A Collective Gathering Place for Readers, Writers, and Seekers

Seasons of a Magical Life, by H. Byron Ballard

Seasons of a Magical Life: A Pagan Path of Living, by H. Byron Ballard
Weiser Books, 987-1578637232, 197 pages, August 2021

Take a breath, pause, and gift yourself the time to delve into Seasons of a Magical Life: A Pagan Path of Living by H. Byron Ballard. In doing so, use the wisdom shared in this book to create a guide to a more connected way of living and co-existing. As Ballard writes, “this book is an invitation to modern Pagans to return to a simpler and quieter time, either literally or virtually, through letters from a small forest-farm in the southern highlands of the Appalachian Mountains.”3

The educationally credentialed author, H. Byron Ballard (BA, MFA), is a teacher and folklorist as well as a senior priestess. Her life and work are centered in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is a co-founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple and the Coalition of Earth Religions. 

As I read, I felt as if I was accompanying Ballard around her farm. I could smell the air, feel the weather, and taste the food offerings. I was afforded the experience of spending time with her and the life force that surrounds her in her mountain setting and, by extension, the life force that surrounds me in my setting. 

As the cover indicates, the book focuses on the celebrations, festivals, and rituals for the Wheel of the Year. It is divided into three parts. Part One is a five-chapter section that offers background essays “Animism, Mutual Aid, and Permaculture”, “Tower Time and the Conceit of the Ever-Turning Wheel”, “A Different Means to Reckon Time”, “Re-enchantment and the Uses of Magic”, and “the Good Neighbors, the Land Spirits”.

Part Two is comprised of two chapters, focusing on the Wheel of the Agricultural Year: “Winter, The Waxing Year” and “Summer, the Waning Year”. Within those chapters are the equinoxes of spring and fall. “The chapters are broken into the four seasons, with the Quarter Days a highlight within each, and include simple skills that accompany each marker of the year.”4

Part Three wraps up with “Hearth”, a “chapter on the spiritual and physical immersion into these seasons”5 no matter where one lives, rural, urban, or suburban. 

The essays offered in Part One are intended to “not only give the reader a map of (the) journey but also to introduce some ideas to better inform the journey.”6 Some essays were written as if Ballard was talking to a friend as they climbed a hill, while others unfold in a more informational manner, such as the sections on Ember Days and Embertide and Rogation Days.

As one who communicates daily with the trees and rocks that surround my house, I loved the writings on animism and permaculture. Re-enchantment? Yes, please; I could use a healthy dose of that. However, I recommend taking time to sit with what is being offered in these essays as some are more “heady” than others.

I liked how Ballard did not write about these topics in a clinical, detached manner. She walks the reader around her property as she delves into these subjects; the reader is invited to sit at her kitchen table as she prepares meals. Living seasonally, living and working by the natural light, living with the rhythms of nature. 

Wanting to not only read the book but also practice the activities offered, when I finished the section on the essays and moved to Part Two, the “Wheel of the Year”, I began reading the final chapter first, Chapter 7, “Summer: The Waning Year,” as I received the book a few days before Lammas, the Season of the First Harvest.

As with all of the sections on the Wheel of the Year, Ballard offers a letter from her forest-farm, skills to use, chores to be completed, foods for the season, traditions and celebrations, activities to do with children and other friends, an icon of the season and a concluding paragraph on season’s end.

For Lammas, in her letter from her forest-farm, she writes about how hot and dry the farm now is and surveys what is happening in the garden – an abundance of squash and tomatoes, days of “sweat and effort.”7 She offers a lesson on bread-making including the “philosophy” of kneading and sour dough. Chores such as canning and pickling are covered. Traditions and celebrations such as the blessed loaf and the ceremony of cakes and ale are introduced.

The Lammas section continues with recommended activities for Children and Other Friends, including shaping a loaf person and making corn dollies. The icon written about is Wheat as Lammas is “the first in a series of three harvest festivals that is usually dominated by bread – making it, shaping it, and eating it.”8

It concludes with a paragraph on Season’s End that encapsulates the essence of the season, for Lammas, namely looking to the “symbol of the harvest and what that means about gratitude in your life – how you express it, how you use it.”9

She asks the reader to look at the intention that was planted in the Spring — both literally and symbolically and see if the reader tended to this intention — and if it’s ready to “feed you now, that thing that you imagined planting?”10

The book’s final section delves into the aspects of hearth and homely life. She praises homeliness – simplicity in one’s home, comfort, pleasant but ordinary. She invites the reader to view the kitchen as living space for nurturing physically and emotionally. Home altars both indoors and outdoors are discussed as spiritual anchors. Ironically, while I have a home altar, I hadn’t thought of creating an outdoor altar until reading this book. She writes of – are you ready? – laundry as a meditative practice, which after reading I now understand. 

I especially love the book’s concluding lines, offered as a friend waving as you depart their home and sending you off with love:

“There is so much to do, every day, to tuck in the ends of this weaving we are creating: to observe and really see, to listen and really hear, to integrate our intuition and our Ancestral memory into a practice so practiced it no longer feels artificial. It only feels like living a good life and a full one.”11

I highly recommend not only reading Seasons of a Magical Life – but living it. For those who are looking to deepen their connection to the natural cycles of the year, this is a great book to have in one’s library. It offers simple, practical ways to engage with the seasonal energy of the year as it makes its way around the wheel of time. Many of these small practices are certain to enchant one’s life and bring a deeper sense of purpose to the small actions we do daily, fostering an appreciation of the current moment in time that is grounded yet extraordinarily magical.

The Ancient Language of Sacred Sound, by David Elkington

The Ancient Language of Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Science of the Divine, David Elkington
Inner Traditions, 432 pages, 1644111659, April 2021

In The Ancient Language of Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Science of the Divine, David Elkington has put forward a truly fascinating work about the role that sound plays in our spiritual experiences. This is a work of deep scholarship and intense study of locations around the world which are considered sacred sites to those who built them. Far from considering humanity’s ancient ancestors as primitive, this book highlights the absolutely breathtaking precision and purpose in the design of ancient monuments such as the pyramids at Giza, gothic cathedrals in Europe, and Newgrange in Ireland.

Elkington’s general thesis is that the hero — an exemplar of the capacity to grow, gain wisdom, and come to self-awareness — is a state of mind, and the development of this mental state can be aided by sacred sites. His theory has its foundation in the fairly recent discoveries about the resonant frequencies of Earth and its atmosphere. I was amazed to learn that regions below and above the ground each tend to resonate at different extremely low frequencies, and that these frequencies can also correspond to the frequencies generated by the brain: alpha, theta, and delta waves.

The idea that Elkington proceeds to develop is that many sacred sites were meticulously constructed to, under the right conditions, amplify the natural frequencies of the Earth so as to alter the brain wave patterns of anyone at that location. Through the structure’s architectural design, building materials, and geographic location, these sacred sites were built to tune in,  literally, to the energy of the world around us.

This very scientific approach to describing how we and our ancestors could come into harmony with what is greater than ourselves helps this book to feel extremely grounded compared to some other texts that discuss the experience of divine oneness. To me, the book is a fantastic bridge between scientific and spiritual approaches to how we can understand what “the hero” represents, both for our ancestors and for us today.

One of the revelatory ideas Elkington discusses which really struck me was that sacred sites are not merely historical monuments. When much of the western world has become removed from connection with the Earth and the older cultures who were so connected to the energy of the planet, we are likely to view structures like the Egyptian pyramids as symbols of some important person, group, event, etc. That is, someone or some group really wanted to leave a lasting legacy. This latter idea is much closer to our own, modern way of viewing the world. But one of the crucial ideas in this book is that these sacred sites did – and still do! – function to leave an impression upon the people visiting them: a much more potent impression than a mere symbol.

What amazed me still further about Elkington’s theory is that the spiritual impact of these sites is not made solely by visiting the structure, but through participation with it. By speaking, singing, or chanting words or phrases of power from the culture which constructed the site – the name of a god or hero, for example – the acoustic properties of the structure would amplify and enhance the sounds, building up to the mind-altering resonant frequencies. The overall idea that active participation is necessary for spiritual growth is exactly right, and is exemplified by these sacred sites.

Moving into the middle of the book, Elkington seems to take a long detour, delving into the meaning and significance of “the hero” in mythology. Interestingly, he focuses quite a bit on Jesus Christ as a hero figure rather than a historical/religious persona. Why, you might ask? Well, Elkington sets up Jesus as a heroic figure because he proposes that the Jesus we know from Christianity is just one example of someone who embodied the kind of heroic consciousness that is promoted by the sacred sites. Although I was aware that the story of Jesus shares a lot of commonalities with figures from other mythological traditions, this was my first time encountering the notion that ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is more akin to a title (similar to how ‘Buddha’ is a title) rather than an individual name.

Elkington delves heavily into the history and relationships of various ancient languages that have helped shape this title. Admittedly, this section of the book came off as a little tedious and matter-of-fact at times. The author makes all of these linguistic connections and cross-references between ancient Greek, Hebrew, Egyptian, and more – often leaving me to wonder whether these developments of language actually occurred. Elkington does provide many sources and citations throughout the book, especially in this chapter, but without reading the source material or possessing deep knowledge of these ancient languages, I was somewhat skeptical of the plenitude of linguistic transformations being presented. Do these connections actually exist, or are they being presented to fit the theory?

However, I was reassured when, at the end of his linguistic explorations, Elkington himself admits to casting a skeptical eye at the mountain of linguistic data he’d uncovered. Although it would still take a great deal of research to substantiate all the bits and pieces of his work, I felt better knowing the author expressed his own doubts about his findings. Ultimately, however, the trail of linguistic breadcrumbs reaches the conclusion that Jesus (again, not the historical-religious figure) and Christianity itself dates back to the Egyptian Old Kingdom! Linking this to what Elkington discusses about sacred sites, he says “We have forgotten the power of that name, only limiting it to a kind of modified superstition, but now we can show, we can demonstrate beyond doubt that the name actually does work as a name of power, this is the name of God.”1

Elkington continues developing this startling discovery throughout the book, tying together the importance of the sacred sites, words of power, and the shifts in consciousness that may result from their combination. The Ancient Language of Sacred Sound is quite dense, and I wish I could expound more upon all the intriguing inquiries and discoveries it contains. As a fair warning, some of this book may be a little difficult to get through, depending upon the reader’s interests and attention span. But in my estimation, it is a truly unique and eye-opening book – a journey well worth the time and dedication.

Hekate, by Courtney Weber

Hekate: Goddess of Witches, by Courtney Weber
Weiser Books, 978-1578637164, 224 pages, August 2021

Author Courtney Weber has a wealth of personal experience with witches and witchcraft. Her bio describes her many accomplishments – she is a Wiccan priestess, writer, tarot advisor, creator of the Tarot of the Boroughs tarot deck, a metaphysical teacher, workshop leader, and social activist. She leads workshops throughout the U.S. and has written several other books in the magical genre including Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess, Tarot for One: The Art of Reading for Yourself, and The Morrigan: Celtic Goddess of Magick and Might.

Her latest book, Hekate: Goddess of Witches, begins with a chapter titled “Meeting Hekate” and was an exciting indication of what was to follow with. It’s a delightful combination of personal story, facts about Hekate and her lineage, impressions of what it is to be a witch today, suggestions for using the book, and three rituals for getting to know Hekate, which I found to be wonderful, especially including these rituals right off the bat, in chapter one. Weber’s down to earth writing style made me feel at ease right away, like I was not only meeting Hekate, but happily meeting her as well. 

The book continues with a deeper dive into Hekate’s lineage, a nice touch especially if you are a fan of mythology (and really, what witch isn’t!?), and then proceeds with a listing of animals that are strongly associated with Hekate, including brief descriptions of the reasons for some of these associations. 

Hekate is considered the goddess of witches and Weber explains how Hekate’s familial relationships (as well as her own) were affected by being a witch in a section called “The Witch in the Family.” This section brilliantly weaves the author’s personal experiences, Hekate’s mythological stories, and the readers experience (unearthed by some deep and powerful questions provided in this section).

I particularly loved this interweaving of experiences – Hekate’s, the author’s, and my own as the reader, a beautiful braid of powerful ideas for discovering one’s own role with Hekate’s support. This section contains a ritual for “Finding Yourself in Hekate”, which in part includes the words:

Masked Lady, Gorgon queen
The sister, the daughter, the mother, the lover,
The cousin, the child, the one who sees,
The one who watches, the one from afar,
Stand with me in this moment,

And I will stand with you.1

This section concludes with a beautiful encouragement for how to find your strength and unique offerings and gifts per a change of perspective, especially when being a witch is causing stress for you in family or social situations.

Hekate is a goddess who has many names and personas (I’ve read lists of over a hundred different epithets for her, each name attached to a different facet of her power and personality), and this book covers several of them in depth.  Many of Hekate’s personas are considered “dark” or “dangerous” – such as “Brimo” and “Hekate Chthonia” – the goddess of the Underworld, and I loved the way this book’s message embraces all sides of her, both dark and light. After all, the world is full of both and our lived experience will always encounter both, no need to shy away from darkness.  

Each chapter is presented with a delightful mix of the author’s own personal storytelling and experiences and a wide variety of spells and rituals calling on different aspects of the goddess for different situations and outcomes. I enjoyed that Weber was very thorough in covering many different areas where these spells and rituals may be used – sometimes even metaphorical, as in the section “Working with Hekate and the Dead” where we find rituals for working with the dead and with ghosts, including a ritual for releasing a “symbolic ghost” – which I found to be potentially useful to most of us, for who hasn’t dealt with a memory “haunting” them?

My favorite experience with this book happened the day I read the last few pages of the chapter called “The Dangerous Goddess and the Dangerous Witch”. I have a personal practice of drawing cards each day. I draw a tarot card, a playing card, and a pair of Lenormand cards. That day my cards showed two different swords, a scythe and the crossroads. I smiled seeing the crossroads card since Hekate is known as the Queen of the Crossroads. But my jaw dropped when I picked up the book to continue reading where I’d left off the previous day and found myself reading about Brimo and three different rituals all using athames (ritual blades). Hekate seemed to be speaking to me loud and clear. 

Another of my favorite rituals in the book is included in the chapter titled “Keeper of the Keys”, actually a lovely pair of rituals – one for opening a symbolic door and another for closing one. These rituals will be on my list for the near future, along with all of the rituals requiring keys, of which I have a fondness as well as a fair collection. 

The chapter titled “Hekate’s Grimoire” includes a list of items that Hekate is known to have affection for to be used in offerings, along with a list of herbs that are historically sacred to her, some gorgeous invocations to her, two recipes for moon water, and a nice compilation of spells for a variety of situations. 

I thoroughly enjoyed everything about Hekate: Goddess of Witches and am delighted to add it to my growing library on Hekate. I would recommend it to anyone interested in knowing her or knowing more about her. It is a beautiful tribute to Hekate for novice and adept alike. 

Answering the Call of the Elementals, by Thomas Mayer

Answering the Call of the Elementals: Practices for Connecting with Nature Spirits, by Thomas Mayer
Findhorn Press, 978- 16441122144, 160 pages, June 2021

Answering the Call of the Elementals: Practices for Connecting with Nature Spirits by Thomas Mayer is a timely book that incorporates the melding of environmental consciousness and the intuitive nature within humankind that desperately needs reawakening if we are to co-exist with those beings that inhabit the natural world.

It is no secret to those who live collaboratively with the ephemeral spirits, beings, and other sentient forces that we are at a crossroads. How we proceed, who (or what) we consider to be allies to form alliances with, will dramatically affect the outcome of this planet and all of the life that occupies it.

Mayer has brought this need to the foreground in a book filled with first hand experience and a prodding for the reader to seek out their own measure of experience that will give proof of the existence of nature spirits. 

Even if we are not consciously aware of it, we live in the realm of elemental beings. Everywhere, and all the time, they penetrate our souls and slip into our hearts. The whole world around us is ensouled with elemental beings. Elemental beings participate in everything that is happening in nature around us… 1

Answering the Call of the Elementals is separated into twenty chapters and is a narrative of the author’s recounting of his experiences in seeking those beings he identifies as elementals. One thing that struck me in reading this book was the lack of a definitive definition as to what “elementals” are. There is a movement between the semantics of “elementals” and “nature spirits” that is not always easy to follow in terms of whether they are interchangeable or something altogether different.

But, even in saying that, there is a purposeful wisdom in what appears to be lacking definition and by the end of the book the reader realizes that there is no generic definition of these beings. They are changeable. They move through many worlds and have many agendas to fulfill in both the physical and spiritual worlds. 

Beginning with the opening pages of “Chapter 1: The Plea”, the reader is immediately drawn into the experience of Mayer and his conversation and meeting with the four Elementals (beings) of nature. In simplistic form, these beings are the pure essence of their respective alchemical realms of earth, air, fire, or water, as they exist within the natural world. This meeting comes as a plea from their realms:

We are the beings of the nature elementals. We encompass and represent them. We come to you with a request. Humanity has forgotten the elemental beings. We live in your subconscious, we are a big part of your lives, but you know nothing of us…2

This plea is the driving force behind the authoring of this book. In Mayer’s writings, the reader can palpably and emotionally feel the imminent need to awaken and to rekindle the long forgotten relationships with those beings we still, albeit not acknowledged, live so intimately with. Mayer provides the reader with as much descriptive and ambient tone as possible to allow the information to wash over the reader at all levels of understanding and, perhaps, to also stimulate the urgency abiding in how far removed we have become from the natural world and these elemental beings. 

It is time. In this moment I decide. It is all perfectly clear in an instant. I will do their bidding. As a first step I will focus on teaching the meditation courses, and the following steps will develop from there…3

In Answering the Call of the Elementals, Mayer succeeds in providing a step-by-step plan of developing and awakening the sensorial tools necessary to “see”, feel and dialogue with nature spirits”.4 In particular, “Chapter 4: Experiencing Elemental Beings” provides some of the “how” to make contact and the “why” of its potential and necessary agenda. 

Experiencing elemental beings is generally prohibited by mental blocks. These mental blocks tend to come up particularly when you begin with practical exercises. You think your own perceptions are figments of the imagination, or fantasies, and you are so full of mistrust that nothing remains. So right away, you throw out the baby with the bathwater…5

As the reader moves deeper into this chapter, there is a slow building of confidence in abilities crafted by specific examples of the author’s experiences, interwoven with sound and practical contemplative endeavors that serve not only this purpose but many others relating to spiritual practice and growth. There is a lot of information in what appears to be not many pages, and the information is dense and rich.

Mayer is very methodical in the step-by-step approach of training the reader to be able to access the largely intuitive and feeling nature that aligns with that of the elemental beings. And, it is precisely this analytical methodology that allows the “mental blocks” that persist to be assuaged in their need to dominate and over analyze so that something more natural and organic can open in their place. This opening becomes the threshold of meeting and perceiving those inhabitants of the elemental worlds, and it is in this space of mutual recognition that the healing of the planet, self, and spirit may begin. 

There is a lot of information to ruminate over and to digest between the covers of Answering the Call of the Elementals. Mayer uses the teachings of Austrian philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner as the underpinnings of this book giving a layer of Christian mysticism to a topic that is also part and parcel of pagan practices. This makes the content more globally based and underscores the intention of its writing; collaboration and co-creation between humanity and the realms of the more ephemeral beings.

It is important to note that Rudolf Steiner was the founder of a specific branch of philosophy known as anthroposophy, which supported the concepts of an objective and intellectually comprehensible spiritual world that could be accessed and experienced by humanity. This is a key understanding Mayer uses throughout the book as a given ability that all of humanity has.

Answering the Call of the Elementals is definitely a title I will return to for another read through. I have a sense that each reading will undoubtedly reveal another nuanced subtleties inherent in this re-connection to the spiritual world. The Epilogue of this title speaks to the author’s …vision for the future “includes elemental beings once again becoming a cultural public resource for our civilization”6

Mayer outlines a vision of the future that integrates elemental beings into the fabric of all of society’s daily workings. These include a school-level course of study focused on the elemental beings as part of the traditional educational studies, elemental research groups at universities, local governmental departments, and committees dedicated to the well-being and care of elementals, as well as farmers enlisting the strength and help of agricultural elementals and the direct connection of contractors and builders with those elementals of the mechanical and work equipment being used. These goals feel lofty in aspiration, but perhaps what is required is lofty ambitions and devotion to restoring our connections to the natural world. 

This vision is surely unfamiliar today and beyond the normal conceptual frame. To me, it is not only realistic, but necessary. The nature elementals are eagerly waiting for human beings to consciously grasp them, for their future existence is dependent upon it. We humans and the elemental beings have a common destiny – to rescue the elemental beings…7

The King in Orange, by John Michael Greer

The King in Orange: The Magical and Occult Roots of Political Power, by John Michael Greer
Inner Traditions, 1644112582, 208 Pages, May 2021

With the many controversies happening within our country right now, from vaccination mandates to military withdrawal, it feels an opportune moment to reflect on the state of American politics and the forces that are shaping our current government system. Cue The King in Orange: The Magical and Occult Roots of Political Power by John Michael Greer, here to help magically-minded folks make sense of the political mess in terms they understand.

Drawing upon The King in Yellow, a book of short stories by Robert W. Chambers, Greer helps to discern the energetic forces behind collective political movements that have been taking shape the past decade through the lens of occult forces (both conscious and unconscious) guiding the path forward.

In particular, he highlights the competition between two competing schools of magic that ultimately lead to the presidency of Donald Trump. By examining what led to this Populist rise, an occurrence happening elsewhere too, such as Britain, Greer leads the reader through a journey in the masked magical forces impacting public discourse.

And I’m going to be honest, Greer gives a very fair treatment of the subject without ever outwardly picking a side. So, this book may be potentially troublesome for anyone very rooted in their own personal beliefs and isn’t willing to see things differently.

For the most part, there is no sway towards either political party. I will say the exception to this seems to be in regard to Greer’s writing on Hilary Clinton, which I did find to be rather pejoratively biased. Overall though, Greer presents the material very objectively, offering perspective to guide readers in making their own conclusions.

Greer really delves into the concepts such as virtue signaling, privilege in America, and the class divide rift between salary workers and wage workers. He especially packs a punch by highlighting the magic of the liberal, privileged salary class that directly contributed to the populist rise of Trump: mainstream culture and the mass media that perpetuates it.

“This is one of the crucial points about privilege in today’s America: to the privileged, privilege is invisible. That’s not just a matter of personal cluelessness or of personal isolation from the less privileged, though these can of course be involved. It’s one of the most significant magical spells we’re under. The mass media and every other aspect of mainstream American culture constantly present the experience of privileged people as normal, and just as constantly feed any departure from that experience through an utterly predictable set of filters.”1

The filters used by the media, as well as the new American Left, according to Greer, inaccurately portray Trump supporters using distorted narratives, such as homophobic, racist, misogynist, when in factor many votes for Trump were for populist reasons of job loss, wage cuts, unaffordable health coverage, and a general lose of faith in system that is willingness neglecting their interests. Though identity politics currently take precedent above other cultural divisors, the overlooked factor is social class.

Greer draws on the scholarly work of Ioan Couliano to illuminate age-old forms of manipulation dating back to the Renaissance now channeled into modern advertising and mass media. This one-sided perspective led to a nation-wide upset as millions of voters were blind sided by Trump’s victory, which was dismissed as impossible by the media narrative.

Simultaneously, chaos magicians are also waging their own in the form of Pepe the frog memes, truly believing their symbolism was having an effect on the election, and thus constellating a change in consciousness among a group of “internet wizards.” Delving into the story of how this magic was used via Reddit was a really interesting topic, particularly after having encountered it directly in my mid-20s as quite a few acquaintances began to post about it.

To be honest, I’m still integrating the way he’s woven together the underpinning occult energies in play in American politics with the recent history of the 2016 election to present a viewpoint that is entirely original and most relatable as a magical practitioner. As an avid seeker, I enjoy how Greer’s insight work blends discourse from political, social, and magical movements.

While the future is not set in stone, the deeds of the past are catching up and contributing to where we are now as a nation. With ample reference to material such as Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West and Dion Fortune’s war letters, Greer provides multiple avenues for readers to further study.

Reading The King in Orange had me reminiscing about when I was a recent college graduate, filled with liberal ideals, dating a boisterous, in your face Trump supporter. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t even survive the political campaigning. As tension in the country has become more polarized, I’ve literally seen more and more long-term relationships ending over deep-set political stances.

I really feel like reading Greer’s ideas in this book helped me to reconcile my differences and find a more balanced perspective. When my Trump supporting friend asserted the other day that America needs to “Blame the suits, not the boots”, I had much more insight into her perspective.

The King in Orange is not an easy read, as there are some hard truths to swallow regardless of where your political beliefs lay. But this book opened my eyes to the roots of the current political climate that go deeper than just standard party issues. There are fundamental shifts to the American way of life that are leading to uncertainty about the future. Being more aware of the occult forces in play on both sides helps to be discerning in shaping our beliefs. I have been recommending this book to quite a few people recently who are wondering what’s going on in the politics right now because it’s a really thought-provoking read that delves into the psychological factors effecting the collective consciousness.

Alchemical Tantric Astrology, by Fredrick Hamilton Baker

Alchemical Tantric Astrology: The Hidden Order of Seven Metals, Seven Planets, and Seven Chakras, by Frederick Hamilton Baker
Destiny Books, 1644112809, 242 pages, June 2021

Recently, my husband completed the course Spiritualized with astrologer Aeolian Heart, and it really ignited a lot of spiritual growth for him. The premise of the course was to energetically move through the alchemy of astrology to facilitate healing through the gateways of the chakras.

Curious to learn more about this, I was delighted to discover Frederick Hamilton Baker recently published Alchemical Tantric Astrology: The Hidden Order of Seven Metals, Seven Planets, and Seven Chakras, which seemed to essentially be drawing from the same alchemical/astrological associations as Aeolian Heart did in my husband’s course. Now it was my turn to take a deep dive into the material, and I’ve been delighted with the quality of Baker’s dedication to this subject.

Baker begins by sharing how he came to develop the Alchemical Tantric Arrangement (ATA), his own astrological system, through his time studying in California, serving in the U.S. Navy, and visiting sacred sites around the world. Blending his study of astrology, alchemy, and the chakra system of tantric yoga, Baker has concluded Capricorn to be the final sign of the zodiac and Aquarius as the first.

I really resonated with this conclusion, particularly after watching the events unfold during major alignment of planets in Capricorn in 2020 and getting to know my own Capricorn stellium in my chart. It simply makes sense, given the many “new beginning” holidays in Aquarius (Candlemas, Chinese New Year, Imbolc), and I personally have always waited until February to set my new year intentions.

Diving right into associations between chakras, astrology, and alchemical metals, Baker clearly lays out the correspondences that are the foundation of ATA. From there, he delves into the mythology of every zodiac sign, which was very beneficial as an astrologer to read. While I am familiar with most of the mythology, the way Baker illuminates all the archetypal energy within each zodiac sign through his interpretations was extremely insight.

By offering a cross-culture description of archetypal energies (gods and goddess) from different pantheons, my understanding of the energies of each zodiac sign expanded. For instance, I previously did not know that Hecate and Vishnu are both associated with Pisces. I also really liked his thorough descriptions of Mercury/Hermes roles, including some such as secret keeper, midwife, and seducer, which I hadn’t previously realized.

Next, Baker gives an overview of kundalini energy and the tantric aspect of transforming consciousness with astrological energy. He notes this process can also be referred to as Hermetic astrology, where the alternating feminine and masculine energies of the signs move up and down the chakras to facilitate shifts in conscious awareness. Therefore, Baker concludes, “Knowing the signs and their associations with the two directions of the chakras, those who are acquainted with transits can now use astrology to tune into the most appropriate time for their meditation and actions.”1

Baker teaches the reader how to sense astrological energy as having an upward motion (Aquarius to Leo) and downward motion (Virgo to Capricorn), moving the energy in a cyclical way, just like the continual inhale and exhale of our breathing. Through his very illuminating descriptions of the relationships between each zodiac sign and the corresponding chakra, I gained a deeper understanding of this upward and downward energetic motion he describes.

For instance, Pisces and Sagittarius are both associated with the second chakra, however Pisces is the upward energy of the second chakra, while Sagittarius is the downward energy of the second chakra. Additionally, he provides the Hermetic phrase for each zodiac sign, giving further explanation of how the astrological energies are expressed through the chakras. One example is “The key word of Hermetic Scorpio is transformation.”2

My Aquarius Sun and Mercury found the most interesting section to be when Baker moved beyond the Saturian planets, which have a long alchemical history, to explore the trans-Saturian planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Eris) with Chiron as a gateway. He relates Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto to the radioactive elements uranium, neptunium, plutonium, and americium (respectively), which completely blew my mind and is a connection I would have never made on my own, but fascinated me in terms of alchemy and the future.

Since Chiron is still rather new to astrology, discovered in only 1977, many astrologers are still working to figure out the energy of the asteroid. In his philosophy of ATA, Baker asserts “Chiron is the key to unlocking the central nadi in the chakra system and a bridge between the downward and upward paths of the zodiac signs.”3

He goes on to explain, Chiron serves as a guardian of the threshold between the traditional alchemical metals and planets and the radioactive metals and planets. His insight on Chiron is worth reading for those interested in astrology, for it presents an archetypal explanation of the role this energy may hold in how the future unfolds.

This section concludes with information on the numerology of the astrological houses, the connection between DNA and the chakra energy, and how astroyoga can open multidimensional portals through meditation. Baker offers written-out guided visualization processes for the reader to tap into this potent energy.

I also really enjoyed the final part of the book, which focuses on interpreting events through the lens of ATA, and is the practical application of this complex system. Baker teaches the reader how to understand this Hermetic Chart compared to a traditional Western astrological chart. They look quite different, and I had to hand sketch how my Hermetic chart would look because there’s no program to produce this. I’m still not sure exactly how to interpret the placements (yet), but it helped to understand the alchemy of my personal chart better.

I particularly enjoyed Baker’s focus on the alignments happening in 2020, which I had been waiting years to see how they would unfold, knowing major change is in store for everyone on both a personal and collective level. HIs interpretation of events, both past and future, did not disappoint. I find his evolutionary approach to astrology to be very aligned with my own conclusions, particularly his thoughts on the upcoming transit of Pluto through Aquarius, as it wraps up a transit through Capricorn. He certainly knows his stuff and has given immense thought to the impact of the transiting planetary energy currently shaping events.

The one thing I do have to say about the ATA, as forward-thinking and integrative as it is, I would assert these ideas are not new and others have drawn similar conclusions as well. While this lends credence to the ATA system, I also think it’s valuable to acknowledge a lot of this system is rooted in alchemy, astrology, and yoga practices that have existed for centuries.

Nevertheless, Baker’s perspective, stemming from years as a researcher and practitioner of these arts, certainly bolsters the knowledge on these subjects and integrate them in a way that can be practically applied in one’s life for energetic attunement with the zodiacal energy. He has a way of sharing his wisdom that makes it easily accessible to readers, both logically and intuitively. There is plenty of information for readers to gain from Alchemical Tantric Astrology, and it is a wonderful book for readers to become acquainted with Hermetic Astrology.

I have been truly delighted to discover similarities in my own astrology practice with Baker’s practice. Currently, I am looking forward to seeing if I notice the downward energy shift as the Sun moves into Virgo next week. I feel like this integration of the tantric energy into my nature-based spirituality and astrology practice will be bolstering my awareness.

The Mystery Tradition of Miraculous Conception, by Marguerite Mary Rigoglioso

The Mystery Tradition of Miraculous Conception: Mary and the Lineage of Virgin Births, by M​​arguerite Mary Rigoglioso
Bear & Company, 1591434130, 192 pages, April 2021

Every year on Christmas Eve, it always strikes me as odd that there is not more focus on Mary in the story of Jesus’s birth: a devout virgin, pregnant with the child of God, relying on faith alone amid adversity and uncertainty, in labor delivering Christ to the physical realm. Clearly, Mary had to be a pretty incredible woman to be picked for this divine conception, yet her story always seems glossed over in religious text. While scholars debate even the most minimal nuisance of Biblical text, many remain mysteriously mute on the subject of a virgin birth.

The more I learned about the divine feminine, ancient priestesses, and sacred sexuality, the more I became convinced there had to be something about Mary which made her able to fulfill such an extraordinary task, but I never could find any validation for this intuition. Finally, many of my questions have been answered by Marguerite Mary Rigoglioso in The Mystery Tradition of Miraculous Conception: Mary and the Lineage of Virgin Births, which hands-down has been one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read.

The premise of The Mystery Tradition of Miraculous Conception is based on the Infancy Gospel of James (Protoevangelium of James) that dates back to the 2nd-century. It was never canonized, and in fact it was condemned by Pope Innocent I in 405. Rigoglioso chose to use the version of the gospel, which she refers to as the Birth of Mary, as translated by Ronald Hock. And let me tell you, this is one juicy gospel!

The author of the text claims to be James, Joseph’s son from his first (and only) wife. Described in the Infancy Gospel of James are Mary’s upbringing, her publicly acknowledged spiritual authority, her relationship to Joseph, her experience of pregnancy, her journey to Bethlehem, and finally the birth of Jesus and the events immediately following.

Piece by piece, Rigoglioso deciphers the text for the reader with the belief that certain parts of the text needed to be cryptic in order to keep the truth concealed. Based on her research, lineages of divine priestesses had been trained to conceive partheogentically, which is asexual reproduction where the egg turns into an embryo without the fertilization of sperm. According to Rigoglioso, Mary was impregnated by Logos, or “through some kind of unification with the divine creative sound, the divine order, the wisdom essence of the universe.”1

Mary’s unusual childhood prepared her to serve as a divine birth priestess, and she showed advanced spiritual mastery at an early age. She was prepared for this sacred duty from the time of her own parthenogenetic birth by her mother Anne, who was also a skilled divine birth priestess. Some of the things done to ready Mary for divine birth were imbibing consciousness-altering substances, eating a specific diet, and learning special songs and dances.

At the appropriate age, Mary is taken to the temple to be raised. She remains there until it is time for her to undertake her duty as divine birth priestess and is given to Joseph, who was chosen to protect her. Contrary to popular belief, Joseph and Mary never married, and from the text, he was rather resistant to caring for her at first. It is clear the conception, energetically initiated by Mary, was not at all aided by Joseph, who in fact didn’t believe at first she had conceived and remained a virgin.

Despite the miraculous nature of Mary’s feat, the Infancy Gospel of James also documents the trials she was put through by her own religious community to ensure she was telling the truth. This text reveals the distrust and suspicion surrounding the miraculous feat of a virgin birth and demonstrates the need for Mary to be concealed from the public as her pregnancy progresses.

Ultimately, Mary does give birth to Jesus, once again on her own in solitude. Joseph and the midwife he found return to find the baby has been born. The birth did not require the assistance of a midwife, which is considered another miraculous feat. The divine avatar, Jesus Christ, has been brought into existence.

After this brief synopsis of the Infancy Gospel of James, you might be doubting the veracity or questioning all that you’ve been taught. For this reason, I think it’s important to acknowledge Rigoglioso’s impressive career to highlight the background for this book. First and foremost, Rigoglioso is a distinguished expert on the subject of virgin births, previously authoring Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity and The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece. She holds a Ph.D. in humanities and a M.A. in philosophy and religion from California Institute of Integral Studies, along with an B.A. in psychology from Vassar College.

Her scholarship is focused on ancient Mediterranean mystery traditions, bringing to light suppressed histories of holy women. Rigoglioso also teaches workshops, courses, and mentors people to assist them reclaiming the priestess path through offerings such as Priestess of the Dove Oracle Training and the Holy Womb Chakra teachings. She has many free spiritual resources on her website SevenSistersMysterySchool.com, which was very fun to peruse.

Needless to say, the content in the book is well-sourced and filled with references to ancient texts. Yes, Rigoglioso does interpret the Gospel of the Stars in her own way, but given her academic training and spiritual knowledge, I find the information credible. It takes someone with insight into ancient culture, Biblical history, and soulful wisdom to interpret the text as Rigoglioso has done.

Just reading the Infancy Gospel of James was an eye-opening experience, as I’ve done much studying of the suppression of Mary Magdalene in the Church’s history, but had never thought much about the Virgin Mary. I’m actually curious to learn more about their relationship, as it seems that Mary Magdalene is always portrayed as a sacred sexual priestess, which Rigoglioso very thoroughly distinguishes from the divine birth priestesses, who remained virgins their whole lives.

This especially piques my interest because Rigoglioso describes Mary’s parthenogenetic conception as this lineage was actively being dismantled by patriarchal forces. It makes me wonder, given the potency of the divine birth priestess, if Jesus would have been in a physical relationship with Mary Magdalene.

Another thing that really struck me as fascinating was Rigoglioso’s suggestion that the three wisemen actually came to see Mary, the most holy one who had accomplished this miraculous feat. Her interpretation of the three gifts they brought (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) makes much more sense as offerings for her as currency for financial support (gold), sacred temple herbs for her to burn in holy places and claim her spiritual authority (frankincense), and an embalming oil (myrrh) for when she needs to anoint Jesus’s body at his death.

That last bit might have you a bit confused: how would Mary have known about Jesus’s death at the time of his birth? The Infancy Gospel of James describes a prophecy Mary has right before giving birth, which Rigoglioso points out illuminates her spiritual mastery to hold the knowledge of cruelty the world will inflict on her son and remaining open to love nevertheless.

“It must be a disturbing reality for this young priestess to know that her child, no matter how holy, will be entering the world of matter and duality, and that all those associated with him will have to come to terms with that. In a sense, she is in this very moment, just before she is about to give birth, also able to foresee the circumstances of her son’s death, in which the duality around his teachings will be played out in a deeply painful way. Once again, we can really appreciate Mary as a human woman who will have to grapple with maintaining the high vibration of love amidst agony and fear as the events of her son’s life unfold.”2 

Once again, Rigoglioso demonstrates that Mary was not a naive young woman, ignorant to the spiritual mastery of her son. Rather, it was through her training and active agency that Jesus, the son of the God, also considered a divine avatar by some, was able to physically manifest in this plane of existence. Her role as a most holy divine birth priestess is what allowed for a being of elevated consciousness to be conceived to elevate all of humanity.

Simply sitting with this truth changes everything for me. The information Rigoglioso has shared is so deeply empowering for me on a personal level, and I believe on a collective level too as more people awaken to the spiritual abilities of the divine feminine. For too long, women have been stripped of their spiritual authority, oppressed by patriarchal values, and denied the right to know the full potency of their potential abilities.

More than anything, I hope the information in The Mystery Traditions of Miraculous Conception becomes more wide-spread. I’ve been actively sharing what I learned from reading it with friends and family, initiating discussions about the topic of a virgin birth and Mary’s spiritual lineage. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the divine feminine, especially within Christianity. Rigoglioso has packed so much information into this text that I know I’ll be reading it again and again. I love that it’s filled with references and sources to assist the reader in doing their own investigation. All in all, this book is the major missing piece to the history of Christianity that is sure to spark meaningful revelation in all readers.

Animal Spirit Wisdom, by Philip Kansa and Elke Kirchner-Young

Animal Spirit Wisdom: A Pocket Reference to 45 Power Animals, by Philip Kansa and Elke Kirchner-Young
Earthdancer Books, 1644111154, 112 pages, May 2021

The lovely little paperback, called Animal Spirit Wisdom: A Pocket Reference to 45 Power Animals, by two shamans named Philip Kansa and Elke Kirchner-Young is a nice encouragement to open one’s mind to accepting the wisdom and assistance of animal spirits “energy from other dimensions,” as they write on page 8. Philip and Elke have been on a journey, for over 21 years between them, to share the wisdoms of this native tradition, known as Power Animals, or Animal Totems. I personally took their encouragement to heart as I read through this book, because I already have a love for animals in the world of mundane biology. I was quite interested in what the spiritual plane had to offer from animals too!

This book brought me a feeling of warmth and friendliness. I could really grasp the concept of calling a power animal to one’s side as a companion. This was my first true introduction to animal spirits, so I will need to gain more knowledge on the practice, before I might incorporate it into my own spiritual practices. That said though, I look forward to trying out the exercises written in this book, because unlike many other references I’ve seen, Animal Spirit Wisdom seems to take a gentle, guiding approach, rather than a strict format that stresses a lot on technique. That’s not to say the strict approach is wrong, however the easy going nature of this book seemed to match the writer’s intentions perfectly.

Reading through Animal Spirit Wisdom feels like you’re taking a spiritual walk on a path of nature with two friendly tour guides showing you the way. There is a schedule, for Philip and Elke shall also guide those next in line to be lead, but you must also stroll and allow the power animals to come along the path when you’re both ready to learn and grow from the experience.

Animal Spirit Wisdom is written in a succinct, organized style, and it features a clear and precise connection exercise with which to call on each of the 45 spirit animals referenced. Phillip and Elke also include a brief list of keywords and helpful descriptions for ideas on how calling forth any of the power animals may aid and protect you. Each spirit animal page contains adequately sourced and vivid images, which allow for the perfect visual aids for beginners.

I was only slightly confused by one part of this book, but I think that’s because I was taking things literally. I’ll only include my bamboozlement here, because I’m still not completely sure about it. On page 9 of Animal Spirit Wisdom, our shamans state “in order to discover your animal, make a spirit animal journey (see p. 12) with a shaman or another spiritual teacher.” As shown in the quote, there is another page number listed to see. On page 12 there is a whole exercise titled “A Spirit Animal Journey.”

Now, since our authors are shamans themselves, I’m inclined to believe they are indeed the “shamans with us,” so to say, on this particular journey. I don’t know if this might seem nit-picky, but I honestly wasn’t sure if that’s how I’m supposed to read these particular sections, or if I should actually contact either shaman directly and seek their counsel, as it were. Either way, don’t let the confused mutterings of a beginner sway you. The aforementioned curiosity didn’t take anything away from the book’s experience at all. I simply wish to remain transparent and forthcoming with my review.

Overall, Animal Spirit Wisdom by Phillip Kansa and Elke Kirchner-Young was a truly impactful and enlightening reading experience. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, of any level, who is interested in acquiring an introduction to the tradition of spirit animals. I genuinely believe the two beautiful shamans who put this book together delight in sharing this very knowledge with you. After my journey through these pages, I am moved to see the animals around me in a much more spiritual light. I wonder if the power animals will know my awe for them. Yeah, they probably will, as they’re the ones with the wisdom, after all.

Super Tarot, by Sasha Fenton

Super Tarot: Interpret the Cards Like a Pro, by Sasha Fenton
Hampton Roads Publishing, 164970197, 176 pages, February 2021

Sasha Fenton’s Super Tarot: Interpret the Cards Like a Pro is an instructive paperback that seems to be gaining popularity as I write this! It features a rather encouraging forward, written by Theresa “the Tarot Lady” Reed. There’s not much else to add about the forward, as it is only 2 ½ pages long, but it does complement the rest of the book nicely. I found myself excited to turn the page toward the book’s 1st chapter, even though I already comfortably involve tarot reading in my own personal practices!

Of course, we all can always learn more, and improve our skills for everything we do, but honing my own skills in tarot specifically is why I picked up Super Tarot, and boy, did Sasha Fenton deliver! Fenton, a professional astrologer, palmist, and tarot card reader since 1974,  is also a well established instructive writer on divination, and Super Tarot adds another to the over 100 books in her already massive repertoire. I’m only focusing on one of her books for now, though, and that’s Super Tarot

The very first (honestly refreshing might I add) thing I noticed about this book is the feeling of almost casual friendliness that shone through page after page. Fenton seems more like a friend giving advice than an author telling you what to do. I liked the overall positivity of finding several examples of what you should do as well, rather than seeing the negative counterpart of  teaching what you shouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and value the importance of warning beginners of the potential downsides one may face, but as someone with mental disabilities, having more than one different example helps me to better understand the abstract concepts I can struggle with.

Speaking of several examples of things to do, I learned an interesting spread from this book that I somehow hadn’t come across before. I know I’m no expert on tarot reading myself, but I had already gotten comfortable enough with the Past, Present, and Future spread to not really have many questions of how to advance it, but this book sure did give me an answer that turned out to be something I found Incredibly useful! I was nearly complacent in drawing just one card for each of the elements in the title of the Past, Present, and Future tarot reading, all totaling a count of three cards. From Super Tarot, on page 112, I found a spread that actually involves drawing two cards for each of the past, present, and future elements, totaling in a 6 card spread.

Right then, I put the book down for a few minutes, and picked up my tarot cards! The 6-card spread resulted in a far more accurate, and informative reading than I had ever gotten from pulling just 3 cards, and that might seem obvious, but remember, I was already comfortable with the amount of information I’d gotten with the way I was already doing the Past, Present, and Future spread, so to have even more to work with was amazing to me. I already feel more confident in my own reading abilities by just practicing one exercise from Super Tarot.

Simple as my own discovery may seem, Super Tarot is not geared towards beginners. Fenton forgoes the usual “what is,” and history chapters for only a few beginner tips, and a brief review of the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, and card suits, before jumping right into her more advanced instructions on interpretation and skill building. If one would like to gain a more comprehensive beginning look at tarot from this author, Fenton herself directs the readers of Super Tarot to a different book of her works: “My book, Fortune Telling By Tarot Cards, is designed for beginners.”1

That doesn’t stop Fenton from continuing her reputation for writing in a clear style that’s easy to understand with Super Tarot, however. This book is filled with comprehensible, useful infographics that depict clear examples as well. While it’s not a new idea, there is still a bit of book mechanics information to note: In the suit’s description of Super Tarot, Fenton uses Pages, and Coins to describe the cards of those ranks. Respectively, other common names used to refer to those cards are Princes/Princesses, and Pentacles.

Overall, and as a person with disabilities that cause me to struggle with the abstract symbolism and emotional concepts that make up the very essence of tarot card reading, Super Tarot has helped me immeasurably. Author Sasha Fenton’s down to earth tone, and clear instructions with different examples to follow them from will stay with me, as I feel more confident than ever in my understanding of the interpretation of tarot card readings.

I enthusiastically recommend Super Tarot to any who might struggle with the same issues I do, or those who simply want to strengthen their grasp on tarot reading for any reason. You might even close the book with the inspiration to offer your own readings as a service for some extra cash! As for me though, the knowledge and confidence I’ve gained by reading this book, has allowed me the motivation to broaden, and personalize  my personal tarot divination practice by creating my own unique card spreads. If you need me, I’ll be shuffling my cards!

The Last Ecstasy of Life, by Phyllida Anam-Áire

The Last Ecstasy of Life: Celtic Mysteries of Death and Dying, by Phyllida Anam-Áire
Findhorn Press, 9781644112656, 175 pages, June 2021

Death plays such a huge role in our lives. It is something that a lot of people would rather not think about even though it is all around us every day. Though some may call it morbid, I have an interest in learning about how different cultures view death. Seeing how communities treat those who are dying can reveal so much about them. Ireland in particular has such a fascinating culture, steeped in rich history. I wondered what insights I could glean from reading more about how a person from that culture would view topics such as death and grief. Thanks to Phyllida Anam-Áire and her book The Last Ecstasy of Life: Celtic Mysteries of Death and Dying, I have the answers to that question.

To say that Phyllida Anam-Áire is intimately familiar with death would be an understatement. Throughout her life training as a nun and then as a therapist where she trained with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, she learned to view death in a unique way. To her death is not a looming spectre waiting menacingly off in the distance. Death is a constant companion that she has embraced with love. Having found the sacred nature of what it means to live while facing one’s own mortality, she passes on this wisdom through flowing poetry and thoughtful prose.

The first chapter introduces us to some core topics and important information about the author’s beliefs about the nature of life itself. An overarching question of this section revolves around the concept of identity and just what really is the “I” that we speak of when we talk about ourselves. What parts of us can really be considered the true expression of our ‘self’? She shares the Celtic belief that “creation came about by the out-breath of life force and so it was”. This breath that gives us life does not belong to us, but it is something to savor while we get to experience it. She chooses not to question the specifics of what this “breath” might be, instead she surrenders to the mystery and encourages us to do the same. Pondering the unknowable will distract us from living out the fullest expression of life. At the same time she states that it is important to make some personal sense out of what we can observe about the nature of life around us.

With references to works by others in the scientific community, she speaks about the natural energetic field within and around all living organisms. Anam-Áire states that to her the life force that fills and balances all things is a force of love. “This Love does not judge or condemn as its core is the Universal Heart, the heart of compassionate energy.”1 This Universal Heart can act as a source of love of life in the world. It is a beautiful way to view life. Viewing things with compassion and empathy in mind leads to a kinder, more understanding world.

From there the author spends the majority of the book discussing the types of processes we undergo as we die. The energy within us starts to weaken and eventually is released from us as we die. She uses sprinklings of poetry throughout the book to help highlight the emotional themes she brings up. Even the prose she writes reflects her poetic spirit. While the words she uses are not overly complex and the tone very conversational, Anam-Áire weaves together beautiful sentences that evoke certain deep feelings throughout the book.

There are a number of blessings and visualization exercises written throughout the book. Trying those exercises for myself I felt myself more at peace as I went through them. It was interesting to explore these types of thoughts and feelings from the safety of my home. One of the exercises that I found the most impactful was located at the end of chapter three. This exercise, entitled “Let Love Heal…Now”, led me into a deep meditation of healing and self love. The text went on for a few pages, the experience diving deeper as things progressed. I felt the sacred nature of my own divinity and the healing power of love from the Universal Heart. Afterwards I felt at peace and relaxed, having healed bits of myself that required it. Luckily this was near the end of that chapter, which gave me time to reflect.

At the end of each chapter the author leaves a list of questions for the reader to ponder. Taking a few moments to digest and reflect on what I had just read, I found those questions enlightening. They cause us, as readers, to reevaluate our preconceived notions about ourselves, divinity, and the nature of life and death. Taking time to think on these questions, I was led to some interesting personal conclusions that I had not previously considered. With that in mind I was able to sit with a more complete knowledge of myself. Contemplating those questions has given me a greater understanding of what I want from my life as well as my death.

Reading The Last Ecstasy of Life was a journey of self discovery. Led by a guide who speaks with wisdom and a clear reverence for life, the reader is led to examine themselves. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn to approach death with compassion and have a deeper appreciation for life. This is an excellent book that was a pleasure to read. Anam-Áire has managed to breathe such a vibrant sense of life and love into a book all about the topic of death and dying. She has left me with questions to ponder for the remainder of my life as I try to shape what that life will look like. Though when death finally does come for me, I believe I will be more prepared.