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Lunar Alchemy, by Shaheen Miro

Lunar Alchemy: Everyday Moon Magic to Transform Your Life, by Shaheen Miro
Weiser Books, 1578636907, 224 pages, 2020

Anyone who has ever looked up at the moon and felt a stirring in their soul understands the importance of lunar magic in a spiritual practice. In Lunar Alchemy: Everyday Moon Magic to Transform Your Life, Shaheen Miro takes us beyond the basic parameters of Moon Magic 101 and shows us a path that not only forms the basis of a solid practice but also includes new facets of shadow work that point the way to personal power rather than simply providing a list of rituals to perform to help with manifestation.

Miro’s other writings through his blog and weekly newsletters focus on healing, empowerment, and transformation. His personal practice for clients includes energy-clearing, intention setting, and intuitive readings. The author of The Lunar Nomad Oracle, Uncommon Tarot (reviewed here), and co-author of Tarot for Troubled Times, Miro’s intention through his work is to help people navigate themselves to uncover their own personal power. 

One thing that struck me is the lack of how-tos in this book. While there is a comprehensive table of contents that includes the four basic moon phases, Miro dissects each phase and relates it back to the Great Work. He explains:

“…this isn’t simply a book about moon spells or moon magic. It is a book that ultimately will familiarize you with the phases of the moon as steps on the alchemical path – the Great Work – so that you can learn to internalize that alchemy as a transformative force in your own life.”1

Personally, I have felt inadequate at times when comparing myself as I am to the idea of who I thought I was. It’s interesting to see how our impressions of ourselves change over time, and Miro not only recognizes that but expands on it:

“Your life’s path is, like the moon’s, a series of phases – times of abundance, times of thin scarcity, times of light, times of darkness, times of feminine intuition, times of masculine action. The cycle repeats. Like the moon, you change day to day. No one phase is “you”; no one phase is right, or better, or more moral than any other. You are the sum total of all your phases – and like the moon you are on a constant alchemical journey of change and transformation.”2

I can’t tell you what an incredible relief it was to read those words. Something I’d felt but couldn’t put into words just magically appearing before me in the book I am reading. That’s magic! Miro is completely right: we are works in progress and we never stop changing. This book is a huge asset in learning how to navigate those spaces between what you know about yourself and what you’ve hidden from yourself.

The book is set up in three parts. Part one deals with the alchemic concepts behind lunar magic and a great jumping off point for those new to the concept of the Great Work. Part two deals with the four lunar cycles and contains exercises and ceremonies for working with each phase as it resonates with you. Part three provides a selection of ceremonies and exercises for specific intentions. 

Reading this book feels like a rebellion of sorts. Not because it is outrageously scandalous, although some might feel that way given the attitude of “If I thrive, you thrive. If we are well, the planet is well”.3 Miro writes in a clear, concise way that conveys his ideas of how we could move forward as a species if we were able to embrace a shift in power away from the actionable masculine energy that is dominating currently and bring it into balance with the deeply intuitive and self empowerment of the feminine.

We see these shifts happening already. This book is a tool to help that change occur within us, by healing the disconnect between the Solar and the Lunar aspects we all carry as part of who we are. Healing ourselves leads to collective healing on a global scale, and this book is a step in that direction.

I found this book to be deeply satisfying on a number of levels. My brain loved the linking of moon phases to corresponding alchemical phases, and the deep dive into “As above, so below. As within, so without”4. That phrase has been tossed around a lot and it is so refreshing to see pages devoted to exploring the concept behind the words.

More than just a phrase, it’s a way of being in harmony with the rhythms and cycles of the natural world and being in alignment. Miro takes the time to delve into it and coaxes the reader to answer a series of questions throughout the section, not as an exercise but as a way to get you to think. Lunar Alchemy takes common themes and ideas around the moon and cycles in general and reinvigorates them with brightness and curiosity. Wondrous reading!

Lunar Alchemy is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about moon cycles as they relate personally and isn’t afraid of doing shadow work. Shadow work is hard, but the payoff is well worth it! The spells and ceremonies in the third part are designed to support and assist the self empowerment techniques and aren’t meant to help you get your lover back or find you a new job. What this book can do, however, is provide you with the tools to do those things for yourself. Plus, the list of reading resources at the back of the book is a fantastic gift. There are some great readings suggested, and I highly encourage checking a few out at the very least. 

Uncommon Tarot, by Shaheen Miro

Uncommon Tarot, by Shaheen Miro
Weiser Books, 1578637147, 64 pages, 78 cards, October 2020

I absolutely love when artists put a new twist on the classical tarot, which is just what Shaheen Miro has done with the deck The Uncommon Tarot. This mixed-media deck is filled with surprises that gently push on the boundaries of the traditional tarot cards. The imagery gently invites the reader to reimagining the tarot, as this deck has infused it visually with the symbols of diverse cultures and spiritual traditions, inviting in new wisdom to the cards.

The box this deck comes in is a lovely design. I appreciate when a creator uses a different design than a standard box where the lid separates from the bottom. The Uncommon Tarot folds open and has a magnet to keep it secure. It is small, but sturdy, and the box fits neatly within my collection of decks and ensures the cards will not start to fade in time, as happens with decks without a good box. It also has a yellow ribbon to gently guide the cards out of the deck and prevent them from getting stuck. Absolutely marvelous packaging!

It’s no wonder the box is so well designed, as the cards themselves are truly masterpieces. The cards all have an ethereal feeling to them that transcend the bounds of time and space. Some seem to have themes of Renaissance art, while others bring to mind Surrealist imagery. Interspersed is Native American, Asian, Indian, and African people and, sometimes, animals to depict the energy of the card.

My favorite card in the deck is Strength. It has a classically painted woman looking over a relaxed, life-like looking lion. The lion is crowned with a green infinity symbol. In the background is a mixture of sunflowers and painted leaves. There is a serene energy to the card. I love how the sunflowers and yellow hues remind me of the card’s correspondence to the Sun, while the green infinity symbol reminds me of the connection to the heart. While my words may not do the imagery justice, it’s as though my unconscious mind picked up on all these subtle visual cues to feel the meaning of the card within my soul.

What strikes me the most is how even though re-envisioned, every card seems to still perfectly encapsulate the energy of the traditional tarot card description. It’s as though the cards have been enhanced and are now  more revelatory because of the added element of subtle fluency and dynamic expression. Here the energy of the tarot is no longer locked into the traditional deck, and the deck comes alive through its ability to truly express the energy it’s always wanted to.

You can look at cards and still see intuitively the meaning. The minor arcana still includes the image of wands, pentacles, swords, and cups for every card, and the major arcana images still capture the essence. There’s also the name of the card at the bottom. A few names have been changed, such as the “Fool” being renamed “Wander” and “Temperance” renamed “Alchemist.” Once again though these revisions seem to magnify the energy of the card, distilling the past bias and stripping away what is excess to merge with the liminal energy of the deck between the physical and spiritual world.

There’s more emphasis on the artwork speaking for itself to guide readers to discern the information coming forth than relying on the guidebook for information. The guidebook is only a short 64 pages. For every card there is a corresponding question, keywords, general theme, and reversal information. There’s no guidance on how to do a spread, just a suggestion about how to acquaint oneself with the deck and an invitation to be creative. There’s a brief explanation of elemental energy and the meaning of numbers. And that’s about all!

One could skim through the whole guide book in about fifteen minutes. But in no way do I feel like this diminishes the deck. In fact, I feel this would still be a wonderful deck for expert or novice tarot readers because it offers the ability to reconnect with one’s intuition. Rather than offering explicit meanings, these cards leave room for there to be understanding within without it need to be clearly stated. Seeing these cards is enough to prompt your intuition and send the answers you seek through your entire being. There’s no need to run back to the words to seek the validation of what you’ve uncovered, though if you want a bit of illuminate there’s enough in the guidebook to put your mind on the right track.

While the artistry wonderfully captures the energy of the standard 78 cards in the tarot, it also infuses new layers of meaning that have really assisted my readings. I have found this deck awakens the imagination, and the visual cues of the collage-like imagery draw forth intuitive information that I may not have otherwise picked up on. This happened just this morning actually in a reading with my querent when Six of Swords was drawn.

The traditional Six of Swords tarot card has an image of a hooded figure being rowed away from shore with the swords at the front of the boat. In The Uncommon Tarot, the imagery is of a yellow butterfly soaring over the top of six swords, highlighted by blue, green, and yellow background shading, looking absolutely radiant. The moment my querent saw it, she immediately intuited the meaning of this card to represent a transition from being her cocoon to emerging to be the butterfly.

It was remarkable to see her so quickly discern the energy of the card from the artwork, and her vivid excitement about it let me know that it deeply resonated. I always appreciate when the imagery on the card speaks to my querent and infuses them with the energy of the reading beyond the words I may be saying; this is what makes for the readings people remember for a long time.

For those who are collectors, The Uncommon Tarot is definitely a deck to add to one’s collection. The title aptly describes it’s uniqueness with the magnificent artistry makes it stand out among other decks. This inclusive tarot deck successfully draws upon the ancient tradition of tarot and infuses it with a modern imagination. I highly recommend this deck to anyone looking to add a bit more fluidity to their reading, as it invites the energy to flow through the imagery and guide you to new levels of awareness.