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The Goddess Book, by Nancy Blair

The Goddess Book: A celebration of witches, queens, healers, and crones, by Nancy Blair and illustrated by Thalia Took
Hampton Roads Publishing, 1642970203, 234 pages, April 2021

It’s not every day that I have the opportunity to invite 52 friends into my home, but that’s what happened when Nancy Blair’s book, The Goddess Book arrived at my doorstep. As I happily opened the door to retrieve the book, so too did I gladly open myself up to welcoming these goddesses into my life to share their wisdom with me. As Nancy writes in the Preface, “our Goddess heritage and her story, the greatest story never told, brought me home.”1 She continues:

“Goddess spirituality brought me home: to my Self, to the innate wisdom of my body, to our living Earth body, and the body of women’s wisdom long repressed. The return of the Goddess is a rising tide that cannot be held back.”2

I was attracted to the book as I wanted to participate in the celebration of witches, queens, healers, and crones — pretty great company if you ask me. I liked that Nancy worked with the Goddesses in a seasonal way, 13 Goddesses for each season. I read the book in its entirety, but then I focused on the Goddesses of Spring as that is the current season where I live.

I’ll keep this book out the entire year, and I plan on working with one Goddess a week based on the season to allow for a deeper relationship with each. I am really enjoying being introduced to Goddesses with whom I wasn’t aware of such as Vila (Spring), Oshun (Summer), Ungnyeo (Fall), and Aida Wedo (Winter). I also welcomed reconnecting with some of my favorites such as Tara (Spring), Selena (Summer), Baba Yago (Fall), and Brigit (Winter). 

The book has a very brief introduction for each season before profiling the 13 Goddesses. There is a short description of the Goddess followed by an exercise to work with the Goddess and a related affirmation.

Thalia Took’s illustrations remind me of beautifully colored woodcuts that greatly enhance the writings. As the author is also an artist, I thought it a great testimony to Took’s talent that Nancy chose her to illustrate the book rather than doing so herself. I absolutely loved the illustrations, some favorites were the multi-breasted Diana of Ephesus, Inanna bejeweled in stars and the moon, and Willendorf, the first time I’ve seen her portrayed in a two-dimensional with a face rather than the tiny sculpture of which I’m most familiar. 

Nancy is an artist and published author (Amulets of the Goddess: Oracle of Ancient Wisdom) who imparts a Mother Earth-based familiarity with these Goddesses in an approachable way. With Demeter, for example, we meet the Goddess whose Roman name, Cere, is where the word cereal is derived. One is encouraged to “invite Demeter to feast with you as Autumn’s light grows thin.”3 The three-line accompanying affirmation focuses on healthy food and nourishment. The illustration of Demeter shows a woman with long blonde hair resembling corn, cloaked in green.

We meet Sophia in the Winter season. As Holy Wisdom, she will “lead you to your true destiny.”4 In the Affirmation we hold “inner wisdom as my road map.”5 She is illustrated as with the almond-shaped eyes reminiscent of a Byzantine image. The yoke of her cloak is covered in similarly almond-shaped stones that mirror her eyes. 

Danu, the Great Goddess, appears in Spring. We see her in profile, rooted leaves forming her hair. All in green, her upper body and face are covered in the spirals that are most identified with Celtic art as she is the “Great Mother Goddess, from whom all Irish gods descend.”6 The affirmation calls us to embrace our power.

Summer introduces us to Yemaya, Goddess of the Sea. A dark-skinned woman, she is cloaked in a patterned batik fabric. Shells adorn her upper arm, neck, and ears. She is a “mother spirit: matron spirit of women, especially pregnant women.”7 Call on Yemaya to “release you from old beliefs, thoughts, or feelings that seem to enslave you and keep you estranged from your sacred Self.”8

As I said, this book will be a reference for all the seasons to connect with the many different Goddesses who support us on our path. The Goddess Book packs a lot of information and offers empowering affirmations. I recommend using this as a guidebook, inviting these Goddesses to become your companions as you move through your life and the wheel of the year. Meditate on them, embrace them, and accept the guidance they are providing. Blair and Took have done a wonderful job of depicting the many facets of the great Goddess and bringing them all to life.

Celebrating the Yuletide with Downhome Mystic

🌲 The season of Yule is upon us! 🌲

Quick History Lesson

This yearly celebration has roots in the Germanic Paganism culture and is usually celebrated for 12 days beginning on the winter solstice. This year Yule begins on Monday, December 21st and ends on Friday, January 1st, 2021. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, but it simultaneously marks the return of daylight. Often associated with honoring a variety of God and Goddesses, this was a time to be joyful, dance, sing, and connect with nature.

This Pagan celebration was natural for our ancestors, as they were so deeply connected to the Great Mother. They felt sense of connection to the natural world; the direct reciprocity people felt with the Earth was ingrained in daily life. Unfortunately, many of us have become disconnected from nature, from the Great Mother, and finding our way back has been an integral part of our spiritual path. Creating celebration and honoring nature’s cycles helps connect us to our past, deepen our connection to the Earth, and ultimately connect back to ourselves. 

How Do I Celebrate Yule?

This is the fun part! Now is the time to get creative, consider what is meaningful to you (and your family), and create a celebration that best fits your needs and wants. A Yuletide celebration can range from an elaborate gathering to a bath time ritual to a simple altar created at the foot of a pine tree. Here are some of my suggestions:

Connect or Reconnect with Nature

When was the last time you stood barefoot on the earth? If you live in an area that is not too cold or snow-covered, find an area to stand soul (of your foot) to soul on the earth. Feel the soil on your feet, feel the connection of the earth move up your body. If you are unable to be barefoot in your area, take a walk out in nature. Look for signs of winter and reflect on the changes in your life that have taken place over the course of the year.

Build an Altar

This can be done either outside during your nature walk or in your home. If you choose to build an altar at home, gather a few items from outside and bring them home with you, placing each item on your altar while giving thanks and honoring each beautiful item. You could gather evergreen branches, berries, sticks, pinecones, a vile of snow or natural water (ocean, stream, river, rain), brown leaves, feathers, any items that call to you. You might be surprised by what you find! If you choose to create an altar outside, find a special location such as the foot of a tree, in a meadow, or alongside a stream. Lovingly place a few natural items with intent onto the altar while speaking what you are thankful for. 

Dance in the Sunlight or Moonlight

Dancing is a lovely way to reconnect to our bodies and spirit, and it can be especially satisfying if you are outdoors and with others. When we dance, we seem to come alive! We feel the blood move through our bodies, we feel our hearts pump, and our breath deepens; we become embodied. Try dancing with a scarf, moving it through the air and across the ground, further connecting you to the earth.

Build a Fire

You may have heard the term Yule-log. The tradition of a Yule-log varies among different regions and religions, but the basics are burning a log to entice the sun to return to longer days. Often a portion of the log is kept and used to start the fire for the next year’s Yule-log. The ashes were also believed to be good luck and could be used in the garden or kept in an area of the house for protection.  As the Yule-log burns, you can watch the flames, dance, and feel the warmth on your face. This is also a good time to tell stories or hold hands with a loved one basking in the fire’s glow.

Sing Songs

Many of our favorite holiday songs are versions of Yule songs, such as Deck the Halls and the Holly and the Ivy. Singing opens our throat chakra and clears away energetic debris. Singing with others can be an uplifting experience, as a single voice becomes a choir. 

Get Witchy in the Kitchen

Whip up a batch of holiday cookies, bake some rosemary bread, or craft a warm seasonal soup. Try adding an herb that you have never worked with or check out the seasonal farmers market for some wholesome root vegetables. Depending on what you make, you can always place an offering on your altar or out in nature, thanking the Great Mother or God or Goddess of your choice. 

There are many beautiful ways to celebrate the season of Yule; these are a few of my favorites. I would love to hear which one you like best or if you have anything to add. Comment below if you decide to try any of these suggestions.