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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Why Do Good People Sometimes Do Bad Things?

By Dr. Steven Mintz

The Role of Cognitive Dissonance

Have you ever wondered why people you know who seem to be paragons of virtue sometimes deviate from ethical norms and do the wrong thing? Just about everybody knows such a person. But, what causes them to act that way in a particular situation? I was interviewed for my views on these issues by the Pakistani magazine, The FEEEL.

We can start the discussion by examining the concept of cognitive dissonance. It holds that there is a disconnect between how we think we should behave and how we do behave. This could be due to ethical blind spots, or the inability to see the ethical dimension of a problem.

Most people deal with cognitive dissonance in one of three ways:

Change one or more of our attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs so as to bring the two into alignment.

Acquire new information that outweighs the dissonant beliefs.

Reduce the importance of the beliefs, attitudes, or beliefs.

A recent example of cognitive dissonance is the number of people that paid a broker with connections to get their kids admitted to the best colleges. Two holiday stars that caught up in the wrongdoing are Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin. These are otherwise ethical people who deviated from ethical norms in order to achieve a desired result namely the admission to a college of their choice in a situation where their kids probably couldn’t meet the rigorous standards for admission.

Rationalizations for Bad Behavior

People who act unethically generally provide rationalizations for their behavior. Underlying these explanations is the concept of situational ethics where decisions are made in a subjective manner and based on the underlying circumstances. The problem here is the decision-maker lacks an ethical foundation to tell right from wrong and allows each situation to detect right and wrong rather than rely on ethical norms such as honesty and integrity. A person of integrity would never engage in pay to play schemes.

Another rationalization is what’s going on now with respect to K-12 kids cheating on online tests and explaining it away by saying remote learning is so difficult or that the teacher doesn’t teach so cheating is acceptable. This is just another form of situational ethics.

Another rationalization is to say the decision was a on-off affair. It only happened this one time and then I’ll go back to being ethical. The problem here is the so-called ethical slippery slope phenomenon. In other words, once you cheat in one area, especially if you get away with it, you are more likely to cheat again and it becomes an unhealthy pattern of behavior.

Another rationalization occurs in many workplace ethical dilemmas. It is to explain the need to be a team player and not rock the boat. Here, you may be concerned about retaliation if you don’t go along with what your boss has asked you to do. The culture of an organization may contribute to bad behaviors.

To better cope with these situations, ask yourself the following questions:

Would you normally consider this action to be wrong?

Are you excusing bad behavior by blaming others?

Are you blaming the victim to excuse your bad behaviors?

One test I use in teaching ethics to college students is what I call the social media test. Ask yourself: How would you feel if the decision you are about to make was discussed on social media? Would you proud of it? Would you be able to defend it?

Emotional Intelligence

The underlying cause of bad behaviors is often a lack of emotional intelligence. Simply stated, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions. There are five elements of emotional intelligence including the following.

Self-awareness. Being conscious of your own feelings and motives. You know how your emotions affect yourself and others, and you don’t allow your emotions to control you.

Self-regulation. You don’t make impulsive decisions. You think about the consequences of an action before deciding what to do.

You think about the big picture and assess how your actions will contribute to long-term success.

You are not self-centered but empathize with others and your situations. You tend to be a good listener, slow to judge, and understanding of the needs and wants of others.

It’s also important to know the signs that can indicate a lack of emotional intelligence including the following.

Trouble being assertive or taking charge.

Don’t handle feedback well.

Hold grudges.

Can’t move past your mistakes.

Feel misunderstood.

Judgmental, easily offended, and have difficulty maintaining relationships.

Allow your emotions to control you rather than being in control of them and acting accordingly.

Coping Skills

There are ways to develop coping skills and strengthen your resolve so that cognitive dissonance does not occur. Instead, your attitudes and beliefs are in harmony with your behaviors. The most important is to understand the triggers that can lead to bad behavior. This may be due to placing too much trust in others and not in your own feelings and ability to distinguish right from wrong.

Ethics education is important. This provides a foundation for rightful behavior and develops the characteristics to enable a person to not only see what the right thing to do is but have the skills to make that decision and carry through with ethical behavior.

Training is important especially where workplace ethics is concern. All organizations should commit to ethics training to develop a strong culture that says to employees: Do what we say which is in concert with what we do.

About Dr. Steven Mintz:
Dr. Steven Mintz (www.stevenmintzethics.com), author of “Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior”, has frequently commented on ethical issues in society and business ethics through his Ethics Sage blogs. His Workplace Ethics Advice blog has been recognized as one of the top 30 in corporate social responsibility. He also has served as an expert witness on ethics matters. Dr. Mintz spent almost 40 years of his life in academia. He has held positions as a chair in Accounting at San Francisco State University and Texas State University. He was the Dean of the College of Business and Public Administration at Cal State University, San Bernardino. He recently retired as a Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo. Mintz received the Accounting Exemplar Award from the Public Interest Section of the American Accounting Association.

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Life Ritualized

The book we’re discussing today is “Life Ritualized: A Witch’s Guide to Honoring Life’s Important Moments” by Phoenix LeFae and Gwion Raven. If the name Gwion Raven sounds familiar, you might remember me reviewing his excellent book “The Magick of Food”. With “Life Ritualized” he and his spouse, accomplished author Phoenix LeFae, tackle many of life’s most complex experiences.

What is a milestone? There are obvious ones in American society, like birthdays, being legally allowed to drink, getting your drivers license, etc. However, LaFae and Raven explore the true complex nature of our lives and acknowledge that many things happen, big and small, and happy or sad, that mark our passage through life. It is simple to find books featuring rituals for marriage and birth. “Life Ritualized” posits that rituals can not only make the good times better and more meaningful but can also provide solace and comfort in bad times. They cover about any life event you can think of, such as: fertility, adoption, birth blessings, miscarriage, abortion, graduation, new driver, new car, new job, new home, handfasting, retirement, grief, loss of job, menopause, pet burial, self-initiation, and more.

I’m obviously impressed by how thorough this book is in examining the human experience. Raven and LeFae share intimate moments from their own lives to illustrate times when you may want to use these rituals. What I appreciated the most is that although “Life Ritualized” is a “Witch’s Guide”, most of the rituals are appropriate for any open-minded, nondenominational group or individual.

If you’re interested in adding ritual, or more ritual, to your life, I highly recommend “Life Ritualized” by Phoenix LeFae and Gwion Raven’

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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The Alchemy of Stones

If you’re looking to do some serious inner spiritual work and you love crystals, I have the book for you. “The Alchemy of Stones: Co-creating with Crystals, Minerals, and Gemstones for Healing and Transformation” by Robert Simmons is certainly not the first book to suggest utilizing crystals for spiritual transformation, but it may be the first do so in such a thorough and thoughtful manner.

“The Alchemy of Stones” is a BIG book. Nearly 500 full-color pages in an oversized 7 x 11 inches format. A relatively large section is devoted to an illustrated glossary of summarizing the spiritual properties of over 375 crystals and minerals. Simmons starts with a discussion of alchemy and segues into the stages of alchemical transformation and provides meditative practices with specific stones to go with each stage. This includes gemstone elixirs, crystal body layouts, stone mandalas, and more.

“The Alchemy of Stones” is not for the casual crystal enthusiast. However, if you are committed to a spiritual transformation that is connected to the Earth, this is the book for you.

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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eDNA Proof of Bigfoot?

It may surprise you to know that I receive press releases regularly from the Discovery Channel. I rarely share the info because most of the time it is just alerting me to the start of their assorted paranormal-esque show’s seasons. However, occasionally one of them catches my eye, which is what we have here. Last week I received this press release from Discovery:

NEW YORK (March 3, 2021) – The EXPEDITION BIGFOOT team collected surprising DNA evidence while in the field searching for the most famous and elusive cryptid, Bigfoot. Throughout their two-month journey, the team – Bryce Johnson (expedition operations), Dr. Mireya Mayor (primatologist), Russell Acord (ex-military/survivalist) and Ronny LeBlanc (Bigfoot researcher) – used the latest in advanced technologies to narrow their search within the designated target zones, beginning in Kentucky and then switching mid-expedition to Washington State. As the investigation intensified, possible evidence that Bigfoot may be in the area began to surface – vocalizations, unexplained structures commonly described by Bigfoot witnesses and massive 16-inch footprints that no man could have left behind.

During filming deep in the wilderness of Kentucky’s Appalachian highlands, eDNA collected from soil under a massive tree structure found by Dr. Mayor and LeBlanc produced surprising and exciting results. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is the genetic material naturally left behind by animals in the environment. Scientific analysis of these samples helps generate a snapshot of any living creatures. This revolutionary new tool is increasingly used to confirm the presence of elusive animals.

“This scientific expedition may have finally taken one of the world’s greatest mysteries out of the pages of legend and lore and into reality,” said Dr. Mayor.

Miroslava Munguia Ramos, project manager at the UCLA California Environmental DNA program, has analyzed the eDNA sample from the tree structure. Following are her observations.

• “We received soil samples from your team and took a few months to get them processed. What we’re looking at are the unique organisms that we were able to identify. Our software does what’s known as metabar coding. So, it’ll match up all the DNA sequences that we were able to detect and try to cross reference them with the thousands of genomes that have been published and it’s pretty common that when we’re looking at environmental DNA samples, we detect humans, because there’s going be human traces almost everywhere.”

• “But what I found very interesting was that, yes, we have detected human DNA in these areas, but we’re still seeing different primate DNA. There wasn’t just one human primate, there are several different primates, some sort of primate relative that exists in the data.”

• “Pan troglodyte is a species of chimpanzee, which you would not see in the areas you’re at. It’s a real head scratcher. It’s important to note that the higher the detection, the more confidence we can say that whatever organism, whatever taxonomy we’re looking at was apparent in the area. And in this case, we’re looking at the Pan genus, or the chimpanzee genus…. there’s 3000 reads.”
• “The technology is constantly improving, it’s getting more accurate, and now it just really comes down to making sure we have enough samples and we’re confident that whatever we’re studying is a unique species.”

Dr. Mayor expanded on this unique discovery.

• “Finding what appears to be a very large structure, seemingly created with intention and requiring great strength as well as foresight, is interesting. It is not unheard of for primates to stack sticks or rocks, although for me, the jury is still out as to what that was. There is no guess work in science. It is great is that eDNA was collected from that site. That may give us the answers we are looking for.”

• “The process of describing and confirming a new species is difficult. DNA is absolutely essential in the scientific community to prove that something is a new or recognized species. You have eyewitness accounts from tens of thousands of people who say they have encountered Bigfoot, some coming forward with blurry videos and photographs. But that is just not going to cut it. What we need is indisputable genetic evidence to really put this mystery to rest. And there’s no doubt in my mind that we are headed in the right direction.”

When it comes to “big” discoveries, such as definitive “proof” of a paranormal creature’s existence, I won’t be hearing about it only on the season finale of “Expedition Bigfoot” on Discovery+. That news will be EVERYWHERE IMMEDIATELY. Now, that’s not to say that this isn’t interesting, and credit where it’s due, Discovery didn’t pitch this to me as THE proof. Still, I can’t help but feel like they want us to be overly excited about something that’s more of a, “Huh. That’s interesting,” type of thing.

If you are interested, “Expedition Bigfoot” is currently streaming on Discovery+, with the season finale being Sunday, March 28, 2021.

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