✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Sleep & Sorcery, by Laurel Hostak-Jones

Sleep & Sorcery: Enchanting Bedtime Stories, Rituals, and Spells, by Laurel Hostak-Jones
Crossed Crow Books, 195988333X, 220 pages, August 2024

How often do you scroll social media on your phone or watch television before falling asleep? I would bet there’s a good chance that’s the default habit of many—and what does it do for your sleep? Restlessness, fitful wakes ups, dreams influenced by the content we’re consuming. But what if there was a better way to drift off to sleep? Dreaming of enchanting encounters with dragons, goddesses, and other magical beings, just like when we were young. For those looking for a new nighttime routine, Sleep & Sorcery: Enchanting Bedtime Stories, Rituals, and Spells by Laurel Hostak-Jones is the perfect bedside companion.

Hostak-Jones is the creator of the Sleep & Sorcery podcast and YouTube channel where she tells original bedtime stories blending fantasy, mythology, and folklore. This book is a compilation of her most popular stories for readers to enjoy in book form, along with additional rituals and spells you can do to bolster your sleep sorcery. Drawing up her background in theater, interest in high and late medieval texts (think Arthurian Legend), and bath as a Druid and nature lover, there’s so much magical inspiration within these stories.

“I strove to create welcoming, safe worlds inspired by the stories and themes I love most—folklore, fantasy, mythology, Witchcraft, and Druidry. Realms woven together through poetry and voice that could become cozy dreamscapes.”1

All the stories are written in second-person voice (the “you” voice for those unsure about the term). Hostak-Jones describes how she does this so “listeners can, in a sense, choose their own adventure, infusing the world with their own identities and histories.”2 For some, this style might be better suited to have read to them, either by someone at home with them, recording their voice, or in the form of Jone’s podcast. But for the readers, who prefer to world-build on their own without external audio stimulus, this book does a wonderful job immersing you fully in the story and setting.

And what absolutely incredible stories!!!! The places Hostak-Jones takes us ranges from the Dream Weaver’s Palace to the Midnight Carnival. We get to discover selkie secrets, the ruins of Atlantis, and fairies in the forest. There’s tales of being blessed by a unicorn and riding dragons. You can also deepen your connection to The Holly King, Oak King, Green Knight, Persephone, and Cerridwen.

What I thoroughly enjoyed is how Hostak-Jones has loosely correlated the stories with the Wheel of the Year. She notes, “While you may read or perform the exercises in this book at any time they call to you, you might find increased connection or potency by seeking correspondences with the rhythms of nature.”3

Ostara is just a few days away, so this weekend I plan on adding the story “Magic in the Moon Garden: Ostara Seed Ritual” into my nighttime routine and also doing the ritual before I go to sleep. Here’s a snippet of this story to provide a sample of Jone’s creative and engaging writing style:

Tonight is the night, says a whispering voice, an incantation on the breeze. Tonight is the night for flowers, tonight is the night for frolicking, tonight is the night to work in the light of the moon… The trouble that you’ve grown used to winter, accustomed to the snug safety of the home like rabbits snug in their warrens, hidden away from the wilds. To welcome spring again is to step beyond the threshold, to open your heart on certain more to the wildness of the earth, and to shed layers that have become a second skin.”4

This is exactly how I have been feeling; I’m feeling the blooming within and yearn to play outside, but it’s taken a bit of effort to overcome my wintery inward solitude. I find it really potent to work with these sleep stories, as they seem to activate my subconscious mind, right on the precipice of sleep. Whether I’m activating a sense of subliminal acknowledgement of the change or seasons, or opening portals into new worlds where I can do magical things, these stories prime my mind before bed and activate the dreamscape and imagination.

The exercise for this story, Ostara Seed Ritual, involves choosing seeds  and planting them along with a piece of paper with my intention for the season under the moonlight on the vernal equinox. Hostak-Jones provides a list of suggested materials and step-by-step instructions, which makes it easy to follow along and complete all the steps. For this one, she writes:

“Let your hands get a little dirty. Feel the earth, thank it for its blessings, and let this seed, this intention, be an offering to the alchemy of spring.”5

How amazing! Now, obviously, I’ve skimmed quite a few of the other stories. And I can confidently say that you don’t need to follow the Wheel of the Year and can simply read the stories you feel called. Being a devotee of the Unicorn, that was the first story I chose to work with, while my husband’s preference was to ride a dragon. After I work with the Ostara stories for a while, before it gets close to Beltane, I plan to add The Song of Persephone to my bedtime routine, which is paired with the Maiden, Mother, Crone Meditation as its exercise.

I also really like the range of exercises and how they’re nicely customized for each bedtime story. There’s a ritual walk for the summer solstice,  journaling and automatic writing practices, ritual baths, meditations, building a fairy garden, and creating dream tinctures, sleep sachets, healing salves—just to name some of them! Since these exercises would most likely be done when more awake, I hope, the combination of the exercise and story work together to align the conscious and unconscious mind in true alchemy.

“For those of us who practice magic, rest and sleep can become as integral a part of our craft as anything we do in our waking lives.”6

All in all, Sleep & Sorcery is a wonderful way to make your bedtime routine a little more magical. In just the past week, I’ve noticed that my sleep has been more restful, despite still waking up numerous times with my toddler, who seems to be experiencing night terrors. While this on-going situation has the potential to make me dread nighttime, Jone’s brilliant stories have helped immensely as I prepare for bed; there’s something for me to look forward to as I shift from day-mode into night-mode. We never know what we might encounter during the night, but when we open the doors to otherworldly discovery, we remember the imaginative, healing, and restorative nature of sleep. I highly recommend this for all magical practitioners looking to add a bit of sorcery to their sleep routines.

Throwing Bones, Crystals, Stones, and Curios, by Mystic Dylan

Throwing Bones, Crystals, Stones, and Curios: Includes 20 Unique Casting Boards for Divination and Insight, by Mystic Dylan
Weiser Books, 1578638364, 128 pages, April 2024

The art of casting lots, also known as cleromancy, is an ancient practice that involves interpreting patterns formed by throwing bones, stones, and other trinkets. This method of divination has been used by many cultures throughout history as a means of seeking guidance, insight, and answers to important questions. Different types of bones, dice, shells, crystals, or other significant small objects (curios), are used in this practice, each carrying its own symbolic meaning. In Throwing Bones, Crystals, Stones, and Curios, Mystic Dylan provides readers with all they need to know to begin their own cleromancy practice.

Mystic Dylan is a seasoned occultist, skilled in palmistry, tarot, and other mystic arts. He is a professional witch who utilizes his gifts to help others in their personal lives. He currently teaches classes, runs a coven, co-hosts Life’s a Witch podcast, and co-owns III Crows Crossroads online store.1 He also is the co-founder of The Olde World Emporium in Santa Clarita, California. In this book, he draws upon his research and experience to teach readers about different forms of divination, in particular cleromancy.

“Most divination techniques require the reader to interpret different patterns, or to pay attention to the system and base the answers on what it is the reader seeks and feels.”2

Right off the bat, this book caught my eye with the many full-page, color photos. This isn’t a long, text-filled read. All the guidance is direct and to the point, often written out step by step with information shared in bullet points, tables, and lists. The style makes it very easy to absorb Mystic Dylan’s wisdom, while also having an aesthetically pleasing read. The book is nice enough to keep on a coffee table to spark conversation or magical moments when company comes over, though there’s a good chance you’ll also want it nearby your altar once you begin to practice your own hand at casting lots.

The book begins with an overview of divination, including how it even appears in the Bible, but with time was banned and became associated with witchcraft and magic. Mystic Dylan is very encouraging about it being a personal process of finding what works best for one’s own intuitive gifts, noting that not all forms of divination will appeal to each reader. Fortunately, the list provided is broad enough, encompassing divination forms alphabetically ranging from abacomancy (“to read the patterns of dust, dirt, sand, or the ashes of the dead”3) to tasseography (“reading with tea leaves and interpreting their patterns”4). He also offers insight into the types of psychic senses, or the avene which one’s psychic gifts may appear, such as through hearing (clairaudience) or empathy and emotion (clairempathy).

From here, the focus shifts to the specifics of throwing bones and building one’s cleromancy set. Mystic Dylan covers where to store your casting kit, giving the items meaning, noticing position and direction, and many other how-tos to feel confident getting started. While it’s important for the practitioner to build their own meaning, there are lists of commonly associated meanings for certain items, such as ribs being related to protection/withholding, coins being related to money, and seashells being related to feminine energy, emotions, and fertility. This guidance helps readers to be aware of the energies they want to bring into their casting set as they begin to put it together. There’s even a list of types of animal and the associations with their bones. Alligator bones are associated with “strength, determination, protection, and stubbornness”5, while fox bones are associated with “cunning intelligence and diplomacy”6.

Necromancy and scrying are also covered, but in much less detail. There are rituals for protection, connecting with one’s bones through necromancy, and cup reading, along with instructions to make a Venus glass for scrying and doing oil and water scrying. For those who are new to scrying, there’s also a very long list of potential things one might see and the meaning.

There’s also guidance on divination with pendulums, dice, eggs, astrology, runes, and playing cards. For those unfamiliar with astrology, there’s really helpful tables for the planets, houses, and zodiac signs. Only a page or two is offered for each type of divination, but there’s enough information to get started and see if the method suits you. If you are feeling connected to the method, you can always follow up with other sources to learn more.

For me, the best part of the book was the second half which features twenty boards that can be used with your casting set or pendulum for more insight.

“The main purpose of a board during a cleromancy or pendulum reading is to have a reference of possible images, letters, numbers, and symbols that might come up when those specific elements on the board are touched. This adds more detail to a reading and helps us connect with our intuition in a deep way.”7

There’s all types of boards! Some of my favorites are the Druid Circle, Wheel of Fortune, Wishing Star, Venus Vibes, and The Sybil’s Circle. The boards take up a full page, and the book bends enough to fold them down flat and cast right on the book. The key thing is noting which bone, stone, crystal, or curio falls where to blend the meaning of the trinket with the placement on the board. So far, each cast I’ve done has been very insightful. Mystic Dylan notes how it’s important to also notice if a trinket goes off the board, as well as the patterns the cast lands in.

While the first half of the book was quite informative, getting to know the boards requires actually practicing cleromany. It definitely takes a little time to gather the materials, especially if you’re trying to put together a very specific casting set with certain types of bones, stones, crystals, or trinkets. But I suggest starting simply to get a feel for casting lots. Most people have crystals and trinkets laying around, perhaps even shells and stones from time spent in nature. Do your best to not overthink it, and have the courage to work with the boards sooner rather than later. They’re a great tool for beginners getting used to divining the lots cast. And remember you can always begin with a pendulum on the boards first too.

Overall, Throwing Bones, Crystals, Stones, and Curios guides readers on a journey through the mystical art of casting and interpreting symbols to uncover hidden truths and receive guidance from the universe. Whether you are a seasoned practitioner or a curious novice, this book offers a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to enhance your divination practice and connect with the spiritual realm in a meaningful way. Get ready to explore the mysteries of the unseen world and unlock the secrets that lie within the patterns of bones, crystals, stones, and curios as you embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. You’ll find a diverse range of techniques to tap into your intuition and gain deeper insights about what the future holds.

The Five-Minute Druid, by Sarah-Beth Watkins

The Five-Minute Druid: Connection Made Easy, by Sarah-Beth Watkins
Collective Ink, 1803413808, 96 pages, February 2024

Ever since the birth of my son, it has been a struggle to revamp my magical practice. Whereas I used to have what felt like all the time in the world for spiritual pursuits, I am now lucky if I can get five minutes a day to myself in between chasing an active toddler and the never-ending list of household chores to get done. Luckily, author Sarah-Beth Watkins’s The Five-Minute Druid: Connection Made Easy is filled with ideas for those short moments I have to spare to dedicate to my craft.

The book itself isn’t too long, only 96 pages, so I was able to read it through pretty quickly. But what I like most about the length is how each chapter is short, so when I feel in need of spiritual revitalization, I can go and read one for reminders of how to revamp my connection in just a few minutes. 

The topics that Watkins covers are the fundamentals of a Druidry practice. She begins with an introduction to Druidry, in which she writes, “Druidry is a spiritual practice based on the love of nature and all it encompasses – the earth, sea, sky, trees, plants, animals – and us.”1 I appreciate how Watkins honored the ancient path of Druidry, but realistically see it in a modern context too, making it feel relevant to today and accessible.

Watkins covers quick daily practices, working with ancestors and deities, the wheel of the year, the sky/stars, the elements, trees, divination (ogham, runes, cards, etc), Druid reads and podcasts, social media outlets, writing, and creative projects. Depending on what you’re in the mode to explore, you can flip to that chapter for some ideas. As a whole, the book provides tons of resources for readers to branch off from based on their personal goals. There’s even an extensive list at the end of Druid book recommendations.

For those who are deep in their practice, this book might come across as beginner level. But by no means do I feel it is shallow or lacking. It is perfect for what it’s meant to be:  a guide for quick connection when you’re in a space of limited time.

Sometimes the suggestions Watkins makes can seem SO obvious, but from firsthand experience, when I am in on the go mode I often forget to slow down. One of the first suggestions she makes is to simply notice what’s going on in the moment. This can include pausing to notice the types of trees around you, the subtle aspects of your current season, the direction you’re facing, or the moon phase. I think being more observational and reflective has been my greatest take away from this book thus far, as I more often remember that I can attune myself to nature’s energies and simply take note of what’s going on around me.

Another takeaway the book provided for me was more awareness of how I am working with the elements day to day. I now say a little prayer of thanks to the fire as I heat my food and another to the water when I need to steam things. Simply getting outside for fresh air has made all the difference to my mental health, which goes hand in hand with feeling more energy to get back into more elaborate work like spells and rituals. I also noticed that I was often facing a certain direction when I was outside, but simply reoriented my patio set up, which put me in alignment with a different elemental direction that feels better.

I also really appreciated the details Watkins provided in the chapter on social media and apps. It feels like once you have a certain algorithm going, other things that might be relevant for you no longer appear if they’re outside your perceived online interests. Thanks to Waktin’s guidance, I downloaded new apps to learn more about the trees in my neighborhood, constellations, and improve my ogham divination. I also liked being able to have the names to look up Druid groups on social media for up to date information about their organizations and current happenings.

It’s amazing how the simplicity The Five-Minute Druid has actually be more beneficial to me than more elaborate magical books I’ve read. Though I am a seasoned practitioner and always have every intention of doing the elaborate ritual, or crafting something huge, or doing a week long devotional, my current reality doesn’t actually give me that space for that. So these magical things I want to do keep falling to the back burner, making me feel like I’m always running behind and lacking in my practice. This book completely cut through that energy for me and brought me back to the power of the here and now, reminding me it’s all the little things I do daily that add up to mean the most. And everything Watkins shares can easily be done as you go about your daily life. I have been humbly reminded that a little dedication to my craft every day makes me feel wonderful as opposed to ignoring it for weeks, even months, just to try to do something grand to get back in the spirit of things.

Overall, The Five-Minute Druid is the perfectly short and sweet guide needed to inspire a Druidry practice. Already my practice, which I had greatly slacked off with, feels refreshed and energized. By increasing my awareness and thinking through the lens Watkins provides readers with, I have been able to make little changes that lead to major energy shifts. I love how easy Watkins has made it to have a daily Druid practice, as I no longer feel out of sync, falling behind, or frazzled. I recommend this book for those seeking simple ways to establish a daily Druid practice with ease. Watkins suggestions are sure to bring about a renewal of your craft.

Fortuna, by Nigel Pennick

Fortuna: The Sacred & Profane Faces of Luck, by Nigel Pennick
Destiny Books, 1644116472, 144 pages, January 2024

Luck is a mysterious and capricious supernatural force thought to bring about success or failure by apparently random chance. While belief in luck may be relegated to gamblers and the superstitious, the concept is deeply embedded in Western culture. Luck was personified by the ancient Greeks as Tyche, and the ancient Romans knew her as Fortuna, the fickle and fearsome goddess of fortune and fate. “O Fortuna,” a Latin poem derived from the medieval manuscript Carmina Burana, which laments the vicissitudes of fate, was set to music by German composer Carl Orff in 1936, and the epic cantata has since appeared in several films, television shows, and commercials. Fortuna’s Wheel of Fortune appears in both the tarot and the syndicated game show of the same name, which holds the record as the longest-running game show in the United States.1

While Fortuna’s indiscriminate giving and taking is often perceived as mercurial and even cruel, her lighter and brighter side is known today as Lady Luck, and she is still alive and well in contemporary culture, from the four leaf clover marshmallows in Lucky Charms cereal to Felix Felicis, the alchemical Liquid Luck elixir Harry Potter downed in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Luck can simply mean being in the right place at the right time. But beyond the superficial veneer of pop culture, who is she, really?

In Fortuna: The Sacred & Profane Faces of Luck, Nigel Pennick, the prolific author of over sixty books, including Elemental Magic (2020), Magic in the Landscape (2020), The Ancestral Power of Amulets, Talismans, and Mascots (2021), and Runes and Astrology (2023), explores the origins and evolution of the concept of luck, from divination to gambling. This slim volume is a quick read, with just a little over a hundred pages, but it is packed with fascinating insights.

Contemporary consciousness tends to rationalize changes in fortune as nothing more than random occurrences, but, as Pennick says in the Introduction, “in the ancient worldview nothing happens by chance but is the manifestation of an act of divine will.”2 Feeling subject to the whims of the gods, ancient people sought to discern the divine will by interpreting signs and omens, which led to the rise of divination with various systems, involving objects with numeric values, such as dice and cowrie shells.

In the absence of the concept of mathematical probability, everything was believed to have been preordained by the divine. The belief in predestination was ripe for abuse, as it could be used to validate the unjust actions of people in positions of authority. “Many religions view the Creator in the form of an angry Bronze Age law-making warlord who decides how the natural world must behave and who issues the laws that define those behaviors,”3 Pennick says. The real power behind the scenes, however, was the goddess of fortune and fate.

In Chapter 2, titled “Lady Luck and the Goddess Fortuna,” Pennick explores the history of the Roman goddess Fortuna’s worship. Today, we tend to simplify her as the personification of luck, chance, and good fortune, but Pennick does her honor by fleshing her out as a complex goddess associated with many facets of life. She had a plethora of epithets, such as Fortuna Plebis, “of the People,”4 for she determined the fates of individuals. Many epithets include types of people and social classes, such as Fortuna Muliebris (“Women”), Fortuna Patricia (“Noble”), and Fortuna Equestris (“Horseback Riding”), which brings to mind knights in shining armor astride dashing steeds. The one that struck me as the most interesting was Fortuna Aucupium, meaning “Bird of Prey.”5 Although she was sometimes depicted as blind, this avian title seems to imply keen powers of perception and a shrewd eye for swooping down and snatching good fortune at a crucial moment.

“In Rome, the emperor Trajan (98-117 CE) dedicated a major temple to each aspect of the goddess, and on every January 1, offerings were made at the temples to ensure good luck and success for the coming year,”6 Pennick says. Fortuna’s accoutrements included a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, aligning her with the goddess Abundantia, the Roman goddess of prosperity; a ship’s rudder, which signifies her steering the fates of all mortals; and the vertically spinning wheel of fortune. On occasion, Fortuna appeared with wings, like Nortia, the Etruscan goddess of fate.

There were oracular shrines devoted to Fortuna in ancient Rome, which were located at Antium and Praeneste, in the modern day city of Palestrina. I was most intrigued by the Praenestine oracle of Fortuna, which is believed to have operated underground in a cave called “Antro delle Sorti” in Italian, which means “the Cavern of the Fates.”7 The oracle was thought to have been founded by an Egyptian priestess of the goddess Isis, and incorporated the use of wooden dice inscribed with letters, which may have been derived from Etruscan divinatory practices, and Pennick believes this oracle might have influenced the development of runic divination.

“The cubes were thrown into a silver bowl and drawn out one by one to produce a sequence of letters that were taken as the first letters of words,” Pennick says. “Interpretative skill depended upon determining what the sequence of letters stood for with regard to the question asked or the person asking it.”8 The Praenestine oracle had a revival in nineteenth century France, “when it was claimed that Charles Le Clerc used the oracle to attain prophecies for Napoleon Bonaparte.”9

Pennick then explores the history of dice as a form of divination in ancient Europe, which were originally made from the knuckle bones of sheep. He writes about the practice of gambling in ancient Rome and presents a table depicting the names and measurements of Roman dice. Chapter 4 is devoted to dice divination, complete with a chart of the divinatory meanings of possible throws.

One of my favorite chapters is on “Divinatory Geomancy,” in which Pennick gives a concise explanation of how to perform a geomantic reading and presents different methods for generating geomantic figures. Geomancy, which means “earth divination,” is a binary method of generating four-lined figures using odd or even numbers that traditionally involves making marks in the earth, although modern practitioners of the art may choose to throw dice or coins. There are a total of sixteen possible geomantic figures, and each has a Latin name with an oracular meaning and an astrological association.10

“An East Anglian technique for generating odd and even sequences uses potatoes,”11 Pennick writes. Using root vegetables sounds like the perfect way to perform an earth divination! I personally use a simple homemade deck of geomancy cards I created with blank index cards, on which I drew the geomantic figures with markers, but I love the idea of using potatoes to generate geometric figures.

“Each potato is different, for each has an indeterminate number of eyes, the places from which new growth takes place,” Pennick says. “To generate a geomantic figure, one must take four potatoes at random and count the eyes on each one.”12 A full reading requires sixteen spuds, so this might be a fun method to try if you have a sack of potatoes handy. 

The latter half of the book explores how the sacred art of divination devolved into the profane practice of gambling and became associated with the Devil. “Perhaps the ancient Jewish prohibition of divination, which was taken up wholesale and unthinkingly into the Christian religion when Christianity split off from Judaism, accelerated the desacralization of divination into gambling,”13 Pennick says. He believes that “the association of cards with the Devil is likely to be a cultural leftover from the centuries of religious fulmination against games and the religiously motivated laws that prohibited all forms of play and gambling for so many centuries.”14

I was fascinated to learn that, in medieval England, “Christmas was deemed to be the only time that games were allowed, and playing at other times was forbidden by law.”15 Hearkening back to the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, “the connection of gambling with misrule is overt in writings about carnivals and mythical lands, such as the Land of Cokaygne.”16

Pennick also reveals how fortune-telling and luck-drawing magic have intersected with gambling superstitions and dice cheat rolls. “Ancient crooked dice” might have been used for gambling cheats, “but they may well have been used at oracular shrines to skew the readings of those who came to ask questions.”17 This may have been a matter of self-preservation, especially when the interpreters of omens “had to deal with ruthless tyrants and a wrong answer might mean torture and death.”18

The stakes are high in illegal gambling as well, and the sacred caves where the ancients once consulted Fortuna for spiritual guidance were traded in for the Underworld gambling dens of organized crime, which were crowded with the lost souls suffering from addiction to these illicit practices. Since such risky behavior is a flirtation with death, it’s no wonder that many gambling charms incorporate images of human skulls to represent luck in the face of adversity.

“When we dice with Death, we can be sure that Death has the dice in a special grip and throws all the shots, and the dice are probably loaded,”19 Pennick writes.

Pennick’s impeccable scholarship and concise historical survey of divination and gambling has transformed my perspective of Lady Fortuna and the relationship between her sacred and profane arts. Whether you are a practitioner of divination and magic or a gambler hoping to boost your luck, Fortuna: The Sacred & Profane Faces of Luck will inspire your practice and be a boon to your personal library. Besides, with St. Patrick’s Day being just around the corner, it’s a great read for the month of March. May the luck of the Irish be with you!

The Witch’s Way to Wealth, by Jessie DaSilva

The Witch’s Way to Wealth: The Every Witch’s Guide to Making More Money—Faster & Easier Than Ever!, by Jessie DaSilva
Sourcebooks, 1728271762, 448 pages, September 2023

Let’s be honest, these days most of us could you a bit of money mojo. In fact, this is what got me searching the web for a book about improving my personal finances. Thank goodness for the algorithm that knew me well enough to suggest a magical way to do this—The Witch’s Way to Wealth by Jessie DaSilva. Nicknamed The Millennial Money Witch by Forbes, DaSilva is the perfect guide for this journey with her authenticity and honesty paving the way for manifestations to happen in your life too.

“What I’m teaching yo is every aspect of manifesting money with magic—explained with quantum physics, neuroscience, psychology, religion, personal finance, and more.”1

DaSilva beings laying the foundation for this book focusing on the nature of money and sharing the basics of manifestation. Through her antidotes, readers begin to see money as infinite and renewable rather than a scarce resource in limited quantity. She also hones in why manifesting money is different than manifesting other things in life, and she teachers readers how to hone in on what they actually want. She acknowledges the different levels people might be at from never having manifested money to having done it a few times with success and helps to navigate the pitfalls of where you’re at in your journey. She even covers the epigenetic of money beliefs, stemming back to our ancestors and how to overcome these in our genes. And most helpful are her very specific instructions to follow, though one does need to actually do the work to succeed.

But what stands out about this book is that DaSilva doesn’t expect your manifestations to work instantly. She is so open about her own journey, the ups and downs from which she’s gained her wisdom, that she more than anyone knows how things can fall apart. Your manifestations will not always work, and there’s another layer to uncover to figure out what’s going on. And this is what makes DaSilva such a good guide. She’s not writing this book with the assumption that everything will work out perfectly, you’ll hardly have to try, and instantly you’ll be rich.

There’s plenty of work that goes into figuring out the right alignment for yourself. And she encourages readers to actually figure their shit out, so to speak, in order to get in the right frame of mind. For instance, one exercise had to do with looking at our first beliefs about money as children and then again examining our beliefs about money as adolescents. It was interesting to think about what my teenage self felt about money, and how that energy was still contributing to my financial situation now.

Even more fun was doing the interview with my parents recommended by DaSilva with my parents about the financial circumstances I was born into, as she notes that our feelings parent’s about money as we entered this world can impact our money beliefs too. I was quite surprised to learn that they both agreed there was not much money coming in and they ended up living with my mom’s parents for a little bit as my dad get his career going. Well, can you believe 30 years later I find myself in a very similar predicament? If I hadn’t chosen to do this wealth-work and find out about these circumstances, I would never have realized I am unintentionally re-creating a familiar family pattern.

There’s so many ideas in the book, from exercise to shellwork, that readers can piece together their own plan of action. And this is another aspect that I love about this book. DaSilva is not trying to create a one-size-fits-all approach to manifestation, rather she’s providing tools one can use to tailor their own practice. Here’s an excerpt that perfectly captures her methodology and hysterical say-it-like-it-is way of speaking with readers:

“The issue with plans—whether they’re for your finances, diet, exercise, mindset, whatever—is that they cater to a common denominator. It’s about teaching what will work for the most people possible, not everyone. That’s not necessarily what will work for you as an individual…That’s why I’m explaining how you can create your own plan. If you know how to wot build an action plan for yourself, (a) you can feel empowered because you won’t need to rely on someone else’s judgement, and (b) my email won’t get clogged with bitchy witches complaining that my spells don’t work. It’s truly a win-win approach.”2

Another really neat aspect of this book that I appreciated is how DaSilva spends an entire section on teaching readers how to keep the money they manifest. Maybe you’ve met people who alway seem to get lucky and acquire the money they need, yet they continue to have it fly right by out the door with an unexpected bill. As important as bringing money into our lives can be, to truly build wealth, we need to learn to maintain our money once we have it. This is an aspect of money manifestation that I haven’t seen talked about much in other books, let alone have multiple chapters dedicated to focusing on. From overcoming shame to strengthening our nervous system, DaSilva provides practical ways that we can begin to keep the hard earned money, no wait scratch that, easily manifested money we make, once we do the inner work to generate it.

The final section of the book focuses on leveling up one’s money game. And if I’m being honest, I’m not there yet! I’ve been reading this book for months now, actually doing the recommended exercises, reflections, and actions to make a difference. I’m still in the process of mastering my manifestation game, so I haven’t wanted to rush into the final section before I’m ready. But I feel confident that once I get there, DaSilva will continue to provide her wisdom about how to take things to the next level, and in that moment, the next steps will be unlocked.

If you’re ready to turn your magical prowess to manifesting money, The Witch’s Way to Wealth is a must-have resource. Her candid portrayal of the journey of manifestation is so magical yet so real, a living example of how magic is part of our reality and something we can tap into to bring wealth into our life. This has been by far the best book I’ve ever read on manifestation, as it aligns with practices I’ve tried myself and doing the exercises in the book has made a significant differences for my money mindset.

Witchcraft on a Shoestring, by Deborah Blake

Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft Without Breaking Your Budget, by Deborah Blake
Crossed Crow Books,1959883194, 180 pages, March 2024

Calling all thrifty witches, Deborah Blake has some great ideas in Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft Without Breaking Your Budget. It’s easy to feel like we “need” to have all the things for our magical practice to be a success–statues, crystals, wands, attire, essential oils, tarot cards, and more–but this can quickly take a toll on one’s finances. I for one have found myself wanting to do a wealth spell, only to get carried away with acquiring what I thought I needed to make it a success, forgetting in the process of gathering my supplies the intention I was working towards. In this book, Blake reminds us what’s most important in our magical practices and covers the ins-and-outs of how to pursue our craft without going overboard on unnecessary expenses.

“No matter what your budget or how you decide to spend your money, there are no limitation on how well you can practice Witchcraft besides the ones you put on yourself.

You can be a powerful, talented, wise, and warm Witch without spending a penny. And you should never feel that a lack of money is an excuse for being anything less.”1

Blake’s resourcefulness comes through in each chapter. While she assures readers to practice witchcraft one only needs are belief, will, and focus, she also goes in-depth providing ways to lower costs for all the aspects of the craft that can add up to cost money. She starts generally with knowledge, providing ways one can learn more about their spiritual pursuits through books, internet, and local in-person resources, such as events and festivals. What’s extremely helpful for readers is Blake’s own personal recommendation for books on common witchcraft topics (herbs, gemstones, gods and goddesses, sabbats, etc.).

From here, she moves on to the home and sacred space. She offers suggestions for making an affordable altar and how to resource items like statues, candles, and chalices, and more without breaking the bank. She also shares tips for gardening and tending to one’s yard. There’s an entire chapter on inexpensive substitutions that can be made for items commonly used, such as firepits, quarter candles, cauldrons, and witchy garb and jewlery. There’s even specific sites listed that sell reasonably priced items, so you can add these as go-to sources if you are looking to purchase something rather than thrift it or craft it yourself.

For those who do enjoy crafting, the chapter “The Crafty Witch: Thirty-Five Simple and Thrifty Craft Projects for Magical Purposes” is such inspiration. I like to craft my own things because I feel it infuses them with my own energy, and I couldn’t be more excited to do some of the projects Blake suggests! She divides the recipes by material used, which is very useful for those who are partial to a specific medium. For instance under the Clay section, there’s directions for crafting one’s own god and goddess figurines, rune stones, and pentacle plaque, while the Fabric section has directions for a poppet, sachets, and charms. Just to share some more, the Paper section has a spell for parchment paper, creating your own herbal paper, decorating a book of shadows, and DIY tarot cards. There’s tons and tons of ideas for projects one can do using common household items, enhancing their craft without splurging.

My favorite chapter was “Feeding the Masses: Forty-Five Feast Dishes for Less” where Blake shares options for cost-efficient ingredient sourcing to make recipes for each sabbat. She even uses dollar signs ($) to denote the level of expense for each dish. Here are some of the delectable recipes: Tres Leches Pie for Imbolc, Goat Cheese Herbed Spread for Ostara, Strawberry Paradise Cake for Beltane, Yin-Yang Bean Spread for Litha, Morgana’s Tomato Pie for Lammas, Baked Apple Surprise for Mabon, Samhain Devil’s Food Cake, and Rum Cake for Yule. As someone who is ALWAYS looking for new recipes to celebrate with and share with my family and friends, you can bet I’ll be coming back to this book again and again. There’s also recipes for Full Moon Cakes and Ale. What I like about the recipes is that they’re tried and tested by Blake and people in her life; I always trust a hand-me-down recipe!

Blake concludes the book with a chapter on ways one can practice their craft for absolutely free, ranging from kissing and invoking a love god/goddess to volunteering in the spirit of service. These suggestions are little reminders that it’s how we choose to live our life that ultimately shapes our craft, rather than the material possession we buy.

All in all, Witchcraft on a Shoestring is a really fun read for those looking to do more for less. Blake is a wealth of knowledge and her suggestions are sure to help you save a bit of cash whale being reminded what is most important about your practice: your intentions and belief. I’m really looking forward to using this book to get crafty this spring and to bake around the wheel of the year with all the recipes she shares!

For those interested in other works by Blake, she is a prolific writer! Other related book include The Electic Witch’s Book of Shadows, The Little Book of Cat Magic, A Year and a Day of Everyday Witchcraft, The Goddess Is In The Details, and more. She also has published her own tarot and tarot decks:  Everyday Witch’s Familiars Oracle, Everyday Witch Tarot, and Everyday Witch Oracle. But what surprised me the most was she’s also a fiction writer too. Some of her series include A Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery series (three books), Baba Yaga series (three books), and Broken Rider series (three books). You can learn more about her at her website.

The Complete Book of Spiritual Astrology, by per Henrik Gullfoss

The Complete Book of Spiritual Astrology, by Per Henrik Gullfoss
Crossed Crow Books, 979-8985628159, 270 pages, October 2022

Those who feel a spiritual calling often need to learn new tools to help guide their journey. Some turn to meditation, others towards tarot or oracle cards, but my favorite way to connect to the divine has always been through astrology. The Complete Book of Spiritual Astrology by Per Henrik Gullfoss is a beautiful book that takes readers on a magnificent journey through the zodiac. This book goes beyond the routine descriptions of the signs and houses, as Gullfoss’s soulful communication style brings readers to new internal awareness that brings them more in touch with the special qualities they carry within.

“Only through being here, in the now, can we learn to thrive and flourish in this new time-space dimension that is opening up for humanity. And of course, the perfect map and tool to find your way through this maze of time and space is the astrological horoscope. The perfect description of how your being is manifested into time and space, and the perfect map for this being to find the magic doors into the eternal now.”1

Gullfoss is the founder of the Nordic School of Astrology, a philosopher, and spiritual guide for many. He has written books on astrology, tarot, and mythology, all with the aim of assisting others to better understand their “soul’s true intention.”2 He kindly shares his own astrological placements with readers at the start of the book, giving them a glimpse into who he is on a soul level, what he desires to communicate, and his unique approach to pursuing his goals

 What stood out for me is how he notes, “My Mercury is also in Taurus, and as such, I want to express and communicate beauty in an equally beautiful, yet practical way.”3 After reading this book, I feel that’s the best way to characterize Gullfoss’s insights–beautiful yet practical. They attune readers to their higher purpose while also providing a grounding foundation from which one can explore the nature of their soul’s intention during this incarnation.

There are four chapters in this book, which all are quite long and have many subsections. And there’s so much covered in each one. Topics in the first chapter, “The Signs”,  range from the houses to how to master astrological qualities. I really enjoyed how he puts things in terms of love, beauty, and joy. The focus for each description is how these aspects of a chart contribute to a soul’s mission of bringing about these things in the world, rather than the more common psychological focus. Gullfoss’s language is so inspiring, as he brings new meaning to the study of astrology, one in which the aim is to find balance and wholeness:

“Just as a human is one being with many shades and sides within the one, the horoscope is also one. The horoscope is primarily a description of an integrated unity. Psychology has divided our inner world into layers and compartments. We have subconsciousness, consciousness, ego, superego, shadow, anima, animus, libido, and so forth. The truth is that the inner space of a human is one. It’s convenient to use these divisions to understand what comprises a human being and their inner world. But as soon as we get a deeper understanding, we see that a being is an undivided whole.”4

Gullfoss gives special attention to the I.C./M.C. axis as well as the Ascendent and Descendent axis. For the I.C., he goes through each sign and describes the fear, the repressed, the reason, and what it means on a soul level to have this placement. Then for the Descendent, he describes the shadow, the dream, the integration, and finally the soul integration. His descriptions were very accurate for me and gave me plenty of food-for-thought about how I relate to others.

In chapter two, “The Planets”, Gullfoss moves through all the planets, providing a description of the energy for them in each element (water, fire, air, earth) and then each quality (cardinal, fixed, mutable). I appreciated this approach because it gave me a better understanding of how the energies blend, instead of trying to hone in on a very specific energy signature (ex. Moon in Scorpio) like many astrologers tend to do. Seeing the planets through this lens softened my stance, as well as opened new doors of perception for my interpretation of the placements in a chart. One of my favorite descriptions was Mercury in Air, part of which reads:

“There needs to be a balance between stillness and through, a gap where inspiration can rise. As strange as it may seem, Mercury in Air needs to surrender to the flow of inspiration and trust the mind of the universe in order to find the way to enlightenment. If it tries to always think and understand, it becomes caught in the outer web of life. It ahs to allow itself to open to the greater mind of the universe, to immerse itself in the collective mind of being.”5

Another really fascinating part of this section was about the rulership of planets. Gullfoss notes the difference between the traditional rule and esoteric ruler. He writes, “The rulers normally work within astrology and are esoterically connected with a person/horoscope operating from the level of ego consciousness. If you start to operate from a level of soul consciousness, there will be a change in rulership for most signs.”6 In revealing the esoteric ruler, I felt Gullfoss was peeling away a layer of the planet to provide more insight on the deeper energetic significance of the planet.

The third chapter, “Aspects”, goes into more nuanced astrology. There’s not really any background information provided for beginners, so it would be good for those unfamiliar with aspects to do a little bit of research on their own. Just like in the former chapters, Gullfoss provides a spiritual perspective in regard to the aspects, going into extra detail about septile and quintile placements. Then he discusses aspects between inner and outer planets and planets in retrograde. This whole section is very helpful for those who already have an understanding of astrology to tune into the energies from a soul level consciousness, embodying a deeper meaning of the planetary relationships in play.

The final chapter “Astrology and Time” is by far the briefest. Gullfoss notes the changing of time in the modern era and asserts “the time has come for a new faculty.”7 He reviews the three steps our consciousness has been built upon–instinct, emotion, and thought–and proposes cultivating intuition as the next stop. He reminds readers, “The only thing you have to do to develop thai reality is to develop your capacity of awareness in every moment – awareness of yourself and awareness of all the smaller aspects of life that you are a part of.”8

Overall, The Complete Book of Spiritual Astrology is perfect for those seeking to learn more about their soul’s purpose in life. Gullfoss does a wonderful job illuminating the multifaceted nature of the astrology chart, providing ample material for readers to reflect on as they continue to cultivate a meaningful spiritual path. Gullfoss’s writing is esoteric and deep while still being extremely applicable to daily life. Beginners and seasoned astrologers alike will benefit from the profound insights and thoughtful reflections about the esoteric nature of astrology.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot, by Simon Kenny

A Critical Introduction to Tarot:  Examining the Nature of a Belief in Tarot, by Simon Kenny
IFF Books, 1803413921, 248 pages, January 2024

Simon Kenny wrote A Critical Introduction to Tarot: Examining the Nature of a Belief in Tarot after getting a tarot reading from a woman named Jo Lluque. He bought the Modern Witch Tarot Deck, “which sparked my interest in Tarot as a research topic.”1

“My approach here is to make the unknown known insofar as that is within my ability. It should be evident that the style I employ, while comparative, is to seek clarity of theory as informed by the available facts and compassion for those studied. My study of the Tarot has brought me on an exciting and unexpected journey through the many topics it touches.”2

Kenny’s background is in blogging about technology and political philosophy. As an author, technologist, and educator dedicated to asking probing questions to promote technical thinking, he applies his expertise to the tarot for the purpose of this book. He currently lives in Galway, Ireland and is a member of International Playing-Card Society, The Irish Writers Centre, and Writing.ie. You can learn more about him at this website.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot is very well planned and thoughtfully constructed, much like a research paper or dissertation. The reference material is always available; I found myself checking the References over and over again as I made my way through the book. He utilizes the Rider-Waite-Smith deck for all images in this book, although he mentions Aleister Crowley and his Thoth Deck in several passages.

The chapter “Randomness and Projection” discusses the practice and different forms of shuffling cards.
This discussion was interesting, as he shared viewpoints from different readers, as well as statistical data on the randomness of shuffling and drawing cards. He interviewed a number of leading tarot experts, including two of my favorites: Benebell Well and Cynthia Giles. And what book on tarot is complete without a discussion of archetypes, Jung and his influence on tarot?

“The Tarot Major Arcana are well established in the literature as representative of archetypes in the Jungian sense. For example, the above archetype of Mother is represented as the Empress . . . The Hermit often stands for solitude, wisdom and even time itself.”3

In another chapter, he talks extensively about Satanism and Freemasonry and the tie-in with tarot, including the Order of the Golden Dawn, which used tarot cards as part of their teachings:  

“A divinatory reading was one of the exams taken to achieve the sixth grade of ‘Adeptus Minor”, the highest grade for which any details are known for certain, as documented by Freemason Archivist Israel Regardie. Initiates were even required to create their own tarot deck from scratch, painting or illustrating every card.”4

Kenny references all of the parts of tarot, from the importance of pairs of opposites to magic and witchcraft to randomness. On the subject of evil in the cards, he presents information on the symbols, history, and other references to evil, but refuses to assign any evil intent or significance. However, he leaves it to each reader or practitioner to find his or her own meaning in the symbology of the cards.

My favorite chapter is “Chapter 3-Layers of Meaning”.  Here, Kenny covers numbers one to ten and the meaning and symbolism of the numbers in the major and minor arcana.  The interesting facts and insights he shares about these numbers are quite interesting. For example, did you know that 10 = 1+2+3+4?  He also talks about the magical number 7 and how it relates to the seven original planets, the sevenfold path, and “an old idea that life proceeds in phases of seven years, which likely originates in the widespread notion of the sevenfold spiritual path.”5

Kenny includes a very basic Table of Contents with chapter titles. In the back of the book, he lists all of the figures or graphics that he presents in the book, including the original source, author, and page number. Next, he shares references for each chapter, with the source, author, book and page number given. This alone is priceless for those who wish to dive deeper into any of the areas Kenny discusses. Lastly, he includes a seven-page Bibliography for even more reference material.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot is great for anyone who would like a deeper dive into tarot, particularly its origins and symbolism. It would probably best suit a seasoned tarot card reader or student of tarot. I plan to keep it on hand and weave some of the numerological information in my readings. I feel that I benefit from every book I read, especially those that challenge my beliefs. This book has helped me reframe my love of tarot and deepened my knowledge of its rich history.

The Marie Laveau Voodoo Grimoire, by Denise Alvarado

The Marie Laveau Voodoo Grimoire: Rituals, Recipes, and Spells for Healing, Protection, Beauty, Love, and More, Denise Alvarado
Weiser Books, 1578638135, 240 Pages, February 2024

When I went on a witchy pilgrimage to New Orleans in September 2019, the highlight of my trip was a guided tour through Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 to visit the legendary tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. A heat wave was blazing through the South, and it was in the upper nineties that day. The long walk through the sweltering maze of mausoleums felt like a fever dream, and the marble tombs were blinding white in the blistering sun.

Some of the tombs cast merciful shade, and I was relieved to finally arrive at Laveau’s mausoleum towards the end of the tour without having a heat stroke. Rose quartz crystals, pennies, bobby pins, and hair ties were strewn at the base of the tomb as offerings to her spirit. The hair accessories may seem like strange offerings, but they pay homage to her occupation as a hairdresser. The tour guide said that even though this practice is prohibited, and the offerings are swept away daily, people continue to leave them anyway.1

Having had this memorable glimpse into the cult of the Voodoo Queen, I was excited to read The Marie Laveau Voodoo Grimoire by New Orleans native and rootworker Denise Alvarado. She has written over twenty books on Southern folk magic traditions, including The Magic of Marie Laveau (2020), Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints (2022), Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook (2011), and The Voodoo Doll Spellbook (2014). She offers courses on Marie Laveau and New Orleans Voudou at Crossroads University.

In the introduction to The Marie Laveau Voodoo Grimoire, Alvarado gives a brief summary of the origins and permutations of Voodoo, from its roots in West African Vodun to the tourist voodoo of modern day Louisiana, and an intriguing biographical sketch of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Marie Catherine Laveau (1801-1881) was born a free Creole woman of color in New Orleans on September 10, 1801.2 She is well known for commercializing Voudou and Hoodoo, making these illegal magical folk practices profitable and more palatable for public consumption.

“New Orleans Voudou and Hoodoo are closely related,” Alvarado says. “In Marie Laveau’s day, the two traditions were essentially one and the same…Each tradition is a resistance response to the harsh realities of slavery and the oppression experienced following emancipation.”3 

I first became interested in Hoodoo during a time in my life when I felt forced to conceal my identity as a witch, so I was researching magical practices that could be performed under the guise of Christianity. Even now I still feel a need to be discreet and keep my practices indoors so I don’t attract negative attention from nosy neighbors. I think a lot of people today take for granted religious freedom, but there is still a lot of stigma around practicing any form of magic.

Even though Voudou is deeply woven into the fabric of New Orleans culture, Alvarado points out that it was illegal during Marie Laveau’s time and is still illegal today, even though the law against it is rarely enforced.4 She suspects that many practitioners “prefer to stay out of the public eye due to the stigma attached to Voudou and the safety issues that can arise when a person is known to be a Voudouist.”5 Alvarado’s historical reflections deepened my admiration for the resilience and adaptability of the Voudou faith, and Marie Laveau’s courage and audacity in openly practicing and commercializing Voudou.

Her rowdy rituals drew a lot of attention, but Laveau wasn’t just a mysterious Voodoo priestess. Alvarado paints an intriguing and complex portrait of her as a multifaceted human being with snippets of biographical information dispersed throughout the text “She is most loved and remembered by New Orleanians for her charity work, prison ministry, and services to the community,” Alvarado says. “Nonetheless, she was often targeted and harassed by the police,” but she had enough power and influence to avoid incarceration.6

She was a complicated character, who was both a philanthropist and a blackmailer, who collected gossip about wealthy patrons she overheard in her beauty parlor. Along with biographical notes from the author, each chapter is headed with quotes extracted from witness interviews compiled by the Federal Writers’ Project between 1936 and 1941, in which people who knew her as children shared their fond memories of her.7

Madame Laveau was allegedly illiterate, so this grimoire is Alvarado’s imagining of what the Voodoo Queen’s grimoire may have looked like had she been able to write one. She draws inspiration from authentic recipes and formulas commonly used during Laveau’s lifetime, as well as information passed down through the oral tradition, historical documents, and recipes from her own personal grimoires. “In addition to a strong background in New Orleans Voudou, Hoodoo, and Spiritualism, my Catholic Creole culture of origin helped immensely when writing this book,” Alvarado says. “Marie Laveau was a Louisiana Creole and Catholic also, and her spiritual practices reflect that.”8

Alvarado calls this blending of Catholicism with service to Marie Laveau the “Laveau Voudou tradition,”9 and she uses the spelling “Voudou” in accordance with the nineteenth- and twentieth-century sources that informed her research. “Marie Laveau’s Voudou is a folk religion resulting from her intentional blending of Catholicism and Voudou,” Alvarado says. “She openly practiced both religions without conflict and confusion.”10 It is not necessary to be initiated into this tradition in order to perform the workings presented in this grimoire. They are accessible to anyone and this book also contains “tips and advice for living a magickal, spiritual lifestyle.”11

For readers who may be wary of Voodoo practices due to the negative connotations associated with them, Alvarado provides reassurance:

“This grimoire is designed to only unleash blessings and magickal mysteries, to provide instructions for protection and defense, and to unlock joy and abundance for anyone reading it,” Alvarado says. “There is no danger here.”12

In Chapter 1, titled “Materia Magica,” she shares “the essential tools of the trade to be an effective conjure worker in the Laveau Voudou tradition.”13 “If you are working within a strict budget, the only tools you really need are yourself, a white candle, a glass of water, and the ability to focus your intention and utter words of power,”14 she says. I found the table of “Kitchen witch essentials,”15 which lists the magical properties of herbs and common household supplies, and the table of “Perfumes and colognes and their magical uses”16 to be helpful resources. I was acquainted with popular formulas like Florida Water, Peace Water, Rose Water, and Hoyt’s Cologne, but many of the magical perfumes and scented waters on this list were unfamiliar to me and I’m eager to try them out.

In honor of Marie Laveau’s work as a hairdresser and beautician, Chapter 2 covers “Beauty Formulas,” such as vintage perfumed dusting powders, hair treatments, and skincare. The hair treatments are simple, involving common kitchen ingredients like bananas, eggs, and olive oil. The powders appealed to me the most, and I’m thinking about trying the “Lavender Dust” scented body powder recipe.

“Even today, people who serve Marie Laveau offer her beauty-related items such as combs, mirrors, makeup, brushes, and perfumes in hopes that she will grant them favors,” Alvarado says.17 This reminds me of the coins, crystals, and bobby pins littering her tomb, and reveals the magical intention behind leaving them. 

I love to cook, and I was delighted to discover that this book includes Creole recipes! In Chapter 5, titled “Conjure in the Kitchen,” Creole dishes are listed that can be prepared as offerings for Marie Laveau and other Voudou spirits, ancestral spirits, or just enjoyed as delicious and authentic New Orleans meals. I learned that the Holy Trinity of Creole cuisine is onion, bell pepper, and celery, and onions have a variety of magical uses, depending on their color. “Onions are associated with good luck—particularly red onions—while green onions bring good luck in finances, and white onions are a curative,” Alvarado says.18

I’m really into resin incenses lately, so the chapter on crafting incense blends was one of my favorites. It has recipes for several popular formulas, such as “Cleo May”,  “Crown of Success”,  “Fiery Wall of Protection”, and “Louisiana Van Van.”  The recipes only have three or four ingredients, and measurements are not given, so the reader is instructed to use their intuition when creating the incense blends. “Altar Incense,” for example, only requires frankincense, myrrh, and cinnamon, all of which I already had on hand.19

In a section titled “Hoodoo’s Shells and Stones,” Alvarado discusses the magic of natural objects, such as cowry shells, coral, and lodestones. I already work with a pet lodestone that I gave a secret name and regularly feed magnetic sand and whiskey. She currently resides on my bookshelf, attracting more books than I have time to read! I was most interested in brain coral, which I had never heard of before. “Place a piece of brain coral on your altar for Crown of Success and King Solomon Wisdom works,”20 Alvarado says. Being a Mercury-ruled Gemini, this really appealed to me, and I plan on adding a brain coral to my Hermes altar in the future.

Alvarado’s passion for her craft and devotion to Marie Laveau shines through in her writing. This spellbinding grimoire captivated me from cover to cover and has been a real blessing to my personal practice, revitalizing my love of whipping up magical recipes and inspiring me to experiment with new blends and craft my own unique formulas. With lucid prose and simple, yet potent recipes, Alvarado makes Laveau Voudou accessible to anyone, regardless of their level of experience.

Astrolations!, by Jill Carr

Astrolations! A Unique Astrological Guide For You and All Your Relationships, by Jill Carr
O-Books, 1803414200, 736 pages, March 2024

Holy moly! It feels only proper to begin a review of Astrolations! A Unique Astrological Guide for You and All Your Relationships by Jill Carr with an exclamation, given that even the title has it in there. I did not expect such a thoroughly engaging and hefty text, but when I opened my package and felt the weight of this book, I knew I was in for a real treat. Carr teaches readers how Western and Chinese astrology blend to provide a well-rounded understanding of the energies of your own astrological signature and that of those in your life. This comprehensive text is sure to shed light on why you are the way you are and how in turn your relationships are energetically with others.

The book begins with a long, long list of birthdates, ranging from January 1900 to February 2032, to help readers figure out their Western and Chinese astrological signature. For Chinese astrology, there is both an animal and element for each year. I quickly scanned all the birthdates to see I am an Aquarius Metal Horse, my husband is an Aries Earth Snake, my son is a Capricorn Water Tiger, and my mother is a Capricorn Earth Dog. While I wanted to quickly skip ahead to read the meaning for each one, I took the slow route and proceeded as planned by Carr through the sections.

In the Western astrology section, Carr covers the four elements, offering key words, the signs of each element, and a description of the essence of each element. She also covers the three qualities–cardinal, mutable, and fixed. There’s a description of how the elements relate to each other in Western astrology, and then she moves onto each sign. For every astrological sign, Carr provides its element and quality, planetary ruler, the part of the body it rules, and an overview of the sign’s attributes.

Next, the Chinese astrology section covers the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac, the elements in Chinese astrology, and the interdependence of the elements and how they influence personal relationships. Chinese astrology has a lot more positive/negative aspects, or yin/yang, which Carr covers to give readers a full perspective of how the different zodiac energies, between both the animal sign and element, can manifest. There’s even a helpful little table of the twelve animal signs in just one word for the categories upside, downside, and gone rogue for those looking for quick references to better understand the signs. As someone who has studied Western astrology for years, it does take a bit of time to open to the system of Chinese astrology, but Carr does a good job of breaking the system down into bite-size bits for readers to learn quickly.

The way Carr organizes the rest of the book is going in traditional Western astrological order of Aries to Pisces and covering the Chinese astrology for each sign. Within the section which might be labeled “Aries Dragon” or “Cancer Rat”, Carr breaks it down even further by talking about the elemental nature of the profile too. In regard to the balance of elements, Carr writes:

“Each person has three elements in their basic sign combination: their Western Zodiac sign element; their native element of their Chinese sign; the element of the Chinese sign in their own birth year.”1

Essentially, it’s not about just one element in someone’s astrological signature, rather it’s more about the component of elements and how they work together. Someone could have all fire elements, which can indicate an imbalance of energies, or similarly, they might have elements that neutralize each other and provide balance.

In total, there are 144 Western and Eastern main combination types, and the majority of this book (over 600 pages!) is dedicated to covering each one in regards to compatibility and as a child. For every combination type, Carr provides the element of the Western sign and Chinese sign, plus information on the Chinese element of the year the person’s birth. For instance, my husband is an Aries Snake; there could be an Earth, Metal, Fire, Water, or Air snake, depending on the year of someone’s birth, but he is an Earth snake. She also lists the attributes of the signs (positive/negative, cardinal/fixed/mutable, yin/yang). I found this information helpful because just beginning to understand the energies of the combination helps to attune yourself to the nature of the astrological signature.

Though Carr does provide a good deal of information for each combination, and her keen insights from decades of professional experience in both Western and Chinese astrology are spot-on. She compares and contrasts how the different yearly element will manifest for each combination (i.e. how a Metal Scorpio Horse will different from a Water Scorpio Horse), noting the overall similarities of the combination while also highlighting subtle differences. For every combination, she offers an assessment of their personality overall, how they are as a spouse/partner/significant other, and how they are as a parent/grandparent/sibling/friend/colleague. It’s a great deal of information, but it’s also cramming a lot into a small section (there’s two to three pages for each combination).

The depictions of each combination were spot on as my family sat around reading them aloud to each other. We had quite a few laughs at Carr’s insights due to the accuracy that was easy for everyone to see, even if the person being assessed didn’t like hearing some of their shadow qualities! She nailed me to a tee in the line:

“The Aquarius Horse colleague is a mixed bag of energy, innovation, and inconsistency. They are hardworking and have lots of stamina, but can get carried away by their own enthusiasm at times. The Fire AqH and the Metal AqH in particular enjoy a fast-paced working environment, and become impatient with plodders in the workplace.”2

I really enjoyed the section on the combinations as children since I have a one-year old son. I was amazed by the accuracy of him as a Capricorn Tiger. It literally matches him perfectly, from being on the move EARLY (he started walking at 8 months) to requiring “presence and attention to help them into a sleep routine”3 (he only falls asleep when snuggled or held). I am definitely going to be sharing these insights with friends who have children!

My only complaint is that only the overarching sections are listed in the table of contents, so when you’re looking for a specific combination, you really have to flip through the pages. It can take a minute or two to find what you’re looking for, and I often find myself wishing I could check the table of contents to simply see which page to flip to. However, once you start understanding the general order of things, the flipping becomes easier.

Overall, Astrolations! is an immensely insightful guide to the unique blend of Western and Chinese astrology that shapes personality. Carr does a fantastic job of explaining the two astrological systems and seamlessly blends them together to provide well-rounded portrayals of each combination. This book absolutely will enhance your self-knowledge as well as give you a better understanding of the people in your life. From your significant other to colleagues to siblings and children, you’ll better be able to see the elements that make the person who they are and recognize how your own elemental signature interacts with theirs, fostering new awareness within your relationships.

This book would be great for anyone seeking to learn more about the intersection of Western and Chinese astrology, or for those who simply seek to learn all they can about who they are for personal insight and the meaningful people in their lives to enhance their bonds. And if you’re seeking even more guidance, check out Carr’s website, where she shares regularly on her blog.