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Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden, by Nicholas Pearson

Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden: Plant Spirits in Magickal Herbalism, by Nicholas Pearson
Destiny Books, 1644113007, 512 pages, April 2022

While doing a chakra meditation, I discovered that my heart chakra was calling for me to deepen my relationship with flowers, which surprised me. I appreciate the beauty of flowers, but aside from my herbalist astrology teacher’s reference to the properties of different flowers, I hadn’t really ever delved into flowers or their potent magical essence before. Luckily, Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden: Plant Spirits in Magickal Herbalism by Nicholas Pearson had just been released, and I decided this book might be a good starting point.

This book is packed full of valuable information! I feel like I received my beginner’s introduction that steadily progressed to expert-level advice as I continued reading. Pearson makes flower essences approachable for all, while simultaneously sharing patiently accumulated wisdom and knowledge that will benefit all who work with flower essences.

Pearson begins by sharing his journey to working with flower essences and then dives into a very thorough explanation of what exactly is a flower essence. Right off the bat, this description of what flower essences are and are not was very helpful in clearly understanding how the essence, or vibration, of the flowers can be used for one’s magical practice. Plus, the chapter “The History of Flower Essences” provided great insight into how the use of flower essences has evolved over time, situating the information being shared within a larger historical context.

“Flower essences are indeed magickal, because magick is medicine for the soul. Essences are infused with the life force, healing virtues, and consciousness of the plant kingdom. They offer safe, economical, and environmentally friendly ways to connect with plant spirits and add their blessings and powers to your magickal practice.”1

Another way that Pearson lays a good foundation for the use of flower essence is teaching about spirits of nature, including devas, plant spirits, and green familiars. He notes the similarities between a green witch that works with plant intelligence and the practice of using flower essences, both of which draw upon the spiritual force of the “guardian consciousness of the plant itself”2

Exploring the realms of “green intelligence” makes it so readers of the both have access to greater range of understanding the consciousness of plants. And included exercises, such as Plant Spirit Attunement and Seed-to-Flower Meditation, further help the reader to connect with the spirit essence of plants before getting started with flower essences. My favorite exercise was Journey to Hecate’s Garden, where one is guided to explore the plants of poison and power there.

It’s not until nearly 100 pages in that Pearson gets into the making of flower essences, and let me say, he does not skip one step! It’s like every question I could have asked about the process was being answered as I read on. He covers materials needed to get started, making the essences, bottling the essences, dosages, and so much more!

And with the practical “how-to” clearly laid out, Pearson turns to the subtle art of creating flower essences. He writes about the significance of the number of petals of a flower, planetary correspondences, elemental signatures of flowers, and the meaning of different colors. This information is the foundation for someone to really start getting creative with their flower essences, fine-tuning them to their specific intention. And for those who are unsure, he offers methods such as dowsing, kinesthetic intelligence, and communing with plant spirits to discover what one needs.

It is at this point that Pearson moves into writing about flower essences in one’s magical practice. Topics include anointing candles with flower essences, flower essence charms and amulets, incense, bottle magic, and even potions, which he provides ample formulas for things such as making flying blends, love, and even countermagic. I personally really liked the sabbat formulas shared to create essences that bolster and balance the energy of each one.

Pearson even goes into spagyrics in the chapter “Plant Spirit Alchemy”, at which point you know you’ve really advanced in your flower essence education!  He shares how to make an alchemical plant tincture, as well as flower essence spagyrics. This part was very interesting because I love alchemy, but for the time being a little too beyond my skill set. It does motivate me to practice creating and working with flower essences enough to get to that level though, plus it’s very valuable alchemical knowledge for those who also share an interest in the topic.

The final chapter, “Dictionary of One Hundred Flower Essences”, spans over 200 pages and is so handy to have at one’s fingertips! For each one, Pearson provides elemental, planetary, and zodiac signature, corresponding chakra, magical use, and therapeutic indications, along with multiple paragraphs of additional information to provide readers with a full understanding of the flower. I’ve both read through the chapter, just to learn more about each essence, and turned to it when trying to decide what type of essence to create; in all cases, the dictionary has been immensely helpful. For example, in regard to Hawthorn, Pearson writes:

“Hawthorn lore teeters between light and dark. The more pleasant tales of hawthorn depict it as a tree of healing, love, and connection to other worlds. Hawthorn fruit and flowers were sometimes used in divination, especially to dream of your future while, while their thorns have been used to defend again malice and harm, to break curses, and to cast out spirits and other malevolent beings.”3

I also really appreciated a list of flower essences suppliers, including their websites, in the Appendix. Just in case I’m not up for making my own, it’s good to know where I can purchase high quality flower essences.

All in all, Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden has been a very insightful read. I’m deeply impressed with how Pearson laid out the book so perfectly, thoroughly educating the reader from the ground up, to give a full-spectrum education into flower essences. The level of detail is astounding, from the history and lore included to the charts and tables that help one to visually understand different properties of the flowers–everything you need to know is covered. This book is a one-stop-shop for those hoping to delve more into flower essences.

I highly recommend it for beginners and experts alike, as so much is covered within these pages that it’s well worth having nearby for reference. I feel like a whole new layer of magical working has opened for me after reading this book. I plan on making my own flower essence and then using it for candle magic. I’m excited to see how the results unfold!

Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, by Natalia Clarke

Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, Slavic Earth Goddess, by Natalia Clarke
Moon Books, 1789048788, 104 pages, January 2022

I recently finished season two of the Witcher, which had a prominent focus on the Deathless Mother. The chant to call her goes, “Behold the mother of forests, the Deathless Mother, nesting in dreams. Turn your back to the forest, hut, hut. Turn your front to me, hut, hut.” As I watched, the Deathless Mother started to remind me of Baba Yaga.

I had first encountered (figuratively) at Philadelphia’s der Geischderschtrutz (Parade of Spirits) annually held in dark days of winter. The purpose of the Parade of Spirits is “observance of the shadow side of the self, of the murky times in shortest days of the year, and of shady entities and liminal deities.’1 My first year there, I was challenged to enter the hut of Baba Yaga, but unsure of whether she’d want to eat me alive or provide timeless wisdom, I kept my distance. Even if it was just a custom, the energy was potent and I felt a shiver of fear every time I looked in that direction.

It’s been years since that experience, and though I continued to respect Baba Yaga (my coven’s primary focus is the Sacred Hag, of which one might say Baba Yaga is a archetypal representation of), I had yet to muster the courage to embrace Her in personal life or magical practice. But Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, Slavic Earth Goddess by Natalia Clarke has changed my perception a bit, and I feel like I now view Baba Yaga with a new lens.

Clarke invites the reader to get to know Baba Yaga that goes beyond folklore knowledge. The book is filled with Clarke’s journal entries through the years as she established a connection with Baba Yaga and incorporated this relationship into her own spiritual practice. This presentation style of wisdom is less of a “how-to”, though some suggestions are provided for working with Baba Yaga, and more of a journey into possibility filled with rich, descriptive writing that sets the scene for the magic of this book to unfold.

I appreciated how the book integrated Clarke’s revelations and creative writing with information about Baba Yaga, as it provided a bridge towards Baba Yaga, who otherwise can feel very intimidating to connect with. I am a big fan of Clarke’s intuitive approach to spirituality as described in her book Pagan Portals – Intuitive Magic Practice. In this book, it’s as though she translates her natural intuitions about Baba Yaga into a reference for those wishing to walk Her path.

One of the most unique features of Clarke’s approach to Baba Yaga is her intention to explore Baba Yaga in the context of Earth-based spirituality, rather than fitting Her into “literary, cultural, or societal concepts and beliefs.”2 I find this approach extremely valuable, as my spiritual practice is deeply connected to nature.

In this passage, Clarke illuminates how Baba Yaga feels to her:

“She doesn’t feel like a grandmother or an old Crone with terrifying features. She’s a master shapeshifter, and her essence is that of nature itself. She’s the changing seasons, the leaves in the forest in the autumn and a smell of the coming snow storm. She’s footsteps on the ice and a cold mountain brook. She is like the wind as she flies and in the whooshing sound of a breeze she’s gone. She’s the smoke in the dark and she can be found in animal bones. She is in the smallest insect and the highest tree, the snake hiding in the undergrowth. Illusive, unobtrusive, hardly ever visible and fiercely private. Her dwelling is her own and, on her terms, where everything is just so. It is for no else to make sense of.”3

These words make me feel a spiritually tangible and embodied connection to Baba Yaga, as my senses are opened through envisioning these words. Clarke is able to convey Her essence in this book, which is no easy feat considering Baba Yaga is a deity that prefers to not bother with human affairs, preferring solitude over interruption. I think this is one of the things that in the end draws me towards Baba Yaga, based on Clarke’s experience and description of Her though.

I like that Baba Yaga isn’t for everyone, doesn’t directly answer one’s pleas for answers, and can’t be summoned on-demand. Working with Baba Yaga seems to take determination, self-awareness, and a bit of grit. There’s a chapter called “Bones, Skulls, and Skin Magic” about how incorporating Animal Magic, using bones, skulls, and skins of animals, can strengthen one’s relationship with Baba Yaga. These items aren’t just your typical herbs or crystals, and I think it speaks to the nature of Baba Yaga as a deity.

My favorite chapter in the Book was “Baba Yaga’s Apprenticeship” where Clarke prompts the reader with the question: “How well do you know nature and how you relate to it from within?”4 I thought this was a profound question, and Clarke encourages taking one’s time to find the answer. Meanwhile, to connect with Baba Yaga, Clarke details the necessity of awareness of the elements, seasons, one’s psychology, and one’s spiritual self. Clarke provides prompts on how to work within these areas to become an apprentice of Baba Yaga, leaving the reader with hope that they too can eventually be initiated into Her wisdom.

Another really interesting chapter was “Baba Yaga and Motherhood” where Clarke suggests working with Baba Yaga for “integrating your birth mother or your own inner mother when birthing and mothering you own children.”5 Baba Yaga is not a deity I would have ever considered working with for this purpose, but Clarke’s reasoning that it’s important to accept both the good and bad aspects of ourselves as mother and our own mothers was interesting. For this particular reason, I am feeling more drawn to working with Baba Yaga.

And the last thing I’ll say is that I really think The Witcher is drawing from Baba Yaga’s folklore, and especially even more so after reading the chapter “The Three Horsemen and the Masculine”. In this chapter, Clarke describes how Baba Yaga has three horsemen (red, white, and black) that “represent an archetype of the sacred masculine , in service to the sacred feminine/the Earth.”6 She then describes how the color of The Three Horsemen correspond to different stages of the alchemical process and how working with the cyclical nature of their energy can help to strength one’s bond with Baba Yaga. But red, white, and black as the colors of them? For anyone who’s watched The Witcher Season 2, this is very significant and something I thought was totally cool.

While initiating a relationship with Baba Yaga requires patience and willingness to accept hard truths, Clarke showcases the value of working with Her over time. Pagan Portals – Baba Yaga, Slavic Earth Goddess is a wonderful book to learn more about Baba Yaga for anyone considering deity work with Her. And even if Baba Yaga doesn’t seem aligned for a personal deity relationship, there’s still a lot of value in learning more about Her in general, especially if one is interested in nature-based spirituality.

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.

Winter, by Jo Graham

Winter: Rituals to Thrive in the Dark Cycle of the Saeculum, by Jo Graham
Llewellyn Publications, 0738763712, 211 pages, 2020

I was intrigued by the title of this book and looked forward to diving into it to familiarize myself with the saeculum in general — the season of Winter specifically. I had no knowledge of the concept of the saeculum, first mentioned by the Etruscans but also written about by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Saeculum roughly translates into the expected lifetime of an individual (80 years). It is based on the cycles of the Great Wheel that, if we live to 80 and beyond, we will experience during our life lifetime.  In Winter: Rituals to Thrive in the Dark Cycle of the Saeculum, Jo Graham does a marvelous job of detailing out the concept of saeculum and also explaining each season of the Great Wheel, including what to expect. She also goes back in time to what happened during each season in both recent and ancient history to help us understand the current time of Winter.

As Graham explains, the Romans called this 80-year cycle the Great Wheel, or the wheel of generations. The Great Wheel is aligned with the seasonal nature of all life. Each cycle of the Great Wheel lasts roughly 80 years, and each of the four seasons within the Great Wheel cycle lasts approximately 20 years. Each season is further divided into periods of 10 years, including Imbolc, Belatane, Lammas, and Samhain. Therefore, we are all born in a certain season in the cycle of the Great Wheel. Graham provides charts to determine in what season you were born. I was born in Spring of the current cycle. Therefore, I experienced my youth in Spring, adulthood in Summer, maturity in Autumn, and am now entering old age in Winter. I admit gasping at being categorized as being in Old Age, but in terms of the Great Wheel, we all get to live through each of the four seasons if we are blessed to live to 80 (at which point the cycle begins again). “Every eighty years we pass through what the Classical Greeks called ekpyrosis, a destruction by fire that then allows for rebirth and the growth of new things.” 1

Graham also breaks down how each of the so-called age groups (Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers) are going to meet the Winter (the season in which we are living now) challenges in their own unique ways. According to the Great Wheel, we entered the season of Winter around 2010. In 2020, we are in Imbolc. Winter will be nearing an end in 2030. Graham goes into detail writing about how events that have occurred since 2010 are exemplary of things that happen in the season of Winter which, like anything natural, does not have a fixed start and end date. For example, the approach of Winter could be felt in the attacks of 9/11 and the stock market crash of 2008, which happened in Samhain in the Fall season.

Winter is divided into four sections: Introduction, The Crisis Approaches, The Storm Rages, and Aftermath. There is also an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. In each section, Graham describes what to expect in each phase of Winter, what happened in a Winter seasons in times past, and includes detailed rituals to help cope/survive and ultimately thrive during this season. In addition to explaining about the Great Wheel and the seasons, Graham also writes extensively in the Introduction about the last season of Winter, 1925 – 1945, which included the Great Depression and World War II. Definitely not good times for civilization. I shuddered to think that we are in this season again.

One ritual that Graham recommended in the Introduction was to help reconnect with ancestors who you know experienced the last Winter. Without going into too much detail, the ritual involved mask-making (how the Romans honored and invited in their ancestors) and also journaling to invoke our ancestors for counsel, wisdom, and ways to cope during Winter. I loved this ritual and was happy to receive guidance from grandparents and extended family who lived through this period. I was shown that while there was hardship, families worked together and everyone in the world was in the same boat – much like today’s Winter with COVID-19.

In the section titled “The Crisis Approaches,” Graham offers a broader picture of the last cycle of Winter. She also asks us to remember where we were when this current season of Winter began (around 2010), what we were experiencing in our life at that time, what our community, country, and the world at large was also was experiencing. She brings us back further in time through another journaling exercise to 2000, just before the start of the current Winter. When I sat quietly and journaled about this time, I realized that my 18-year marriage had come to a sudden end. As Graham writes, “Winter as a season is inevitable” and it always arrives. 2 

The first phase of Winter is what she describes as the “Gathering Storm,” 3 which is easy to dismiss as a gradual change in temperature, a few snowflakes. She encourages us to prepare for the Winter and not to be complacent and caught off guard. “We can get through Winter the same way our ancestors did: with planning, community, and faith.” 4 She also recommends journaling exercise with questions about our values. “Our values can help guide not just ourselves but those around us as we navigate this season.” 5 This exercise asks us to look at who we are now in this phase of Winter by answering questions on topics such as hospitality, honor, our relationship to the Earth, and how we feel about Pagan values. It was a very interesting exercise and I soon found out in the next section the relevance of the topics. As she cautions, “Remember, we cannot make good decisions about the events to come if we don’t realistically understand our own situation with its vulnerabilities and strengths and receive truthful information about events as they happen.” 6

In the section titled “The Storm Rages”, Graham helps us to prepare for the inevitable storm, including rituals to invoke Athena Strategos (for strength) and Hermes (for effective communication based on clarity and truth). She also asks us to choose what seeds we want to preserve through the Winter to plant in the Spring, not just for us personally but also for our country at large and includes a ritual to save these seeds. She also walks the reader through the process of creating a haven, once again not just for ourselves but also for others who might come to us seeking shelter from the Winter. There was a beautiful rite to Vesta to hallow the house, to protect it, and bless it, that I found quite moving. While the ritual is best done with a community, due to the pandemic I did this alone and found it equally as beautiful and beneficial. I especially like the direction to keep a candle burning (artificial) throughout the night.  

Heroes are needed to get through the Winter, and the final chapter in this section deals with different types of heroes. Graham offers an exercise to determine the type of hero we are based on our temperament. Ideally, we will want to be in a community of heroes who possess different skills and strengths: communicator, warrior, helper, and conservator. The exercise revealed that I am a helper warrior. Graham includes a ritual to make a bracelet to wear as a reminder of our hero skill-type; also recommended is a community-based ritual to help all of us carry out our unique roles depending on our hero-type. 

The final section is “Aftermath”. Jo includes a meditation to help us move from Winter into Spring. Included is a ritual to bring forth the seed we saved and preserved and how to decide how and when to plant it. There is also a ritual to welcome the returning Winter warriors and to honor the departed who did not survive the season. Graham concludes Winter with rituals for invoking Concordia, the daughter of Mars and Venus to “rule our interactions so that the world to come is the best we can make it” 7 and a ritual to banish Discoria, or lawlessness.

Do not expect Winter to be a quick read. I recommend reading each section slowly and engaging in the rituals, exercises, and meditations that call to you. It would have been personally helpful if I had read Graham’s first book, The Great Wheel, to have had an initial fuller understanding of the natural cycle of the Great Wheel. No doubt, the topics covered in the book are heavy, for Winter is not to be trifled with. At times, I found myself depressed, especially in reading that the coming years are those of cataclysm. But it also helped me put into perspective what is happening in the country today in terms of bad communication, unrest, a lack of empathy and civility, a pandemic, and governments turned on their heads. I very much enjoyed that Graham asked me to remember via a journaling exercise that my grandparents and extended family came through the Winter. It left me with hope that “in the early 2030s we will be charting new courses socially, economically, environmentally, and physically. Spring will be fully upon us.” 8

Elemental Magic, by Nigel Pennick

Elemental Magic: Traditional Practices for Working with the Energies of the Natural World, by Nigel Pennick
Destiny Books; 3rd Edition, 1620557587, 144 pages, October 2020

Nigel Pennick’s Elemental Magic: Traditional Practices for Working with the Energies of the Natural World contains multitudes. There is so much depth and wisdom here for you to explore, experiment, and deepen your magic. I am truly blown away by Pennick’s ability to offer eloquent and clear breadth and depth within this slender forest-green handbook. I feel as if I have happened upon an essential tome for my magical practice as a person living through environmental crises. 

The time for this book is right now. Pennick is grounded, both in terms of his clear writing style and in his offering of foundational practices that will benefit both the burgeoning witch and the established practitioner. On the back cover, Pennick is named an authority on ancient belief systems, traditions, runes and geomancy. This book is an impeccable example of that authority. 

Pennick touches on the essential elements of the practicing magical person, and he is able to do so with clarity and brevity. What I loved about this book is that Pennick has taken the esoterica out of the transmission. He communicates accessibly so that we can enter into these practices and rituals. His clarity allows our intimacy with the earth and natural magic to foster the mystical and the ineffable.

This text is truly a practical reference for so many aspects of natural magic. Pennick touches deftly on the fundamentals: “Saturday is dedicated to the Roman god of aging and time, Saturn.”1 and “Fire symbolizes the lightest things of existence, the energy and spirit.”2 If you are a beginner, trust that this handbook is an instructive initiation.  

My favorite chapter, “The Magic of the Land,” surfaces the ensouled landscape. It talks about how “there are certain places in the natural landscape, whose spirit is more likely to be noted by human… they are all holy grounds, at which something intangible but nevertheless, real is present.”3 Reading this book reminded me how deeply woven I am into the fabric of the land, and that my intimacy with the natural world is a place where magic springs.

Elemental Magic can absolutely be read from start to finish. It also invites you to sit down, open to an unexpected page, and discover what awaits you. At one such moment with this book, I found myself reading about the crossroads and the labyrinth. Pennick says “Crossroads are good places to make magical ceremony.”4 He offers that labyrinths “create an anchor energy, their spirit is energized by human activity.”5

This is a book of a multitude of beginnings. Pennick gives you just enough information to pull you in, to spark your curiosity, to get you started in your communion and magick-making. And you get to find out for yourself what the tree, or the stone, or the labyrinth has to offer. It is beautifully constructed for a beginner who craves a broad overview. This book stands as an excellent resource and reference for the more established magical practitioner because it is organized so succinctly. It is organized in chapters that explore the plants, minerals, animals, the land itself.

One of my favorite practices offered was part of the “Magic and Action” chapter on making and charging a magical talisman. I invited a friend into this practice. First, we each created the talisman. We then followed Pennick’s protocol, including working with the astrology of the moment and lunar cycle. Both of us felt not only the pleasure of crafting our own magical tools but also the potency of the spell work.

One of my favorite things about this book is how much it is just a welcome beginning to having your own unique experience. Pennick is impeccable at walking that line between offering you his approach and perspective, promising you the richness of what is to come in your own intimacy with these practices, and truly leaving the space for you to discover the magic for yourself. 

Orienting towards nature is a vibrant and necessary practice so deeply needed in our lives, so often mediated through technology. Elemental Magic allows you to truly see and understand yourself as a part of the more-than-human world. It is an honor to have such easy access to these profound and fundamental principles. This book is light enough to keep with you wherever you go and helpful enough to make the carrying of it worth it. 

In particular, if you are a person of European descent who is seeking ways to reconnect with your lineage, use this book. For me, this book has been a continual reminder to go outside, to enjoy the song of the wind, to make magic exactly where I am, the sun on my skin, rooted in the dirt. 

Magic in the Landscape, by Nigel Pennick

Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries & Geomancy, by Nigel Pennick
Destiny Books, 1620558799, 176 pages, May 2020

Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries & Geomancy by Nigel Pennick is a history book about how magical practices and the routines of indigenous people are recorded in the present-day landscape – in this case, the landscape of Great Britain.  And though this is a book about looking to the past, with an introduction titled, “A Vanishing World in Need of Rescue,” Pennick makes it clear that his book is NOT an “attempt to reconstruct the past by creating a depiction of an ideal time when the writer perceives that the system under study was perfect or intake.” 1  Instead this book explores fragments of history where magic was present.

My favorite chapter came early on, Chapter two, “The Ensouled World,” where he talks about Land Wights, celebrated and offered autonomy in Iceland,2 and a haunting story about the DeLorean Factory (that classic sports car used as the time machine in the movie Back to the Future).  DeLorean’s are classic collectable cars because despite its slick appearance, the company was only around for three years before declaring bankruptcy.  According to Pennick, the DeLorean factory was constructed outside of Belfast in a field that was home to an enormous and aged hawthorn bush. The locals had long believed that bush had a soul of its own, yet it was cut down and dug up in order to build the DeLorean Factory.  Soooo why the did factory close after just three years?  Just a coincidence?  Pennick purports not.  About the subsequently abandoned factory, he says, “Blighted and derelict places where such establishments once existed are instances of the desacralized cosmos.”3

The violation of traditionally sacred spaces is a theme Pennick references frequently, whether it is highways being paved over an ensouled landscape or archeologists digging up sacred sites in the name of their research. Pennick makes a point that we may be unknowingly erasing a piece of not only cultural history, but of genuine magical presence. “If the sacred is not just a human construct, as some argue, but actually emanates from the power within the earth at particular places, then to dig there without traditional geomantic precautions runs the risk of destroying that power.”4

One part of this book which was unexpected, was Pennick’s thorough research on exorcisms and hauntings.  In the chapter simply titled “Boundaries” in the section titled Magic Circles and Conjuring Parsons, Pennick offers us many recorded examples of church ministers in small towns across England using magic to banish ghosts who were either haunting a site or haunting an individual parishioner.

“On January 9, [1965] [the Rev. William] Rudall made a secret journey to Exeter to visit the bishop…and having convinced him, was given official permission to ‘lay the ghost’.  When Rudell got back home, he worked out the astrological chart for the next morning and prepared his magical paraphernalia.” 5

The details Pennick has about these instances of “ghost-hunting’ in small-town English parishes are remarkable! Yet for me felt a little like a departure from the main trajectory of this book.  And that might be the thing: the main trajectory of this book might not have been what I was hoping for when I ordered it, not what I was hoping for when I picked it up, and not what I was hoping for as I devoured the first few chapters.

I absolutely love that Pennick is calling attention to the awareness of sacredness in the landscape – sacredness than might be inherent, such as an ancient tree or rock or even a scenic vista, or the sacredness of a Feng Shui inspired English garden planted in the late 1700’s — 200 years before Feng Shui was trending in the New Age community.6 I think it is also priceless to call attention to the ways in which modern development is literally plowing over ensouled landscapes, and in which common human secularized ignorance erases the filaments of magic offered to us by something vaster.  It is also priceless to consider that parish ministers practiced astrology, that Feng Shui’s influence over the West started much longer ago than most people think, and that forest spirits truly exist.

I guess my one disappointment though was that I wanted a little more of a “how-to” book.  I wanted to learn how to do something related to all the fascinating topics in this book.  This is not a criticism, but a praise in disguise.  For this book ignites the imagination and enchants the spirit in unexpected ways.

As someone who practices permaculture design – a spiritual philosophy of sustainable landscaping- it is inspiring to learn about how magical places and spaces have been understood in the past and in other cultures.  So now I might use those intentions, as well as sacred geometry and planet synergy in landscapes I’m working on, in hopes of infusing something sacred and enduring.  In the United States we don’t have the same history as Britain, yet the Native American people had profound magical sensibilities in their culture, so I can pay more careful attention as I stroll my neighborhood, knowing the land I live on once belonged to them.

Overall, Magic in the Landscape is a historical overview of different topics relating to the spiritual elevation of a place.  These topics span from the uplifting effects of scenic vista, beliefs that certain landscapes are home to magical beings, curiosity about spirits inherent in rocks, trees, fields and forests, awareness that the architecture of certain buildings contain magical intentions, the power of memorials and town commons to shape cultural narrative, and the craft of creating sacred space for safely interacting with the spirit world.