The Path of the Witch

When someone decides to study witchcraft, it can be a bit daunting. A practice that has ebbed and flowed based on the times is currently on an upswing and access to information on the subject is more plentiful than ever. On one hand, now is a great time to take up study, on the other, I don’t envy the newcomer attempting to discern where to start. Author Lidia Pradas does a great job trying to help seekers out with her latest book “The Path of the Witch: Rituals & Practices for Discovering Which Witch You Are.”

Pradas takes up the challenge of describing the similarities and differences between several different paths of witchcraft. Are you a green witch, kitchen witch, Wiccan, cosmic witch, elemental witch, sea witch, eclectic, or something else or combination? Pradas takes care to ensure eclectic witches don’t fall into the trap of cultural appropriation, an important issue. She is respectful in explaining the fundamentals of different branches of the witchcraft tree. Not only is this helpful for beginners, but I found it a wonderful was to reevaluate and reconsider my own current practice.

“The Path of the Witch” by Lidia Pradas is a great resource for anyone interested in the many ways you can approach the practice of witchcraft.

You can learn more here.

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Archangel Fire Oracle

Alexandra Wenman set out to blend the angelic with the alchemical. The result was “Archangel Fire Oracle.”

Wenman describes archangels as, “Angels of a high rank who assist humanity with our evolution by helping us to access the divine through our higher wisdom and knowledge. They differ to other angels, who solely help us with practical day-to-day things. The Archangels, along with the day-to-day, have more to with Ascension and the attainment of enlightenment.” She feels the interactive nature of an oracle deck is a great way to access them and their wisdom.

Obviously, like most oracle decks, “Archangel Fire Oracle” can be used any way you like. However, if you want to take full advantage of the deck’s potential you can take a journey one card at a time. In the accompanying guidebook each card has associated entry that included meditations and exercises. Using the deck this way the “Archangel Fire Oracle” is an initiatory experience. In many ways Wenman has created an instructional book AND an oracle deck, conveniently in 40 wonderfully illustrated cards.

Anyone interested in working with angels and/or angelic energies would be well-served in purchasing “Archangel Fire Oracle” by Alexandra Wenman.

You can learn more here.

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The King in Orange

Early on, author John Michael Greer makes sure you know that he speaks about magic following the definition provided by Dion Fortune, “Magic is the art and science causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.” Knowing this makes it easier to see the intersection of magical influence and politics, the subject of Greer’s latest book, “The King in Orange: The Magical and Occult Roots of Political Power.” I feel like these days we’re all armchair politic pundits, I know I am. However, it takes a certain amount confidence to write a book on the divisive topic of politics and up the ante by adding magic to the mix. Since schools of magical thought are always known for being an eternal spring of agreeability (yes, sarcasm).

Greer does an excellent job explaining the primary division amongst Americans as being investment class, salary class, wage class, and welfare class. Your experience of America is greatly based on where you fall in these categories, with the investment and salary classes being catered to and the wage class and welfare class being left to fend for themselves. It is a more refined version of the “problems with the vanishing middle class” concern that politicians bandy about and that many Americans are actually experiencing. Everyone gets an opinion on why Trump won in 2016, and Greer’s is that the wage class was motivated by promises of bringing jobs back to the United States. A new generation Jim Carville’s, “It’s the economy stupid.” “The King in Orange” spends a great deal of time exploring Greer’s thoughts on the mundane reason for the Trump victory, which also include bring soldiers home and the wage class’s struggle with Obamacare.

Things get more interesting when Greer starts tracking the chaos magic of the 4Chans, and the reactionary workings of the magical resistance. “The King in Orange” does an excellent job comparing and contrasting not only the philosophies of these groups, but also their operational practices. There is much to be learned about magic, just from the author’s observations and explanations.

“The King in Orange” is a thought provoking look at the 2016 election through the prism of Greer’s political opinions and magical experience. Whether you agree 100% with his findings, you will still find yourself with much to consider.

You can learn more here.

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Playing with Enlightenment

By Mark Johnson (excerpt from “Life as Play“)

It is difficult to discuss enlightenment in general because enlightenment means something different to everyone and because it is paradoxical. Most people think enlightenment is a peaceful, blissful, formless realm beyond the manifest world and outside of space and time. This is only partially correct because it is a paradox.

It is paradoxical because enlightenment includes duality and is simultaneously beyond it.

A lot of people who study Eastern religions are busily quieting their minds and emotions and are waiting for “enlightening” to strike. This is what the Buddha and Shankara taught and what I meditated on for almost 20 years. I have friends who are professional meditators. They can sit without a single thought appearing in their minds for hours at a time. However, I have rocks in my backyard that can do the same thing. Is this the apex of life on this planet? The Oneness as Emptiness is only part of the story. The manifest realm is also an expression of the great Oneness. Our task now is to figure out how best to manifest that ground of being in the evolving, material world. We must merge the transcendent with the immanent.

The analogy of the Ocean with its waves is the best way I know to describe the paradox of being both at the same time. Waves provide a good analogy for people because each wave has a discernible, separate existence. Each has a unique size, direction, speed, and shape – and they make a lot of noise, just as I do! There is also no real separation between them and the totality of the Ocean.

So, imagine yourself as an average wave rolling along, minding your own business, and some guru wave tells you, “You are the entirety of the ocean, and you can experience yourself as such.” All you have to do is meditate your ass off, become a vegetarian, and take up Tai Ji, or, if you are the trusting, devotional type, you can surrender to Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah.

So now they become a seeker with a mission! A wave in search of wetness! Nothing like a little meaning in life to actually get a person to do something other than consume stuff to compensate for that endless dark pit of need in the middle of one’s chest. The fanatic edge that sometimes comes with a little meaning in one’s life can drive a seeker for several thousand lifetimes; in spite of a few setbacks such as exhaustion, depression, and the sneaky feeling you are wasting a lot of time.

Some people start wave hopping to find the wetness, and others start perfecting their own wave to get wetter than the other waves. What keeps that cycle going is the fact that every time someone gets weary, another spiritual teacher comes along with the perfect technique for experiencing wetness, and off they go again until they finally drop. And then, “POW,” a moment of unity consciousness.

If you stop striving for wetness in order to succeed in experiencing it, it will not work. You have to stop everything, which includes stopping everything. That is why not too many people actually do it. It is scary to surrender everything you think you are and allow the great Oneness to continue running the show.

Some of the best “strivers” I have ever met are the Zen folks. They tirelessly scale that “enlightenment” mountain going straight up the slopes, while most people meander around the well-worn paths, smelling the flowers and eating the strawberries at every turn.

You would expect the Buddhist religion to turn out a lot of enlightened individuals every year, wouldn’t you? I didn’t find that to be the case. So, what is wrong with this picture? The more a wave pursues its own wetness as a goal, the further away the wave gets from being its wetness.

As I mentioned before, the tendency to take up spirituality as a cure for your psychological problems is called “spiritual bypassing.” You try to bypass all your problems with the magic bullet of meditation. It sounds good and looks good and actually works to some degree, but without doing the foundational psychological work along the way, nothing much is going to change, in my opinion.

Too many people and meditation teachers in particular, honestly think every problem can be solved with meditation. If you are out of work and depressed, and your guru tells you to meditate more, it is probably time to get another teacher and to find a job.

On the other hand (there is always another “on the other hand” when dealing with paradox), I often see people busying themselves by digging into their childhood traumas in self-help workshops or with their psychiatrist or therapist. Those “archeological digs” can sometimes lead to greater insight into why we do what we do, but far too often, it is simply another expression of narcissism.

I had a client who washed her hands a hundred times a day and knew exactly why she did it, but she still could not stop. I sometimes think some folks would be a lot better off if they spent their day helping people in a homeless shelter instead of incessantly talking about their problems.

The most common expression of narcissistic behavior I see is the incessant striving for enlightenment. The deep reason you don’t make much progress even after decades of meditation and self-help workshops is that you are doing it for yourself. When people take the focus off themselves for even a short time, they find their personal problems miraculously dissolving. That’s due to their no longer giving little obsessions the energy needed to perpetuate. Try it. Don’t think about yourself for an entire day and see what happens.

Let’s say that while indulging in narcissistic pursuits, a person accidentally experiences a spiritual awakening. After all, even a blind squirrel will find an acorn occasionally. It is like a wave briefly glimpsing itself as the entirety of the Ocean. You think you have arrived! But then, the memory fades, and you are back identifying with your old familiar ego/wave again – warts and all.

What good is a spiritual awakening if the wave that experienced it is distorted after experiencing itself as the Ocean? This is often what happens. This means the person must continue to work hard on psychological evolution in order to sustain the awakening. Your personal evolution will continue smoothly if you allow it to happen naturally and don’t force anything with your obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

This means:
It is more important to be integrated and authentic at whatever stage you find yourself than to hotly pursue enlightenment with a distorted and desperate psyche.

About Mark Johnson:
Mark Johnson is a semi-retired Tai Ji and Chi Gung instructor and healer. He continues to judge Tai Ji tournaments regularly, serves on the Advisory Council to the National Qigong Association, and leads Daoist retreats to China and Tibet yearly. He sells his Tai Chi for Seniors video and other instructional DVDs through his online company. Mark has studied and practiced Eastern Philosophy for over 45 years and has apprenticed with some of the most prominent Vedanta, Zen and Daoist teachers in the world. He has been a member and research subject at the Institute of Noetic Sciences for nearly 15 years. You can learn more at https://daopublishing.com/

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Don’t Lose Your Head

I don’t really care about British royal history. I don’t watch royal weddings. I don’t follow news about the royals. I just don’t get it. Whether modern or historical I generally shrug. However, there is something I truly love, and that is reclaiming the stories of women who have been vilified in the past. That is why when I received an invitation to review “Don’t Lose Your Head: Life Lessons from the Six Ex-Wives of Henry VIII” by Harriet Marsden, I took up the offer.

Like most people, I am familiar with Henry VIII due to his multiple marriages that almost entirely ended with him having his wife killed. That was pretty much it. So, I knew Henry VIII had to be an asshole, but not much else. I mean, that many marriages? After a couple you must assume the problem is him. After reading “Don’t Lose Your Head” I can safely say, yeah, it was him.

Marsden firmly plants her tongue in cheek and lets her feminist flag fly as she hilariously recounts the stories of all of Henry’s wives in their own voices. Whether speaking confidentially, or bad mouthing each other from beyond the grave, you will learn the stories of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. These are stories of political cunning, sexual prowess, gender politics, marriage philosophies, and more. You can’t help but come away with an appreciation for these assorted women, and yup, still think that Henry VIII was a jerk.

Marsden’s wit and conversational style makes “Don’t Lose Your Head” the kind of British royal history book that anyone can enjoy!

You can learn more here.

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National Unicorn Day

Did you know that tomorrow is National Unicorn Day? Well, it is. One year it was brought to my attention that April 9th is National Unicorn Day and since I like unicorns, I made note of it on my calendar. However, a cursory internet search could not tell me WHY April 9th became National Unicorn Day, just that it is. And that concludes the historical portion of this article.

Honestly, there has just been a bumper crop of unicorn related books lately and I thought this would be a could occasion to give you a giant list o’ links to check stuff out. How better to celebrate unicorns than by buying books about unicorns, right?

You might remember that in January 2020 I profiled a “Stampede of Unicorns!” That review features “Unicorn Magic” by Tess Whitehurst, “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Unicorns” by Angela Wix, and “The Wonder of Unicorns” by Diane Cooper. It turns out that Diane Cooper also has “The Wonder of Unicorns Game” and “The Wonder of Unicorn Cards!” She even has a compact disc of guided meditations, “The Unicorn Meditation.”

I personally own a very worn-out copy of “The Unicorn Tarot” by Suzanne Star with art by Liz Hilton. The outer box art has changed, but the deck is the same.

It is out of print, but if you want to read the book that turned me into a unicorn fan, try and get a hold of “The Unicorn” by Nancy Hathaway. If you can get one in good condition, it would make a beautiful coffee table book. Of course, mine is so worn out it can barely stay together, let alone let visitors casually flip through it!

Lastly, you cannot discuss unicorns without mentioning “The Last Unicorn.” After all this time the animated film is still magical and the book by Peter S. Beagle is even better! I own the DVD, and two different print runs of the novel! Perhaps Friday is the perfect day to dig out the DVD, or reread the book?

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a magical National Unicorn Day!

*Some of the links in this article are affiliate links to IndieBound or Bookshop.org. These sites support independent books stores in the United States. If you use these links to purchase a book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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The Gift of Life Tarot

If you’ve followed me or The Magical Buffet on social media, you’ve probably seen me share “The Ghetto Tarot”. It’s one of my all-time favorite decks done by photographer Alice Smeets and a Haitian art collective known as Atis Rezistans. These artists and Smeets recreated the Rider Waite Tarot using local sourced, found materials. I never wrote a formal review because it was done as a Kickstarter and I didn’t realize you could purchase it after that. When Smeets started a new fundraising campaign for a second tarot deck, I didn’t hesitate. What I received was “The Gift of Life Tarot”.

During 2020 lockdown Smeets was coming to terms with having to put her projects and travel plans on hold. Once accepting the situation for what it was, she looked for a new way to express her creativity. From “The Gift of Life Tarot” Guidebook:

The next day I started going through all of my archives from 13 years of photography. I looked through 1000’s of photos to find the ones that matched each tarot card the best. It was an amazing, fun and inspiring process and gave me a chance to reconnect to all of those memories from all around the world from the past. This deck is not just a deck, it is at the same time a retrospective of my work as a photographer since 2007. All of the photos I have chosen for this deck were taken during my travels to different continents, each single one of them is dear to my heart. The people portrayed in the photos are people I either encountered along the way and just met briefly, some I spent several days with and others are my friends.

Smeets feels the real-life scenes depicted on the cards make it easy to relate the cards to ourselves and our lives. “The Gift of Life Tarot” has the traditional 22 cards of the major arcana. The minor arcana is divided into four 14 card suits: fire, water, air, and earth. The traditional court cards of the minor arcana are replaced with daughter, son, mother, and father.

The guidebook features a few tarot spreads. Each card has its own entry that includes the gifts of the card and the challenges it can represent. There is description and also a life purpose reading for the card. A thoughtful extra is that each card entry includes Smeets talking about the photographs real-life moment. This really makes “The Gift of Life Tarot” a photo retrospective and obviously, a tarot deck.

“The Gift of Life Tarot” by Alice Smeets is a true reflection of universality of the human experience. Personally, I can’t wait to see what Smeets creates next!

You can learn more about both “The Gift of Tarot” and “The Ghetto Tarot” here.

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The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching

Translations matter. Anyone with even a passing interest in the Bible could tell you this. My husband loves to drive this point home by saying he learned to read Greek just so he could read older versions of the Bible to then use to argue against judgmental Christians. The fact is most ancient texts have been interpreted and reinterpreted again and again by men. These were the kinds of thoughts that were going through Rosemarie Anderson’s mind when she decided to translate the Tao Te Ching, using the oldest version of the text she could find.

The Tao Te Ching is a classic Chinese text that has influenced Chinese philosophy and religion into modern times. It has been translated many times. I happen to own 3 different translations. Out of the three I own, “The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching” by Rosemarie Anderson is my favorite.

In her introduction, Anderson shares her journey that culminated with her sitting down and doing her own translation of the Tao Te Ching. She shares her genuine surprise at how overtly feminine the Tao was in her translation. After reading “The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching” I reached for my other two copies of the Tao, one from 2008 translated by James Legge and the other from 1993 that was translated by Man-Ho Kwok, Martin Palmer, and Jay Ramsay. And whoa yeah, there are many differences between the three texts. In the divine feminine defense of the other two, they both did translate some phrases in a more feminine way, but none to the extent of Anderson’s translation.

However, it’s not just the overtly feminine translation that makes “The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching” my favorite. Anderson’s presentation of the text is more poetic and lyrical than the others I read. It flows better when being read, and I suspect sounds wonderful read aloud. It lends itself nicely to being read repeatedly, and the Tao Te Ching is a text that is meant to be repeatedly read and reflected on.

All of this is to say, “The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching” by Rosemarie Anderson will be my definitive translation of the Tao going forward.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore <---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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Superstitions in the United States

Everyone has some superstitions. Depending on the culture you or your family grew up with, where you live in the world, spiritual beliefs, etc., they can vary greatly. So, when an odd press release came into my inbox regarding superstitions in the United States, my interest was piqued.

Turns out a clever publicist for the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino put together a little report about superstitions in every U.S. state as a tie in for St. Patrick’s Day. Sadly, my email filter shunted it to a spam folder, so by the time I discovered it, St. Patrick’s Day had passed. On the other hand, as I explained to the publicist, my readers would have an interest in this subject matter regardless of time of year. You are interested, aren’t you?

Yeah, you are. And although this is hardly scientific and certainly doesn’t cover all the superstitions out there (but does cover a lot), it is still an interesting read. According to their report, their methodology was:

Using the Google AdWords platform, we analyzed search volume trends for more than 200 terms related to superstitions associated with both good luck and bad luck. The results represent the most disproportionately popular terms in every state. In February 2021, we also surveyed 1,016 Americans between the age of 18 – 75 to ask them about their belief in superstitions. 60% were female and 40% were male and the average age of respondents was 38.

A brief overview of what they learned was the most popular superstitions in America are: throwing salt over your shoulder, bad luck comes in threes, lucky rabbit’s foot, Friday the 13th, and ladybugs being a sign of good luck. 65% of Americans are superstitious. 83% believe in good luck, 50% believe in bad luck. 37% of Americans believe Friday the 13th brings bad luck. 34% of Americans believe St. Patrick’s Day is a luck day. Nearly double that amount (60%) say they wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

You can see the full report here.


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The Archeo

I’m fortunate that many publishers and publicists offer to send me free books or products to consider for review. I frequently get to request certain items, but other times, I get things sent to me without requesting them. And let me tell you, left to my own devices, I NEVER would have requested “The Archeo.” Thankfully, Jake at Llewellyn didn’t ask me, he knew I needed to see this.

Even when “The Archeo: Understanding & Developing Archetypes” by Nick Bantock arrived, I had no intention of reviewing it. However, I was like, I should at least open and thumb through the deck. As soon as I started shuffling through the cards, I stopped dead in my tracks. These cards seriously resonated with me and considering that “The Archeo” is about universal archetypes, I thought that meant this deck was pretty damn special.

Nearly every deck is marketed as a tool of self-discovery, but “The Archeo” is a tool ONLY for self-discovery. The 40-card deck and its accompanying 204 page, full-color companion guide help you create your personal mythology. Bantock expands on Jung and Campbell’s idea of archetypes, crafting the 40 presented in “The Archeo” that include alchemist, demon, midwife, wolf, greenman, falcon, and more. There are even two blank cards provided in case you discover a new archetype you want to work with. Each card has artwork created by Bantock, and you know how I’m a sucker for deck authors being able to illustrate their own deck. (I not so secretly wish I could create visual art…..or write effectively for that matter!)

The ways you can use “The Archeo” are limited only by your imagination, but Bantock provides some ideas for layouts and spreads. Also, he wrote a story focusing on each card, to help you understand them better.

If you’re ready to take a journey within, “The Archeo” is for you!

You can learn more here.

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