourself and your brand), various methods of funding your new business venture, how to navigate the convention sphere, and more usual forms of employment you can find while still working with/for the fandom you love. I found one of the final chapters was also incredibly useful: a handy set of lessons-learned regarding many different aspects of being in business for yourself. These are all fairly short, a couple lines to a couple small paragraphs, summaries of things to do – or to avoid – that come from people who had to learn these lessons the hard way. By sharing these lessons with you before you make them, you won’t be doomed to repeat the mistakes of your geeky forebears.

The layout of the book is also unique, as it incorporates images, speech bubbles, and boxed text to highlight important points or cool tips. As someone who has never (ever) taken much interest in business, this punchy style really worked to keep me engaged with topics that wouldn’t normally hold my attention. That said, if you prefer a more usual style of presentation, these features might detract from your reading experience. I also feel that some of the fun pop-culture references might not have the oomph, if the reader doesn’t happen to be as enmeshed in general geek culture. So if your passion lies more in creating products within the spiritual sphere, for instance, this probably isn’t quite the droid – I mean, the book – you’re looking for.

One of the coolest features that you’ll find throughout Turn Your Fandom Into Cash is the array of case studies that Pinchefsky provides. Every chapter has at least a couple of these gems: real life instances of geeky businesses and their proprietors, which have achieved success or battled through challenges, related to the topic the author is discussing. For instance, how one individual abruptly and unexpected ended up becoming a convention showrunner because he offered some input to the staff. Or, how a geeky entrepreneur ended up getting fired from the business that she helped create. And, it’s not only case studies that provide evidence to back up Pinchefsky’s general knowledge: she often uses statistics to help strengthen her general points, and tells you exactly where she got them so you can go do your own research.

All in all, Turn Your Fandom Into Cash is an excellent guide for anyone wishing to bring their creative passions to the public, and make some money while doing so! The book is so well designed in its style and presentation that it is an easy and fun read all the way through. She really makes the notion of starting a geeky business accessible and achievable. That is not to say becoming an entrepreneur is easy – it still requires a great deal of research, hard work, and networking to find success.

But, as she reminds us, even if the first attempt(s) at creating a business should fail, doing what you love can be even more rewarding. You may have the chance to work with a favorite celebrity, have your product used in a TV series you love, or bring joy to your fandom by providing them with the perfect custom cos-play outfit! These opportunities and experiences are priceless – and in any case, you will be gaining skills and knowledge to keep pushing your passion and creativity to boldly go where no one has gone before!

Mysteries of the Werewolf, by Claude Lecouteux

Mysteries of the Werewolf: Shapeshifting, Magic, and Protection, by Claude Lecouteux
Inner Traditions, 1644110784, 224 pages, August 2021

Ahhh-ohhhh, werewolves! Legends of werewolves are as popular as ever, but did you ever wonder about the origins of these stories? In Mysteries of the Werewolf: Shapeshifting Magic & Protection, Claude Lecouteux delves into folklore, legends, and historical accounts from all over the world, showcasing how the tale of the werewolf evolved through time.

Lecouteux’s impressive background certainly influences the way he wrote this book. As a professor emeritus of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne, it’s evident that he is dedicated to the scholarship of his work. Mysteries of the Werewolf is incredibly well sourced, and many of the translations in the book were done by Lecouteux himself. He has applied the same thoroughness to detail in his previously published works The Book of Grimoires, Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells, and The Tradition of Household Spirits.

What is very unique about this book is the way Lecouteux creates a cohesive cultural understanding of the werewolf through comparing texts side by side. While some books on werewolves try to play up werewolves as a form of cryptid, Lecouteux uses historical records to piece together a whole picture of this possible mythological, possibly real being. He states:

“The texts I’ve collected for this anthology are intended to document the history of the werewolf through the ages and include some excursions far from the European domain when there was a good reason to do so.”1

Hence, we have documentation from around the globe dating back to the 10th century of different aspects of lycanthropy. Topics include stories on becoming a werewolf, pacts with the devil and evil spells as cause, werewolves’ clothing and accessories, healing and free werewolves, testimonials and more!

A sixteenth century French story Lecouteux called “How the Werewolf Lost an Eye”:

“A young noblewoman of the land of Livonia was arguing with one of her servants about whether it was possible for a man to change into the shape of a wolf, and as she made it seem dubious, this servant, so that he could provide her more ample proof, asked her permission to turn himself into a wolf. She granted him such permission, and he retreated to a secret room in the house, which he left shortly afterward in the form of a wolf. After this a pack of dogs caught his scent and set off in pursuit of him, chasing him into a nearby wood where they ripped out one of his eyes. The next day when he regained his human shape he returned to the house missing an eye.”2

This is just one example of the many, many tales in the book (I would estimate at least one hundred!). It was certainly enjoyable and entertaining reading the stories; some are heartbreaking, others vicious, while some are infused with a bit of comedy. Some feature witches and wizards, while others are just common people who are plagued with the curse of the werewolf.

It’s a thrill to feel connected to people of centuries past through the common thread of werewolves. I couldn’t help but wonder what it might have been like to tell some of these tales prior to electricity, when animals and humans were in much closer contact.

To see the range of the stories, from all over the world, I can’t help but start to think about the commonality of this man turn beast archetype. And at some point, I did start wondering if there was any merit to these stories, given they have persisted for such a long span of time cross-culturally!

“Elsewhere, we see a warrior who changed into a bear lending his support to men battling an enemy. In Africa, people believe in jackal-men, hyena-men, and leopard-men; the Inuits believe in caribou-men, and the people of the Far East believe in tiger-men. Every land and every civilization has had its own distinctive view of lycanthropy.”3

I wonder what it is about the human turn beast that leaves such a lasting impression on our psyche. Perhaps approaching the book with this question in mind will yield some answers, as I read it mostly for the enjoyment of the stories the first time. Though, I will note that Lecouteux’s introduction is filled with background information and history of the werewolf, so this book is much more than just a fun-filled, entertaining read.

Any werewolf lover is sure to enjoy Mysteries of the Werewolf, but even those with a general interest in folklore would find it worth the read. These stories help weave a picture of how the tales of the werewolf have evolved over time, expanding the reader’s knowledge of lycanthropy folklore. Lecouteux has done a phenomenal job gathering all the stories in one collection for readers to compare and contrast how tales of the werewolf, and perhaps one day, may even add their own!

Blackthorn’s Protection Magic, by Amy Blackthorn

Blackthorn’s Protection Magic: A Witch’s Guide to Mental & Physical Self-Defense, by Amy Blackthorn
Weiser Books, 1578637619, 208 pages, March 2022

My spirit journey took an unexpected twist recently. After spending a year delving into the realm of mermaids, I suddenly felt very called to explore the world of superheroes, self-defense, and protection magic. For the first time ever, I watched all the Marvel movies, and I became inspired to increase my physical strength and psychic defenses. This is what led me to reading Blackthorn’s Protection Magic: A Witch’s Guide to Mental & Physical Self-Defense by Amy Blackthorn. It has been a game-changer, awakening so many new ideas with practical tips I can immediately incorporate into my practice.

I had heard of Blackthorn because of her best-selling books Botanical Magic, Sacred Smoke, and Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews. But I was very surprised to discover Blackthorn also has a background in security. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, is a blackbelt martial artist, and shoots pistols competitively in addition to teaching women self-defense. How freaking badass can only possibly be? I would have never guessed! Her experience in both magic and security makes for one all encompassing, hell-of-a read.

The book is divided into four parts and covers mind, body, and spiritual protection. Then the last part is the additional information section that shares information about timing work according to the day of the week/moon phase, color correspondences, and plants to use for different types of spellwork. Plus, Blackthorn provides a fantastic introduction into the topic of protection magic, writing about ethics, boundaries, and her own magical point of view. Her very straightforward approach made me more comfortable with the idea of using protective magic, and I especially liked how she clearly defined magic, curses, hexes, and jinxes for readers. There’s even a curse assessment for readers – how cool is that?

This book is the perfect blend of practical advice for self-defense and instruction on how to perform protection magic. What really stands out about Blackthorn’s writing is her conversational tone. She uses anecdotes to illuminate the content, such as bravely sharing her story of dealing with a stalker, and also ensures readers are taking the utmost precaution with their supplies. For instance, she continually reminds readers essential oils should never be used on infants and notes when certain herbs or essential oils are not appropriate to use. It feels like Blackthorn has your back as you read, which is such a reassuring feeling.

Blackthorn even wants to protect us from getting scammed! I really enjoyed the section of the book where Blackthorn shares how to determine the quality of essential oils and crystals. She goes into depth about how one can determine if they have a diluted essential oil or if it’s using low-quality ingredients. Then she discusses how to know if a crystal is legit, which I’ve always struggled to figure out. I will absolutely now be testing the quality of my essential oils and more discerning in my crystal selection.

I also now want a tactical pen to carry around with me. And I convinced my husband we should practice Blackthorn’s advice on how to get out of being tied up. I also looked into going to a shooting range because for the first time ever I saw the value in being able to defend myself. And all of this is so out of my typical lifestyle in so many ways, but it’s exactly what my hippie-heart needed to read to remember we can be loving and badass at the same time.

Another great thing about the book is that Blackthorn offers so many suggestions of how to incorporate protection magic into your practice that every reader is bound to find something that works for them. From energy practices (breathing, grounding, shielding) to outdoor gardening, the options offered seem limitless. And Blackthorn is thorough! The section on crystals did a great job of explaining their properties and it came in handy later when she talked about creating a crystal grid for protection. Her information on gardening, both indoor and outdoor, for home protection was wisdom I’ve never read elsewhere. There’s incense recipes, tarot spells, mirror boxes, and so much more.

The energy practice that I’ve been using most (and with great success) is one where she discusses visualizing oneself in an eggshell. Visualization practices usually never stick for me, but the way Blackthorn teaches it, including customizations one can make to their eggshell, has really stuck for me. I feel so much less anxious being around a lot of people now and haven’t felt “pulls” on my energy since I’ve started practicing this energy technique.

The only thing missing that I wish was included in the book is information about protecting oneself online, such as insights on tech-defense and thoughts on how to protect one’s energy in the digital world. Society is becoming more reliant on technology, most people use the internet daily, but with the amount of animosity, hate, and confusion that spreads like rapid fire nowadays, it can be tough to know how to protect one’s energy online.

I have developed my own practices, and based on the wealth of information given by Blackthorn, readers could definitely piece together a spell for online protection. But I just value Blackthorn’s insights so much that I wish I could learn her thoughts on digital safety and protection too. However, this in NO WAY detracts from the immense amount of information provided in the book for day to day protection.

All in all, Blackthorn’s Protection Magic is the best book I’ve ever read on the topic. Blackthorn gives her readers the low-down we all need to stay safe, strengthened, and shielded from harm. Her unique blend of practical and magical wisdom make for a comprehensive how-to guide when it comes to protecting oneself on all levels: mind, body, and spirit. I feel strong after reading this book – and more street smart. I highly recommend this one for your collection!

Holy Love, by Elisa Romeo and Adam Foley

Holy Love: The Essential Guide to Soul-Fulfilling Relationships, by Elisa Romeo and Adam Foley
New World Library, 160868802X, 224 pages, February 2022

Holy Love: The Essential Guide to Soul-Fulfilling Relationships by Elisa Romeo and Adam Foley is a collaborative project between a couple who began their spiritual paths as individuals, but discovered the infinite depths of divine love through their relationship. As partners with children, Elisa and Adam help couples connect with their own Souls, and with one another’s, to transform relationships and bring about a state of mystic union with the divine love that flows outward from every Soul.

Reading through the first few sections of Holy Love, it’s easy to get the impression that, like so many other spiritual and New Age-y texts, this book is going to be a repetition of familiar ideas and platitudes. I’m happy to say, however, that I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of attention this book gives to elucidating the various relationships we have with other people, or with distinct aspects of ourselves.

The main focus of Holy Love is that we need to recognize how these different aspects – notably, the ego and the Soul – relate to one another within ourselves, as well as how they relate to these aspects within others. In fact, the central thesis of the book is that there are four unique kinds of relationships that can exist between two people. Whether the people in question are romantic partners, family members, friends, or perhaps even strangers, the four kinds of relationships are always in a dynamic interplay with one another.

Unfortunately, and for many reasons, only a couple – or even just one – of these relationships tends to be our primary focus. Of the four kinds of relationship – ego-to-ego, ego-to-Soul within ourselves, ego-to-their-Soul, and Soul-to-Soul – our socio-cultural practices often neglect all the others in favor of the first relationship: between one’s own ego and that of the other person. Although this may seem like a familiar topic, it’s the authors’ acceptance of ego, and its role in our relationships, that sets this book apart.

Drawing from a wide variety of spiritual practices, religions, depth psychology, and personal experiences, Romeo and Foley urge that the ego has a necessary place in our lives as mystics – a person who is holy, or whole, due to their immersion in love whose source lies beyond the material world. The authors advocate that every one of us is capable of being a mystic through our connection to divine love. Yet, if we try to overcome or erase the ego in pursuit of some sort of “spiritual purity,” we also lose a practical connection to others in the material world.

“[I]f we negate the human realm and rely solely on the spiritual connection, we may be at risk of minimizing the (very human) importance of showing up consistently for others, being accountable for our own behavior, and owning our personal responsibility for our inner development.”1

Although I could continue to explore the ins-and-outs of the four types of relationships discussed in Holy Love, the expositional and theoretical points of this book are just one aspect. Going hand-in-hand with discussion of the four relationships and their interplay are exercises at the end of almost every chapter in the book. These range from meditations, to journaling exercises, to conversations and activities with others. Holy Love goes even further than other books in that it also provides links to online resources, such as recorded meditations, created by the authors. This is a fantastic little bonus, as I find that listening to a meditation is usually a much more effective way to ease the monkey mind than trying to meditate while reading the text!

Even though such exercises are often found in books on spiritual development, Romeo and Foley take special care to construct the practical application of their approach around a central practice – journaling to one’s (or even another person’s) Soul. While a journaling practice can take many forms, I have rarely come across one which so heavily employs dialogue between the different aspects of the Self. I was thrilled to see that this really highlights Elisa’s background in depth psychology, where it is important for the distinct parts of the individual work toward integration, rather than subjugation, repression, etc.

From the personal accounts that appear throughout the book, directly writing and responding to the Soul creates the open, receptive state of being which enables us to hear the voice that is so often overshadowed by the ego. Instead of journaling to simply release emotional tension or clarify one’s thoughts and feelings, proposing questions directly to one’s Soul creates the space for the Soul itself to answer. Over time, this practice seems to reduce the interference from the ego, and its many surface-level concerns, allowing our Soul to grow stronger in its own voice and balance out the four relationships between ourselves and our partners.

Although the four types of relationships form the central theme of Holy Love, there are several chapters dedicated to the different ways to meet and communicate with the other’s Soul. I think this approach really helps to focus on the types of relationships which are more lacking in the contemporary world. By approaching communication with the Soul (one’s own, or that of one’s partner) from a variety of perspectives and modalities, we are presented with an open arena in which to explore the best route to strengthen these relationships.

Overall, I think Holy Love is a brilliant book to help couples develop their relationship along multiple dimensions. Even if you are not currently in a romantic relationship, this book is still worth the read, as it has more than enough material to assist in aligning the relationship between your own ego and Soul. Through practical examples, exercises, and relatable experiences, Romeo and Foley offer us fantastic guidance for how we might all realize the unlimited degree to which love can flow through us and into the world.

Affirmations of Light in Times of Darkness, by Laura Aversano

Affirmations of the Light in Times of Darkness: Healing Messages from a Spiritwalker, by Laura Aversano
Inner Traditions, 9781644112717, 174 pages, June 2021

We all need to be reminded that we don’t walk through this life alone; that there is spiritual guidance afforded to us if we listen to our intuition. There are also people among us, spiritwalkers, who also offer us such guidance and reminders. Laura Aversano is such a spiritwalker. In her book, Affirmations of the Light in Times of Darkness: Healing Messages from a Spiritwalker, Aversano provides the reader with “activated” prayers and affirmations on eight major topics: light calling from the abyss, forgiveness, courage and grace, the pause, balance, reconciliation, changes of worlds, and healing voices from the pandemic.

Aversano comes from a line of seers or spiritwalkers. In her encouragement for the reader to remain in the present, Aversano states that “holding space has become a discipline for me and for my writing. And that is what I hope to achieve when you read my words – the ability to hold space in both the darkness and the light for us to heal individually and collectively.”1

At first glance one might be tempted to quickly read through the book as it has some affirmations that are very short. Other guidance is offered through a synopsis of what was experienced by her work with clients. Still other writings offer her observations on the world at hand. But these writing are anything but simple. They are multi-layered, giving one pause for thought. They are to be savored before being digested and absorbed into one’s psyche and daily practice.

In reading my reading, I sometimes found myself reading just a one-line affirmation and then closing the book to ponder what I read. Other times I enjoyed immersing myself in the topic at hand. She writes a lot on communicating with the “darkness” for as the darkness says, “you are as much afraid of me as you are of your light.”2

She walks with the reader through fear, anger, and one’s seeming powerlessness, offering a way to experience things in a more empowering manner. Her writings guide the reader to feel empowered by the beings of light that we all are. She encourages us to remember how powerful we are as these beings of light, if only we believe it. One beautiful line reads:

“The sun never realized the light of its own being until it paused one day to see all that blossomed in its path.”3

I found myself saying “yes” as I read her words, her suggestions, and her soulful prayers.

“When the mountain seems too difficult to climb, some choose to change their path. I choose to change my shoes.”4

A strong line, certainly, but how can I change my shoes in my own life? The writings are prompts, bits of encouragement, and constant reminding of how supported we are, but that we need to take this support to make changes.

“One of the greatest challenges you will ever face is the struggle against your own unworthiness.”5

When we truly believe ourselves to be worthy of love and peace in our lives, then we can move through challenges such as forgiveness and anger.

Aversano engages the reader throughout the entire book. She’s like a true best friend who helps to see you through the hard times, is your greatest cheerleader, calls you on your delusions, and refuses to come to your pity party. But like any best friend she does so without judgment. She engages the reader with every line, with every story. You can put the book down and pick it up where you left off – but hopefully as a bit more radiant being to the world. She reminds us that “You don’t chase dreams. You live them. You chase illusion.”6

She asks us to trust our hearts, to notice our perceptions of things, to not be afraid of how powerful we are. As you use her words to change your life, to change your perceptions, you might notice people leaving your circle. “When people leave your life, it’s not because they can’t be in your personal space. It’s because they can’t be in their own space while they are with you.”7

Through her writing, I’ve come to view Aversano as an elder, even though she is too young in her chronological age to be considered such, for as she writes, “An elder doesn’t show you the path. He shows you your strength, so you can walk the path.”8

I highly recommend Affirmations of the Light in Times of Darkness. Aversano’s words are a balm to a weary soul, a lighthouse in times of darkness, a reminder of the light within that we all possess. Her writings empower the reader to remove the dust and dirt that have clouded the light of our being. Sit with the book and then do the words justice by making them part of your life.

The Witch at the Forest’s Edge, by Christine Grace

The Witch at the Forest’s Edge: Thirteen Keys to Modern Witchcraft, by Christine Grace
Weiser Books, 9781578637584, 224 pages, November 2021

“I stand in the meadow, at the forest’s edge. One step forward and I will straddle the boundary between fading light in the swaying grass and rich darkness in the woods. One more step and I will be immersed in the nighttime world of southern, hardwood forest. My home lay behind me, the wild magic ahead. I am the witch at the forest’s edge.”1

The Witch at the Forest’s Edge: Thirteen Keys to Modern Witchcraft by Christine Grace is an immersive and deep dive into the world of the modern witch. Grace’s theology studies shine through with informed practices and cross section references to other spiritual practices. The philosophies and method of study contained within this book provide the reader with a sampling of the tried and tested teachings that are foundational within The Forest’s Edge Tradition, co-founded by Grace in 2011. 

“The essence of the Forest’s Edge way is to honor the specificity of the individual, while holding that each witch is fully themselves only within the web of human and other relationships in which we live and have our being.”2

I appreciated the “How to Use This Book” and “Self-Assessment” sections of the Introduction. Knowing the “how” and the “why” align deeply with the overall intentions of this book. These emphasize the ultimate goal of the modern witch to develop as one who finds their way through deep reflection, deep practice and a slow and often self-guided approach to cultivating the individual’s personal growth in the practice of witchery. All of the tools required for that intention are found within the pages of The Witch at the Forest’s Edge: Thirteen Keys to Modern Witchcraft.

The book is separated into thirteen chapters. The formatting of these chapters allows the reader to flow easily through a methodical and well-designed approach towards cultivating their own practice of modern witchcraft. “Communing with Spirits” (chapter two), “Cultivating Spirit Senses” (chapter four), “Divination” (chapter eight) and “Spellcraft” (chapter twelve) are some of the topics included for deeper exploration.

Additionally, each chapter contains sections with related content for reflection and another for actual practice. The “Resources” that conclude the book are thoughtfully aligned by chapter and rich in specifically curated titles of depth and substance.

Grace offered some practical insight in chapter one, “Worldview and Spirituality”, which spoke as a lovely fusion of her spiritual practice and her training as a counselor:

“It is one thing to give an intellectual assent to the ideas and practices outlined in this book. But will you do the work? . . . In order to identify and develop perceptions of the sacred and the many influences at work in ourselves, and our environment, we need both study and practice.  Once a practitioner has actually experienced something that they learned or formed in study, it takes on new life and deeper meaning unique to that individual. Without study, we may not be inspired to practice with depth; without practice, we cannot fully understand our study.”3

This approach is clearly evident throughout the pages of The Witch at the Forest’s Edge; each chapter is complete with opportunities for study of the related skills and guidance for practice of these newfound concepts. As stated by Grace, the power lay in the interweaving of the two as the reader begins to build a strong foundation of witchery. 

I was particularly drawn to chapter seven, “Hedgeriding”.

“Hedgeriders follow in the ancient tradition of magical practitioners who live with one foot in this world and one foot in the Otherworld. The Otherworld is the multilayered realms of fae, ancestors, gods and innumerable other spirits. Hedgeriding is a means to release part of our consciousness from this world and travel, spiritually, into the Otherworld to engage with spirits, gather new knowledge, hone magical skills and create change.”4

There is an abundance of information about the use of the word “hedgeriding” in this chapter, both in general terms and as it applies to The Forest’s Edge tradition. And, with the primary focus being that of moving between the worlds and liminal space, this chapter is ripe with suggestions for the practice of hedgeriding through guided meditation and visualization and incorporates a step by step process to allow the reader to find their correct path of resonance into the astral:

“At its core, hedgeriding is a deeply altered state of consciousness and both mental and physical.”5

Another chapter of note was chapter thirteen, “Magical Ethics”. There is much debate in the pagan community about the ethics of baneful magic and the harm or healing it may do, if thought ethical to practice at all. This chapter speaks clearly to what the responsibilities and the allowing of free will, individual power and choice are for those who embrace a witchery that is rooted in traditional witchcraft as practiced by The Forest’s Edge tradition.

“Traditional witchcraft does not forbid any spellcraft or magical practices. We cultivate the skill to both hex and heal as needed, as all of existence contains this sort of ebb and flow.”6

There is a generous amount of thought provoking statements and the “Reflection” section of this chapter is one that should be given deep consideration in the formation of the individual’s personal ethics. This is preceded by Grace providing the reader with “An Ethical Structure”, that allows for a methodical approach to ethics within the craft and ways of organizing your thoughts.  

The closing section of the book feels like a loving gift of support and encouragement from Grace to the reader. She offers a bolster of confidence that is infused with the underpinnings of some of the philosophies presented throughout her book; there is no right or wrong way of practice, the work of the craft is demanding and difficult, and although at times progress may feel slowed, the path of the witch is always rewarding when you remain true to yourself. 

“Don’t fear the cycles of practice. The time and energy that you devote to your craft will wax and wane and shapeshift through the seasons of your life.  It doesn’t make you less of a witch. You are just living the cycles, like the rest of nature. The magic is yours, a witch unto yourself. You are beholden to no one but connected to many as you stand at the forest’s edge.”7

The Witch at the Forest’s Edge is a handbook into the world of modern witchcraft founded on the teachings of a practicing tradition. Regardless of what or if the reader claims as their own practices within the craft to explore and build upon, the take away from the reading of this title is one of greater clarity about the possibilities of taking the journey of the Witch.

As is true of the mysteries of weaving one’s magic, the content is layered between word and practice, between experience and integration; and, as such it should also be understood that a single reading of The Witch at the Forest’s Edge provides only one layer of understanding. This is a title that will become the reader’s reference guide. Much like fine wine, as the studies age, so does the deepening of the practice, becoming the way in which (Witch) the practitioner lives their magical and mundane life.

Gaia Alchemy, by Stephan Harding

Gaia Alchemy: The Reuniting of Science, Psyche, and Soul, by Stephan Harding
Bear & Company, 1591434254, 320 pages, January 2022

The separation of mind and body that began during the scientific revolution has caused a rippling split between humanity and nature, which has been immensely detrimental to the natural interconnected systems on Earth. While the integration is slowly starting to happen in academic settings (I do hold a Master of Social Science in Environmental Humanities and Ecopsychology from Viridis Graduate Institute), it’s clear the current scientific paradigm needs greater supplementation to fully understand the interconnectedness of Earth. This arduous task of reconnection is what Stephan Harding sets out to in Gaia Alchemy: The Reuniting of Science, Psyche, and Soul.

Harding describes to readers how a dream in which he meets Old Woman, is the anima munda, or Gaia, who encouraged him to write this book. Meeting this archetypal imagery affirmed his path of writing a book on what he has termed “Gaia Alchemy”. Gaia Alchemy blends depth psychology, alchemy, and Gaia theory, creating a new paradigm aimed at bringing the soul back to science and culture.

“Gaia theory is a scientific understanding of the Earth as a great plantery organism, as a self-regulating complex system; alchemy is the ancient art of personal transformation and nature connection. My quest has been to discover whether we can experience a Gaia that is more vibrant, full of meaning, and alive by alchemizing science, thereby re-ensouling science and our culture and thus freeing both from their analytical dryness.”1

Harding sets off to take the readers through his own personal journey of developing this Gaia Alchemy worldview through psychological, historical, and scientific revelations, along with a good bit of creative imagination. And his method of engaging readers goes beyond just sharing interesting insight, there’s practices to do and exercises to try.

At the start of the book, Harding invites the reader to find their Gaia Place. He describes this as “a place where you can relax and connect deeply to nature, where your heart feels glad, where you’ll make important discoveries, both inner and outer.”2

I liked this concept because I’ve done something similar in the past, when I was training to be a nature-based coach, where I had my own “sit spot” to connect with nature everyday. I feel like developing this special place is key to facilitating one’s awareness of the natural world.

Harding provides plenty of ways to heighten one’s connection to their Gaia place throughout the book. For instance, there’s a really neat meditation to connect with ecological communities of the past, taking one through the evolution from small plants to mammals, through dinosaurs and meteorites, drawing on the alchemical power of calcification. From there, one is invited to experience the alchemical process of dissolution in their Gaia place. The mixture of ecology with alchemy in the meditations is very unique. There’s a special connection that develops between one and their Gaia Place as they move through these inner explorations.

Another really unique aspect of this book is that it’s filled with conversations with Jeffy Kiehl, a climate scientist and licensed Jungian analyst, which provides a multidimensional approach to the topic. Kiehl has written on related topics in his book Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future. ​​Harding has done a wonderful job of including Kiehl’s perspective to give readers insight into the broad application of Gaia Alchemy through the thought-provoking dialogue. 

While his conversations with Kiehl did actually happen, Gaia Alchemy also features some imaginary conversations too written by Harding as he works to change the narrative of what happened in the split between science and alchemy, mind and body, to envision an alternative outcome. In the chapter “Descartes Meets Alchemy”, Descartes first has a conversation with an alchemist and then famed depth psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz. I feel like this creative revision of Descartes’ perspective really stuck with me as a reader, helping to shift my own view, similar to how a fictional story can ignite change.

I will note that Gaia Alchemy might be a lot for someone unfamiliar with alchemy or depth psychology to take on, but Harding fills the pages with charts, diagrams, and photographs to illuminate the content. As unfamiliar as these concepts may seem, especially to those steeped in a materialistic Western scientific culture, Harding’s work is rich with potential for re-visioning our future. Society needs to change in order to survive, and there’s no better place to start than within. The unification of rationality and intuition, science and soul, is the only way forward.

Alchemy is the perfect access point to the reunion of our material and spiritual world. Here’s an example of Harding’s perceptive writing on the alchemical process of conjunction:

“We experience conjunction in our psychological life when our solar sensing and rationality and our lunar feeling and intuition function well together, bringing a balanced outlook in which we see how causality and synchronicity are at work in the world at large, reinforcing our embeddedness within their immense yet deeply intimate networks of learning and meaning.

Alchemically, conjunction happens between Sol and Luna. It occurs when Sol – the divine transcendental source – fully conjoins with our existence as embodied beings here on Earth (Luna). We experience great clarity, purpose, and joy in those blessed moments when conjunction truly comes upon us, when its deepest meaning actualizes itself in us and we feel a blessed connection with Gaia.”3

This book was a real thrill to read as an ecopsychologist because it gives me hope there’s others out there working towards the integration of holistic sciences, deep ecology, and depth psychology. Harding himself lives in England, where he founded Schumacher College, which offers ecology-centered masters programs. At Schumacher College, Harding serves as Deep Ecology Research Fellow and senior lecturer on holistic science.

I can’t recommend Gaia Alchemy highly enough. For those interested in both the spiritual and natural world, this is an insightful guide to wholeness. Harding is doing and teaching what I believe is the most important work of our time, healing our connection with nature, promoting holistic science, and re-establishing our psychological ties with Gaia. Gaia Alchemy is a roadmap for an uncertain future and is well worth the read.

The Big Book of Magical Incense, by Sara L. Mastros

The Big Book of Magical Incense, by Sara L. Mastros
Weiser Books, 1578637406, 288 pages, December 2021

The thing that often comes to mind when I think of the modern witch, and most likely does for others as well, is the silhouette of a person obscured by heavy smoke in a sweet heavy scented air. But how do we create this sort of ambiance? Why with incense of course! But how do we get incense? The Big Book of Magical Incense by Sara L. Mastros has everything you need to know when taking your first baby steps into the world of incense craft. This book touches on the history, the how to burn, the forms of incense and much more. 

All of these chapters are for the most part short, sweet, and to the point. For instance, the chapter “A very Brief History of Incense in the West” clocks in at a whopping three pages! A very informative three pages, but three pages nonetheless. It was so easy to say “just one more chapter” while reading, making this a very quick book to get through.

Just because it’s a relatively quick read doesn’t mean it’s a one and done title. Subsequent readings may not have any new information jump out at you, but refreshing your knowledge on such an important topic in the craft periodically is invaluable.

The Big Book of Magical Incense is divided into three main parts: fundamentals, ingredients, and recipes. Each chapter within these sections is appropriately titled and numbered for quick reference.

There’s a well-implemented table of contents too, which is important since being able to find your way around a book this size is quite a feat. In the event that said chapter has sub categories, much like the “How to Prepare Loose Incense”, they are included under the chapter name on an indented line almost like a citation in an APA formatted paper. Thus, making the process of locating certain topics a breeze. No going to the index in the back to get to the making cone incense section: it’s front and center. 

The way the notes and citations were done confused me before I realized they were all together, in one place, at the back starting on page 259. I much prefer this method of having all the citations in one section toward the back, where I can stick a bookmark and refer to them at my leisure, rather than having them tacked onto the bottom of the pages they appear on.

“This book isn’t intended for your library, but for your laboratory, where you get your hands dirty and try things.”1

This is a claim made by our author, but there’s a part of me that isn’t too convinced. My first and pretty much only point of contention with that statement is that this book appears to only come as a paperback and doesn’t have a hardcover option.

I have always been rough with my most used tools; there are composition books that have seen better days in my possession. Covers worn clean off and some hand-stitched back together so as to preserve the tea ring on page 25 from that one late-night flip though gone slightly wrong. Even though it would mean a price increase, I’d love to see a hardcover version of this at some point, so it could be more durable for my experiments.

Whelp, with my only real issue out of the way, let’s give this wonderful title some praise. First up on the praise block has to be the margins. There is so much empty space around the text that’s straight up free real estate for notes. This is just *chef’s kiss*.

Giving us all that space to make our notes and alterations to our Mastros’ printed word was such an amazing design choice. It really makes it feel like this is a workbook that deserves a place at the bench of magical workings. Being able to mark-up the rituals and exercises presented to us right in the book that will be going into the sacred space of said working, in my opinion, is invaluable. You’re able to get the most accurate to the moment notes as possible by being able to write right in the book.

A thing that I feel the need to address is that Mastros does mention White Sage and Palo Santo in the ingredients section. But these materials were treated with the respect they deserve. The problematic nature of the way modern markets have treated these sacred and powerful pieces of nature is addressed and substitutions are given for both substances.

The coverage was not very extensive but that is to be expected. This is a book on incense, not the sketchy way big business is making money by harming and mistreating plants. That’s something for us to do research on in our own time.

Another thing I love about this book is the emphasis placed on the customization of the recipes/blends given to us by Mastros. Newcomers to the world of incense, and to the practice in general, seem to get so bogged down in the notion that they need to do things EXACTLY like the way the books say. But this is a personal practice for the most part, you do what feels right and gets you the desired outcome.

Person A may not use Lavender in a calming blend because they don’t see it as a calming herb, whereas I do. And in the same vein, someone else may have no qualms with including tobacco in an ancestor incense, but I would never as tobacco smoke is one of my migraine triggers. In the words of Captain Barbosa from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, “The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” There’s no shame in changing it up.

Who do I think would benefit from this book? The short answer is everyone. Never used incense? Completely new to the concept? No biggie! There’s just enough info here to get you started in the dirty work of blending right away as well as lay the groundwork for a good foundation upon which to build up with further research.

Do you have a mid to high level of experience with this stuff? The personal blends and exercises/rituals that pair with said blends might just tickle a mental itch you didn’t know you had and reading Mastros’ take on these things may have you rethinking your personal beliefs/philosophy on incense and its place in your craft. The wealth of knowledge in The Big Book of Magical Incense is a bonafide steal.