✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Mister Yam, by Yeng K Tan

Mister Yam, by Yeng K Tan
Independently published, 9798450939674, 236 pages, August 2021

I will admit that I did not know what I was getting myself into when I started reading Mister Yam by Yeng K Tan. The bold, contrasting colors on the front of the book, overlaid by a red sheep with golden wings wasn’t much of an indication of what this curious book might be about.

Sure, sure I had read the back-cover description: a twenty-something year old guy disillusioned by corporate life finds his life re-examined when a series of events propels him to embark on a mysterious quest to find answers only he can discover. Kind of generic, right? But let me tell you, this book was so much more than your run of a mill adventure pursuit of the unknown; it’s filled with transcendental wisdom, intimate psychological revelation, and a lot of good eats!

Mister Yam lives a pretty routine life: he has a steady job, though he’s not much interested in career ambition, visits his favorite local bar, enjoys watching the evening news, recently experienced a break up with his girlfriend, and most of all, is always thinking about his next meal.

However, after attending a career fair with his buddy Lorenzo, a series of strange events start happening in his life. It begins when a bald man with a big hat gives him a small wooden box with a lock but no key on a train. Then Mister Yam starts getting phone calls from a person eerily familiar with small details of his life, such as what he’s doing at that moment.

Since the box remains a mystery to him, Mister Yam takes it to a local pawn shop to see if they can tell him more about it. Looking up a data search of the box reveals map coordinates, but nothing else. After learning that his friend Lorenzo has gone missing in the midst of all these random and unexplainable events, Mister Yam feels like he must follow the coordinates to find his friend.

He continues his journey to find answers on a bus headed towards Montana. Oddly enough, at a stop in Idaho, he notices the girl from the pawn shop is also on the bus, and they decide to share lunch. She invites him to travel with her for a bit, and he accepts the offer.

As they ride around in her van, Emma reveals her own experience with the bald man and how her life was inexplicably changed after meeting him. Once a Mormon, the bald man even connects to why she’s back in Idaho at that time. Mister Yam isn’t the type of person to overthink things though, and rather than probe her about who this bald man might be, they just get stoned and hook up.

The next day, Mister Yam continues on his journey to Montana. Once again he meets a woman, Sappho, who assists him in this journey. She had seen Lorenzo check into the hotel with the bald man just a few weeks prior. While they were staying at the hotel, she had an odd experience that matches a dream Mister Yam has been having, where they enter a dark room filled with candles.

Together, they set off into the snowy Montana mountain side to find what is located at these mysterious coordinates. However, this is where my summary will end because what comes next is one of those endings that makes you really question concepts of perception, reality, and the feats of consciousness.

I realize this summary seems rather basic, but do not let it deter you from picking up this book! I intentionally left out a lot of the mysterious events, such as a strange play called The Life of Boris, and the many references to sheep that keep revealing themselves.

Plus, what really makes the book worth reading is the revelations the character has about perception. He’s a foodie by heart, and his descriptions of what he’s eating created a craving in me quite a few times. But most of all, he’s a rather unassuming person who’s open to letting the mystery reveal itself without working too hard to grasp it. Yes, he’s curious, but he’s not over thinking about all the events occurring; he’s more like a passenger on a great voyage of sublime divine planning.

At times I didn’t know what to think about the events, and I really had no idea how it would turn out. But I felt reconnected to my own awareness through reading the book, and I was enticed to be more mindful in my day to day routine. This plot moves along a general path, but it has detours, just like life does. There’s something very “in the flow” to how it progresses.

As mysterious as it seems, there’s always a gentle pulse of love and higher knowledge that seems to be guiding seemingly unconnected events to make it a cohesive narrative. The pieces are all woven together in due time, and I valued Mister Yam’s “take it as it is” style in the matter of getting to the heart of the truth.

Reading Mister Yam instantly reminded me why I adore independently published books. Tan’s writing style is unique, fresh, and one of a kind. This story doesn’t have the same narrative plot that’s been churned out over and over again, making the read a wash-rinse-repeat type of experience.

What I liked most about it overall was the stream of consciousness narration of the main character. I really got into his inner dialogue. And while I did feel like he was very much a dude (I will admit the male mind seems very foreign to me), I completely vibed with Mister Yam’s observations, thoughts about the world, and motivations. It reassured me that as a millennial, we do see things in a way other I want to say older but am trying to not create an OK Boomer moment) view things.

From the disillusionment with a corporate lifestyle to insights about current politics, I felt like Mister Yam was immensely relatable. And therefore, I was more inclined to be interested in how the story unfolded. (To be honest, I was actually very interested and read this book in one day because I just wanted to keep going!) He had valuable insight into the world, and he was also a great tipper. His respect towards those around him reflected his good nature.

The other aspect of this book that I enjoyed is how well it captures the “spirit of the land”. From San Francisco to Montana, I felt the narrative come alive through the character’s interaction with the landscape. Whether it be walking around Berkeley to being hunkered down in the snow of Montana, Tan does a wonderful job of painting a vivid picture for the reader. Even when it was just Mister Yam sitting at the bar, I could see it, taste it, feel it, and hear it.

Overall, Mister Yam is like the millennial’s version of a Burning Man revelations within one’s ho-hum life through a strange series of events that help Mister Yam get at the truth of the matter. There’s a mixture of Jung’s synchronicities with psychedelic revelations that come via perception of the mind, filled with the many tastes of Food Network. If this feels like a random jumble of things, I’ve made my point clear. There’s no one way to explain the deep message of Mister Yam, but reading it is a journey in itself — one that I highly encourage.

The Age of Witches, by Louisa Morgan

The Age of Witches, by Louisa Morgan
Orbit Books, 9780356512587, 528 pages, February 2020

Horses, poppets, and duels within a family of witches? Add a splash of romance and you’re got the magical ingredients for The Ages of Witches by Louisa Morgan. This is a definite must-read for witchcraft-fiction readers. Featuring strong women protagonists and actual occult wisdom, this book was a lovely read. What’s best is that Morgan’s writing flows at a gentle pace, making it so I didn’t rush through it in just a day or two and allowing me to really get wrapped up in the tale.

The story is centered around young Annis Allington, who cares more for horseback riding than afternoon tea and marriage. There’s no riding side-saddle for this young lady; she has a natural repertoire with her horses and enjoys the strength she feels galloping around the streets of New York.

Unfortunately, her scheming step-mother, Frances Allington, has other plans for Annis’s life in order to fuel her own personal desire for a place among society’s elite. What Annis doesn’t realize is that Frances is a witch, who specializes in the use of the maleficia, or dark magic used to control others. Her specialty is working with poppets to control her target and make them bend to her will, which is how she landed Annis’s father as a husband.

Wishing to separate Annis from her beloved horse and lure her into a royal marriage, sealing a title to enhance the family’s reputation, Frances brings her to London to meet with a potential suitor. Well, from Frances’s point of view, the match will be guaranteed for she’s prepared to magically make it so, regardless of the feelings of either party.

James, who recently became the new Marquess of Rosefield, has the weight of the world upon his shoulders now that his family has passed. Coming to terms with the family’s dwindling finances and his father’s debt has put James in the position of having to make choices about how to best secure a future for the Rosefield estate. His mother, Lady Eleanor, eagerly and continually suggests finding a wealthy woman to marry, thus ensuring the future of their family’s legacy.

Conveniently, she has invited Frances and Annis to visit with them, hoping for there to be a spark. Well, there certainly is strong chemistry between James and Annis, but not the way their parents had hoped for. James is appalled at Annis’s forwardness in regard to her desire to become a horse breeder, and Annis cannot stand Jame’s conventionality or views on what is and is not appropriate behavior for a woman.

After the first day though, the feelings between them begin to shift. Annis can sense something is off about it; she’s experiencing embarrassing sensual feelings for James, whom she knows she is not truly attracted to at all. It’s clear that James too is feeling the allure, suddenly looking at Annis in a very different way.

Annis doesn’t know what to make of this and is truly worried about her predicament. She knows that Frances is trying to corner her into this marriage, and she’s also fearful of the consequences, such as losing her beloved horse, if she doesn’t play along.

Luckily, Harriet Bishop, Annis’s aunt and Frances’s cousin, has been following along with what’s happening in her family’s bloodline. Readers are introduced to her at the very start of the book, and I for one was instantly taken with her. I only wish I had an aunt watching over the development of my own magical gifts.

Both Harriet and Frances shared a great-great- grandmother, Bridget Bishop, who was hung for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. Bridget had two daughters, Mary and Christian, who each went down their own witchcraft path. Christian followed in Bridget’s footsteps, freely using the maleficia to have her magical way, while Mary chose the path of magic that does not impede the will of others. Frances’s mother, unlike Harriet’s, had come from the lineage of Christian, who practiced the dark arts without discretion.

Harriet and her grandmother found Frances after her mother had passed. Living in squalor, they awakened her to the secret of the family’s witchcraft lineage and took her into their home to oversee her training. They had hoped she would not succumb to the maleifica’s strong powers, but ultimately the pull was too strong. Frances decides to make her way in the world using the witchcraft that compels, controls, and consumes others, expertly using her poppets to get what she needs in life.

“Witch should be a beautiful word, signifying wisdom and knowledge and discipline, but it isn’t used that way. It’s been made an insult, implying evil, causing fear. The word has been perverted.”1

I know I certainly feel this way sometimes, hesitant to share my personal spiritual path as a witch. Therefore I often found myself agreeing with Harriet’s thoughtful sentiments. She is an admirable witch and herbalist, maintaining discretion about her client’s personal needs. Though, she also knows how the beauty and power of witchcraft can be used for ill and malice towards others.

Stepping into to prevent Annis from the harm Frances wishes to callously inflict on her (though France might truly believe what she’s doing is for the best interest of all despite the lack of freedom of choice or ethics concerning the welfare of others), Harriet ventures to London herself to reveal the secrets of their family to Annis before it’s too late.

As for the summary, I’ll stop here. This is hardly a full synopsis of all the twists and turns the book takes, but it’s hopefully enough to convey the essence of the plot. Once Harriet, Annis, and Frances are in London together, it’s truly a battle of wills for the direction that magic will take.

What I love most about the book is Morgan’s portrayal of witchcraft, which I believe can only come from true reverence for the art, along with a bit of practical experience in the craft. There’s even a character who is a strega! This was especially heartwarming for me to read since I come from an Italian lineage.

Throughout the book are fun cantrips, such as the following:

“The touch of this remedy will move the heart
So kindness is the better part.
Leaf and root and flower bless
The heart that always answers, Yes.”2

The spellwork of the witches, especially with the poppets, is always described in detail. From the herbs used to make a salve to the description of using a piece of hair for the intended poppet, Morgan truly captures what goes into magical workings. She even includes the witches mixing in blood for their spell potency, as well as the use of an adder stone to give the work a boost.

Morgan also does a wonderful job of capturing life in the 19th-century for women. While Annis has budding feminist notions, there’s also still societal rules about what constitutes appropriate path’s for a woman’s live. Offering the option of witchcraft to a young woman is one of the most remarkable gifts to be handed down generation after generation — it’s more than just an alternative path, it’s a route to self-discovery and a life beyond the constraints of social norms.

Magic aside, Morgan has created some memorable characters. I really enjoyed the various cooks, maids, and personal attendants who accompanied the main characters. I can picture the different accents the characters used, thus further amplifying my connection to the story’s setting. I was especially taken aback by Annis’s intimacy with her horses, which gave me a new appreciation for the relationship between horse and rider. At times, I wished I could just hop on a horse and go for a little trot around the block!

All in all, The Age of Witches was a very fun read. I almost want to say it was relaxing. Yes, the plot was interesting, and at no time did my attention stray, but the pace was easy-going. This book had all the elements of a good story: family conflict, romance, and a whole lot of heart. Plus, It made me think about what type of magical practitioner I consider myself to be, and it inspired me to be more active in my herbalism and word craft for spellwork. I highly recommend it as an engaging witchcraft-fiction read!

The Ladies of the Secret Circus, by Constance Sayer

The Ladies of the Secret Circus, by Constance Sayer
Redhook, 0316493678, 464 pages, March 2021

I’ll admit it.. I’ve been very into magical circus books this summer (see my review for Bacchanal). When I found the Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayer in the recently published section of my library, I was delighted to once again be immersed in the enchantment that springs forth from the unique energy of circus life. However, while the plot was decent, this book didn’t stand out as a must-read for me. Overall, it was an interesting story, but written with too many plot gaps and a clear indication the writer does not have much experience working magic in the real world.

The overall premise is that on the day of her wedding, Lara Barnes’s fiancé, Todd, goes missing. Yes, they’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship for quite some time, including him being with other women, but the disappearance is a shock to the small town. While Kerrigan Falls is known for its lack of crime, an eerily similar disappearance happened 30 years prior to the day, when another handsome, young, beloved man named Peter went missing in the midst of his aspiring musical career.

Lara is absolutely devastated by the loss of her love, but can sense there’s something more to the story. She has learned how to do simple magic, or “corrections”, as she calls them. For instance, she alters her wedding dress to better fit her taste that day, though she’s aware the illusion will only hold as long as she maintains concentration. She inherited this power from her mother, Audrey, who chose a normal life, hiding her magic from everyone, including her ex-husband Jason.

In the months following Todd’s disappearance, Lara distracts herself by purchasing a local radio station and putting work into her fixer-upper home. She does her best to avoid media attention and rumors about what might have occurred, as she’s in her own personal state of mourning the loss of her beloved. Though, this doesn’t stop her from forming a romantic relationship with the local sheriff, Ben, who is a bit out of his league with such a big case in his small town. What begins with him giving her updates on the case, blossoms into a friendship, which turns into a budding romance.

As a supportive mother, Audrey is trying to lift her daughter’s spirits. Together, they attend the Rivoli circus, as the owners are long-time friends from the days when their family ran a circus. Audrey’s mother had decided to give up the circus, after going mad from her magical powers and no longer being able to maintain it. While at the circus, Lara has an unusual encounter with a fortune teller, where she is gifted with the diaries of her great-grandmother Cecil Cabot.

Reading the journals, Lara learns her great-grandmother was part of Le Cirque Secret, also known as the dark circus. Suddenly, all she’s known is turned upside down. As she tries to figure out the deeper truth, Lara recalls visits from a mysterious man as a child who had told her Todd was not her destiny. When he appears again following Lara reading the diaries with a proposition for Lara, inviting her to come to Paris, as he needs her help, in exchange for information about Todd and her family secrets, she decides to go ahead.

From this point on in the story, it becomes a dual narrative of Lara’s experience and that of her great-grandmother Cecil’s experience in Le Cirque Secret. While Lara’s story is boring white-bread suburban living, Cecil’s life is filled with romance, passion, and magic of 19th-century Paris and circus performances.

Cecil and her twin, Esme, were the children of one of the most notorious demons in the underworld, Althacazur, who is a favorite of Lucifer. When his wife passes away, he needs a home for his daughters, thus he creates Le Cirque Secret (which also is a good way for him to reel in those who are more eager to sell their souls to him in exchange for what they desire — truly a win-win). Known for her cunning charm and quick temper, Lara soon realizes this man is her great-great-grandfather, and her family’s origin is much darker than she ever imagined.

What’s especially enticing about Le Cirque Secret is that only those with a ticket can see the entrance, which pops up in the middle of an open, vacant spot in the town it’s performing in. Since it’s run by demons, who were essentially hand-picked by Althacazur in order to entertain and babysit his kids, this is no usual circus. All the performers are trapped, fulfilling the contracts they’ve made with demons for the rest of eternity. Nevertheless, there is an element of kinship among them.

Cecil and Esme, despite being twins, are often at odds with each other. Their good friend Slyvie tends to pick sides among them, but she also helps to smooth out the tensions. Oddly, Cecil has no memories prior to her 11th birthday blowing out candles. She can’t recall their early childhood, though Esme can and mocks Cecil for her weakness, as she’s also the only person in the circus that does not have a performance routine.

When Cecil grows weary of her sister’s taunts, she asks father about her lost memories and shares what Esme had told her. This prompts a swift and ruthless punishment for Esme, which changes her forever. From then on, all love has been lost between the sisters. However, Cecil finally finds her own strength and becomes an aerial performer. She learns that she can do more than swing from the bars as an acrobat. Cecil can actually fly through air with her magic, dazzling and astounding audiences.

During a night on the town after a circus performance, Cecil meets painter Emile Gradeux. They have an instant connection, sparking young love in the heart of Paris. Esme has usually been the one to go for painters, tormenting them by allowing her portrait to be painted, knowing it will vanish by morning, as it’s impossible to capture Cecil or Esme’s likeness. There’s something about Emile though that opens Cecil’s heart to happiness and love, and she continues to develop her relationship with them.

Surprisingly, Althacazur takes an interest in Emile and offers him the chance to do three paintings of the circus: one of Slyvie, one of Cecil, and one of Esme. Cecil and Esme’s intense rivalry is fueled by their common romantic interest in painter Emile. Ultimately, many relationships are destroyed, with consequences that are still impacting Lara in modern-day.

Swept away in the elegance of 19th-century Paris, these diary entries are definitely the best part of the book. Intermixed with characters such as Mann Ray, Pablo Picassion, and Ernest Hemmingway, the creative spirit comes alive amid the chaos of the circus. It’s easy to get caught-up in the glamour and romance

On her mission to learn more about her family’s past, Lara discovers more paintings in Paris, as well as a fellow Le Cirque Secret enthusiast, Tedd Barthlow-Bentham, a friend of Gaston, the local portrait framer and art enthusiast of Kerrigan Falls who has accompanied her. When Lara goes missing, Ben comes rushing to her rescue. Eventually, all the pieces come together for what is intended to be a surprising end. Though, if you’ve been reading between the lines, it’s easy to spot it coming.

So, overall the book has an appealing plot and it does keep the reader engaged to an extent. The major drawbacks to the book that irked me as a reader was the flow of the plot, which seemed a bit jerky. Sayer jumps from here to there with little transition, which makes it not as an appealing read. I sometimes didn’t know how things progressed as rapidly as they did in a very short time-frame.

Then, and I think this was my biggest problem with the book, Lara was not a very relatable character. Basic doesn’t even begin to describe her. It’s almost as if she was devoid of deeper emotional feelings. She was very one-dimensional, and most of the time she’s simply confused about what’s going on in her life. The romances between both Todd and Ben seem superficial, and she doesn’t really strike me as someone with a genuine range of emotion, which made me feel she was a bit annoying as a protagonist.

This was interesting because it wasn’t that Sayers couldn’t write a better character; Cecil and Esme have passion, depth, and self-awareness. And as I already said, the parts of the book focused on these characters in Paris were certainly the best. Lara just simply seems naive, selfish, and a bit aloof, not allowing for an emotional connection to be made with her, which as a reader I enjoy having with a main character.

Then my other peeve about the book was that the magic described is the kind of “wave your hand and something happens magic”. It came naturally to all of the characters because of their demonic origins. Therefore, it almost seems taken for granted. Yes, it was neat reading about their powers and their journey to master it. But most of the time, especially with Lara and Audrey, the magic was used to simply enchant life and make it a little better, rather than actually doing anything substantial. It’s mostly all glamour magic.

Plus, the portrayal of the demonic realm was very glossed over and prettily packaged. There was the usual allusion to great people, such as Mussolini, who sold their sold to the devil, or in this case a demon. While Sayers tries to depict the cost of their deal, such as permanent abuse based on the whims of Althacazur, one again, there seem to be little self-reflection or self-awareness on the part of these side characters damned to Hell’s circus forever. The book definitely didn’t weight the pros and cons of selling one’s soul in the way The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab captured (a book I do highly recommend!).

All in all, The Ladies of the Secret Circus was a unique plot and memorable for its originality, but it could have been written a bit better. It’s most redeeming aspect is Sayer’s portrayal 19th-century Paris. Otherwise, it’s a watered-down stunted romance of a confused character trying to figure out her family’s history, drawing the reader into some very superficial aspects of the demonic realm. For those who are looking for a decent book to read, filled with enough mystery and intrigue to keep you occupied, this is an all right selection. It probably will not be a life-changing read, but it might be worth delving into once.

Cell Level Meditation, by Barry Grundland and Patricia Kay

Cell Level Meditation: The Healing Power in the Smallest Unit of Life, by Barry Grundland, MD and Patricia Kay, MA
Findhorn Press, 9781644112243, 176 pages, March 2021

… Dr. Barry Grundland was a psychiatrist whose specialty area might have been called psychoneuroimmunology. This is a big word that basically means min-body healing.  The mind, including our thoughts, emotions and attitudes affects the body, and in turn the body affects our minds, thoughts, emotions and attitudes. For over 50 years, Barry worked with people as a true healer –one who helps others come to Wholeness, or a sense of being who they really are…1

Cell Level Meditation: The Healing Power in the Smallest Unit of Life by Barry Grundland, MD and Patricia Kay, MA provides the reader with a broad perspective of the wonders and amazing capabilities of the wisdom of our bodies to heal. The quote above may not be innovative in our current society that is flooded with self-help tools, self-awareness training and contemplative practices of all manner, but the quintessential intention held in this statement about the co-author Dr. Grundland speaks to the simplicity of the book itself and acknowledgment of our capacity to thrive, heal and remain in a state of well-being simply by engaging the healing nature of our bodies in the process. 

“Cell Level Meditation” is a term crafted by Dr. Grundland to describe the power-and simplicity of establishing dialogue with the body at the cellular level and programming those related cells to function in a specific way. Co-author Patricia Kay speaks to the inherent directive and energy of the cell….

… The Cell is a real thing in the material world., and it is a metaphor as well, since it carries a basic “pattern” of organization you can find in every level of Life. The cell has a nuclei for example, which is a central area where you can find very basic information, that is very precise instructions for how things work; this information is inscribed on strands of tightly coiled threads called DNA…2

Kay further sets the tone for what follows and how the reader will be using the cell as a tool for healing:

… For our purposes, at the “level of the cell” we engage the workings going on there at different levels and states of awareness, which we can find with concentration, focus and participation through breath…3

Cell Level Meditation is separated into twenty chapters and makes use of poetry and quotations throughout the book. In general, there is a very poetic tone running through the information provided, which serves to engage the reader at all levels of being and all levels of understanding of neurobiological studies. 

The Introduction lays the groundwork for what follows in the subsequent chapters:

Cell Level Meditation is a vehicle for finding our way “home”.  We take the breath to our cells, offering them our deepest desire to be happy and healthy and strong.  In some way, they hear us and respond…This meditative form is a gift that helps the mind and the body come into healing, which in turn, helps us be ourselves in fullness…4

One of the things I appreciated about Cell Level Meditation is the way in which the reader is enveloped in the intention, whether overtly or subtly in the writings, with a gift of opening to the experience of meditation as a healing soured, as well as greater knowledge of the physical aspects of our being that are co-creators in that healing. 

Chapters one to five act as a primer for the reader and offer tools, exercises and insight into the art of Meditation and its use at a cellular level (chapter one and two), mind (chapter three), body (chapter four) and breath (chapter six). This information in and of its self is valuable in delving deeper into the “whys” of the contemplative arts, whether directed towards cell level use or general mindfulness

There is a specific and supportive rhythm that flows through the teachings of Cell Level Meditation. Each of the remaining chapters expands on these basics and moves through the process of this meditation in a style that is user friendly and allows for time to process and digest what has come previously. Moving through the book, the information has a wonderful way of capturing the mystical in the scientific and the scientific in the mystical. 

Chapter 19, “Conditioned Habits”, is one that calls the reader to awareness of their body’s (cells) wisdom and inherent dialogue (if we train ourselves to listen); and, the acknowledgement that we are all “programmed” (conditioned) towards certain habitual behaviors.  The previous chapters have established the importance of breath as a vehicle of movement and enlivenment, and the practice of breath focused meditation to further awaken the cells and enable these changes and shifts towards a more balanced state. The reader is reminded that this desire and action towards change often brings about chaos, a term used widely in the scientific community denoting the precipice of change or shift from one state of being to another, a naturally occurring evolutionary process found throughout nature….

… Rather than being too worried about being at the edge of chaos”, you are now empowered to stay present with your experience… Even in chaos, you have the breath. You are going into Unknown Territory, but with your intention and hope and the breath. The rest … comes from a higher place. … By working with the edges of our conditioned habits with awareness, willingness to stay present for what is actually going on as sensations in the body, even stuck patterns are called to a higher level when there is a ripe moment…5

These are merely highlights of this book. It is difficult to capture an “experience” in the writing of a review. I believe, however, that the authors have done just that, and more. Additionally, the publisher Findhorn Press was aptly suited for this title. Having reviewed several of their titles now, there is most definitely a theme and level of quality in the work of their authors that provides representation from the scientific/academic community as well as the more esoterically inclined. The overall themes are those of wholeness and collaboration at the levels of the environment, the planet and most importantly those beings who remain as stewards of themselves and their surroundings.

Cell Level Meditation takes the reader into a journey of the microcosmic nature of our self and the profound power of healing and wholeness contained in the singular component of our physical make-up – the cell. And, from that place of the cell the potential for what can be brought back into the macrocosm is limitless. 

Pagan Portals: Hellenic Paganism, by Samantha Leaver

Pagan Portals – Hellenic Paganism, by Samantha Leaver
Moon Books, 9781789043235, 104 pages, March 2021

When I first got my hands on this book, I thought I knew what it was going to be about. I mean, it’s Hellenic so it’s about Greek Gods and Goddesses, right? Let’s be clear: Pagan Portals – Hellenic Paganism by Samantha Leaver is not the typical book that lists the various Olympian deities and provides a basic framework for how and when to worship them. No, this book goes much deeper than that. 

Citing a life-long fascination with Greek mythology, Leaver has crafted a beautifully written book that details the many participants in the Hellenic pantheon. A self-proclaimed Kitchen Witch, Leaver has always felt drawn to the Mediterranean and this book is her personal journey through the various deities and how she works with them in order to foster a connection with the divine. 

Chock full of useful information around the practice as a whole, the book starts with an artfully crafted introduction that explains the society of the Hellenes and gives a brief overview of what Hellenic Paganism is. Leaver makes points on how things have changed since those times, noting that some of the Hellenic practices are no longer viable choices in today’s society. She suggests a variety of ways to do the same things in today’s context, something I found to be quite helpful in aligning myself with the practices in a modern time.

Written simply and with a profound sense of reverence, this book is a delightful entry point into the mythical world of the Greeks and the way they performed their rituals. Leaver clearly enjoys herself as she writes and is eager to share all that she has learned in her personal journey through the pantheon, while at the same time making distinctions between their world and our time. She notes that the psychological aspect of Hellenism differs from other well-known forms of religion, saying:

“Hellenism is more about connecting with and understanding the relationship you have to the natural world, it is all about living the best life you possibly can, with virtue, rather than sin, punishment, and redemption.”1

I really appreciated the depth of knowledge imparted by Leaver, as she delved into many aspects of ancient Hellenic life. Maybe some would find it tedious and want her to get on with the spells already, but I want to know where the rituals and ceremonies come from and why they were done. To me, that fleshes out the ‘why’ of the practice and I feel that is a vital piece of the ritual puzzle.

Leaver points out that much like Wicca, there are multiple paths in Hellenic Paganism and details a few to show their similarities. With that comes different names for deities in the pantheon, something I had not considered much to my chagrin. Of course there would be different names for deities depending on where you lived. Why would everyone use the same name? We don’t even have the same for a spatula in today’s society (seriously, it IS a spatula, not a lifter, and I will fight you). 

What I loved about gleaning this particular nugget of information is that Leaver also expresses her own double-take. She says, “To be honest, I thought I had a good handle on the Gods, until simple things like, ‘wait, the Hellenics call them Theoi’ happened, or ‘wait, there are numerous versions of each mythology out there by different writers at different times.’”2

This admission of disconnect solidified that this was the book for me. The honesty with which Leaver presents her journey, flawed as it was, is an absolute dream to partake of. It also made me feel much better about my own personal journey, as I have experienced similar things while bobbing along trying to figure out what kind of witch I am and who I should devote my time to. There is a difference between knowing that these things happen with others and then actually reading about an experience, and while it’s uncomfortable to watch others struggle in their search for sovereignty, it’s comforting to know that despite what path we find ourselves on, we are all having similar experiences. 

The book is cleverly divided into four parts and a section called “Closing thoughts from a Modern Hellenic Pagan.” The four sections clearly divide up the vast knowledge Leaver has on Hellenic Paganism: the introduction is both straightforward in laying out the structure of the information that will be presented and Leaver’s own journey along this particular path. Subsequent sections titled “Living the Path”, “Relationship with Deity’” and “Magic and Mysticism” are equally well laid out and written in a very approachable manner. 

It’s always interesting to take something like auspicious days and try to make them relevant to today’s society. Leaver does this admirably, making connections to more modern tactics rather than leaving you to figure it out on your own. The best example of this is listed in Hesiod’s Auspicious Days: Day 4: a good day to bring home a bride, begin building narrow ships, and open jars. Leaver offers another way to look at it, saying, “I like to think of this day as the day to begin building projects, a crafty or creative day. This is also a good day to take care to avoid troubles that eat out the heart. I like to use some time on this day to concentrate on all that is good in my life.”3

Pagan Portals – Hellenic Paganism is a great jumping on point for those interested in Hellenic Paganism or just want a deeper dive on the Greek pantheon. I found the information to be very helpful and detailed in a way that was not overwhelming. One thing I did not expect was how many gods and goddesses are considered to be part of the Greek pantheon: there are literally too many to name. If you have even a glimmer of interest in knowing more about this particular branch of paganism, I highly recommend picking up this book. I am happy to add it to my growing collection of books.

The Vine Witch, by Luanna G. Smith

The Vine Witch (The Vine Witch #1), by Luanna G. Smith
47North, 1542008387, 268 pages, October 2019

One of my favorite books that I read this summer was The Vine Witch by Luanna G. Smith. You can only imagine my delight in discovering that it was the first of three books in a series! For two marvelous weeks, I was wrapped up in the drama, intrigue, romance, and excitement of these novels. I considered writing a review of each separately, but then decided to write about them side by side. I can hardly imagine one would enjoy The Vine Witch and not want to continue on with the rest of the series.

As much as I enjoy a brand-new book, I also am thrilled when I discover a fully published series that lets me jump right from one book to the next with no wait time! While the latest book in the series, The Conjurer, was released in 2021, The Glamourist was published in 2020 and The Vine Witch in 2019. I highly recommend reading them in order of publication date, which is easy to do now that they’re all released.

They stories definitely build upon one another, and it’s adds a lot to the newer books already knowing the full backstory. All the characters are introduced in The Vine Witch, and the following two novels expand on the past of two characters, continuing to reveal how the three magical women’s fate is intertwined. Their unique friendship evolves as the women overcome enemies, personal challenges, and twists of fate that captivate the imagination, perfectly blending in magic, mystery, and mayhem.

Now.. onto the good stuff!

Set in the charming Chanceaux Valley, The Vine Witch delves into the story of Elena Boureanu, who has just returned to her human form after spending seven years as a toad due to a curse put on her. It was only her skilled knowledge of poisons that helped her break the curse, gruesomely by eating her shedding toad skin, which contained a specific chemical that was able to alter the effects of the spell. Still haunted by her amphibious time, Elena is eager to get revenge on the person she knows must have put this spell on her: Bastien Du Monde, her former fiance.

Elena returns to her home, Château Renard, and happily reunites with her dear Grandmere, Unfortunately during Elena’s time as a toad, her grandmother was not able to maintain the vineyard or its finances, leading her to sell it to Jean-Paul Martel, a budding vigneron. So far, Jean-Paul hasn’t had much luck with his crop, but he is intent on applying his scientific knowledge to bring the fields back to life.

Despite the rocky start they get off to upon meeting, Jean-Paul allows Elena to stay at Château Renard for the time being. Elena, who feels deeply intertwined with the vineyard is glad to be back, but also is keenly away from a spell lingering over the fields, which is contributing to the bad harvests. She’s eager to use her magic to lift the curses, but knows she must hide her magic from Jean-Paul, who denounces the superstitions of vine witches in the valley.

Meanwhile, Bastien and his new wife are on a mission to buy up the land in the area to expand their own wine-making business, which has become exceedingly popular during the time Elena was gone. For a while Elena hides her presence, not wanting Bastien to know she’s back for revenge, but eventually her identity is revealed, shocking even Elena as she uncovered the truth about her past.

As Elena comes to terms with her powers and grapples with her sparking romance with Jean-Paul, who is opening up to her supernatural world, she also must contend with the evil force that wants to do her in. When a surprising death lands Elena in magical jail, she becomes acquainted with Yvette, a rough and tumble young woman, and Sidra, a jinni. All three women have been accused of murder, but there is also their side of the story that is not give a voice. Their break-out links them together, leading to a bond that will continue to be called upon for the rest of the series.

I won’t go further, as to not give spoilers, but from a magical perspective here are some of the things that I loved about the book. First of all, Smith really makes this magic feel real. While some of the magic is extraordinary, it’s grounded in magical theory and practice. For instance, Elena must take time to reunite with her magical tools and slowly regain her strength after coming back from the curse. There are limits to her powers and this prevents a sense of all-consuming, omnipotent magic dominating the story; it’s realistic.

Additionally, the magic she does is deeply tied to the land, the vines, the animals, and her home, which I believe many witches can relate to in their own lives. Gardens, hillsides, rivers, and streams all become sacred places of power; nature and the elements are the foundation of witchcraft. You get a sense of this as you read, and it inspires one to reconnect with their landscape.

Plus, I found the concept of a vine witch to be fascinating, and it did leave me to wonder if this was ever a real thing. There was a sensuality about her connection to the wine, and the magic felt palpable, as though I could taste it as I read.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed was a local baking witch, whose pastries pointed the way to one’s true love based on their flavors. I enjoyed that there was an exploration of other types of witches, beyond the vine witches, all mixed into the story. It made the story feel imbued with sorcery, as the mundane world thrived without even realizing all the small charms and magical world around it.

I highly recommend The Vine Witch to anyone who enjoys supernatural fiction. As far as books about witches go, this is definitely one of my top five favorites. Smith has done a wonderful job of bringing to life the magic in the mundane. From cooking to gardening, this book will inspire you to include a few spells of your own in the daily routine.

The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching, by Rosemarie Anderson

The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching: A New Translation and Commentary, by Rosemarie Anderson, Ph.D.
Inner Traditions, 1644112469, 160 pages, April 2021

Rosemarie Anderson, Ph.D., has many accomplishments – she is professor emerita of psychology at Sofia University, an Episcopal priest, an author of several books, and the recipient of the Abraham Maslow Heritage Award. She has traveled widely through Asia, and she has decades of experience with the Chinese language and the Tao Te Ching – all of which more than qualify her to author The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching.

However, the qualification that touched me the most was declared in the very first sentence written in the book, in the acknowledgments section: “Translating the Tao Te Ching has been a work of love.”1 The love that this author has for the Tao Te Ching, and for the language in which it was written, informs her entire translation.

Anderson begins with a few short pages explaining her personal story of moving to Asia as a young woman and how she very quickly learned, and fell in love with, the Chinese language. She explains her love for the elegance of the calligraphic form and the etymology of the characters, along with the reverence the Chinese people seemed to have for them. 

In exploring and observing the Chinese way of life during her time in Asia she recognized that she was beginning to learn a concept the Chinese call “wei wu wei, which means to ‘act without acting’ or ‘know without knowing’.”2

This concept of wei wu wei, she explains, is essential to understanding the Tao Te Ching, requiring one to slow down, to read with patience, to allow the poems to enter one’s knowing almost of their own accord.

Anderson originally decided to translate the Tao for her own benefit and delight, using her basic knowledge of Chinese supplemented by scholarly books that would teach her any characters she did not recognize. She began this process expecting that she might discover something new in the Tao Te Ching along with some new discoveries about herself. The thing she did not expect was to discover that the Tao was profoundly feminine – full of self-descriptive words such as “mother”, “virgin”, and “womb of creation” – all intrinsically feminine ideas! 

In fact, the descriptor of Anderson’s translation in the title as “divine feminine” is what drew me as a reader to this version. And it seems so obvious upon reading these ideas that the Tao would be referred to as “She” in most if not all places where pronouns are used, but historically that has not been the case. “Only in a rare poem do a few translators refer to the Tao as “She” when the reference to “mother” or “womb” is blatant.”3

Something I found profoundly interesting was that the author’s experience of the wei wu wei method of translation is that it was “rarely mental but typically took the form of bodily impressions.”4

This idea of allowing input (in this case the poems of the Tao Te Ching) to reverberate in the body instead of automatically depending on the mind to figure everything out seems to be something worth exploring in earnest. 

The next idea to help us ingest the poems (and to enter into wei wu wei) is to read the poems aloud, or to sing them – even perhaps to a favorite tune, along with a suggestion to read one poem per day and to truly commit to listening and hearing what the Tao has to offer. 

I particularly liked this specific instruction:

“Sing out loud and sing long. This is hermeneutics in action. The term hermeneutics comes from the Greek god Hermes, the great communicator who brought the gods’ messages down to humans. In singing the Tao Te Ching, communicating with the Heavens and back to planet Earth is precisely what you are doing. Do it. Improvise on the text as an ancient storyteller might. Begin your own legend – your own pathway to the Heavens and back again.”5

This instruction seems like the perfect way to begin or expand one’s exploration of the Tao Te Ching, especially The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching – unhurried, embodied, and without any specific expectation other than “communicating with the Heavens and back to planet Earth.” For me, as a beginner, this encouraged me to not overthink or overdo, but to just sing.

So far, one of my favorite poems in Anderson’s translation is poem 34, which I place here for your enjoyment:

-34-
The Tao flows everywhere!
She stretches to the left and to the right
All things rely on Her for life
She never turns away
She accomplishes Her work
And makes no claims
She is free of desires
We call Her small
All things return to Her
Yet she never controls
We call Her great
In not striving to be great
The wise accomplish great things

This selection seems to align well with the author’s instructions and contemplations of wei wu wei, and this particular passages encourage me in the idea of “accomplishing great things by not striving to be great”6 and to “grasp the Great Mirror”7 of the Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching.

The poems are presented in a beautiful, flowing form, the typography spacious. And the book wraps up nicely with Notes on the translation and calligraphy, as well as an annotated bibliography. 

I recommend this little gem of a book to anyone wanting to study the Tao Te Ching – especially to consider it in the context of a gentle, non-striving practice.

Seasons of a Magical Life, by H. Byron Ballard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ancient Language of Sacred Sound, by David Elkington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Love Journal, by Akal Pritam

Self-Love Journal: A Journal to Inner Peace and Happiness, by Akal Pritam
Rockpool Publishing, 925924459, 208 pages, March 2021

“Dear Soul… May you surrender to self-love, the blooming of your joyful heart, as you journey towards more inner peace and happiness… May you love yourself through the process of transformation, not judge yourself and stop that inner blooming… I celebrate your beautiful creative rhythm. I bow down to you for all that you are. You are invaluable…”1

Self-Love Journal: A Journal to Inner Peace and Happiness by Akal Pritam is a feast for the eyes and a treasure for the heart. The pages of the journal are beautifully illustrated by the author and lovingly separated by color into sections moving through the energies of the chakras and their associated visualizations.

The quote above is part of the opening 2-page invitation from the author to step into the beauty of your divinity and ability to generate and be love. This small excerpt gives clue that this journal is not like any other you may already own and this invitation echoes within the spiritual nature and capacity for self-love and acceptance inherently within all of us.

Let me begin by saying that this is not a journal I would traditionally have selected for myself. I tend more towards the crisply lined unadorned pages and leather covers. But, as is true of many things, particularly those of a spiritual nature, first choices are necessarily what is needed, nor where you find the most self-growth.

These thoughts and more have been especially relevant in my case, and what I have learned of myself simply by going through the offerings for this review would, I believe, hold true for any reader. Pritam has skillfully produced a visually beautiful space to write your inner most feelings, judgments, and transformative moments, as self-acceptance and love begin to flower in response.

One of the reasons I chose this journal for review is because I have been feeling “raw” after the events of the past year and a half, as I am sure many of you are as well. Self-Love Journal is the perfect soothing balm to begin the healing. As you move through the pages, it feels much like a cocoon from which we can again find strength and joy within; embrace the metamorphosis and emerge with the beauty and lightness of spirit of the butterfly.

Images of beautiful women in soft-colored pastels grace the pages with ample space for journaling and inspiring words of encouragement accompany image or footer of a blank space to write. Each section that denotes the transition from one chakra into the next provides the reader with basic information about the energy they will be working with regardless of familiarity with the specific chakra. These include the English and Sanskrit names, the Bija sound, corresponding body parts, affirmations and more. The entire page is dedicated to the naming of opening this center within the reader’s etheric anatomy in preparation for the work to follow.

The page directly opposite is a beautiful illustration of a woman’s face adorned with the symbol of the chakra at the center of a geometrically patterned heart. The skill of Pritam’s artistic talent shines in these illustrations with the eyes of the women depicted looking back in loving gaze, determination, and support. These felt very much like gazing into the gentle strength of a dear friend hoping to share the reflection of beauty that she sees within you for you to claim as your own.

I especially enjoyed the writing inspirations, color, and visuals used for the journaling pages corresponding to the work of the Solar Plexus Charka (Manipura):

“… I am future ancient, born now. An infinite soul of love empowered by the cosmos. Activated from the core of my true self; and invaluable, radiant, incomparable individual. I know how to serve in loving truth…”2

Much of what the focus centered around was that of stepping into your own power and owning the truth that evolves from that space. Energetically, the Solar Plexus is the seat of the individual’s strength and fuels the forms that action and will take. It is depicted as yellow sun-filled energy.

The colorings used in Self-Love Journal were actually more of a honey-gold that immediately took me to thoughts of the honeycomb, bees, and the power of the queen to command and oversee the production of the sweet nectar of honey that will nourish and sustain. This gave a very warm feel to what is often an intensely heated engagement with this chakra. This, coupled with imagery, provides the reader with a truly organic calling into the heart of the sweetness of the hive, the intricate and beautiful patterning of the comb and preparation to take on the mantle of the “queen bee”.

Self-Love Journal is truly a journal to be experienced. There is something of connection to be made by anyone, whether it is the guidance of the chakras, the inspirational statements, the beautifully rich illustrations or the overall visual beauty. And, if you are interested in supplementing your journaling with oracle or mini cards of inspiration, Pritam also has available an oracle deck (Self Love Oracle: Find Peace and Happiness through the Chakras) and inspiration cards (Let Go: Mini Inspiration Cards). I’ve just ordered the oracle deck!