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The Torch of Brighid, by Erin Aurelia

The Torch of Brighid: Flametending for Transformation, by Erin Aurelia
Moon Books, 178904281X, 144 pages, June 2023

As someone not too familiar with the tradition of flametending, my ideas around what I thought it was versus what it actually is was both surprising and enlightening. In The Torch of Brighid: Flametending for Transformation, author Erin Aurelia takes us into the realm of the Goddess and shows us precisely what it means to be a flametender.

As an author, poet, spoken word performer, editor, and book coach, Aurelia has tended Brighid’s Perpetual Fire for 20 years and is the founder of the Daughters of Brighid flametending order. Author of numerous books on the subject, Aurelia also runs an editorial services and book coaching business where she offers her services to authors in a variety of self-help and spiritual areas that focus on women writers and voices in the heart-centered and spiritual coaching space.

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you will know that I love introductions as I feel they set the tone for the entire book and also impart the flavor of the author’s tone. In this book, Aurelia provides both a preface and an introduction and I couldn’t be happier.

The preface sets the tone for the book, clearly setting out the author’s goals and direction. It’s explained here that this book is not “reconstructing a past pagan practice, as there is no known pre-Christian flametending practice to Brighid which can be reconstructed”1.Aurelia is very clear that this book is not making any direct connection between any sort of mystical links that might have been suggested previously by other authors’ works, and instead chooses to focus on “presenting an inspired practice, like spiritual poetry.”2

At first blush, this whole book feels like a poetic love letter from the author to the Goddess Herself. It’s well written in a style that is approachable for those not familiar with this specific realm of spirituality yet doesn’t feel dumbed down for those who are seasoned. The concepts presented resonated deeply with me personally, and I was a bit surprised at the depth of my feelings as I read through it. This practice feels like coming home to oneself in the context of using deity as a conduit, which is of course what the purpose of this book is. It’s empowering and fulfilling and inspirational and I am so glad I picked it up.

The topics discussed in the book range from the history of the practice to an in depth transformational journey through the seasons. While it sounds like a lot of time needs to be invested, the book states that the reader can experience the sensation of flametending through a twenty-night period. Considering how often we subject ourselves to fad diets and other modes of “bettering” ourselves, I would respectfully offer that twenty nights of this practice could be far more beneficial than counting calories or fasting. But I digress: we each walk our own path.

The introduction gives the reader some background on how Aurelia first came to know Brighid. I find these origins fascinating as we have all walked our own paths to the various deities that we work with. Aurelia’s story resonates not because of the deity she observes but of the way she has integrated the lessons into her personal journey. She states:

“Her burning torch lit and guided my way, and where she led, I followed. I followed her from being one who burned myself out for others to one who learned to tend her flame from within. I followed her in my spiritual practices from celebration to devotion to contemplation to transformation.”3

This path described by Aurelia is precisely the one laid out in the book. I would humbly offer that burnout is often something experienced by those in caregiving or mothering roles, whether or not they have additional responsibilities outside the home or facility in which they provide care. Speaking personally, I often find myself in positions where I give too much of myself and then have nothing left for myself. This book is instrumental in discovering why that happens, and, more importantly, how to identify when it’s happening so that the energy can be shifted inward to where it’s needed most.

One of the most powerful concepts in this book is the idea that spiritual exploration and growth need not be done using external methods. While helpful at times, it’s also easy to become lost in a sea of voices and practices that might not be what’s needed. This is a personal practice and while you could share this journey with others at some point along the path, this feels very much like a task for one.

The practices in this book are presented in an easy to understand way with various supporting modalities, including runes. Aurelia says that the book is geared towards devotees of Brighid and those curious about the practice, stating:

“The depths can be dark, but her torch ever shines to illuminate a way for us toward our own illumination, healing, and growth. The practice in these pages is an invitation to follow this lit path through the forest of ogham trees in search of your true self, your unbreakable and remarkable soul hiding behind and beneath your fears.”4

If you are at all interested in any of the concepts presented here, pick The Torch of Brighid up. In fact, even if you aren’t interested, pick it up anyway and thumb through it. I guarantee something in these pages will leap out and whisper to you as it did to me.

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.

Bogowie, by T.D. Kokoszka

Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe’s Ancient Gods, by T.D. Kokoszka
Moon Books, 1803412852, 448 pages, September 2023

Without a doubt, the most famous Slavic deity is the child-eating hag goddess Baba Yaga. Thanks to her memorable mobile home on chicken legs, she has achieved mainstream recognition through children’s books, and she even lends her name as an alias to the eponymous assassin played by Keanu Reeves in the John Wick film series (2014). Aside from everyone’s favorite chicken witch, Slavic mythology has inadequate representation in pop culture and western scholarship. In Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe’s Ancient Gods, author T.D. Kokoszka seeks to remedy this deficiency. The book’s title, Bogowie (pronounced “BO-GOV-YEH”), is Polish for “Gods,”1 and in this work, Kokoszka uses “comparative analysis to interpret Slavic folklore”2 and reconstruct Slavic paganism.

It may come as a surprise that the author, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Texas State, would choose to write a book on a topic that digresses so far from his field of expertise. While microbiology may seem unrelated to comparative mythology on the surface, the study of ancient genetics intersects with the reconstruction of ancient Slavic culture. The author recognizes the inherent dangers of investigating the Proto-Indo-European “Aryan” identity, and approaches this topic with sensitivity. As a half Jewish and half Polish-American man, Kokoszka is disturbed by the appropriation of Slavic paganism by far-right nationalist groups, such as Russian and Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, and seeks to reconstruct traditional Slavic faith from a non-biased scholarly perspective.

Kokoszka felt compelled to write this book because the study of pre-Christian Slavic culture and mythology has been neglected by modern scholarship, and he was frustrated and disappointed by the dearth of quality research in this field. However, his target audience is not scholars (he doubts they would take him seriously), but those who are interested in Slavic paganism. Being a Slavic pagan himself, he hopes this work will be a valuable resource for both curious readers and devoted practitioners attempting to reconstruct the pre-Christian Slavic faith.

I fall into the curious camp, and Baba Yaga’s chicken foot hut led me through a dark forest to the unfurling leaves of this book. Earlier this year, I read Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft: Slavic Magic of the Woods by Ukrainian diaspora witch Madame Pamita, which piqued my interest in Slavic mythology, a topic I shamefully knew little to nothing about up until that point. Bogowie proved to be the nitty-gritty, in-depth scholarly analysis I enjoy as a mythology buff.

While the author humbly refers to himself as an “amateur,”3 the depth of his comparative mythology analysis is impressive and reminiscent of the works of Joseph Campbell. Kokoszka explores parallels between the Slavic pantheon and other world mythologies, with an emphasis on major deities such as Mokosh, the goddess of fate and the personification of Mother Earth; Perun, the thunder god; Volos, the god of cattle and Lord of the Underworld; the Zoryas, sea maidens of the dawn; and the solar deity Dazhbog. Several chapters end with a sample tale, including one of my personal favorites, called “Baba Yaga and Vasilissa the Fair.”4 

In Chapter 2, titled “Baba Yaga and Mokosh the Great Mother,” Kokoszka’s exploration of the widespread European folk tradition of saving the last sheaf of grain for a deity is fascinating. In the Ukranian folk tale of “The Snake Wife,” a farmer is advised by a talking serpent in the forest to ask for the last sheaf of corn as payment after he harvests his master’s fields. Then he throws the last sheaf into a fire and a beautiful woman leaps like a spark from the flames. They get married, and his new bride warns him to never call her a serpent, or else she will leave him. Inevitably, he does so anyway, and she turns into a snake. Before she slithers away, he kisses her thrice, and is blessed with knowledge each time. She tells him to go to the Tsar, who will reward him for his wisdom by giving him a princess for a bride.

“Why does the peasant burn the last sheaf of grain to summon the snake wife?”5 Kokoszka asks. He reveals that the last sheaf is associated with an old woman or hag throughout Europe. In Scotland, the last sheaf of grain was dressed as a woman and devoted to the Cailleach, a hag goddess. In German folklore, the last sheaf is called “the corn mother” or “wheat-bride,” and “some Dutch stories portray the Ruggenmoeder (Rye Mother) as an old hag with red eyes and a black nose who carries a whip and pursues children.”6 Meanwhile, in Russia, “sometimes a small patch of rye stalks were left in the corner of the field, and braided for Baba Yaga,” who “feeds the world, but is herself hungry.”7 Perhaps this is why she eats naughty children! “Another tradition which intersects with this is found in Central Europe, where one can find narratives about an old hag getting ground up by a mill and coming out as a maiden, with her youth restored,”8 says Kokoszka.

The last sheaf may also be personified as “The Old Man,”9 and in some parts of Russia, Kokoszka says, “the last sheaf of grain was called ‘The Beard of Volos.’” 10 While it may seem strange to connect an agrarian fertility tradition with the god of death, Kokoszka believes there is evidence that this practice is rooted in ancestral cult worship, as illustrated by the Ukrainian Didukh, another ceremonial last sheaf representing a grandfather spirit. The Didukh was believed to be a spirit house for deceased family members, and was brought into the home for winter festivities.

“The Didukh was given a place of honor during Christmas in many Ukrainian households,” Kokoszka says. “Finally, in early January, it was taken to the field and burned to free the spirits.”11

I found it even more intriguing that the pagan Volos was syncretized with the Christian Saint Nicholas. In some parts of Russia, the “Beard of Volos” was also known as the “Beard of Nicholas,”12 and a bull was sacrificed to him on his feast day on December 6th, an obviously pagan practice that hearkens back to the ancient association of Volos with cattle. Kokoszka says that “the bull to be sacrificed was named mikolets, after the Saint himself.”13

Bogowie is jam-packed with nutritious tidbits like this. I loved following the little bread crumbs about Baba Yaga the most because I have been fascinated with her ever since I first saw an image of her chicken foot hut in a computer game as a child. I was delighted to learn that, in Slavic mythology, there is also a female house spirit with chicken legs called a kikimora who lives behind the stove. In the middle of the night, she will tangle unspun thread or unravel needlework that has not been put away or sained (blessed with the sign of the cross).

Now that I have my own little coven of seven Easter Egger hens I call the Chicken Foot Clan, I like to think of myself as a chicken witch, and I want to be known as Baba Yaga to my grandchildren. I made a feather duster/chicken feather besom for ritual use with a bundle of naturally-shed tail feathers and a branch from the chaste tree growing in my backyard. According to Kokoszka, “witches of Carpatho-Ukrainian folk belief often have chicken feet.”14 I don’t have chicken feet yet, but after the ladies pass away of natural causes, I plan on harvesting theirs, mummifying them, and painting their toenails so they look like little hag hands. In witchcraft, dried chicken feet have protective powers, and it will also be a way for me to memorialize my hens.

Bogowie will be an engrossing read for chicken witches, Slavic pagans, and anyone who enjoys studying comparative mythology. Kokoszka’s thorough investigation of Eastern European folklore is formidable, and this book is destined to be an essential text on Slavic mythology.

Pagan Portals – Gods & Goddesses of England, by Rachel Patterson

Pagan Portals –  Gods & Goddesses of England, by Rachael Patterson
Moon Books, 1789046629, 128 pages, July 2023

I was drawn to Pagan Portals – God & Goddesses of England by Rachel Patterson because as the wife of an Englishman, I’ve traveled there quite a bit. What I love about my travels is that we don’t visit as tourists, we settle in as family and then branch out and explore the countryside. It’s a place that shares its land with small villages, larger cities such as York and Bath, and also ancient markers, all of which cohabitate beautifully. Thanks to Patterson, my knowledge of the deities of England has greatly expanded. I’m looking forward to seeing the sights with the lens of the gods and goddesses next time we visit!

Pattern is the perfect guide for this trip through the landscape of England’s deities. Her website titles her an “English kitchen witch and author” 1 Her list of other published works is impressive, including Pagan Portals – Kitchen Witchcraft, Pagan Portals – Moon Magic, and A Witch for Every Season. She is listed as one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine.

Now, diving in, this book is divided into two broad sections: “Part I, The History of Humans” and “Part II, Gods & Goddesses”. To start the book, Patterson presents what she describes as a “very brief outline” of Britain’s timeline from Paleolithic Britain (700,000 B.C.) through the Noman conquest of 1066 A.D. She also introduces the reader to the various invading forces who settled in Britain and put their stamps on the people and the land – from the Romans to the Germanic tribes, to the Vikings. This laid the foundation for delving into the deities of England in this book. 

In Part II, before recommending how to connect with the deities, Rachel profiles numerous deities, referencing whether they were a god or a goddess, and the location where reference to these deities was found. For some she is able to share a lot of information, while for others all that remains is a reference to their name on an inscription or relic or reference in a manuscript. She covers the whole of England, though, in a concise manner. 

Of course, Britannia shows up. This time inscribed on a statue base in York. Britannia eventually became the symbol of Britain and of the resiliency of its people. She provides a lot of information on Sulis, a goddess found in Bath. As she writes, “a great number of altars, dedications and curse tablets have been found in Bath along with a large temple dedicated to her.”2 While worshiped during the Roman times as a goddess with whom they equated their goddess Minerva, Sulis seems to have been a local goddess long before the Romans invaded.

I was intrigued by the curse tablets that had been thrown into a spring. Each was made of metal and mostly all rolled up before being thrown into the spring. “All of them seem to be requesting return of stolen items, asking for revenge, or the righting of wrongs. Most of them involved what would seem to be today small items such as a stolen towel.”3 In all fairness, though, one needs their towel in Bath.

She offers ways to engage with the deities, whether one is local to you or whether you were drawn to one in the book. Ways include researching the deity, setting up an altar, connecting with the land, and, one of her favorite ways, researching food local to the area. She feels that these local recipes help her “align with the energies of the area”4 while also providing good food. 

Rachel also writes extensively as to how she connects with specific deities, Belisama, the Three Mothers/Matres, and Sabrina.  For each, she writes on myths and origins, invocations, rituals, meditations, and of course, recipes including chorley cakes (Belisama), Gloucester pancakes (The Three Mothers/Matres) and shearing cake (Sabrina). She concludes with offering further readings, if interested. 

I highly recommend Pagan Portals – Gods and Goddesses of England. It encourages one to connect with the deities rather than just providing copious amounts of information on each, helping readers to create their own relationship with these gods and goddesses. Realizing that all might not be able to visit England to connect with these deities, Patternson offers ways to do so if one feels drawn to a particular deity. I loved her final recommendation as she sent me on my way:

“What I would recommend you do is to connect with the energy of the land you live on. Research the history for your own area and get to know the land beneath your feet.”5

Surfing the Galactic Highways, by Barry Goddard

Surfing the Galactic Highways: Adventures in Divinatory Astrology, by Barry Goddard
Moon Books, 978-1803410104, 216 pages, January 2023

“This book is aimed at anyone who has a little bit of knowledge of astrology upwards. Astrology is one of those subjects that enters your bones, and if it is there, then it is there, however much or however little you know. It is a primordial connection to the sky that many of us feel.”1

The quote above succinctly expresses the intention of Surfing the Galactic Highways: Adventures in Divinatory Astrology by Barry Goddard. The twenty-one (21) chapters cover an expansive and fresh perspective that differs from the usual books on astrology and often a more mechanical approach that forms a less intuitive structure for the reader. The visual appeal draws the reader in simply in the cover art work and the colors used and imagery, which exude a playful approach. It is reminiscent of the required dioramas that we crafted as children in elementary school. 

Lest, this playful first encounter set the tone for frivolity in the content, there is an abundance of practical and very relatable information within the pages of this title. To that point, “Chapter 1: The Power of Astrology” begins with the First Vaccination Chart reflecting the date when Margaret Keenan (UK), received the first dose of the COVID vaccine on December 8th, 2020. Using this as a starting point for the innate power of astrology as a predictive tool grounded in the present celestial events, Goddard creates the fertile space of return to inclusion of a sentient and accessible Universe as a tool of free will and intention…. 

“Astrology enchants the universe in an age when that enchantment has been replaced by the notion of a dead universe, that the universe is just a thing and we are just one more thing in it. We are the first people in history to entirely forget our roots in spirit, in the sense that consciousness is fundamental.”2

As you move through the chapters of this book, there is a sense of being part of an adventure in exploration of the astrological basics versus the academia of the subject matter. “Chapter 2: Keeping it Simple” exemplifies this approach beautifully. Goddard provides the reader and novice with just enough astrological information to make sense of the deeper explorations of the components of astrological practice. 

“I like to keep astrology simple, because it is then easier to remain close to the symbolism. When you are close to the symbolism, when you feel it strongly, it can speak through you. Anyone can learn the set of meanings of the planets and signs and put them together to read a chart. A computer can do that. But that is not astrology, because it is not the gods speaking through you, but the intellect, which needs to be the servant, not the master.”3

This simple approach is sampled in the reading of Barack Obama’s chart – only containing the Sun, Moon and Rising signs. The lesson here is one of using the highlights (Sun, Moon, and Rising) information as the starting points for analysis of an individual chart. The reader is reminded of the deep, albeit for many unconscious, knowing we have of the two largest celestial bodies of reference we have access to directly: the Sun and the Moon. This concept follows the idea of connection and symbolism and allows those very common things to speak through the astrological reading by way of what is already established as a connection to the reader’s ideology of what the Sun and Moon mean to them beyond astrological purposes. 

Goddard provides all of the usual information sought after by those looking to astrology with specific intentions. “Prediction, Political Astrology and Bad Astrology” (Chapter 3), “Relationships” (Chapter 4), “Astrology, Divination and Science” (Chapter 10) and “The Elemental Balance” (Chapter 11) are just a few of the highlights that would satisfy the more traditional approach.  But, the more interesting perspectives can be found in chapters such as these: “Trusting in Death” (Chapter 8), “Tweaking Our Creation Mythologies” (Chapter 12), “The Geography of the Underworld” (Chapter 21) and others that pique the reader’s curiosity about entwining astrological concepts into more expansive areas of consideration. 

Throughout Surfing the Galactic Highways, the underpinnings of a scientific approach to astrology are woven with the mythos of sign and planet and the symbolism becomes one infused with reality and intuitive creativity. Each chapter is primed with visual examples of charts that have been simplified in how much is contained within, allowing the reader to properly digest the concepts presented and create new pathways of understanding that can at a later date be expanded upon. 

Would I Recommend?

In Surfing the Galactic Highways, Goddard has successfully taken some very dry and often challenging principles of astrology and crafted them in such a way that makes them relatable to everyone at all layers of knowledge base. Goddard’s writing style is one that elicits an ease of reading that is similar to that of sitting and discussing a complicated subject with a patient and enthusiastic friend whose only goal is one of wanting to share their passion for that topic. All in all, this book is an excellent resource for those who wish to explore the many uses of astrological application and enjoy the journey of new awakenings. 

About the Author: Barry Goddard

In his twenties and thirties, Goddard was engaged in Buddhist practice, but for the last 25 years the main currents have been astrology and shamanism. He regularly writes blogs and Facebook posts about both shamanism and astrology, to which he brings a fresh and sometimes controversial perspective.

Pagan Portals – The Norns, by Irisanya Moon

Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magick, by Irisanya Moon
Moon Books, 1789049105, 112 pages, August 2023

From the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the three witches in Disney’s 1993 cult classic Halloween film Hocus Pocus, the Triple Goddess of Fate haunts pop culture, bewitching the masses in the form of three meddlesome hags. Fate’s commercial success in such unflattering incarnations betrays how terrifying the concept of predestination is to contemporary Westerners who tenaciously cling to the secular cult of Free Will, despite the audacious philosophers and neuroscientists like Sam Harris who have declared that free will is an illusion. According to Harris, the conscious mind may believe it’s in control, but it only acts out decisions that have already been made by the subconscious mind. 1 Some people may even become enraged by the idea that there is no such thing as free will, because our culture places such high value on accepting personal responsibility for our successes and failures in life. There is a deep collective fear of not having control over our destinies.  

In Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magic, author, witch, and priestess Irisanya Moon reveals that the ancient Norse had a more holistic view, and saw Fate, or Wyrd, as an intricate web that both includes and transcends us. The Norns, the trio of mysterious goddesses who personify Fate in Norse mythology, are ubiquitous spirits, unseen yet all-pervasive, ever weaving the fabric of space and time. They occupy the liminal spaces, moving through us and around us, forever spinning the wheel of the Cosmos, and their spindle of Fate pricks the thumbs of both gods and mortals alike.

Because of their ubiquity, the Norns can be difficult to define. There are the primary three, named Urd, the Norn of What Was, who is associated with the past and creates the thread of life; Verdandi, the Norn of Becoming, or the present moment, who measures the thread of life; and Skuld, the Norn of What Shall Be, who cuts the thread at the end of life. The Norns also include a collective of female ancestral spirits called the dísir, who watch over humanity. Additionally, Moon points out that “a common meaning for norn in modern Icelandic is ‘witch’ or ‘hag’.”2

Instead of rehashing Norse myths that can be found in other books, Moon guides readers to discover who the Norns are by fostering intimate relationships with them. She encourages personal gnosis of these divine beings through a variety of exercises, such as “Stepping into the Worlds of the Norns”3 through trance.

As Moon invited me to travel in spirit to the World Tree and visit the Wyrd Sisters, I was flooded with vivid imagery. In an eldritch forest, I saw the World Tree Yggdrasil towering above the other trees, its evergreen boughs silvered by moonlight, dripping lunar dew over the Well of Fate, pooling in an earthen basin formed by the vast network of knotted roots. Three shadowy maidens rose from the depths of the lake, shifting shape. They coalesced into a trinity of spiders, weaving the elastic web of the Multiverse in the boughs of the World Tree. Infinite worlds were reflected in the dewdrops of their infinite eyes. I began to think of Yggdrasil as a human body, my body. My spine became the tree’s trunk, a ladder of bone that could take me up to Asgard, the realm of the gods, or down into the depths of Hel, the Norse Underworld. I realized that all the trees in the forest around me were other people’s World Trees. We live in a Multiverse where everyone is their own Yggdrasil. 

“Everyone has a part of the wyrd, like a web, like a large woven tapestry,” Moon says. “My wyrd intersects with yours, perhaps. Yours intersects and pulls on mine. And all of this is what creates fate and destiny.”4

Together, we all shape Fate as a collective. 

I was drawn to this book because I’m a fatalist. I believe that free will is an illusion, but I think that we should behave as though we have free will, and make responsible choices to the best of our abilities, even if our subconscious mind has already made them for us. It appears to me that there are too many external factors limiting any supposed free will that we mortals may have, from mental programming imprinted upon us as children by our parents and the culture in which we were raised, to societal limitations that limit our mobility as adults. I think that when we act out what we believe is our free will and pursue our dreams, we are in fact acting out our soul’s true purpose and what we are destined to do. We are coming into alignment with our True Will, which is the will of Fate. 

I believe the excessive praise of individualism in Western civilization is harmful to the collective. The emphasis on individual free will and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps blinds us to systemic abuse and allows the continued oppression of large swathes of people. Everyone’s fate is connected. The focus on individualism creates the illusion that individuals are struggling alone. In truth, their struggles are shared with other people in similar circumstances, but in isolation, they are tricked into believing they should shoulder the burden of circumstances beyond their control all on their own. 

I appreciate how Moon compassionately addresses the ways that Fate encompasses circumstances beyond one’s control.

“Dismantling the structures of oppression requires the commitment to uncovering and understanding that people do not all have the same opportunities,” Moon says. “Many are born into places that limit and seek to continue to hold them back.”5

This thought-provoking book had me pondering the shared Fate of the collective, the interconnectedness of people’s individual threads, and how great an impact any word or action, however small it may seem at the time, can have on so many people. I can recall times when the actions of others have inadvertently shifted my path, and I am sure I have had the same effect on other people as well, in ways which I am not aware. Just as Moon says, “I can choose to meet my fate in a way that is honorable and respectful of the collective versus just being out for myself.”6

My sole criticism of this work is that the author’s well-meaning efforts to be all-inclusive were superfluous to the point of distraction. For example, Moon spells the word “gods” with double ds (“godds”), to make it more gender inclusive, which I don’t feel is necessary, because I read the word “gods” as gender neutral without a second thought, and my inner editor kept flagging it as a spelling error.7 

Moon also suggests that the gender of the dísir, who are traditionally female ancestors, may make some people uncomfortable, and “it might be more inclusive to expand this to those who birth or those who mother without being attached to gender.”8 I don’t understand why seeing the dísir as female matrons would be offensive, and I feel that we can learn more about their true essence by examining the traditional perceptions of these ancient spirits instead of projecting modern gender politics upon them. It would be far more interesting to explore why the dísir were perceived as female instead of dismissing their femininity and assigning them whatever gender feels more comfortable. I personally think the focus on female ancestors is beautiful because it emphasizes matrilineal descent, as opposed to our patriarchal society, which frets over paternity and erases the maternal line by only giving children the surname of the father. I feel that dismissing the female gender of the dísir only reinforces these patriarchal views. 

It’s no accident that the maternal line is also known as the distaff line. 9 The word distaff is derived from the Old English, dis, meaning “bundle of flax” and stæf, meaning “staff,” so the distaff is a staff on the spinning wheel that was wound with flax in preparation for spinning. Meanwhile, the strikingly similar Old Norse word dís means “goddess,” and the plural form of dísir means “goddesses.”10 Spinning was traditionally women’s work, and the dísir are the spinning goddesses, the collective ancestral mothers. They are inherently feminine, and I think it would be disrespectful to change that just because their gender might make some people feel uncomfortable.

I see the Thread of Fate as the umbilical cord, which nourishes the fetus in the womb and connects the unborn child to the well of ancestral memory (the well of Urd). When the baby is born, the umbilical cord stretches out and is measured by Verdandi, in that precious and fleeting moment when mother and child are still connected. When the cord is cut by the midwife Skuld, the neonate takes their first breath of spirit, and accepts the destiny that has been gifted to them by the Norns.  

I gained some wonderful insights into my personal perception of the Wyrd Sisters by experimenting with Moon’s exercises. While I prefer a more traditional view of the Norns, I feel that my disagreement with some of Moon’s progressive views produced creative tension that helped me further clarify my own relationship with these potent spirits.

Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magick is a book that shifts one’s perspective from fearing Fate to embracing the mystery of how our individual fates intertwine with the world’s collective Fate and the greater destiny of the Multiverse. The exercises contained within encourage developing a personal connection with these transcendent powers through journaling, self-exploration, and trance work. For those who love journal prompts and guided meditations, this book can facilitate a deeper relationship with the mysterious spirits of Fate who watch over us all and guide us towards our destinies.

Pagan Portals – Planetary Magic, by Rebecca Beattie

Pagan Portals – Planetary Magic: A Friendly Introduction to Creating Modern Magic with the Seven Energies, by Rebecca Beattie
Moon Books,1803411767, 152 pages, August 2023

What if you weren’t at the mercy of the planets, but rather could learn to work with their energies in order to create magic? Pagan Portals – Planetary Magic: A Friendly Introduction to Creating Modern Magic with the Seven Energies by Rebecca Beattie is a guide to connecting with the Seven Planetary Powers to enhance your spellwork. Within this book is all you need to learn about each planetary energy and different methods to invoke their powers.

Since Beattie’s focus is on the Pre-modern Universe, this book focuses on the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (sorry Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto!). She draws upon traditional grimoires of this time, such as Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, and takes readers back in time through history to understand how these planetary energies were observed by cultures of the past. The illustrations in the book “are taken from pre-modern woodcuts from either the grimoire tradition, or medieval tomes on the nature of the universe,”1 which is great for those interested in occult history.

Before delving into the energies, in addition to the history of grimoires and planetary magic, Beattie covers topics such as twenty-first century magic (the conscious/unconscious mind), the Kabbalah, planetary kameas (magic squares) and sigils, working with herbs, tarot correspondences, planetary days and hours (magical timing), and Orphic Hymns. She also acknowledges how source texts are often contradictory, noting in this book she primarily focuses on Agrippa’s work. For those who read additional sources from this time, Beattie recommends keeping a notebook to keep track of differences in order to make up one’s own mind.

The chapters for each planet pretty much follow the same format. They begin with an Orphic Hymn followed by an introduction to the planetary energy by Beattie. She explains how working with the planetary energy can be helpful and then provides the kamea, sigil, Agrippa’s suffumigation, incense recipe, sigil, seal, examples of deities with this energy, tarot correspondences, and then practical magic section. The practical magic section varies depending upon the planetary energy, but various examples include oil recipes, bath salt recipe, tea recipes, herbal sachet recipes, and candle magic recipes, along with planet-specific spells.

And I just love how well organized it all this whole book is for reference! I admittedly own a copy of Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, but the books are hefty and quite long; they are not something I could easily carry around for reference. In comparison, Pagan Portals – Planetary Magic is short, sweet, and densely packed with all you’d need for planetary magic spellwork. This is a book that I could keep in my backpack or near my altar for reference.

Plus, Beattie makes it so easy to figure out which planet to work with by including a long list of intentions, alphabetically ordered, with the corresponding planet. From abundance to worry, the A-Z list of intentions also includes breaking contracts, dreams, fertility, mental power, peace, sea-faring protection, preventing theft, and so much more!

I recently started a new fitness plan, so I decided to bolster my motivation with some spellwork. Using the list of intention, I found “Athetlics – endurance”2 and saw it was ruled by the SUN. This is something I wouldn’t have guessed, since I figured Mars would be the planetary energy for all things athletic. I decided to draw the seal of the Sun and tape it on my water bottle. And then I also followed Beattie’s directions for making a solar candle for health, which was anointed with the solar oil for success recipe Beattie also provided.

In addition to the practicality of the book having so much information in one place, my other favorite thing about this book is the inclusion of deities beyond the Roman pantheon the planets are named from. Beattie writes:

“It’s the quality of the planetary energy that is important, not the name, and while the deities they were named for might be ascribed masculine or feminine genders, the planetary energies aren’t gendered in this book as I don’t consider them to be gendered.”3

I appreciated this non-binary approach to the planetary energies. And furthermore, I also highly enjoyed how for each planetary energy Beattie included alternative deities to work beyond the traditional Roman one. For instance, other Saturnian deities included Osiris, Hel, Persephone, and Binah. Beattie shares a bit about the deity, how they reflect the plantery energy, and sometimes even specific ways to work with them (i.e. offerings the deity likes).

Overall, Pagan Portals – Planetary Magic: A Friendly Introduction to Creating Modern Magic with the Seven Energies has been a delightful read for me. Beattie is a wonderful guide for those who want to learn how to include planetary magic in their practice. Her ability to concisely present a vast, ancient magical system without skimping in detail is truly so valuable for readers. I appreciate the work she has done so that we all can have a handy guide for planetary magic. It’s a book that I am certainly going to keep handy for reference. Whenever I want to carve a planetary sigil, it’ll be quick to find it in this book. Or when I want to create incense or an oil, all the information I need is right here.

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie, by Melanie Godfrey

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie: Stories of the Celtic Sidhe and how to Connect to the Otherworldly Realms, by Melanie Godfrey
Moon Books, 1782794778, 136 pages, September 2022

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie: Stories of the Celtic Sidhe and how to Connect to the Otherworldly Realms by Melanie Godfrey is a brilliant and enchanting book that transports readers into the mystical realm of spirit beings known as “fayerie,” distinct from the popularized fairies of Disney tales. Inspired by the renowned British folklorist Katharine Briggs, Godfrey’s heartfelt and personal account takes us on a captivating journey through her intimate encounters with Faery and the Elemental Kingdoms.

The book not only weaves captivating stories born from the author’s experiences with sacred landscapes but also serves as a profound guide for readers to deepen their connections with nature beings and the mystical places they inhabit. Divided into two sections, the book’s first part focuses on connecting with the heart of ancient fayerie, encouraging exploration of the landscapes around us and communication with the spirit guardians residing in trees and stones.

Godfrey skillfully introduces valuable techniques, meditations, and ceremonies that enable readers to access a higher state of consciousness and engage with their imaginative faculties. Through these meditations, readers encounter different types of fayerie, who offer guidance and wisdom in life’s journey.

The book further delves into the “Clair Senses,” such as Clairaudience, Clairsentience, and Clairvoyance, providing various ways to perceive and sense the fayerie world. Meditation emerges as a potent tool to connect with the subtle energies of the earth and the diverse fayerie races that inhabit it.

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie sheds light on the significance of the four elements—earth, air, fire, and water—associated with different types of fayerie beings, such as gnomes, sylphs, dragons, and merfolk, respectively. Additionally, the book emphasizes the importance of understanding oneself and exercising discernment when interacting with the fayerie realms, especially during times of emotional imbalance.

Godfrey’s authoritative and delightful narration empowers readers to explore their own psyches, unlocking a deeper understanding of the multidimensional world we inhabit alongside these ancient and original nature spirits. Through dreams and visions, she guides readers on connecting with various spirits and energies in the parallel realms of the Otherworlds, intricately intertwined with our reality.

Furthermore, the book imparts a Fayerie Code of Ethics, advocating for kindness towards nature, reciprocity, belief in magic, and mindfulness of environmental impact. It beautifully reminds us of the magic and beauty surrounding us, often unseen and underappreciated. It encourages readers to open their eyes and hearts to the wonders of the fayerie world.

The second section of Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie treats readers to captivating tales from the Celtic Otherworld, derived from the author’s pilgrimages across the ancient lands of Albion (Ireland, Scotland, and England). Godfrey’s respect for the wisdom gained from the guardians of our world shines through the pages, instilling a sense of warmth and appreciation.

In today’s world, this book’s relevance cannot be overstated, as it encourages readers to embrace the complexity of nature and engage with its profound wisdom. With passion and dedication, Godfrey significantly contributes to our understanding of the interconnectedness of all life forms.

Each page offers a treasure trove of insights and inspiration, urging readers to cherish and learn from the intricate fabric of our world. It is a rich and immersive exploration of the spirit world, providing readers with meditative practices, enchanting stories, and ethical considerations to connect with the mystical beings that reside beyond the human eye.

Pagan Portals – Ancient Fayerie is a masterful work that captures the magic and wonder of the fayerie realm. Godfrey’s writing is captivating and illuminating, offering readers an opportunity to embrace the ancient wisdom of these elusive and powerful entities. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to deepen their connection with the natural world and explore the mysteries of the unseen realms.

The Magic of Cats, by Andrew Anderson

The Magic of Cats, by Andrew Anderson
Moon Books, 1803410663, 120 pages, May 2023

Just when you think you know everything about cats, Andrew Anderson comes along and opens your eyes to a whole new world–a world of stark contrasts between the cat of the night–with his lunar connection and the cat of the day with her built in solar panels. Both of whom are similar in so many ways but love to remind us of their differences. 

The Magic of Cats takes us way back, all the way to the Chinese creation myth that cats were sent by the gods to protect and look after humans, a task which they ultimately failed at, and instead became our silent, judging companions. 

As a lover of cats and a human who has been fortunate enough to be given the honor of living with a cat, I instantly knew I had to read this book. My cat, who I refer to as my familiar, is a definitive cat of the night. She’s like a little ninja, becoming a shadow when needed. Stalking her prey with her murder mittens, then flouncing back home ready for belly rubs, head bumps, and snoot boops.

We try our best to turn these kitties into snuggly, fluffy balls of floof, and although they tolerate it to an extent, they’re inevitably the rulers of any roost, as Andrew makes quite clear. Cats have prowled this earth for millenia, with us mere humans at their beck and call, and that’s not about to change any time soon.

I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a trigger warning, although Andrew doesn’t dwell on the harmful behaviour that cats have endured from humans in the past, he doest cover it. He doesn’t go into great detail, but if you’d prefer to not read about it, maybe skip past pages 32 and 33.

Anderson has split the book into two sections, each with their own chapters: “The Cat of the Night” and “The Cat of the Day”.

The witches among you will most likely be familiar with the cat of the night. They are sneaky and slinky and receive their energies from the moon. These are the cats who humans have sadly feared at times, when actually they should be celebrating their feline ways. If the Chinese creation myth is to be believed, then the cats of the world will be all seeing and all knowing, something which I’m surprised wasn’t taken into account in the historical treatment of cats.

And then on the other hand we have the cat of the day. The one who worships and soaks up the sun, he’s cunning and clever and knows exactly how to win your heart.

It is apparent, aside from Anderson telling us in his introduction, that he adores cats. They are and always have been a huge part of his world.

So much so that he was inspired to write the poem “The Cat of the Night and The Cat of the Day (A story for kittens of all ages)”. This narrative poem is a beautiful representation of how sacred we view cats to be (and with good reason). Anderson’s poem is accompanied by the gorgeous illustrations created by artist, Hannah Willow, and the beauty that she brings out of his words is ‘purr-fect.’

Cats are ever present throughout our history, whether feared or revered. We live and love alongside our feline friends. Never really knowing what they’re thinking, but hoping that deep down they feel something for us. And from reading The Magic of Cats, Anderson gives me the confidence that on some level they do.

Nevertheless, whether it’s reciprocated or not, we always invite them into our lives, as we’re all fully aware of that precious feeling we get when, just for a fleeting moment, a cat makes us believe that we are noticed in its world.

Then you realize all the cat wants is your chicken sandwich, and he or she may allow you to give them a head scritch, but only for precisely 4.5 seconds. Because you, measly human, are not worthy of anything else. 

The Magic of Cats is a wonderful way to find a deeper connection to your furry freeloading roommate. And also, to dip into the history of cats of the world, how they’re represented in religion and where they feature in myth and legend.

Anderson has encapsulated these magnificent creatures in his powerful poem, of which he says:

 “…imagines a story told by a mother cat to her kittens, explaining how the world was created and why we alternate between periods of light and dark.”1 

It really cements the connection we can have with our cats, the magic we can share. We all have two sides to us, and I believe we can all find shared similarities in the cat of the night and the cat of the day when we look inside.

Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries, and Spirits

Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries, and Spirits: Faery Magic from Story to Practice, by Halo Quin
Moon Books, 178535941X, 104 pages, August 2022

Halo Quin takes us on a journey into the world of Folktales, Faeries and Spirits. She has a deep connection to the magic that resides in Wales and adores the wilderness there and the stories and tales that come from that landscape. Her love of faeries has been apparent since childhood, when she would greet them everywhere she went. She is keen to educate us on the practices of the faeries, how we can find and respect their ways and bring them into our lives. 

There can be mixed greetings towards the faery folk. Some people regard them as beings or spirits who can bring us good luck, wisdom, and beauty; others may view them as mischievous, malicious or even dangerous. Quin tells us that we should view them just as we would people. Each with their own personalities, feelings, values, and nuances. They can be found the world over, in woodlands, forests, rivers, lakes, and streams.

“Another debate among humans who talk about faeries is whether they are nature spirits and spirits of the land, or simply an otherworldly race of humanoids.”1

Personally, I like to believe they are the latter, an ‘otherworldly form of humanoid’. Because how wonderful would that be? Faery folk coming to visit us from another dimension. I can certainly get on board with that idea.

In Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries, and Spirits, Quin asks for you to keep a journal alongside as you drink in the wonders of these tales and the connections you can find. She also encourages you to make notes within the pages of this delightful little companion. 

My knowledge of faeries is, I’m ashamed to say, almost non-existent, unless we can count Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell in Hook (1991), and I don’t think we can. And so, honestly, I was entering into this world not really knowing what to expect.

Yet I was pleasantly surprised. I was welcomed with open arms immediately.  I felt looked after from the first page, nothing was pushed or forced upon me. I felt like I belonged, I wasn’t intruding on an unknown world, more like visiting an old friend. 

The book is to be used as a practical guide for you to approach and interact with the fae, using the New Age model by Doreen Virtue, which relies on the traditional lineage stories of faeries and their elementals, more commonly known as: earth, air, fire, and water.

Quin advises that when looking to work with the faeries you choose those that are close to you regionally or locally. She has researched and worked with the folklore of Wales, Edinburgh, and Spain. Although her work tends to focus on the Nordic Fae, the Alfar, as they are found worldwide.

Faery cultures vary from region to region, so it’s wise to do your research. Much like you would do if you were visiting a foreign country for the first time.

We are given an enigmatic insight into the world of faeries. I live close to where the Cottingley Fairy pictures were taken, and although these photos were proven to have been faked by the children, who’s to say we don’t still have them living there?

It’s a beautiful fairy-like landscape, something we’re not short of in Yorkshire. And now that I know how to approach and how to show my respect to these spirits, it’s something I will be more mindful of.

The book lays out steps for you to begin your connection with the fae. How to build your altar, where you’ll be able to communicate with them, and where you need to look in nature. There is also a handy guide which will give you trees and plants to look out for to bond and meditate with.

Quin also takes us deeper into the Fae folk, sharing who to call upon, who to thank, and who we can be inviting into our homes. 

Each chapter takes you on an easy-to-follow path, starting with an introduction to Faery history, how to begin, who you can find, and where to find them. You are then carefully taken, step by step into a new world. A world that is waiting not far from you now and may be closer than you think.

Learning to open the pathways, cross the rivers and enter Faery land. Invite these beings into your world, integrate your roots, call upon the already familiar elementals and encourage yourself to delve further into what they have to offer. 

Whether you have just discovered a spark of interest, you’ve been dabbling for a while, or you’re still on the fence about the whole idea, I think Pagan Portals – Folktales, Faeries and Spirits can offer a new insight into what you might have already learned. And isn’t it always good practice to keep an open mind?