✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Censored Angels, by Zara West

Censored Angel: Anthony Comstock’s Nemesis, by Zara West
Tidal Waters Press, 1959318128, 350 pages, June 2023

Censored Angel: Anthony Comstock’s Nemesis by Zara West, the second book in her Forgotten Women series, is a historical fiction novel about the life of Ida Craddock, a mystical marriage counselor and advocate for free speech. West tells Craddock’s tale in first-person narrative form, opening a doorway for reader’s to enter Craddock’s fascinating inner world.

The story begins with Craddock as a teenager in 1875, highlighting her trying relationship with her mother, who continually undermines her career ambition and spiritual pursuits. Craddock’s one place of peace is her Quaker school where she excels academically. Upon learning her beloved teacher has passed away, after she had come to Craddock for advice about the pain she feels during material relations, Craddock is devastated. She was too late to save her teacher, but is now determined to help other women in similar situations.

This sets her on a path of study focused on the religious history of sex worship, along the way gaining knowledge from doctors, activists, and spiritualists who share her mission. She also has the divine support of her angels, most notably her spirit husband Soph, who guides her in the art of heavenly love. Her rebellious, unconventional ways continue to put Craddock at odds with her mother, who is a staunch Christian temperance member.

Craddock yearns to gain some independence. Working as a typist and escaping her mother’s roof, she begins to cultivate her own dreams. Even though Craddock had dreams of becoming a scholar, to stay afloat, she resorts to publishing her instruction manuals about human sexuality and the correct way to have appropriate, respectful sexual relations between husband and wife. Her most famous works include Heavenly Bridegrooms, Psychic Wedlock, Spiritual Joys, Letter To A Prospective Bride, The Wedding Night, and Right Marital Living. These publications soon become the focus of Anthony Comstock, the notorious Anti-Obscenity PostMaster General known for his staunch laws about what was and was not appropriate to send through the mail.

Craddock’s continual effort to prove herself as an intellectual comes up against sexism, censorship, and ill-will from Comstock who see her as a deviant. But she doesn’t allow her mother or Comstock to stand in her way. Pinching pennies to pursue her path, she moves from city to city to have the freedom to continue her studies. The book covers her time in England, California, Chicago, and her home city of Philadelphia. Finally, in New York City, Craddock stands her ground against Comstock. She advertises her services as a marriage counselor and proclaims herself High Priestess of the Church of Yoga. She openly sees clients and hands out her work, baiting Comstock to come after her.

Eventually, Comstock does bring charges against her. And this time, unlike her previous arrest where she took a plea deal, Craddock refuses to back down and uses the trials as an opportunity to take a stand for what she believes in. With the assistance of other open-minded reformers and activists, Craddock used her publicity to advocate for free speech. Ultimately though, facing serious jail time, Craddock decided to end her life as a free woman, writing in a letter to her mother, “I maintain my right to die as I have lived, a free woman, not cowed into silence by any other human being.”

Personally, I absolutely loved this book and think Kosher did an incredible job of portraying Craddock. I first learned about Craddock when reading the work of Emma Goldman, who really looked up to Craddock and sung her praises. I then read The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age when it was released in 2021. That book gave me insight into Craddock’s significant role in advocating for women’s rights and free speech.

However, even with all this information I had read about Craddock, she never really became someone I connected with personally until West’s writing in Censored Angels. Kosher drew from Craddock’s letters, diaries, published work, as well as first hand material such as newspaper and magazine articles and court records to create this narrative. Even though this book is historical fiction, the way Kosher weaves in actual quotes provides the readers with insight into Craddock’s inner world.

Kosher also does a very good job of setting readers within the time and place of Craddock’s life. Small details about the way people dressed or the current trends ground readers in the historical period of Craddock’s life, further situating the significance of her work in comparison to the repressed Victorian values that dominated the Gilded Age.

I also was simply blown away by how well Kosher seemed to understand Craddock. The level of commitment she must have put into this research, the time truly contemplating Craddock’s motives and what she was trying to do, along with respect for her spiritual truth, most notably her angelic husband Soph, demonstrate considerable talent on West’s part. It’s one thing to write a biography, it’s a whole other thing to tell the fictional autobiography through a first-person narrative and make it feel so real.

All in all, I highly recommend Censored Angel to those interested in spiritualism and feminism. Craddock is not given enough recognition for her life’s work, which truly paved the way for others to advocate for women’s rights to have knowledge about their own bodies and agency over their sexual and marital affairs. West’s writing is sure to keep you amused (I was hooked from the first chapter!) and make you feel admiration for the sacrifices Craddock made to share her divine wisdom with the general public to ensure Americans maintained their freedom of speech.

The Royal Path of Shakti, by Daniel Odier

The Royal Path of Shakti: The Erotic and Magical Techniques of Kaula Tantra, by Daniel Odier
Inner Traditions, 9781644117163, 187 pages, July 2023

Daniel Odier has detailed and explained each technique of the Kaula Tantra in his book The Royal Path of Shakti: The Erotic and Magical Techniques of Kaula Tantra.

Odier was born in Geneva and studied fine arts in both Rome and Paris. After working as a music critic for a newspaper, he traveled to India and studied with Kalu Rinpoche for seven years. Almost ten years later, he met the yogini Lalita Devi and received a transmission of Mahamudra and other mystical teachings in the Kaula Tantra Tradition. He presents the teachings in this book with the full permission of Lalita Devi. Odier has shared these teachings all over the world, as well as publishing poetry, critical works, and numerous books on tantra and Eastern mysticism. When not traveling, he resides in Switzerland.

“The problem with seeking enlightenment is that you always come to the point where you think you have it.”1

In his preface, Odier gives a thorough history of tantra and the great masters. With this background as his base teaching, he shares 43 Practices then followed by 24 Patala of the Kaulajnananirnaya Tantra. In addition to a Table of Contents that spells out each practice and patala, each page is earmarked with either the name of the practice or the number of the patala. This makes it very easy to navigate the teachings. He also adds this note about the teachings from his yogini Lalita Devi:

“Each time that I asked her where something was in the Kaula Tantra, she would smile and reply “I am placing it in your heart and that will be your library. Knowledge is not practice and the Matsyendranath took care to conceal the practice so that only he who received the direct transmission could penetrate the mysteries of the twilight language.”2

In reading about the practices, I learned that the chakra system was a little different from the chakras I had been taught in my yoga practice and Reiki training. This system utilized eight chakras, including one on the forehead AND one between the eyebrows. The other difference was the addition of a chakra of the mouth and palate. Throughout the information on the practices, Odier weaves stories of his own initiation into this magical system for life.

One of my favorite practices is “Practice 23: Dietary Practices”. In this chapter, I learned about the interconnectedness of everything and how everything is alive. He speaks of the importance of asking your body what it wants to eat. I also enjoyed “Practice 40: The Yoga of Looking with Your Skin”. I recorded the meditation in that chapter and enjoyed this exploration with the ruby goddess.

After reviewing the practices, I was interested to know what “patala” meant. It translates as “feet,” and refers to the lower regions of the universe: underworld or netherworld. These transmissions bestow sacred knowledge to the student and each one builds on the patala that comes before it. As I was reading the warehouse of knowledge in the second part of the book, I was reminded of A Course in Miracles and how the text starts with simple ideas and builds the knowledge base of the student.

My favorite patala is Patala 7, which relates to “old age and decline.”3 Through a series of meditations over a period of six months, one can transcend age and dying:

“By uniting with Kamakala, one can put an end to old age. Thus, we have explained to you the secret and the characteristics of the being who has changed inwardly.”4

At the end of the book, Odier shares a brilliant conclusion, a glossary of spiritual and mystical terms and a complete index. Each of these helps the reader process the information that he relates. This last sentence summarizes the teachings of Odier. The life of the yogi truly relates to changing oneself from the inside out. In his conclusion, he says this about the Kaula Tantra tradition:

“The yoginis saw the master-disciple relationship as an intense heart-to-heart experience-no wasting of time, no prerequisite purification, no milestones to get beyond. . . This is what this text reveals to us, imbued with the magic of a time freed of all religious conformism.”5

Odier’s writing style is very conversational and easy to read. The patala section is written as a letter or a journal entry that chronicles questions from the student and the teacher’s reply. I really enjoyed this style of writing and found it to be very personal and authentic.

The Royal Path of Shakti would be good for any yoga student, yoga teacher, or anyone who wants to strengthen his relationship with spirit or adopt a spiritual practice. I can see myself starting the new year or a new month by rereading the book, in a “practice a day” systematic approach.

Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil, by Douglas Charles Hodgson

Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil: What Humanity Can Learn from the Near Death Experience, by Douglas Charles Hodgson
O-Books, 1803413409, 152 pages, January 2024

In his beautiful tribute to life on the Other Side, Douglas Charles Hodgson highlights experiences from people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) in Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil: What Humanity Can Learn from the Near Death Experience. This book not only recaps these experiences, but also catalogs what he learned from over 500 interviews from the International Association for Near-Death Studies and its website.

Douglas Charles Hodgson is a retired lawyer, dean, and professor of law, who has focused on human rights, religious discrimination, and religious fundamentalism. Following his forty-year legal career in Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand, he began a study of twelve religions, as he searched for the meaning of life. After this exploration, he wrote a book called Transcendental Spirituality, Wisdom and Virtue. Hodgson has also written four other books.  Born in Canada, Hodgson now lives in Perth, Australia and has dual citizenship.

In his preface, Hodgson presents the concept for his book and how he came to be interested in NDE experiences, following the publication of his book on transcendental spirituality. He made use of information from the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) and the hundreds of accounts from people who experienced NDEs. He asserts that he “decouples spirituality from a religious context”1

“Indeed, numerous IANDS authors declared that before their near-death experience, they had no religion and did not believe in the existence of God or an afterlife, while others who were adherents to a particular religion or faith declared that after their experience, their particular religion was of less importance to them and henceforth aspired to be more spiritual in their outlook on life and in their dealings with others in the natural environment.”2

He hopes that this book will “provide comfort and assurance to those who have fear or uncertainty about the eventual demise of their physical bodies. It is to reassure them that their souls are eternal and that there is a beautiful afterlife to be enjoyed within the higher spiritual realms (our true home).”3

Hodgson takes care to let the reader know that all accounts were anonymous, and that no identifying information is shared. He also points out that while no two NDEs are the same, there are similarities and accounts that “tend to corroborate one another.”4 Within this book, Hodgson takes the accounts from people who have experienced an NDE and arranges the comments into nineteen categories.  

Starting each chapter with the name of the topic, Hodgson provides a brief explanation of the NDE information that he will include.  Then, he lists the comments or experiential narrative from each NDE that fits in this category. 

For example, the first chapter is entitled “God/The Source”, and it includes what various NDE authors “have described concerning their encounters with God and God’s supra-human qualities and attributes as well as any messages or revelations which were imparted to them either by God or higher spiritual beings.”5

Here are just a few of these comments:

“God exists as well as an afterlife beyond our earthly life.”6

“God is our creator and our soul returns to him.”7

“God is the center, and we are all spokes of the universal wheel.”8

My favorite chapter was one entitled “Loving Yourself”.  In this chapter, Hodgson shares the importance of loving oneself, “not in a narcissistic sense but in a compassionate sense.”9 He goes on to share revelations on self-love from those who experienced an NDE, including the following comment:

“My life review taught me that before we can let God’s light and love in,  we must forgive ourselves.”10

Hodgson’s book is written in a very conversational, clear style. The information is presented in a very open and objective way, and one that does not include any bias or religious connotations. I am impressed by the time and work that went into researching, cataloging, and writing this chronicle of NDEs. The organization of all of this material, from over 500 accounts of NDEs, is truly remarkable. He also includes a few sources for learning more about NDEs. 

What I like best about Hodgson’s book is the way that I can use this information for daily encouragement or journal prompts.  For example, in the chapter called “Our Earthly Life Purpose and Meaning”, I saw these thought-provoking prompts that I want to use for daily affirmations:

“Life is meant to be lived in abundance.”

“Do not be concerned over what others may think of you. “

“There is meaning in everything.”

Spiritual Revelations from Beyond the Veil would be great for all interested in what happens after we pass on, including anyone who needs encouragement after a loss, someone at a crossroads or someone asking “why?” in a general context.  In Hodgson’s own words:

“For those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and for those who feel lost and confused about the meaning and purpose to their lives and what lies ahead of them, it is hoped that this book will provide comfort, peace, solace, assurance and direction.”11

My husband and I work with grieving people, giving mediumship readings, and providing resources for life after a loss. Hodgson’s book will provide us with even more information to share with our clients, family and friends.

Bones & Honey, by Danielle Dulsky

Bones & Honey: A Heathen Prayer Book, by Danielle Dulsky
New World Library, 1608688925, 208 pages, November 2023

While prayer comes from the heart, oftentimes we still long for the words to express ourselves. Bones and Honey: A Heathen Prayer Book by Danielle Dulsky gives voice to prayers we didn’t even know we needed—those secret whispers of the heart we can only hear when we slow down to listen. Dulsky’s words in this book are the balm to our weary soul in trying times, the catharsis that brings sweet release, to usher in a new vision.

“To pray is not to submit but to cast a spell, to speak our imaginations aloud and make manifest our most earnest requests. No spell comes to fruition without the confluence of innumerable sources, and every Witch knows this well. By extension, every spell is, in part, a prayer.”1

As a little girl, I devoutly learned to say my Christian prayers each night. Decades later, I will still find myself saying a quick Hail Mary at times, but that’s about the only prayer I can remember that feels resonant after wading through the wounds the Catholic Church inflicted on my spirit. I’ve yearned to have new prayers woven into my body and soul’s memory to call forth when needed, especially words to encapsulate what I’m feeling in the midst of troubling modern times featuring pandemics, ecological collapse, and war.

My path in witchcraft has unleashed unforeseen desires, teaching me the value of integrating all aspects of myself. Yet, it still remains a challenge to feel prayer deeply within my body, rather than as though I am being forced to prostrate myself to the limited gods available in modern religion, with hopes of calling into being my visions. Dulsky captures my sentiment perfectly in the introduction to this book, writing:

“As the veil continues to life, as the curtain rises to reveal far more sacred actors than the few famed gods whose names we all know well, we still need prayer. We have our own “earn requests,” not for forgiveness or redemption but for all beings, ourselves included, to be whole, well, and free.”2

What words are left when we cast our guilt, shame, and falsehood aside to reveal what’s left at the core (bones), instead opening up to be a channel for goodness and sweetness (honey) in the world?  Whether you read these prayers aloud or quietly to yourself, the potent force of these prayers is bound to have a ripple effect.

Now, it’s worth noting that the term “prayer” in this book might be different from what one has come to associate with the term. Dulsky’s prayers include blessings, songs, and even short stories. And they are  organized into thirteen books, each one an archetype that she believes is an important medicine for the world right now. Then every book consists of thirteen prayers related to the theme of the archetype.

Some examples of the books are “Book of Wild Lovers: Prayers for Lust, Seduction, and Majestic Relatedness”,  “Book of the Nameless Grandmothers: Prayers for Ancestral healing, Lineage Exploration, and Forgiveness”, “Book of the Botanical Babe: Prayers for Innocents, Beginnings, and Wild Children”, and “Book of Shape-Shifters: Prayers for Time Weavers, Human Evolution, and Strange Futures”

These archetypal themes are just the general essence of each chapter, and Dulsky provides an overview of the significance of the archetype and why it’s relevant to healing in modern times. And if this is all feeling a bit heady now, as archetypes can sometimes be given their expansiveness, the organization of the book makes it VERY easy to find exactly the prayer you need at any point in time.

Skimming through the table of contents, one is easily able to find the right prayer for them. The prayers are all numbered and within the title is the circumstance to say the prayer. For instance, if I was looking for “6.2 In Praise of our Wild Stories: To Sing When the Moon is New” to do a ritual, I would immediately know to go to the second prayer in chapter six.

Admittedly, I’ve mostly read the book in bits and pieces as I feel called to by prayer, rather than moving through all the archetypes sequentially. But I think there’s value in delving into each archetype and moving through the prayers to understand the archetype’s energy more.

As for Dulsky’s writing, it’s lyrical, raw, and potent. It has a boldness that cuts deep, even in the tenderest of times. I’ve been reading the words aloud and often feel I become infused with a greater power; my voice shifts as I feel the emotion run through me. The brilliance of this book quickly becomes a channel, and I have no doubt the prayers I am reciting are reverberating to create change.

I’d like to say I picked a favorite poem to share, but every one I read stirs something within me that I can hardly set one above another. Some that have felt especially potent though are “9.2 See Our Joy: To Giggle-Spit at the False Prophets”, which reads in part:

“See our joy and be on your way, preacher. We repent nothing, and you can’t sell our own belonging back to us. We’ll find our own redemption in the forest and take our communion from the  mountain stream, thank you very much.”3

I also have really been vibing with “6.1 The Old Haunted Skin: The Snake’s Dark Moon Energy”, which begins:

“Shedding this too-small skin, I am, for this serpentine queen makes herself ready for what comes.”4

Finally, the tender prayers of motherhood and wild children call to me, such as this snippet of “13.4 Love, Innocence, and Climate Change: A Prayer for Young Families”:

“Our strange souls chose each other to share a home in this time of great unraveling, in these wild moments of war, heat, disease, and rising waters. Fools might call it coincidence, the coming together of our peculiar family, the knowing ones understand the nature of fate.”5

All in all, Bones & Honey fills the reader with world-shifting, world-building, and world-sustaining words. Dulskey’s prayers defy time, connecting us to the past, present, and future, while anchoring us in our bodies. These prayers are much-needed medicine for our time, and I truly am excited to know I’ll be chanting them heart to heart with a powerful collective of heathens and witches.

Soul Journey through the Tarot, by John Sandbach

Soul Journey through the Tarot: Key to a Complete Spiritual Practice, by John Sandbach
Destiny Books, 1644117096, 384 pages, November 2023

I’ve been studying tarot for almost 27 years, but these magical cards contain so much wisdom that there is always something new to learn, and I often feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Most tarot books on the market tend to be geared towards beginners, rehashing the same sets of keywords and interpretations, so I get excited when I find a text that delves deeper into the esoteric teachings of the cards.

In Soul Journey through the Tarot: Key to a Complete Spiritual Practice, author John Sandbach shares his own unique magical system, co-created with his spirit guides and inspired by over 50 years of studying tarot. Sandbach first channeled these oracles in 1976, and wrote this updated edition with the intention that it will be used as “a tool for vibrational healing.”1

He has named the Major Arcana cards depicted in this book the Azoth Deck, and the illustrations were created by South Korean artist Daehee Son.

“Azoth,” Sandbach says, “refers to the spirit and energy of the planet Mercury, who in Egypt was the god Thoth, who was the inventor of the alphabet—the tarot being an alphabet of spiritual forces.”2

Sandbach has changed some of the traditional names of the Major Arcana. For example, as a departure from the final reckoning of Christianity, Sandbach calls the Judgment card “The Awakening,” a title that he feels more accurately captures the core meaning of Arcanum XX. The Devil, Arcanum XV, has been renamed “The Musician,” to avoid the negative connotations of the original title and shift the focus of the card to the inner harmony or discord of the seeker.

The book’s cover claims that this text integrates “numerology, astrology, Kabbalah, and the contemplative life.”3 I wanted to read this book to get a better grasp of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and Hebrew letters in relation to tarot, as well as deepen my understanding of the astrological tarot correspondences. However, I was surprised to find that many of Sandbach’s astrological and elemental associations are completely different from the Golden Dawn attributions I currently use, which I learned from The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (1984) by Israel Regardie (1907-1985).

Sandbach associates The High Priestess, titled “The Guardian of the Gate (Veiled Isis)”, with Virgo instead of the Moon; The Hermit, titled “The Seeker (The Sage)”, with Aquarius instead of Virgo; The Star, “The Light”, with Gemini instead of Aquarius; and so on.4 The Suit of Coins is assigned the element of Air instead of Earth, and Swords are Earth instead of Air.5 Even though most of these associations don’t resonate with me, I decided to keep an open mind and shift my perspective to include them, at least for the duration of time it took me to read this book.

Sandbach justifies the association of Coins with Air by explaining that exchanging currency for goods is an abstract concept created by the mind, and “the air element resonates with concepts and systems formed through the mental activity of humans.”6 Swords, on the other hand, are practical instruments made of metal, which penetrate the density of matter. These elemental associations have Vedic origins, and relate to the Hindu tattwa system. He borrowed his elemental and astrological associations from The Sacred Tarot by astrologer and occultist C.C. Zain (1882-1951), a work that was a major influence on his approach to tarot.7 Sandbach acknowledges that these are less popular tarot associations, and advises the reader to use whatever correspondences make the most sense to them, because all systems are valid.

“Ultimately,” he says, “we must realize that the four physical elements are not four distinctly different things, but the same thing in different states.”8

This is an excellent point, and it made me more receptive to his alternative elemental associations. 

While I had a hard time connecting with many of these correspondences, the Virgo association with The High Priestess, titled “The Guardian of the Gate (Veiled Isis)” was compelling to me, particularly in how it influenced Sandbach’s interpretation of the card. Virgo rules the digestive system, and the message of the High Priestess is to “be watchful of what you ‘eat,’ whether it be food, thoughts, emotions, concepts, or vibrations.”9 I personally associate The High Priestess with Persephone, whose fast was broken by pomegranate seeds while she was in the Underworld, so the digestion message really spoke to me. The Moon, which is usually the planetary association for this card, is considered to be the ruler of Virgo in esoteric astrology, and knowing this reinforces the validity of Virgo as an alternative astrological association for the High Priestess.

The most unique tarot associations Sandbach gives are spirit names in the intergalactic Language of Space. “This universal constructed language, known as aUI,” Sandbach says, “was originally received from extraterrestrial beings by psychologist and linguist Dr. John Weilgart (1913-1981) in the early 1950s.”10 aUI (pronounced “ah-OO-ee”) is a sound-based language, and the aliens who transmitted it to Dr. Weilgart told him that it had been spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.11

Sandbach gives a spirit name in aUI for each major arcana card and supplies the correct pronunciations for the reader. For example, the spirit name for the High Priestess (Veiled Isis) is ytlUkU (pronounced “yit-LOO-koo”).12 Sandbach says these spirit names were channeled by him and belong to entities associated with the cards.

“The letters of aUI and their sounds can be used for contemplation and to make up your own magical words,” Sandbach says.13

What a fascinating concept! Even if a reader doesn’t agree with Sandbach’s tarot associations, the chapter on the Language of Space is intriguing.

I draw a daily tarot card for myself almost every morning, and I decided to apply Sandbach’s interpretations while reading his book. One of the cards I drew was Strength from The Bones Arcana.

Sandbach calls Strength “Arcanum XI: The Maiden (The Enchantress)” and associates her with the planet Neptune. I love the title “The Enchantress,” which brings to mind the Greek witch goddess Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, who was accompanied by lions in the Odyssey and transformed Odysseus’s crew into pigs. I tend to prefer numbering this card 8 instead of 11 because I associate it with Leo, and the eighth month of August. Sandbach’s Neptune association aligns with the belief of some modern astrologers that Neptune is exalted in Leo.

Sandbach says of “The Enchantress” that “she has gained ascendancy over one of nature’s most powerful creatures, and she has accomplished this through the actualization of her psychic power, as well as through her love.”14 Sandbach’s description of Strength as “the arcanum of psychic power,”15 reminded me again of Witch Queen Circe. In the Odyssey, she was a loner who lived on the uncharted island of Aeaea. She was a master of illusion magic, involving shapeshifting and crafting potions, and she revealed the bestial natures of those who invaded her privacy by transforming them into animals.

All of these skills have a very Neptunian quality to them. Neptune is the hypnotic and bewitching planet of dreams, fantasies, glamor, illusions, mysticism, and drugs (or potions, in Circe’s case). Circe was the daughter of the sun god Helios, and Sandbach says the Sun is the root ruler of this card, while Neptune is the “therapeutic agent.”16 After exploring the Circe connection I made to the Strength card, I appreciate Sandbach’s Neptune association much more. 

Sandbach’s system is a radical departure from what most tarot students are probably familiar with, and this reminds me of the differences between tropical (Western) astrology and sidereal (Vedic) astrology. Western astrology is more popular, but both systems are equally valid. Tarot readers influenced by occultist C.C. Zain will likely resonate with Sandbach’s system, while those who have memorized the Golden Dawn’s tarot associations may find these correspondences a bit more difficult to integrate.

Sandbach claims that the system he uses, which is modeled after Zain’s work, “is a therapeutic or healing system,” while the more common associations, which he says are based on the Kabbalistic text titled the Sepher Yetzirah (the “Book of Formation,” or  the “Book of Creation”), encompass “the root, or actual system.”17 Approaching his associations as a complementary healing system may help readers blend Sandbach’s method with the one they currently use.

Initially I was resistant to the teachings in this book because I was hoping to expand my understanding of the Golden Dawn associations, not learn a completely new system. However, being receptive to correspondences I didn’t agree with and exploring them with open-minded curiosity helped me glean new insights about the cards. I think any experienced tarot reader will benefit from questioning and reevaluating the associations they have memorized by being open to alternative ones or intuitively assigning their own. After all, when used as a tool for spiritual growth, tarot expands consciousness and opens our minds to new possibilities, so the archetypal images have infinite layers of interpretation. In this light, Soul Journey through the Tarot can help seasoned readers rediscover tarot and tap into new ways of relating to the cards.

Your Tarot Guide, by Melinda Lee Holm

Your Tarot Guide: Learn to Navigate Life With the Help of the Cards, by Melinda Lee Holm and illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason
CICO Books, 1800652607, 160 pages, October 2023

Does the world really need another guide to reading tarot? Well, if it’s Melinda Lee Holm’s Your Tarot Guide: Learn to Navigate Life With the Help of the Cards, then the answer is absolutely yes! This book is a fresh approach on helping novice and experienced readers use the cards to literally navigate life–imagine a guide to help you through the rough times, the murky times, the times when the path seems unclear.

Holm views the tarot as a “language and a tool,” and guides the reader into using it to navigate “life using tarot as a compass.”1 While applicable to all tarot decks, she uses her two decks, Elemental Power Tarot and Tarot of Tales, as the illustrations in this book. They were both illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason, the illustrator of this book too! What I found interesting is that the imagery in these decks do not include human figures as Holm believes that tarot is for everyone.

Holms reminds the reader that the cards do not foretell the future but rather offer a way to move through your life toward the life you desire. There are no bad cards, she explains, there is only information and conversation, thus removing the fear of using tarot the wrong way or receiving bad messages. Phew! That is a weight off my shoulders, giving me more room to open up and discern the card’s symbolism and meaning instead of becoming bogged down with worry.

The start of the book provides a comprehensive section on tarot basics, where it comes from, how the cards function as a whole, and how to choose and care for your deck. There are accompanying exercises to help you “get acquainted with your new best friend.”2 I loved the friend description of the deck. Yes, a good friend will help guide you through the challenging times, celebrate the good times, be honest without being judgmental and always have your best interests at heart!

For those new to tarot, the descriptions of the major and minor arcana are easy to understand. There is a big, wonderful table that makes it easy to understand correspondences. The major arcana overview includes astrological associations, crystal connections, apothecary associations in the form of essences, herbs, and flowers, and also affirmations. The minor arcana descriptions have association with card numbers as well as elemental correspondences for example, swords/air.

I did the exercises in the beginning section and found them to be a fun, non-intimidating way to connect with the cards. Although I’ve been using tarot for over three decades I enjoyed taking the time to do the exercises such as associating people I knew or famous people, characters from books, etc. with each of the major arcana cards.

I agree with Holm’s recommendations for how to choose a tarot deck, namely use the one you’re drawn to and make sure it has a “tone” that resonates with you. Ensure the images are ones that you welcome into your life. And, use the same deck for a year to allow yourself to open to its messages. She provides marvelous rituals to opening up and caring for the deck as well as keeping a tarot journal – all things that I do. And I love anyone who recommends keeping selenite, one of my favorite mineral cleansers, with the deck. I wish I had this book when I first started using tarot as a guide. 

Also, of particular help to the tarot reader is the questions that she answers that most of us have probably asked at some time or another while using tarot, such as what if someone touches my deck, what if I don’t get the answer I want, why am I getting bad news?

As a good guide, Melinda offers different tarot spreads ranging from a single card to an ambitious twelve card spread. For each spread she posed a different general question and the detailed question that each card would answer. The twelve-card spread was on the year ahead which is one that I have never done. For each group of three cards she referenced them to equinoxes and solstices. I will definitely put some quiet time aside at the end of December to do this spread. 

The majority of the book is Holm’s take on the major and minor arcana. Readers can look up the card they’re curious about and find descriptions that are  easily understandable and unintimidating. Both beginners and experienced readers will benefit from her descriptions of each card because Holm’s explanation brings unique insight.

For each of the Major Arcana she offers comments on the meaning of areas such as love and relationships, career and money, and challenge/reversal. She also associates each card with astrology, a Hebrew letter, a crystal, apothecary, and an affirmation. The first couple descriptions of each Major card vary, however. For The Fool she writes about Practicing Presence, for The Hermit about Seeds of Invention, and for The Moon about Reflections on Reflecting. The questions she poses for each card are not static but rather, prompt reflection.

For the Minor Arcana she describes what each of the four suits corresponds to and what they support. She offers general crystal associations and apothecary associations for each suit. The card descriptions are less probing than those of the Major Arcana but very clear and concise.

I’ve been working with Tarot for over three decades, but to be honest, I’ve always had trouble understanding the Court cards. Actually, I disliked it when I pulled one. I had never received a clear understanding in any guide I read about their meanings. Until now. Melinda descriptions were so relatable to me that now I actually want to draw Court cards!

Rohan Daniel Eason’s striking artwork fills the book. As I mentioned, he illustrated Melinda’s two tarot decks, Elemental Power Tarot and Tarot of Tales, and illustrations from each deck are offered for each of the 78 cards. Just like in those decks, illustrations for this book are the perfect companion to Holm’s text.

This book is filled with vivid imagery that keeps the reader visually engaged while flipping through it. The cover is framed by the tentacles of an octopus framing a rough sea with a pirate ship attempting to get through the storm. Birds serenely watch the scene, not phased by the storm, similar to how readers will feel about life when they read Holm’s take on the tarot. It’s wonderful to see how well the imagery and words bolster each on in this book.

Overall, I highly recommend Your Tarot Guide  for all who are interested in tarot, novice and experienced. Holm’s expertise as an author and experience of creating her own tarot decks  comes forth in this book to provide a guiding light for reading the cards. All that you need to navigate the wisdom of the tarot is held within these pages!

Healing Pluto Problems, by Donna Cunningham

Healing Pluto Problems: An Astrological Guide (Weiser Classics Series), by Donna Cunningham
Weiser Books, 1578638151, 256 pages, December 2023

Ever since Pluto was first discovered in 1930, our perception of this celestial body has been growing and evolving. While Pluto was initially recognized as the ninth planet in our solar system, it was demoted to dwarf planet in 2006, and a lot of people who grew up knowing Pluto as a planet are still bitter about this demotion (myself included!). Despite astronomers minimizing its significance, modern astrologers acknowledge the Underworld power of Pluto by assigning it as the modern ruler of Scorpio and the Eighth House.

Native Scorpio Suns pride themselves on being Plutonians, and they can be quite possessive of that identity (all Scorpios believe they were born under the best sign in the zodiac!), but they don’t own Pluto. Everyone has Pluto somewhere in their natal chart, and significant Pluto transits can have profound and lasting effects on our lives.

In Healing Pluto Problems: An Astrological Guide, astrologer Donna Cunningham (1942-2017) explores the immense impact Pluto has on the soul’s evolution. Originally published in 1986, this Weiser Classics edition includes a foreword written by astrologer Lisa Stardust. This book has been on my wish list for a while now, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review it.

Cunningham defines a Pluto person as anyone who has Scorpio placements in their natal chart or a prominent Pluto connected to their Sun, Moon, Ascendant, or Midheaven.1 According to her definition, I’m a Plutonian, despite my Gemini Rising and Gemini stellium (Sun, Moon, and Venus in Gemini), because my natal Mars and Saturn are cozied up together in my Scorpio Sixth House. I was very close to having Pluto in Scorpio as well, but right before I was born, Pluto backpedaled into Libra due to retrograde motion, so I’m a member of the Pluto in Libra generation.

In Healing Pluto Problems, Cunningham addresses a wide range of taboo emotions and traumatic experiences Plutonians may experience with compassion and sensitivity, such as grief, resentment, alcoholism, domestic violence, incest, abuse, and suicidal thoughts. She gives guidance on how Plutonians can process the intense and complex emotions that arise from their life challenges, and she also coaches professional astrologers on how to counsel the Plutonian people who confide in them.

“One reason Plutonians keep their secrets is that so often the people they go to for help wind up making them feel worse—more ashamed, more angry, and more betrayed,”2 Cunningham says.

Being forced to keep their taboo emotions secret in order to avoid negative reactions from others often makes Plutonians feel isolated and alone, as if they are “from another planet.”3 I’ve observed this as spiritual bypassing in religious and New Age communities, in which people are often shamed for feeling angry or resentful about past victimization, and chastised for not being more forgiving of their abusers. Talking about Plutonian emotions can be a healthy way to release the pressure of them, but it can be difficult to find safe spaces with trustworthy people to confide in. For example, Plutonians who have suicidal thoughts must keep quiet about them when talking to a therapist, even if they have no intention of acting upon them, because that therapist may perceive the Plutonian as a danger to themselves and feel legally obligated to have them committed, which would be a traumatizing experience that would compound those negative feelings with more layers of shame and betrayal. 

However, Cunningham points out that there are potential benefits to Plutonian solitude. “Isolation may be a condition which some require in order to develop their abilities to the fullest or to achieve an agreed-upon life purpose,” Cunningham says. “It may be necessary to focus on some singular activity, rather than being immersed in the daily needs of family or other relationships.”4 Isolation can also be therapeutic, especially when one is processing grief or trauma.

“When we do not give ourselves time to regenerate and to process new stages of life,” Cunningham says, “resentment and grief can build up to toxic levels.”5 

Plutonian transits can generate healing crises, during which the Pluto problems seem to intensify, as if resisting one’s efforts to heal them. Repressed emotions are at the core of all Pluto issues, and they will flare up, demanding recognition. “The feelings don’t get worse,” Cunningham says, “you are just more aware of them and of the thought patterns behind them. Heightened awareness is part of the process.”6 The cathartic release of repressed emotions is like an acne breakout after a skin treatment. It seems like things are getting worse because all the dirt and grime that was clogging the pores is coming to the surface, but it’s all a necessary part of the purging and cleansing process. 

Cunningham offers healing methods to assist the process, such as affirmations, chants, flower essences, chakra cleansing visualizations, and color therapy. In the section on healing with color, I was fascinated to learn that purple, my favorite color, assists in “releasing and processing old resentments,”7 and that purple’s popularity increased when Pluto entered Scorpio. For almost a decade, I have preferred purple sheets on my bed, so perhaps my gravitation towards this color has been an unconscious impulse to help myself heal with the higher vibrational energies of purple while I sleep.

Cunningham supplies sample charts of a few famous Plutonians, including Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, and Sigmund Freud. Building upon her examples, I thought I would explore the chart of a prominent celebrity whose Plutonian struggles have attracted a lot of media attention. I read pop star Britney Spears’s memoir The Woman in Me (2023) alongside Healing Pluto Problems, which is quite fitting because Britney has Pluto Rising in Libra [natal chart], and her life struggles illustrate the unfair power dynamics that tend to manifest in the relationships of the Pluto in Libra generation.

Many of Cunningham’s insights about Plutonians apply to Britney. According to Cunningham, Plutonians tend to be the children of alcoholics, and, as a child, Britney was afraid of her alcoholic father, who would go on benders and disappear for days, which she said “was a kindness” because she “preferred it when he wasn’t there.”8 She also reveals in her memoir that her mother started giving her alcohol when she was in eighth grade. “By thirteen,” she says, “I was drinking with my mom and smoking with my friends.”9

As Britney rose to stardom, her Pluto Rising gave her a sexual magnetism that was perceived as threatening by the media, and she was criticized for being a corrupting influence on youth because of the way she dressed. During interviews, she was subjected to a lot of uncomfortable and inappropriate questions about her body and sex life, and she was shamed for her sexuality throughout her career. “I was a teenage girl from the South,” Britney writes in her memoir. “I signed my name with a heart. I liked looking cute. Why did everyone treat me, even when I was a teenager, like I was dangerous?”10

In her memoir, Britney describes herself as empathic and felt that she was absorbing all the negativity that was being projected onto her. She even believed her misfortune was due to bad karma catching up with her. It’s heartbreaking to read, in her own words, how this vivacious, free-spirited, and talented young woman was eviscerated by the media and financially exploited by her own family. After reading Britney’s memoir, I suspect it was ancestral trauma seeking expression and healing through her, not “bad karma” she had personally accrued (this is exactly why I have taken the word karma out of my spiritual vocabulary; it can guilt trip people into taking blame for things beyond their control!) 

“Tragedy runs in my family,” Britney says. “My middle name comes from my father’s mother, Emma Jean Spears, who went by Jean.”11 Britney was the spitting image of her paternal grandmother Jean, who took her own life in 1966, at the age of 31. Jean had lost a baby eight years prior, and shot herself over her infant son’s grave. Jean had also been abused by her husband June, Britney’s grandfather, and he had kept her institutionalized in an asylum where she was given lithium.

The parallels between Britney’s life and Jean’s are chilling. During Britney’s divorce from Keven Federline, the father of her children, she had a very public mental breakdown because she was grieving the loss of her two little boys since Kevin had full custody and would not allow her to see them. The breakdown landed her in a conservatorship, in which all her assets and every aspect of her life was placed under the control of the alcoholic father she had feared so much as a child. During Britney’s abusive conservatorship, her father, who apparently had learned from his own father to send defiant women to asylums, also had Britney institutionalized and put on lithium like her grandmother, in a disturbing reenactment of the Spears family’s intergenerational trauma. 

Pluto is a generational planet, and, after reading these two books together, I believe that the placement of Pluto reveals the intergenerational trauma that one is destined to transform into personal power. In other words, Pluto is your inheritance of unprocessed ancestral trauma. I feel like the Pluto in Libra generation in particular has quite a burden to bear because they are the intergenerational mediators, and the Libran desire to restore harmony may cause them to take on more than their fair share.

As a member of the Pluto in Libra generation, I sympathized with Britney’s relationship struggles and court battles because I also went through a nasty divorce around the same time she did. I’ve noticed that my own relationship issues are also rooted in ancestral trauma. I can only imagine how traumatic it was for her to go through all of that publically, especially compounded with the endless harassment by paparazzi. 

As a Libra Rising, Britney’s chart ruler is Venus, and her natal Venus at 25° Capricorn forms an exact square with her natal Pluto at 25° Libra. This emphasizes that her way of relating to people (Venus) needs to be transformed (Pluto) in this lifetime. Britney Jean’s Pluto is in the first house, and, by bearing her ancestor’s name, the trauma associated with her grandmother Jean’s memory expressed itself through Britney’s public persona. It’s also noteworthy that Britney’s Pluto is conjunct Saturn, the planet of incarceration, and she was locked under the conservatorship for almost the entire duration of Pluto’s transit of Capricorn (ruled by Saturn). Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008, the same year Britney’s conservatorship began. The conservatorship was terminated on November 12th, 2021, when Pluto was at 24° Capricorn, forming an almost exact square to her natal Pluto at 25° Libra.

In Healing Pluto Problems, Cunningham says that the square between Pluto and natal Pluto “is a major chance to heal your Pluto problems” and presents opportunities for “confronting and breaking down barriers.”12 Transiting Pluto squaring Britney’s natal Pluto liberated her from a thirteen year abusive conservatorship, so if anyone who is reading this is afraid of their own Pluto square Pluto transit (which is one of the so-called midlife crisis transits), this is proof positive that it can emancipate you from long-standing Plutonian difficulties. I’m experiencing mine right now and I find this to be quite comforting.

Healing Pluto Problems is an excellent resource that has given me a lot of insight into understanding Pluto’s power in a natal chart, and any student or practitioner of astrology should have it in their library. The therapeutic advice Cunningham provides also helps Plutonians work on reclaiming their personal power through self-healing. This work is indeed a classic, and as Pluto transitions into the sign of Aquarius, the guidance Cunningham gives is just as relevant now as it was when it was first published in 1986.

Tarot Life Lessons, by Julia Gordon-Bramer

Tarot Life Lessons:  Living Wisdom from The Major Arcana, by Julia Gordon-Bramer
Destiny Books, 9781644118177, 216 pages, November 2023

In Tarot Life Lessons: Living Wisdom from The Major Arcana, Julia Gordon-Bramer endeavors to “heal the world”1 with her personal stories and those of her clients from 40 years of tarot card readings.

Gordon-Bramer picked up her first tarot deck at 16 and began her journey, and along the way, she became an award-winning author and poet, professor, and host of her own radio show turned podcast called Mystic Fix.  She currently lives in St. Louis, MO.  You can learn more about Gordon-Bramer on her website.

In the book’s introduction, Gordon-Bramer shares:

“The tarot is a tool to awaken and tame the subconscious, to help us grow our strengths and make changes when we identify our weaknesses. It’s a way to conquer problems and move on from painful situations and the baggage we carry through life.”2

Within this book, Gordon-Bramer shares stories from readings she has done in regard to the Major Arcana, the first 22 cards in most tarot decks. She references the Universal Rider-Waite tarot and features drawings of cards from this deck in this book. These major arcana cards “represent the key players and milestones in life, the sacred adventure from birth to death. Those are my primary focus in this book.”3 Each chapter features one of the cards from the magical 22 cards. Gordon-Bramer shares these stories in card order from The Fool to the World.

“My tarot cards became a life decoder and a compass to navigate  and reduce the chance of bad luck.”4

In the first chapter, Gordon-Bramer kicks off her story with the first card in the Major Arcana, the Fool. Here, she shares her own spiritual journey, including her fascination with the famous poet Sylvia Plath, who had her own tarot deck.  She conveys more about who she is, creating a bond with the readers, to set the stage for her trip through the rest of the cards.

My favorite card in the tarot deck is the Star card, so I was curious about Gordon-Bramer’s notes on this one. She shares a story about working at a renaissance festival with her son and the clients who came her way.  She worked with a young couple, a man who aspired to be a recording artist and another man who was a skeptic. To his comments, the author said:

“Tarot is about showing you where your energy is going. It gives you tools to understand yourself and guidance to make the changes you want.”5

Each chapter includes a highlighted section on a special TIP. For instance, in the chapter on the Fool, she provides suggestions for buying your first tarot deck. In the chapter on the Star, she addresses the question “Is Tarot Evil?”:

“Tarot does not call spirits, good or evil, into play. . . The idea behind the tarot is that we all have access to that knowledge and power because we are all one, of one spirit (which I call God). . . As a reminder, what the tarot shows us about the future is not fixed. We always have the power to change our path through the decisions that we make.”6

My favorite chapter in the book is the chapter on the Devil card. Gordon-Bramer weaves a story about two women who immigrated from Columbia to St. Louis and were seeking love and money.  When the Devil card popped into a reading for one of the ladies, the woman panicked.  Gordon-Bramer told her:

“Relax, this isn’t about being evil; It’s about being indulgent. The Devil is about  living large: good food, drink, pretty clothes, expensive cars, sex, vacations, sleeping late . . . you get the picture.”7

These ladies visited the author many times over the years and through her readings, Gordon-Bramer was able to support the women as they navigated their lives. 

The cover is beautiful, printed in a soft gray with pastel type and extra varnish on the three tarot cards featured on the front. On the back, the Gordon-Bramer’s photo is highlighted with varnish also! The book is a nice size, perfect for tucking into a handbag or backpack. In addition to a Table of Contents, Gordon-Bramer also puts the name of each chapter’s card at the top of each page.  This makes it very easy to navigate the book and find a chapter or passage. 

In the back of the book, she adds a list of resources, including her favorite tarot decks for client readings. She also features an extensive index for finding specific stories or tips within these pages. 

This book would be great for the experienced tarot reader, one who wants to add an additional layer to their readings. Gordon-Bramer combines client histories with her own tarot symbolism to add to your knowledge base. I can also see that this book will add to my own journey with the cards, as I refer to her stories when I pull a specific Major Arcana card for myself.

The last tip in Tarot Life Lessons was an important one. She shares how to use tarot cards for creativity:

“I know many creative people who pull a card for inspiration or to help them take a project in a new direction. We come to the tarot to find language for the impenetrable emotions and  things we don’t have language for. As they say: a picture says 1000 words. Let the tarot show you your next steps in life and how you might create it.8

Conjuring Dirt, by Taren S

Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards, by Taren S
Moon Books, 1803413328, 176 pages, October 2023

I love dirt. My father is a ceramic artist, so unlike other kids whose parents might have tried to keep them tidy, I was always encouraged to play in the mud and eventually learn how to shape clay into bowls and mugs. From there, my enjoyment of dirt, and nature in general, led me down a path of environmental science; I’ve studied the microbes in dirt and learned how soil’s nutrients are vital for the growth of plants, which keep us alive through a balanced ecosystem.

But beyond the mind-blowing scientific study of interconnectedness through the ground beneath our feet, I’d never realized the potency of dirt from a magical perspective prior to reading Conjuring Dirt: Magick of Footprints, Crossroads & Graveyards by Taren S. This book has opened a whole new realm of magic to me, which I’ve been eager to embrace!

Taren is a seasoned magical practitioner with roots in the Carolinas, though she now lives in California. For over a decade she’s worked as a spiritual counselor and tarot card reader at a Haitian Voodoo Doctor’s botanica. She is initiated as a High Priestess within American Witchcraft and as a Mama Bridget within American Voodoo/Hoodoo. In Conjuring Dirt, she shares a lot about her personal path, giving readers perspective into how she’s learned this craft as well as the traditions behind the content of the book.

“We all have sacred and special dirt specifically to us. When we go back through memories we can ground into the land, and we can build new memories through the land. This in itself is a magical spiritual journey.”1

In this book, Taren teaches readers about three categories of dirt: Graveyard, Crossroads, and Purposeful (Footprint). She dedicates lengthy chapters to each one, giving the reader a full sense of the powerful energy held within the dirt and the many ways each one can be utilized in magickal workings.

She starts with Purposeful Dirt, noting that it’s the “most common and easily accessible”2 kind. Since it’s very versatile, Taren describes ways this dirt can be used for cleansing, banishing, and spellwork. She teaches about the types of spirit of place, such as Ancestral spirits and Land spirits, and how to connect and work with these spirits. Then she covers “spirit of the root” and how to unite with plants as allies. The list of plants and herbs and the way they can be used, which spans a whole ten pages, is immensely valuable to all practitioners, especially those new to working with plants and herbs.

Reading over parts of this section made me think of the land in a new way; did you know you can use the dirt from banks, casinos, and libraries for magickal purposes such as prosperity spells, amulets, and building knowledge?! Prior to this, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the dirt or spirit of these places. Now everywhere I go, I’m thinking about the energy of my surroundings, taking time to pause and attune to the spirit of the place, and think creatively about how the dirt might be utilized.

Crossroads Dirt comes from the liminal spaces where “two different environments meet or intersect but is technically neither extreme.”3 At these intersections, boundaries are thinner; it can feel like stepping out of time as multiple directions become available, prompting initiated action before the moment passes by.

“The meaning of crossroads is all about liminal space. Liminal space is that in-between point that means both we are neither here, nor there. Liminal space as represented by crossroads points to 100% potential and opportunity. It is the place where magick happens because it is that slight crack when/where anything can happen.”4

In this section, Taren provides an overview of the global lore about crossroads, revealing similarities between cultures while also highlighting each one’s unique lore. She also covers crossroads and witches, crossroads in dreams and modern magic, the significance of ley lines, and offers a crossroads tarot spread.

After sharing about crossroad magic in general, Taren goes more in-depth about Crossroad Dirt specifically. She teaches readers about the different types of crossroads one might gather dirt from and the significance of soil from each one. She covers how best to collect the dirt, petition the crossroads, and offers a ritual to open the crossroads. Other workings Taren provides are for propensity, a spell to forget, and banishing.

Last but not least, the section on Graveyard Dirt. Taren explains Graveyard Dirt “is used to employ the spirit of the one buried for your intentions.”5 Taren covers so much in this section, from symbols on grave markers to gathering dirt from the roots of cemetery trees, and it completely opens new doors for readers. This section alone could be a whole book! But one emphasis that comes through strongly is showing respect for the deceased. I like how Taren always reminds readers to mind their manners above all else!

While reading the section on Graveyard Dirt, I’ve decided it’s high time I go visit my ancestor’s graves and leave an offering. I don’t plan on taking any dirt this time, but I would like to begin cultivating a relationship with them, learning more about who they were in life and how I can maintain a relationship with them in their afterlife. To start, my dad and I decided we are going to begin purchasing grave markers for the family member’s burial sites he’s found that do not have them.

All in all, Conjuring Dirt is a wonderful resource for all spiritual practitioners. I would go as far to say it’s been my favorite magical book I’ve read in 2023! Taren does such a wonderful job sharing all she knows to help readers begin to incorporate dirt in their workings. Her style of talking straight makes readers feel she really has their best interest at heart, ensuring they’re doing things the right way and not making trouble for themselves down the line. This book is sure to reshape your perception of the land beneath your feet and give a deeper appreciation for the magic held within the dirt we often take for granted or overlook.

Magical Tarot, by Madame Pamita

Magical Tarot: Your Essential Guide to Reading the Cards, by Madame Pamita
Weiser Books, 1578638119, 272 pages, November 2023

As a tarot reader for over a decade, I admit that I take the cards face value. I no longer really see the imagery, rather I just notice the name of the card and immediately jump to my own interpretation of it. Reading Magical Tarot: Your Essential Guide to Reading the Cards by Madame Pamita has been an opportunity to slow down my readings and truly connect with what is being depicted in the artwork of each card, unlocking new perspectives about the spiritual messages being revealed.

“Much more than a device to see the future, the tarot is a powerful book of esoteric knowledge in the form of cards.”1

Madame Pamita is a Ukrainian-American witch and quite an accomplished occult practitioner. She runs an online spiritual apothecary called Parlour of Wonders, hosts workshops, teaches witchcraft, reads tarot for individuals and group events, and hosts podcasts Magic and the Law of Attraction and Baba Yaga’s Magic. Her previous publications include The Book of Candle Magic (the best book on candle magic I’ve ever read!) and Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft.

In the introduction, Pamita describes how she wrote this book for her students to ”guide them as to the meanings of the cards from the truly positive perspective that the cards contain, but also show them how they can expand far beyond traditional readings and use the cards as tools for manifesting and attracting the best life experiences ever.”2

To achieve this goal of manifesting greatness, Pamita starts with the basics for readers, explaining the law of attraction and how magic can be used to focus one’s intention. After a quick esoteric history lesson on the tarot, she shares suggestions for how readers can build their own relationship with the cards. Pamita then describes the art of affirmations to the readers and teaches readers how to get quick, magical manifestation results using the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot cards. 

The bulk of the book though is her description of each tarot card, leading the readers through the whole deck suit by suit, starting with the numerical minor arcana cards (Ace-ten), then covering the court cards, and finally moving onto the major arcana cards. I appreciated this approach of beginning with the minor arcana and slowly going suit by suit, rather than immediately diving into the major arcana, which is the approach of many other tarot books.

For every card, Pamita goes into depth about the imagery on the card and what the different symbolism means in regard to its overall meaning. Then Pamita supplies a list of the key symbols in the card and what they represent, a list of what the card signifies in a reading, a journal question to explore the card more deeply, and an affirmation.

Her analysis draws attention to aspects of the cards one might normally overlook or simply might not have the background knowledge to see in the way she’s explaining. She sometimes refers to the numerology of the card or brings up unique ways of how to view the card, such as seeing the Knight of Cups’ relationship to Hermes due to his shoes. For the Three of Pentacles, Pamita writes about the way triangles being pointed upward and downward represent the different elements alchemically. All these little tid-bits of information come together to open the reader’s perception of what’s really going on in the card beyond just the surface level visuals. I found her explanations to be very grounding, as in they make you think from within the card’s settings. 

While the general meaning of each tarot card is easily found online, the more nuanced mystical symbolism of the cards is not as readily accessible. Pamita does a good job of turning the cards on their head for readers to gain new insight to the essence of energy of the card. For instance, the Seven of Swords has always been a card that I associate with deceit or theft with a negative connotation, but in her analysis of the card, Pamita writes:

“What if the guys he’s stealing from are some really bad dudes and he’s one of the good guys stopping them from slaughtering innocent people with those swords? What if he’s just taking back what rightfully belongs to him? What if he’s not stealing the swords from an enemy but playing a prank on some friends? Maybe he’s not taking the swords at all, but merely rearranging them. One of the things that this card always awakens in the savvy reader is the idea that there may be more than one side to the story and that the way of the Trickster is to show us that are not always what they appear to be.”3

This insight was really impactful and helped me to shake out of the habits I have when reading the cards. For those like me who are often looking for concrete meanings, Pamita helps to widen this perspective to encompass the “what if” and see the energy of the card in a new light.

I also really appreciated the journal questions and affirmations included. All questions were meaningful and prompted me to explore inwardly for a few minutes to come up with an answer. I also have been enjoying using the affirmations daily when I have a moment to reflect. My next step is going to be intentionally using the affirmations magically, choosing the cards whose energy I want to work with rather than just being more passive right now and exploring what card comes up in my daily pull.

Overall, I highly recommend Magical Tarot for those looking to bring a bit more perspective into their readings. This book would be perfect for beginners, but it also can be immensely beneficial to skilled readers that feel their practice has grown a little stale. Discovering the esoteric secrets of the tarot symbolism is quite illuminating, opening new psychic doorways through visual engagement. You might even find yourself, like I am, starting to doodle the symbolism, deepening my connection with imagery on the cards. There are new worlds waiting to be explored and Pamita has done a wonderful job of guiding us over the threshold into magical terrain.