✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

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.

Pagan Portals – Temple of the Bones, by Jennifer Teixeira

Pagan Portals – Temple of the Bones: Rituals to the Goddess Hekate, by Jennifer Teixeira
Moon Books, 1789042828, 112 pages, June 2021

Pagan Portals – Temple of the Bones: Rituals to the Goddess Hekate author Jennifer Teixeira has been a practicing witch for over two decades, and in 2009 went forward on her priestess path with The Starflower Coven and The Amazon Blood Mothers of San Francisco Bay Area in California. Beyond being a practicing witch, the author’s specific relationship with the Goddess and experience leading ritual dedicated to Hekate more than qualifies her to educate on the specific rites and rituals presented within these pages.

At just 112 pages, the book is compact and reads as a literal handbook for developing and maintaining a relationship with Hekate, specifically as a group. The writings are in large part the actual public rituals of The Temple of Bones, a group dedicated to Hekate that meets in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

The book begins with a Foreword written by Rowan “Briar” Rivers, one of the Temple of Bones leaders, who begins by telling the story of how they came to be a dedicants of Hekate, and how the group came to be formed. Rivers goes on to explain some of the many symbols and signs that Hekate may use to call upon and invite you to also enter into a relationship with Her.

Hekate is known for having many names (I’ve read in places that there are hundreds at least) and we are shown more than a dozen of them in this book. The Temple of Bones chooses one epithet to work with each month, and the chapter titled “Epithets of Hekate” gives us the exact format that is used to facilitate Her monthly prayer circle where each month another of Her names is called upon for community healing and protection.

The ritual format continues to be explained in the following chapters, “Casting the Circle in the Temple of Bones,” “Elements of Hekate,” “Ancestors of Blood and Affinity,” “Calling the Goddess,” and “The Ritual Working.”

These chapters are succinct and direct with instructions given for leading these portions of the ritual.

The chapter titled “The Bone Oracle” goes into great depth with the Temple of Bone’s “Bone Divination Guide.” Having next to no knowledge of reading or “throwing” bones, and also having an interest in lithomancy (fortune telling by reading crystals and stones) I was thrilled to see that the Temple’s “bones” include crystals, stones, shells, bones, herbs and other interesting, assorted items including alligator claw, coyote claws and teeth, a fossilized stingray barb, and an iron nail. The guide explains the meanings attached to each item and how to use them in divination.

The pages following are a virtual recipe book of offerings, spells, incense formulations, potion recipes, flying ointments, and rituals for the phases of the moon. There is a simple recipe for Florida Water, which I happened to be looking for and delighted to find (and thrilled to realize how simple it is to make!)

The Chapter “Hekate’s Garden” lists the herbs used by the Temple of Bones and explains a bit of history and usage for each. This chapter, as well as the “Bone Divination Guide” are worth the price of the book alone as a reference for working with Hekate.

“The Temple of Bones Ritual Pit” gives the outline for the public ritual of the Temple of Bones and is wonderfully complete in its instruction and would be useful for anyone desiring to lead a Hekatean ritual.

The book wraps up with suggestions for further reading.

I would recommend Pagan Portals – Temple of the Bones to anyone who is interested in working with or learning more about the Goddess Hekate. It is a lovely addition to my own small Hekatean library and I’m sure I’ll use it often in the future at the very least for its lists of herbs, explanations of specific “bones”, incense formulas, and of course for that wonderful Florida Water recipe.

Sex Magicians, by Michael William West

Sex Magicians: The Lives and Spiritual Practices of Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, Anton LaVey, and Others, by Michael William West
Destiny Books, 1644111632,  256 pages, March 2021

Riveting and yet delightfully easy to devour, Michael William West’s book Sex Magicians: The Lives and Spiritual Practices of Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, Anton LaVey, and Others is a spirited collection of biographies of history’s most renowned sex magicians. Vice, voice, and breakthrough come together for the quite young yet practice of sex magic in the West, with the usual suspects of Aleister Crowley and Marjorie Cameron dancing side by side with the lesser known names such as the tragic leviathan Ida Craddock. West captures the personality and quirks of each magician with a finesse and sense of fun that perhaps only a fellow practicing sex magician could bring to the table. 

West drops us squarely into the lives of renowned practitioners with such a unique immediacy—it’s a joy to gallop along with him as he recounts the meandering and often mad loves and appetites of the spirited way showers and metaphysicians of the Western tradition. 

As a female-identifying practitioner, I’m fascinated by female identity and sex magic / eros in relationship to magic and gender, specifically female eroticism and occultism. I’m a student of my body in this way. Ecstatic personal rites and experiences are fascinating to me, as is the sovereign tantric path of sexual tantra and sacred sexuality. What struck me most in reading this book was the singular path each magician discovered, having developed their own lexicon, practice, and walked their own oft misunderstood path to illumination. Sex magic is a living tradition, as is magic, one that requires a certain diablesse and courage. 

I loved Sex Magicians for it’s deep and windy dives into the lives of actual practitioners, and there’s something beautiful about a book that’s about sacred sexuality and not interested in virtue signaling or defining the ‘sacred’, but rather moving in the realms of exploration of the profane. It was a refreshing lens, a colorful one that adds dimension to the conversation on sacred sexuality. I have a soft spot in my heart for the colorful characters whose faustian will is so consuming that they use everything they can (sex included) to illuminate, inspire, and instigate their own awakenings, trials, tribulations, tragedy and all.

West’s obvious enjoyment of the topic shines through in his recounting. Beyond the sensationalism, sex magic’s major gift to us (or as West calls it, “The Open Path,”) in the here-present is a different way to the rancid landscape and psychic poverty inherent in modernity’s modus operandi of hook up culture. As West shares in the introduction, “Utilizing (sex) magic to know thyself and change your reality is a personal journey that requires imagination, creativity, and doing things your own way.”1

Anyone who is interested in — or practicing — at any level— will enjoy this benchmark book. West gives context, but the text also instigates in its own way an inner journey for the reader to contemplate what to take from the past, what to leave behind, and perhaps where their own sovereign journey will bring them.

Permission Granted, by Regina Louise

Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Love, by Regina Louise
New World Library, 1608687268, 320 pages, June 2021

In a world filled with many voices claiming to be able to easily and quickly show readers the pathway to self acceptance, Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Love by Regina Louise is really the only book you need ever pick up. Packed full of information and actual real-life strategies that make sense, this book cuts through the noise and provides the tools needed to go on this journey and find the pot of gold at the end.

As a speaker, coach, author, and teacher, Louise is no stranger to hard work and dedication. Her frank prose allows you to connect instantly with the source material and to make connections within yourself that previously you might have overlooked. With fourteen “Kick-Ass Strategies” in the table of contents, readers can jump to whatever they need in the moment or go through the book in a methodical way. Personally, I always read the whole thing front to back, although in this case I was sidetracked by Kick-Ass Strategy #6: Be Big (and Small).

In this chapter, Louise explores what it means to take up space and to lean into it. Having been told for much of my life that I need to tone down, be quieter, watch my language and all that, this chapter resonated with me so much I needed to put the book down and take a few breaths  Louise pinpointed precisely what I feel during those moments, saying:

“…if you’re anything like me, and you’ve been told that you’re a big personality, that you’re too much, which you translate as ‘I’m not wanted’ and ‘I’m about to be abandoned’, then the next thing you know, you’re lost in a big-ass trauma response.”1

I hadn’t thought of it like that, in terms of a trauma response. In reflection, it makes sense, and it’s these moments of realization that makes this book so worth the time investment. Louise writes with such authenticity and awareness that only comes from someone who has walked this path before.

Along with this is the sprinkling of personal anecdotes, a skill that not all books in the same realm as this one can say they’ve mastered. I find that in most situations, anecdotes can be overused as the writer might not have enough content for the actual book, and so it ends up reading more like a memoir. Not that I mind reading about other people’s journeys: I am completely interested in hearing about their challenges and how they overcame them. I just want the book that is sold to me to be the actual book I get after purchasing. This book is precisely what it says it is and I couldn’t be happier.

Subsequent chapters deal with big topics that could actually be books in their own right. This meaty book delves into a lot of muck that we tend to ignore in our quest for happiness and security and love: things like championing yourself, reconnecting with our inner child, fully engaging in our messiness, and giving ourselves permission. In Kick-Ass Strategy #5: Compose a Permission Statement, Louise takes us through the challenging exercise of drafting a permission statement that ultimately gives you mentorship of yourself. Louise says:

“Drafting a permission statement is an act of enormous generosity toward yourself. It’s evidence of your willingness to get on board with who you are, and it offers you the chance to examine your values and beliefs and to own your inherent right to flex your personal power.”2

It’s writing like this that pulls you in and helps you bypass some of the resistance you might feel around doing the exercises. This chapter also raises interesting questions around being fully seen and feeling psychologically safe in those moments and challenges the reader to fully engage with the material.

Part of this exercise includes selecting words from a list that best describe you. In doing this particular exercise, I found it hard to pick only the suggested number of twelve adjectives, and harder still to reduce that number down to six. Challenging, but not impossible.

It meant I had to sit with myself and really dig deep to find out which words actually resonate with me and which ones I wanted to be. There is a huge difference there. It’s exercises like this that teach us how to connect with who we really are and to start to accept ourselves as just that: not good, not bad, just who we are. 

The combination of anecdotes and writing exercises makes this book an absolute treasure. Louise’s way of taking the reader through the self-discovery process is delightful, if a bit painful at times. Part of this process includes uncovering those parts of the self that might be resistant to change and helps to uncover the roots of why that might be. If this sounds like shadow work, it absolutely is. While it might not take the usual form of what would normally be classified as shadow work, Louise’s book most definitely falls into that category.

If you thought you could bypass doing any actual work just by reading a book, Louise’s book will change your mind and encourage you to engage with the material. Honestly, digging deep into your own psyche is not fun, but feeling like Louise is right there with you, telling you how they managed to get through it and what the results were make a huge difference and helps you to feel less alone while you root around in the darkness. Trust me.

Those who identify as being on a journey of discovery through self-awareness of behavior and societal triggers would benefit from this book. In fact, I would suggest that most people even interested in the idea of being self-aware would derive a lot from Louise’s fantastic book.

Permission Granted is about more than just accepting yourself. It’s also about finding space for otherness, for those who aren’t like you but exist in the same space. Once we discover that those around us aren’t really that different, perhaps that knowledge could lead to a better, more stable foundation upon which we can build a more sustainable society. 

All the Yellow Posies, by Elaine DeBohun

All the Yellow Posies, by Elaine DeBohun
Independently Published, 8572925623, 367 pages, April 2021

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love being immersed in the cultural norms of a time before, as I find there’s a certain romance that the modern world seems to lack. All the Yellow Posies by Elaine DeBohun is set in the time frame between World Wars, which often feels overlooked despite it being filled with movements such as prohibition and women’s suffrage. This romantic novel tells the tale of how love can guide the way beyond both time and space, perfectly intertwining those who are inevitably linked by destiny.

Main character Lou, an aspiring journalist and young woman determined to make her own way in the world despite her wealthy family’s desires for her life, leaves home following the last outbreak of the 1918 influenza to return to her college town of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Immediately she finds a room to rent by a kindly gentleman Mr. Thompson, who runs a successful tailoring business, where his children Holden and Madeline also work. He has two other sons: the youngest Jamie, who is in medical school, and the oldest Dane, who is an artist living in Europe.

Lou quickly feels at home among the Thompson family, who take her in as one of their own. She lands a job as the secretary of their family business and settles into her new life quite nicely. Right off the bat, Holden catches her eye with his charisma and provocative antics. Though he is married, they develop a close kinship based on their love of literature and writing aspirations.

Lou becomes a source of solace for Holden, who is struggling with shell-shock from his service in World War I and having difficulty transitioning back to civilian life. Consistently drinking his prescribed alcohol, Holden’s behavior can be erratic and extreme, with moods rapidly shifting due to his deep thinking and emotional intensity. Let’s just say, it’s a rollercoaster of emotion for Lou who realizes a romance with Holden requires courage and a willingness to embrace the unknown.

Unforeseen circumstances completely shift Lou’s life upside down though, and soon Lou finds herself in Paris, France. I hesitate to go much more into the plot at this point though, or I might risk revealing a spoiler alert. Let’s just say, in her path to make meaning of her life and pursue her ambitions as a writer, she comes to realize she must follow the signs beckoning her in this new direction.

One interesting part of the book is when Lou visits a Romani gypsy and has a tarot card reading. The gypsy gifts Lou with a tarot deck, which she uses quite often for insight. Just like common belief that symbols such as feathers and pennies indicate a message from a passed loved one, Lou comes to make a connection with bluebirds that appear when she is on the right path. Ultimately, Lou’s grief and pain lead to her ultimate happiness as she embraces the mysterious path being laid out before her.

There is a wholesome quality to All the Yellow Posies. It is sentimental and romantic in an old-fashioned way where men knew what it meant to be gentlemen. Nevertheless, the women characters are strong, independent, and keen on pursuing their paths.

I especially enjoyed the relationship between Lou and character Bette, who many authors might pose as enemies, but DeBohun decides to portray as mature women, capable of acknowledging their shared bond of love. I felt like I was wrapped up in the Thompson family, sharing their joys and losses right along with them.

I will admit delving into Holden’s character, filled with what would now be considered post-traumatic stress from the aristocracies he witnessed during his time on the battlefield, was tough at points. My heart definitely broke at times as I was brought to tears by the story’s events. All the Yellow Posies certainly isn’t a fluffy read, and it invites the reader to truly move through a whole range of human emotion.

DeBohun does a wonderful job of tackling the tough emotions with intimate delicacy, showcasing her own emotional depth and talent as a writer. By the end, all of the characters have moved through loss, sorrow, and anguish to become a better version of themselves. There is a higher power in this story, but it is not religious or even very spiritual, it is love that guides the way making it universally relatable.

I recommend All the Yellow Posies to those seeking a heartfelt read. The dynamic interplay of emotions beautifully plays out within the containment of one family and their close relationships. All the characters make an impression on the heart, which I know will still be with me for a time to come. Plus, the time period and unique culture of both America and Europe during this time is very interesting to be immersed within.

Heal Yourself and the World with Tai-chi, by Bob Klein

Heal Yourself and the World with Tai-chi: How to make your life powerful and become a healer, by Bob Klein
Artistic Video, 189219869X, 428 pages, January 2021

Reading Bob Klein’s Heal Yourself and the World with Tai-chi: How to make your life powerful and become a healer was truly an epic voyage. At just over four hundred pages of pure text, this book is an ocean of experience and wisdom that can help the reader come to a deeper, harmonious resonance with themselves and, by extension, the rest of the world.

As Klein advises, simply reading this book cannot bring you the healing understanding indicated in the title. That can only be gained through an embodied practice. However, as a motivational aid and discussion of the fundamental principles of Tai-chi, his book is a perfect starting point for those (like myself) who are intellectually interested in the practice, but have yet to take the first physical steps on this path.

Klein presents a fascinating tour of the guiding principles of Tai-chi and zookinesis with a writing style that is both easy to comprehend and full of profound insight. His constant use of metaphor and analogy often grounds his exposition through humor, and allows him to clearly communicate ideas that might otherwise be quite “heady” and abstract. For instance he writes:

“The image you use to influence the body should be passive – like hitting a gong and letting the sound do the work of reaching everyone’s ear. . . Once you hit the gong, you don’t need to then run over to everyone and push them toward the dining room.”1

This style is a perfect reflection of one of Klein’s main points throughout the book: that modern human beings have become terribly divorced from embodied experience. Our awareness is all too often solely localized to our heads: our mind as opposed to our body.

Again, this is why reading the book isn’t ultimately going to impart the transformative knowledge that Klein talks about. Alongside the book, he recommends using videos (if not attending classes) to develop the expanded awareness necessary to heal oneself and the world.

However, Klein also notes that only taking classes or learning the Tai-chi forms may not yield this embodied awareness either, as he laments that many contemporary teachers possess only a shallow understanding of Tai-chi’s power. Similar to the typical yoga classes that you find nowadays, they are all form and no substance: simply an exercise for the body.

This is one of the main reasons why I found Heal Yourself and the World with Tai-chi so stimulating: it is a companion text to the practice which allows one to find the deeper power of Tai-chi when a suitable teacher/class isn’t available. In our time of remote/online classes – rather than traditional, in-person mentorship of the past – Klein’s book is perfect for marrying a purely form-based practice to the deeper wisdom of your “body-mind.”

This book is most definitely not an instruction manual for the Tai-chi forms, so if that’s your only interest, Klein’s book is probably not for you. Nor is it solely a discussion of the practice of Tai-chi itself. There is an incredible breadth to the topics in the book, and it often feels more like a spiritual treatise than a text about the practice. But this is in no way a bad thing, and is precisely the reason that the book is an ideal supplement for the physical practice of Tai-chi. 

The winding flow of Klein’s style carries you along from one topic to the next, weaving an integrated philosophical narrative while always bringing you back to the grounded, embodied discussion of the practice. If you are a reader who likes short, contained sections with lots of page-breaks and subject headers, you might have a little difficulty moving through this book. But I think that Klein’s way of writing perfectly reflects many of the principles that Tai-chi helps you to learn. The book itself exemplifies these ideas through its holistic presentation and through its demonstration of the interconnectedness of its various topics.

Sometimes you might get the sense that the text is a little repetitive, but I never found this to detract from the book. In fact, rather than being directly repetitive, I think it’s more that Klein takes you on circuitous detours in his exploration of a given topic. So, when he returns to the original point, this is what might give the impression of “I’ve been here before.” However, you have come back to the idea with new insights, metaphors, and explanations that were gained in the interim. I love the organic feel that this writing style lends to the book – it feels like Klein is guiding you through explorations of a living landscape rather than leading you down a dry, flat road.

Again, this reflects another principle emphasized by Tai-chi: awareness that is not one-dimensional. We are obsessed with linearity in the modern age: straight roads, squared-off architecture, rational/scientific modes of thought. While none of these might be “bad” per se, the accumulation of linearity in our lives gets us stuck outside the rhythms and patterns of Nature. Klein presents the intriguing point that flat walking surfaces, such as our floors and sidewalks, contributes to one’s awareness staying confined to the head, rather than being distributed throughout the whole body.

We don’t have to be aware of our environment (and can “get things done” in our minds) because the ground is so predictable – and yet, we might trip over the slightest imperfection. The unfortunate consequence is that, while convenient in some ways, traveling across linear ground removes us from being aware – being present – to the here and now.

Although many of the principles that Klein discusses will be familiar to those familiar with Taoism and other spiritual traditions originating in Asia, I think the aspects of Heal Yourself and the World with Tai-chi that sets it apart from other books are two-fold. First, Klein’s self-exemplary style – the form of the text is aligned with its content – and second, his emphasis on embodied practice rather than purely intellectual understanding. These two features allow this book to truly stand out as an enjoyable journey over Klein’s ocean of wisdom.

Pagan Portals – Raven Goddess, by Morgan Daimler

Pagan Portals – Raven Goddess: Going Deeper with The Morrigan, by Morgan Daimler
Moon Books, 1789044867, 104 pages, October 2020

Heavily researched books get a bad reputation for being stuffy, boring, or just too damn long. When something has been researched to the point where it’s just a collection of facts with no soul, that’s where I check out. Fortunately, Raven Goddess: Going Deeper with The Morrigan by Morgan Daimler provides an abundance of thoroughly researched and cross-checked facts, coupled with a flair that only an accomplished storyteller could achieve.

Having authored many books on the subject of the Irish Gods and Ungods, despite not being part of that heritage, Daimler has captured the respect of fellow authors and scholars by their clarity on the subject matter and the depth of their research on the topics. A blogger, poet, teacher, witch, priestess and the author of more than two dozen books, Daimler’s Pagan Portals – Raven Goddess is a shining example of this depth of research as this book takes you beyond the normal space of explaining who The Morrigan is and explores the mystery that surrounds her.

The Morrigan has been misrepresented in many books, mostly due to the rapid spread of misinformation through opinion-based writings. I am not in any way suggesting that people may not have an opinion on how they identify or interact with any particular God or Goddess, but I do believe having the facts should precede any sort of opinion-based writing. Having said that, while Daimler does inject their own opinion on a regular basis throughout the book, it’s done in a simple and satisfying way that adds layers to the information being presented.

The opinions expressed by Daimler are based on their exhaustive research and their ability to translate the old texts that are referred to throughout the book. Having tried learning Gaelic exactly once in my life, it is impressive to see the original text plus the various translations already made compared to Daimler’s translations. This added touch lends a layer of authenticity to the book that is both refreshing and downright amazing.

Referencing old texts, parts of poems, and scholarly writings, Daimler is able to piece together a very deep and revealing portrait of who The Morrigan is and how we can work with Her as individuals if we feel called to. Beyond the normal listing of various correspondences, Daimler provides an in-depth examination of various sources of the material from which the correspondences associated with The Morrigan are derived. This cross referencing could be tiresome for folks if it weren’t for the way Daimler writes. 

In one chapter, Daimler provides irrefutable proof that Morgen Le Fay and The Morrigan are two separate entities. They explain:

“The Morrigan and Morgen Le Fay are often associated with each other in modern paganism… both certainly were vilified and demonized over time as stories evolved, the Morrigan going from a goddess to a night spectre and Morgen from a priestess of Avalon to an incestuous and usurping sister of the king.”1

That is perhaps one the most common misperceptions of The Morrigan that I have personally come across. I didn’t think that the two shared any roots, but over the years as I did my own reading and found others who made connections, it made me wonder. The biggest point of contention is the fact that the Morrigan is Irish and Morgen La Fay is Welsh, so that should have stopped the connection there. Fortunately, this book cleared all that up as Daimler says without reservation, “there’s no evidence that the Morrigan and Morgen La Fay share any roots or that historically the two have any connection to each other..”2

There are other pieces to the book that enhance the journey through the history of The Morrigan. The correct spelling of her name, for example, as well as an explanation of why it is “The Morrigan” and not simply “Morrigan”. Daimler goes into this briefly, stating “It may help to keep in mind that her name translates to a title — either the Great Queen or the Phantom Queen, so try thinking that you are saying that.”3

References to other works abound, if you aren’t careful you will fall down a rabbit hole of personal research and cross checking. As I write this, I have four other books on the subject including Daimler’s first book on The Morrigan titled “The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens”. I love reading books that give you additional resources to look up your own information and this book does that perfectly. Daimler’s writing is clear and concise and carries a hint of reverence for the subject matter. This book is an absolute pleasure to read and conjures up many questions that no doubt I will spend time finding my own answers to.

For me, as someone who follows The Morrigan and has for years, this book provides a wealth of knowledge that I didn’t have and more importantly, didn’t know I was missing. Yes, it’s scholarly and a bit repetitive at times, as Daimler is constantly drawing upon their vast knowledge of Irish paganism in order to provide clarity around the Morrigan, her associations or correspondences, and her activities, but still Pagan Portals – Raven Goddess is perfect for those wishing to dive a bit deeper into the lore behind The Morrigan in order to deepen their understanding of her and strengthen their own connection to her.

Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being, by Irisanya Moon

Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being, by Irisanya Moon
Moon Books, 1789043778, 160 pages, December 2020

It’s hard to look after ourselves sometimes. Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being by Irisanya Moon is a wonderful read to connect body, mind, and spirit for the sake of wellness based on one’s own unique body type and natural energy signature. This book is a delightful refresher compared to the traditional book on health, which neglect the spiritual aspects of well-being and also tend to focus exclusively on an ideal image or diet trend.

After a brief introduction, Moon guides the reader to connect with their body just as it is in the present moment. She writes encouragingly, stating “I invite you to trust your deepest knowing. I encourage you to believe that you can care for your body, mind, and spirit even if you’re not 100% sure what the next steps are.”1

This sentiment immediately set me at ease; it made me curious about this health journey and more receptive to what it might look like for me, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach usually promoted. Above all, trust in myself is what I hope to cultivate and I looked forward to immersing myself in the experience.

I began with a few of the exercises Moon suggested: letting go of old stories, feeling all the feelings, and making a soundtrack. I especially enjoyed creating a soundtrack because I learned more about my body’s relationship to rhythm and sound. Finding my groove was a fun way to move my body and get connected to it. Other practices Moon writes about include mapping one’s body, automatic writing, creating an altar, focusing on being present, and more. She offers details on how to incorporate these practices easily into one’s daily life.

The next three sections focus on the body, mind, and spirit, respectively. I liked going one by one, and starting with the body felt appropriate since it’s the most tangible aspect of my health. Moon got me thinking about what my body truly wants in terms of nourishment, movement, and general energy flow.

”When you have a clearer idea of your energy movements, you can begin to schedule things to follow these patterns. If you’re more in tune with your natural patterns, you are less likely to feel out of sync with your life.”2

This line really resonated with me, and I was spurred into a practice of charting my energy through the day. The result has been useful insight into the ebbs and flows of my energy; I also corresponded it with the moon as well and plan to see if there’s a cyclic nature to how my body feels according to the phases of the moon.

Then, while it wasn’t as fun as the body, I found the exercises to settle my mind the most useful section in the book. For someone whose mind is always on overload, often ruminating or stuck in a pattern (I’m a fixed air sign!), I really benefited from Moon’s suggestions on how to release old thoughts and cultivate stillness through meditation.

Finally, the spirit felt like coming home after tending to the other aspects of my well-being. I loved Moon’s gentle reminders to connect with my daily practice, follow the calling of spirit, and discover our divine.

The rest of the book felt like a myth-buster to common health beliefs, inviting a magical perspective to come through and guide the way. Topics include finding balance (or embracing that life will always be shifting but we can find ways to recalibrate), exploring self-care and how to do it in a way that feels right for you without comparison to others, and developing resilience for when we get off course. Moon delves into the effects of trauma on one’s well-being and offers suggestions on healing through practices that cultivate resilience.

The final section is filled with tools to maintain one’s energy and strategies to set up support systems in order to maintain health and wellness. I appreciated Moon acknowledging the role of supportive friends and family in one’s life, as well as the value of self-support. I found myself thinking about how I can cultivate both in my life to maintain personal wellness.

My greatest take away from this book was Moon’s energetic practice of feeling right sized. Throughout my life, at nearly 6’0 feet tall, I’ve always felt like too much. Since childhood, I’ve always required large or extra large clothes, and I believe to compensate, I learned to shrink my aura as though I could energetically make myself seem more  petite.

Doing the Knowing Your Size practice3 made me feel more comfortable in both my body and energy field. As Moon writes, “Sometimes, you might feel bigger or smaller than your normal self. But in this practice, you can also get better at moving between states of being.”4 I’m continuing to work on this and have been going back to the practice often.

Overall, Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health and Well-being has been a wonderful tool for reconnecting with my wellness. Moon is very grounded in her approach to this topic and much of her guidance can easily be incorporated into one’s daily practice. I recommend this book for those who are seeking a read about integrating body, mind, and spirit to discover their natural energy rhythm and definition of health. There’s even helpful resources and worksheets at the end of the book, which offer space to write one’s reflections on this journey.

Bacchanal, by Veronica G. Henry

Bacchanal, by Veronica G. Henry
47North, 1542027810, 352 pages, June 2021

I’ve been overjoyed that my library has reopened after over a year of not being able to browse books. Immediately, Bacchanal caught my attention with its purple cover featuring a ferris wheel. After a quick skim, noticing the setting was a carnival with plenty of magic, I was excited to check out and get to reading. I can now say that Bacchanal is the best book I’ve read this summer so far!

The story takes place during the Depression era in southern America (Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, etc). Main character Eliza has been abandoned by her family and has been working as a maid to make her way in the world. She also has a unique gift of being able to communicate with animals, however she has yet to learn to control this power and it often ends in the animal dying.

When two carneys, Clay and Jayme, come to town in search of an alligator man, Eliza catches their eye instead and soon she finds herself on the road with Bacchanal. She quickly makes friends with a fun, varied cast of characters. What makes Bacchanal unique is that all the carneys are primarily black folks, some who even came from Africa to be in the show.

Through the story, Eliza develops romantic feelings for two men, creating an interesting love triangle. But she is primarily concerned with learning how to master her gifts and put together a show that will ensure her place at Bacchanal. She harbors dreams of finding her family, seeking them in every small town they carnival moves through, and she’s determined to save up money to find her sister.

Amid Eliza’s story, the reader is also privy to the workings of Ahiku, an ancient demon who feeds on the souls of children. An evil lingers around the carnival, which functions as the perfect feeding ground for the myriad of mysterious demons lurking within Bacchanal. Ahkiu is obsessed with finding the granddaughter of orisha Oya, who is the one person that can bring her downfall.

Finally feeling a sense of home and belonging among the other non-ordinary folks at Bacchanal, Eliza’s destiny rapidly unfolds to reveal the extent of her gifts and the greater purpose of her being there.

There are so many things I loved about this book, but I will focus on a few for the purpose of this review. First of all, Henry has done a wonderful job of portraying Eliza’s development of her gifts. I really enjoyed the way she writes about Eliza’s ability to communicate with animals, making it authentic with psychic imagery and animal personalities. I felt for Eliza as I read her struggles and felt connected to the animals myself via her communication with them. Eventually, Eliza discovers her own animal guides, and this part of the story was akin to her discovering both her roots and own personal power simultaneously.

Which leads me to the second thing I love about this book: the interweaving of African spirituality into a truly remarkable tale. Blending demons, Yoruba, and witchcraft, this tale really explores the roots of this magic in the American south. I have never read a book that did such a good job weaving them into an existing fictional novel. Plus, I truly loved that Bacchanal was an almost all black carnival, giving insight into the way of life for African Americans at the time.

Furthermore, Henry has craft very distinct and one of a kind characters that have left a memorable impression. I really enjoyed being immersed in the life of Bacchanal, from the daily on-goings of the carneys to the epic shows they performed. She expertly interwove their personal narratives, leading insight into each character and providing a depth of context to frame the relationships taking place. Many of the characters themselves had wrestled with demons, which landed them at Bacchanal, and there’s a very exciting mixture of redemption and revenge that takes place between characters.

The story moved at a slow pace for a good portion of the book, which was actually quite refreshing for a change because I didn’t breeze through it in a day or two. I was able to linger in the sensation of the whole story, captivated by the unfolding mystery, but content to let the tale move at its own pace. It felt reflective of the pace of life during the Depression in these smaller cities the carnival was moving through. The last book I read that immersed me this much in carnival life was Midnight Circus, but I enjoyed how Henry didn’t create a fanciful reality and focused the book more on the actual setting and lifestyle of this era.

I will say the ending took me by surprise in that it moved very quickly and culminated in almost a blink of an eye. After such a lengthy lead-up, for a bit I couldn’t believe how quickly the story came to an end. I think this would be the only aspect of the story that I wasn’t enraptured with. While all the loose ends are tied up, I would have preferred a bit more detail for the grand finale.

As far as the occult aspect of Bacchanal, the whole tale is imbued with mystery and magic. Henry doesn’t dress up pacts with demons or Eliza’s gifts, and presents a portrait of how these things exist in the mundane world, though perhaps unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Ahkiu and Eliza both take some time to figure the other one out, and they’re both doing plenty of magic or spiritual communication on their own. It was interesting to see the way Ahkiu used her ancient power, while also being engaged with Eliza’s story of discovering her own.

All in all, I found Bacchanal to be fully satisfying on many levels, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone as a good read. I think those with an interest in Yoruba would have a particular interest in this book. Watching Oya nurture her spiritual child Eliza is quite rewarding, and this book reminds us of the complexity of family dynamics. With the help of trusted friends and discovering one’s own powers, destiny emerges.

Of the Lilin, by Paulette Hampton

Of the Lilin, by Paulette Hampton 
Independently Published, 0615964567, 360 pages, 2021

Oh, the doldrums of coming of age, I’m sure it’s something we all remember *not* so fondly. At least we didn’t have to grapple with supernatural powers, as does protagonist Sage, in Paulette Hampton’s Of the Lilin. This is the first book in The Sage Chronicle series, and I am already eagerly awaiting the next one!

I finished this book within two days because I could hardly put it down. To be honest, the very start of the book caught me off-guard, and I was a bit hesitant to go onward because it is just so dang depressing. After losing her mother, Sage is left in the care of her step-father, who has a mental breakdown after the sudden death of his best friend, who Sage had a romantic involvement with, to further confound the sense of loss. Luckily, her aunt is able to take her in and guide her through the trauma and pain she’s experiencing.

Aunt Madeline is an inn owner, and there are plenty of interesting characters involved in the day-to-day running of the inn. There is Allen, the inn’s chef, as well as a Michelin Star chef named Cameron, who runs Aunt Madeline’s restaurant in town. Then there’s Sage’s cousin, Lily, who leads a high-flying life traveling the world with her fancy job. Additionally, there’s Sage’s best friend, Will, and chef Cameron’s son, Thomas, who also adds to the group dynamic.

Sage is doing her best to cope with the grief and depression that has overcome her; she’s even following Aunt Madeline’s suggestion to see a therapist, but weird things keep happening. She keeps snapping into what feels like a dream where she loses control of her actions and then can’t remember what occurred. She also witnesses scenes that don’t make sense to her, and notices people’s eyes turning black with no soul. When the prescription drugs aren’t enough to end the episodes, cousin Lily steps in to enlighten, or rather endarken, Sage as to what’s going on.

Hidden family secrets reveal that Sage processes powers beyond her own control, but Lily has reported what’s happening to her friend Lucien, who intends to help Sage fulfill her destiny. Lucien – handsome, suave, and elegant – seems to naturally hold sway over people. There’s a darkness underneath his cool exterior, and many who know him wish for him to be gone when he’s at the inn. However, he’s taken an interest in Sage, and he has a duty to ensure she’s set on the right path.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the story, but I will say I honestly loved it. I thought the plot moved at just the right pace, and I was kept engaged the entire time. The reader gets to participate in Sage’s coming-of-age experience, even though it’s easy to see something is going on from an outside perspective before she realizes what is truly happening. And this is probably because the reality of the supernatural power she possesses is not something that would have ever crossed her mind.

Hampton does a wonderful job of creating cohesion among the characters. There’s enough main characters to keep the plot interesting and filled with different perspectives, but there’s not too many that the story feels scattered. Watching how all the relationships unfold and the connections between each person emerge kept my attention as I was reading.

I enjoyed that there was a mythological component to the story as well. Sage’s best friend, Will, has promised to make her a custom ring, so she’s been browsing a book of symbols in the inn’s library. Thomas, son of the beloved and revered chef Cameron, is extremely into mythological studies and trying to get ahead on courses he plans on taking. When Sage notices a symbol on Lucien’s ring, Thomas graciously keeps searching through the book until he finds it. They realize the symbol is the Triangle of Solomon and it is used to command demons.

More and more signs appear that indicate something bigger is happening, but Sage herself is at a loss as to what it could be and often doubts her point of view. I could relate to her as a protagonist because I do believe it’s hard for those with heightened psychic sensitivity to know what’s happening to them, and unfortunately, in our society many intuitive people are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. Weaving in mental health to the story made it very modern and absorbing. I’m sure many young adults can relate.

This book really does a wonderful job grappling with the notion of light and darkness, and how they both reside within us. It may be harder than it seems to truly draw the line between human and demon, especially with guidance on how to quell the shadow nature and let one’s light shine. Hampton merges concepts of calming, centering energy that can snap one out of the darkness to make for a gripping narrative.

Plus, the ending was absolutely perfect and literally left me with my mouth hanging open like “NO WAY!” that did not just happen. Many of the pieces all start fitting together in rapid succession in the last quarter of the book, and the culmination of events in this book of the series certainly left me wondering what would happen next.

I highly recommend Of the Lilin to readers that enjoy supernatural fantasy, particularly with a dark element. As already mentioned, this book covers mental health topics, demonic entities, and there’s quite a bit of death as well, if only the lingering effects of grief. However, it is also firmly set in a mundane world with relatable characters, human motivations, and budding emotional ties that are sure to continue developing – the perfect mixture of humanity with divinity, good with evil, and indulgence with sacrifice. If anything, it will certainly make you think twice before making deals with demons, though they might be disguised as angels.