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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.

The Holy Wild Grimoire, by Danielle Dulsky

The Holy Wild Grimoire: A Heathen Handbook of Magick, Spells, and Verses, by Danielle Dulsky
New World Library, 1608688003, 208 pages, September 2022

Earthy, primal, rich, and real – this is how I feel sinking into The Holy Wild Grimoire: A Heathen Handbook of Magic, Spells, and Verses by Danielle Dulsky. In this book, Dulsky has uprooted the underpinnings of harmful ideologies, created through our stories and myths we unconsciously live by according to society’s urging, to bring forth prompts and rituals that invite readers to move through a portal of death and rebirth to fully embrace their own sovereign sorcery within through magical word-craft and reconnect with the Holy Wild. For those ready to lurk in the deeper realm of mystery, potency, and power that come through embodying and rewriting the mythic aspect of the world we live within in order to expand their practice of the craft, this is the book for you!

Hopefully that didn’t all sound too intimidating! All of Dulsky’s brilliant methodology for engaging the reader’s psyche through storytelling, journal prompts, and spellwork to create their own personal grimoire are actually very clearly laid out, making this book accessible to everyone. But be forewarned there’s something about Dulsky’s writing that inspires me to play with words and discover new voices within that have yet to be explored.

The book does read at times like a long-lost ancient tale, where the dialect is just a bit different than you’re used to, as words become poetry vivid with imagery and perfectly strung together to invoke meaningful feeling. This definitely isn’t a straight-forward “how-to” manual for those seeking insight on witchcraft; hardwork and dedication is required to truly reap the rewards of the material presented, leaving room for your own creativity to emerge and guide the way.

“The time to radically revision our place in the world is now. This is the moment in the human tale when hope meets sorrow, when innocences meets wisdom, a climactic union of polarities that is birthing – and will continue to birth – a new, more heathen reality.”1

Moving through medicine the elements of earth, water, air, fire, and ether, The Holy Wild Grimoire guides readers in creating their own book of magic. Dulsky writes, “In the context of this handbook, a grimoire reflects the magick locked in our language, the spells that live and breathe in our words and symbols.”2 Moving through each element, the reader begins to craft the most personal journal of their thoughts, feelings, visions, and intuitions, reshaping their reality, reclaiming pieces of their soul that have been lost, and gaining the courage to shed habits, patterns, and modes of being – skins – that no longer fit who the reader is growing into.

These might seem like lofty goals or mere promises, but I can assure you that by moving through The Holy Wild Grimoire with an open-mind and heartfelt intention, you will notice shifts in how you relate to your own narrative and how your narrative merges with the on-going story of the world, inviting synchronicities, realizations, and connections that previously you may have not had the discerning energetic eye to notice and in the process creating new potential realities.

Each element contains an introduction to its energy medicine, a word-spell, an artful invocation, a story lantern, follow-up questions to the story lantern for reflection, an opening spell and element spells, multiple reflection questions about your experience with the element, writing prompts to attune you to the element’s presence in your life, and prompts to assist you with visioning through the energy of the element. All together this creates twelve journal entries. Then at the end of the chapter is a testament to the element, where the reader (or more like writer once you get going with this book!) goes back through their reflections, presences, and visions for the element to create the thirteenth entry, which become the verses for that element. It really is a beautiful, culminating process once you get to the verses, especially because so much has been put into the prompts to lead you to that point.

After reading this book, and making my way through the grimoire creation over the course of two months, I have a bit of advice. First, though anyone can jump right in, for the best results I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with Dulsky’s other publications, most especially The Holy Wild, which lays out more of a foundation for creating one’s Holy Wild grimoire. The Holy Wild has quite a bit of spellwork in it that some readers might find more practical and grounding. The Holy Wild Grimoire is definitely suited for those who enjoy reading and writing, and if you are someone who doesn’t readily embrace the written word or symbolic imagery, you might feel more comfortable exploring The Holy Wild first to ground this book a bit.

Second, prior to reading this book, I’d also suggest brushing up on your knowledge of archetypes, depth psychology, and the power of myths to fully embrace the content of this book. You may want to familiarize yourself with the work of Carl Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, and Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, another great book for exploring oneself through stories and myth.

Finally, my third recommendation is to move slowly! There is so much packed in each element that it can feel overwhelming at times. Remember that there is no rush; you are not being timed. This process of communion with the Holy Wild will happen in natural timing that is aligned and right for you. You can skip around to different sections, work through an element for months, and only need to do the prompts that call to you. As odd as it sounds, sometimes I’d have to remind myself this isn’t a magical homework assignment, I’m not working towards an “A”, and that it’s intended to be fluid and connected rather than prescriptive and forced.

Sometimes, as I worked through a particularly dense emotion, memory, or experience, I’d put the book down for weeks at a time, not ready to move forward to the next exercise and needing room to breathe and reorient first, allowing what was unfolding to happen on its own without further conscious prompting or trying to rush forward without allowing the proper time needed to acknowledge what was going on and creating space for transformation.

This might not make sense prior to reading The Holy Wild Grimoire, but I have no doubts that if you delve into the work, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. There’s enough content in this book to last the reader years in regard to inner exploration, and the stories and prompts are something one can return to time and time again for one’s responses will surely always be changing. The potency of this book comes through what you’re willing to put in to looking within and exploring the uncharted depths of the Holy Wild.

Even if this seems a bit intimidating, there’s ways to start slowly, such as reading the hand-crafted stories, called story lanterns, Dulsky has written for each element, which are intended to open a new lens for the reader to access answers within through the imagination. I’ve found that a fun way to connect with the stories is to have someone else read them to you, so you can receptively receive their messages, though active reading too has its own merit. Once again, there’s a multitude of ways to play with this book, just like all mythological stories, and limitless wisdom that can be gained through experimentation.

All in all, The Holy Wild Grimoire is an all-in-one creative writing journey for readers to make their own grimoire, filled with personal revelations, visions, reflections, and mythology that is theirs alone. Doing the journal prompts is a deeply fulfilling and insightful process, akin to magical therapy, as the reader delves into the hidden parts of their psyche to discover a hidden richness: their own wild unknown. By connecting to these parts of oneself through the elemental energy, a whole new realm of possibilities emerges, cracking open from within the reader’s spirit to begin composting what’s no longer needed and feel comfortable sitting in the void before shapeshifting into the next vision.

Sacred Hags Oracle, by Danielle Dulsky

Sacred Hags Oracle: Visionary Guidance for Dreamers, Witches, and Wild Hearts, by Danielle Dulsky with illustrations by Janine Houseman
New World Library, 1608686795, 56 cards, 160 pages, March 2021

Sacred Hags Oracle: Visionary Guidance for Dreamers, Witches, and Wild Hearts by Danielle Dulsky and illustrator Janine Houseman puts a new spin on oracle decks. Usually we pick a card for guidance, passively seeking to be given the guidance and directed a certain way. But this deck doesn’t hand out divinations that easily, rather it invites the reader into a co-creative process with the most sacred, wise, and wild aspect of yourself.

From the get go, Dulsky’s word echoed through my being, enchanting me to read on with curiosity as to how coming to know this deck would unfold.

“To befriend an oracle is to bow deeply to that wild and unseen web to which we already belong. An oracle is more than a divination tool; an oracle is a portal to the not yet known.”1

Immediately, I was drawn into a liminal world where endless possibilities roam. The introduction, written in Dulsky’s poetic form, invites the oracle reader to make the necessary sacrifices to prepare for what the future holds, step into a different notion of time, wake new parts of our Self, and pay homage to the deities that we call upon. This was a whole different approach to working with the oracle deck that filled me with awe at the tenderness and respect Dulsky affords to this special connection we share with the cards we divine from.

I mean, being completely honest, most of the time I’m slinging oracle cards in the morning or evening out of pure curiosity of what the day holds or frustration at a situation trying to figure out why things are going down the way they are right now. I will confess, I am not always the most “tuned in” to my most holy Self during this process.

Sacred Hags Oracle is different because it doesn’t so readily give me the answers I seek. Rather, this deck prompts the reader through ritual and reflection to embody their spirituality, reconnect with the most sacred parts of ourselves, and cherish the relationship we have with the Sacred Hag, which is meant to be tended to, fed, and nourished with our energy. This certainly seems to negate my tendency to fall into auto-pilot mode in my readings.

Before working with the deck, Dulsky offers six rituals to affirm your abilities as a seer through intuitive psychic and body exercises to familiarize yourself with the oracle. While the guidebook itself is filled with potent stories, the introductory rituals also invite you to connect with the sigils on the card deck. These sigils were all designed by sigil witch Janine Houseman, a talented tattoo artist who offers her services to others through her sacred, personalized skin-cantations. There is a sigil for each type of card in the deck: The Sacred Hags, The Seasons, The Stories, and The Spells. Each type of card is also color-coded, which helps when working with the deck.

Before diving into my first reading, I went through the spreads suggested to use with this oracle deck, ranging from one-card to a spread that includes all the cards in the deck. I decided to begin with a one-card reading and make my way from there. I really like that the suggested spreads have an embodied component to them. For instance with the Unanswerable Question one-card pull Dulsky advises to “Feel the image, the sigil, and the words on it.”2 then to “Take three low-belly breaths, and open your eyes again.”3 This reminder to feel the card through my senses and breathe in the process of divination really made a notable difference in my connection with my reading.

The guidebook interpretations are so very interesting and unique. There is a keyword/phrase, a section called Grandmother Speaks, which tells an illuminating story or shares a bit of wisdom, and both a Morning and Moonlight Ritual. Yes, that’s right, a full on ritual for YOU to connect with your inner guidance via the oracle cards, rather than an out-right, mote interpretation. Like I said at the beginning, you’ve got to put in the work too with this oracle deck in a co-creative process, but the rewards are immensely fulfilling!

I pulled the card Season of Spice and Heart (26), which had the keyword “Death,” so aptly suited for the phase of life I am in right now of releasing many outdated habits, beliefs, and situations. Well, the Morning Ritual actually called for me to eulogize these roles I no longer fit into through writing, light a candle, and read the words aloud. I got really into this process, and in the end I felt a million times lighter. This small ritual act did wonders for reorienting my psyche. I plan on saying the accompanying bedtime prayer this evening that was offered under the Moonlight Ritual.

This is what I mean about the cards inviting us to participate in the magic, affirming our abilities to be sacred seers and divine creators. I will admit, at first I was a bit like, “Oh man this is going to require some of my personal energy..” since I was used to pulling cards so I didn’t have to think anymore and could passively receive answers. But working with this deck the past week has been an opportunity to reconnect with myself both morning and night, nourish my relationship with the ancient ones, and be a bit more intentional with my oracle usage.

The imagery on the cards is absolutely breath-taking and immediately evokes a sense of deep connection to the natural world, along with wonder and possibility. My favorite card is Hag of Selkies (14), where a wise woman has seashells and bone strung in her hair with her long-nailed, ring-covered fingers hovering over a crystal ball filled with blue, purple, and gold energy. Filled with magnificent, fierce women, mermaids, animals, and symbolic imagery, the cards themselves make for wonderful meditation. The images really coalesce when laid out side by side for a reading, crafting a story and enhancing visualization of the cards’ energies. 

There are so many different pieces of wisdom, written in Dulsky’s one-of-a-kind prose that just speaks right to the heart and ignites divine revelation, within this deck. Just as a sample, here’s a line of the Grandmother Speaks for Season of Holy Thunder (22):

“So easily can the sun distract us, my love. The omens are much more easily seen in the dark, but it is the mark of a true Witch to witness synchronicities by the light of day, to see shapes in the clouds and scry her future in sidewalk gum.”4

Oh, how marvelously true this is. For those who enjoyed Dulsky’s books The Holy Wild, Season of Moon and Flame, and Woman Most Wild, you will absolutely love what the Sacred Hag Oracle brings into your life. Within this oracle deck are endless rituals, stories, and wisdom to help you hear your own inner voice more clearly, in harmony with the energies of the earth and sacred deities.

I highly recommend Sacred Hags Oracle to the divine seekers and intuitive readers that want to awaken their own inner visions. These cards are filled with magic, sacred feminine knowledge, and the undefinable qualities of all witches. The visionary guidance that comes through this beautifully crafted deck is sure to inspire, transform, and shift your perceptions. This is the first deck that I feel has a malleable quality, able to merge itself and blend with your psyche to invite a fresh perspective and genuinely different reading every time. I look forward to seeing how my relationship with this deck evolves over the weeks, months, and years to come.