If you’re a reader of this website, you probably already know what runes are, but just in case you don’t; runes are an ancient Norse alphabet used for magic, communication, and divination. If you want to learn more, you’re in luck because I’m here to tell you about THE book about runes.
“The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic: How to Interpret Runes, Rune Lore, and the Art of Runecasting” by Edred Thorsson is 320 pages of EVERYTHING rune. Thorsson has written THE book on runes. Actually, he has written over two dozen books about runes and all that research has culminated in “The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic”.
It starts with an amazingly deep dive into the history of runes. Viking age, medieval, and modern runic history is discussed. This includes the history of runes in magic and divination as well. Then, utilizing this research Thorsson examines what he refers to as the hidden lore of runes. How the runes relate to cosmology, psychology, and the Gods. Only after a thorough study of these previous two sections are you ready to read the runes. Thorsson discusses divinatory theory and provides useful tables.
I’m loathe to say one book on any subject is all you’ll ever need, but “The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic” by Edred Thorsson is as close as you’ll get.
Way back in 2014 I tried my first mead. It was made by Helderberg Meadworks. The owner was kind enough to do an interview for our site, and then was super generous and invited me out to see how the mead was made. I got major booze drinking street cred from doing this because Helderberg Meadworks didn’t do tours or tastings. Well, my booze cred is gone because you can now visit the Helderberg Meadworks new tasting room, where you can try SO MANY MEADS and chat about it with Peter and Kirsten, the husband and wife owners.
I don’t even know where to begin. When we were there, they were offering 9 different meads, 2 ciders, 2 beer/mead hybrids that they did with Brown’s Brewing, one carbonated hard cider/mead blend that they did with Indian Ladder Farms, AND a switchel. What’s better AND worse is that it is all also available for purchase, with the tasting room being the only place you can purchase many of the products. I spent SO much money.
For their traditional meads, which are the meads they make with only honey, they offer:
Session, which is a lightly carbonated, not too sweet, and amazingly drinkable.
Odin’s Tears, which is quite dry and uses caramelized honey, doesn’t involve the oak of their other meads, and is still a deliciously smooth drink.
Heritage, which is the mead that started it all. It has the highest alcohol content of any of their offerings at 17% and is a balance of sweet honey and oak.
Feral, another Helderberg classic made from their own strain of wild yeast that Peter captured and cultivated. Despite the honey this one is more on the dry side, but yes, still super yummy.
Sweet Feral, which was a sweeter follow up after the success of the Feral Mead. I enjoy both greatly.
Then they offer other meads that are made with honey (because hey, it’s mead) and other ingredients, and these are:
Apple, a part of the core collection. It’s strong in apple flavor without the syrupy sweetness you might expect. This is crisp and dry.
Staghorn, which has the sweetness of honey balanced with foraged sumac (not the poisonous variety). An impressive and unexpected twist.
Black Currant, can you guess what makes the Black Currant Mead “black currant”? Yes. Firstly, this has the prettiest color! Also, the black currant flavor paired with the honey mead is fabulous without being overly sweet.
Maple Mead, another Helderberg mainstay. They use wood-fired maple syrup and oak age it, making it a smoky, drier drink than you would expect.
Cherry Vanilla. You know how I keep commenting that the meads you expect to be overly sweet aren’t? Well they went full throttle on sweetness with this one. The cherry and vanilla flavors are prominent and delicious. Much like a dense dessert, you only need a small slice to enjoy it.
When we were there, they had two ciders, a classic and Cassis. The classic is a semi-dry hard cider. The Cassis is made with black currants and that gives it a great twist on the flavor and again, a beautiful color.
They have two collaborations that they did with Brown’s Brewing Company, Saison de Miel and Braggoting Rights. Saison de Miel is light, dry, and floral. Braggoting Rights is where the Odin’s Tears Mead got its start. The mead was first created for this collaboration and the owner liked it so much he started producing the mead. There was also a collaboration they did with Indian Ladder Farms that pairs their hard cider with Helderberg’s mead. This is a carbonated, kind of funky but tasty hybrid.
Last, but not least is Myles Fulton’s Stormbender Switchel. This is made with Helderberg’s own pear cider vinegar, honey and ginger. It is unfiltered and probiotic. If you like probiotic drinks, this is for you. It’s refreshing, thirst quenching, and delicious. Way more drinkable than most kombucha.
So how can you try all these? Visit their website where you can learn about their tasting room and shop their products, which includes their meads, but also drinking horns, t-shirts, and bad ass mugs!
Right now, the tasting room is only open Saturdays Noon-5pm eastern, but they told me they will be expanding their hours in the spring. There will also be tables indoors and outdoors to hang out at along with games. A good way to keep tabs on them is to follow them on social media.
I am a sucker for packaging and formatting. Because of this, I am a sucker for Rockpool Publishing’s Supernatural Series. You may remember that in 2017 I reviewed “Witches and Wizards” by Lucy Cavendish, and in that review, I said, “This book is going to last, and better still it says, ‘The Supernatural Series Book One’ at the top. This hopefully means I can look forward to a shelf full of these attractive and interesting books.”
I now have two more attractive and interesting books from the series! These two have much in common with “Witches and Wizards”. Both are in the compact hardcover format that I loved with the previous book. Both have beautiful cover art and nice black and white illustrations throughout them. And both are big picture, general overviews, of subjects that could have books devoted to just one entry.
First up we have “Monsters and Creatures: Discover Beasts from Lore and Legends” by Gabiann Marin. This sucker discusses just about any creature you can think of! You’ll find well known creatures, like dragons, mermaids, werewolves, and centaurs. Marin also has loaded “Monsters and Creatures” with tons of lesser known creatures, such as kappas, pookas, kinnaris, and drop bears. (I would tell you about them, but shouldn’t you just buy the book?) At 196 pages it doesn’t go in depth with any of them, but “Monsters and Creatures” offers a great starting point.
The other book, “Gods and Goddesses: The Rise of Divine Mythologies”, also by Gabiann Marin, follows a similar format. Marin discusses deities with origins in Greece, Egypt, China, Rome, and more. However, she doesn’t just discuss deities of the past, but their existence in modern times. Again, it doesn’t go into great detail, but it’s a fabulous starting point.
If you’re looking to learn more about these books, visit here.
“The Heart of the Goddess: Art, Myth and Meditations of the World’s Sacred Feminine” by Hallie Iglehart Austen was originally published in 1990, but Austen felt the time was right to bring it back.
She’s right. In this time of #resistance, Austen’s look at universal spiritual feminism is right on the mark. Respect for the earth, community building, and reclaiming the power womanhood all blend together in “The Heart of the Goddess”. Instead of your typical who’s who of female deities, Austen discusses each goddess from the perspective of a piece of artwork featuring the deity. This allows for a discussion of the origin of the art (geography and date) and with it, the history and culture surrounding the goddess.
To make “The Heart of the Goddess” a spiritual journey for the reader, the deities are collected into 3 parts: Creation, Transformation, and Celebration. Along the way Austen presents meditations, prayers, and thought exercises with the goddesses.
Regardless of how many books you own or have read about goddesses, I guarantee you that you’ve never encountered anything like this. Informative, spiritual, and filled with art pieces from antiquity to contemporary times, “The Heart of the Goddess” is, and will remain, a classic.
It’s no secret that I love me some Claude Lecouteux. Trust me when I say that his latest book, “The Hidden History of Elves & Dwarves: Avatars of Invisible Realms” showcases what he does best…. connecting the dots.
Whereas generally he uses his “gift for comparing cultures, for suddenly making an unexpected leap, but perfectly pertinent to the train of thought”, as Régis Boyer points out in the foreword. This time much of the focus is on the mystery of who is Auberon? By tracing this character’s existence in French, Norse, and Germanic tales we learn much about the difference and similarities of dwarfs and elves throughout time and cultures. What you come away with is that things back then were much more fluid, particularly in terms of physical appearance, than what you find in today’s Dungeons & Dragons books.
Of course, at the heart of every Lecouteux book is the eventual encroachment of Christianity and how it effects these original legends. As expected, the originals, if they remain are perverted versions of how they began their lives. Some also disappear, only to reappear in some new context. And if you’re like me, you sometimes try to revive the legend in its original context.
If you’re familiar with Lecouteux and like his work, this is one of his best. If you are not familiar with him, this is a great entry point.
I’ve tried to write an introduction to this review several times. Each time I rambled on and next thing I knew there would be a full page of text and I wouldn’t have even given the title of the book! Let me sum up, and in doing so you’ll see why I was predisposed to endless rambling. I’ve known author Deborah Blake for around 10 years. In all those years Blake has always had somewhere between 4 to 6 cats. I adore Deborah Blake and refer to her as my “sister from another mister”, and I always adore Deborah’s cats (although her assorted cats have held me at varying levels of affection). I could write pages of amusing and/or sweet stories about Deborah and her cats, but I tried that, and it didn’t make for a very concise book review. I’ll just tell you that there is no better qualified writer to author “The Little Book of Cat Magic: Spells, Charms, and Tales” than Deborah Blake.
Many authors have cats, but not only has Blake always had multiple cats, but for a long stretch she had an honest-to-goodness black cat familiar that went by the name, Magic the Cat, Queen of the Universe. Magic was so influential that I even interviewed her once! When Blake writes about working magic for, and with, your cat you know she’s speaking from experience. “The Little Book of Cat Magic” truly encompasses all aspects of “cat”. The history of cats and tales (or tails, as I prefer) abound. Tips, and spells, about finding a cat, living with cats, and cat deities are discussed. There is a section about crafts and treats you can make for your cat. Also, The Magical Buffet gets name checked in the section about cat tarot decks! Just sayin’.
And I cannot end this review without mentioning that the interior illustrations by Alice Rosen are top notch. Adorable, whimsical, magical cat illustrations run throughout the entire text.
Honestly, “The Little Book of Cat Magic” is for anyone who loves cats.
Now for some exciting news, we’ve got a giveaway! As I said, I’m friends with Deborah, so the last time I visited her she loaded me up with goodies for a giveaway, AND Llewellyn sent me a copy too! That means that we’re going to have 2 winners!
Grand Prize: autographed copy of “The Little Book of Cat Magic”, a broom pen, a cute toy cat, and a book plate created by artist Elizabeth Alba!
Second Prize: a copy of “The Little Book of Cat Magic” and a book plate created by artist Elizabeth Alba!
This contest is open internationally, for people 18 years of age or older. We’re doing the Rafflecopter thing, so see the widget below. Contest ends at 11:59pm eastern Saturday, January 12th.
If you follow The Magical Buffet in social media, you know it’s no secret that I love dogs. Sadly, I have none of my own, so I share photos of everyone else’s doggies. Fortunately, thanks to Mickie and Daniel Mueller I have a wonderful deck of 78 canines to amuse and delight.
Dog lovers and tarot fans rejoice because there is now the “Magical Dogs Tarot”! This deck features 78 cards and has the Major Arcana and then instead of Suits there are Packs: Fire Pack, Sea Pack, Sky Pack, and Earth Pack. Author Daniel Mueller put a lot of thought into the nature of dogs and artist Mickie Mueller captures it beautifully. Seriously, I actually giggled with delight at some of the cards.
For those of you who are curious, Fire Pack replaces Wands, Sea Pack replaces Cups, Sky Pack replaces Swords, and Earth Pack replaces Pentacles. The Major Arcana stays mostly intact, but it is noteworthy that the Hanged Man becomes The Seer, The Devil becomes The Trickster, Judgement becomes The Call, and The Star appropriately becomes The Dog Star.
The Companion Book with the deck is well written. Not only is there an image of every card, but there are extra lovely illustrations throughout, include some behind the scenes looks at how the art on the cards evolved.
What more is there to say? A considered look at dogs and nature captured in a whimsical tarot deck. If you don’t already own this one, you’ll want to!
“Notorious New England” by Summer Paradis and Sandra Vivian Graul opens with a definition of “Dark Tourism”.
Dark Tourism – noun – Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions, and exhibitions that have real or re-created death, suffering, or the seemingly macabre as a main theme.
And their book, subtitled “A Travel Guide to Tragedy and Treachery” certainly fits that description.
“Notorious New England” includes over 100 sites in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Some locations are classics, such as The Lizzy Borden Bed and Breakfast in Massachusetts, but there are also many lesser known historical sites like Madame Sherri’s Castle in New Hampshire and The Witch’s Grave in Maine. There are also sites you may not have considered like Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and the grave of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in The Challenger explosion. “Notorious New England” is definitely a travel guide of tragedy.
Paradis and Graul treat all the locations with the utmost respect of the law and spiritual decency. Being paranormal investigators, they make sure to include notes on any supernatural occurrences. The book is loaded with full color photos, always a plus. Also, they include all kinds of travel tips for going to the locations, including great places to stop for lunch and other random businesses in the area of note.
“Notorious New England” is a bizarre mix of history, folklore, the paranormal, tragedy, and tabloid fodder. For me it inspired a lot of reflections, and a desire to road trip New England.
Interesting title, no? The title is the way it is because this is an excerpt from the recently released “The Collected Letters of Alan Watts”. This is a little bit of history because this is from an actual newsletter Watts wrote in 1940! Well I think it’s cool.
Once upon a time there was a lunatic who used to pass the time by sitting in a corner and beating himself on the head with a brick. When asked the reason for this interesting behavior he replied, “Well, it feels so pleasant when I stop.” Very often the lunatic is nothing more than a caricature of people supposed to be sane; we call him a lunatic only because he expresses fundamental traits of human nature in the most obvious and concrete manner, whereas sane people carry on the same processes in more veiled and mysterious ways. And the performance of beating oneself on the head with a brick is an exact caricature of man’s chief spiritual problem, for we have to realize that our apparent lack of what Oriental sages call Enlightenment (bodhi) or spiritual freedom (kaivalya) is due to our not having ceased to knock ourselves on the head with a brick. Naturally, the realization of Enlightenment is accompanied by an enormous sense of relief — not because we have acquired something new, but because we have got rid of something old. Enlightenment, wisdom, or a sense of harmony with life and the universe is present within us all the time; it becomes apparent when we cease to use the brick just as the moon becomes visible when the clouds are blown away. But we appreciate the light of the moon more keenly when it emerges from the clouds; if it had been shining openly all the time we should never have experienced the sudden ecstasy of light breaking in upon darkness. And for this sudden ecstasy we have to be thankful for the darkness as much as for the light.
At the same time, our lack of Enlightenment or freedom is only apparent, for in a special sense “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” In this sense the darkness is also a manifestation of the light but does not understand it. Therefore as soon as we understand that our very lack of realization is itself an aspect of Enlightenment, our ignorance turns into wisdom. Thus a Buddhist text says, “If the accumulation of false imaginations is cleared away, Enlightenment will appear. But the strange thing is that when people gain Enlightenment they realize that without false imaginations there could be no Enlightenment.” In Vedanta philosophy and Buddhism alike Enlightenment is the nature of the universe; all possible forms and aspects of life are manifestations of Brahman or “Buddha nature” because there is only one ultimate Reality. Thus maya, which in one sense is darkness or illusion, in another sense is the creative power of Brahman. Now Enlightenment is the condition of union with that power, and we realize its freedom in understanding that not even in ignorance or darkness can we be deprived of that union.
There is a Buddhist story of a disciple who asked his teacher, “How can I ﬁnd liberation?”
The teacher replied, “Who is putting you in bondage?” “Nobody.” “If so, why should you seek liberation?” And for this reason it is often said that Enlightenment cannot be found by doing something about it, for it is always a question of being rather than doing. Hence the saying, “Seek and you will ﬁnd not; become and you will be.” Become what? Become what you are. Thus the Orient has always sought wisdom in meditation rather than action, but from this it should not be supposed that meditation is a passive way as distinct from an active way. Both activity and passivity are forms of doing; the latter is indirectly doing by not doing. Therefore the West has found it difﬁcult to understand what is really meant by meditation. Meditation is not only sitting still like a Buddha-ﬁgure, nor is it thinking about something, for the Upanishads say that the stars, the trees, the rivers, and the mountains are meditating — unconsciously. Conscious meditation is a knack, and as an exercise it is a way of learning that Enlightenment comes to pass in us as much when we are doing nothing to produce it as when we are in the midst of activity. Thus the “sitting-still” meditation of the Orient is so much valued as a way of enlightenment because in it we are able to realize that our spiritual freedom consists not in our manner of doing and thinking, but in the fact of our being.
Enlightenment and realization is the main theme of our informal lectures and discussions at my apartment during the ﬁrst few months of this year, and future letters will keep those who cannot come acquainted with the course of our work. We shall be studying ﬁrst the Hindu and Chinese views of Enlightenment and the technique of its realization on the basis of readings from original sources and also from that famous allegory of the “Oxherding Pictures.” We shall then go on to consider the expression of Enlightenment in Chinese art and in the mental and physical culture of the Far East as a whole. Finally we shall compare our ﬁndings with Western equivalents of the way to Enlightenment — in particular with Christian mysticism and analytical psychology. This letter is a cordial invitation to those of you who do not already come to join us. Groups are now meeting on Mondays at 8:30, on Wednesdays at 8:30, and on Thursdays at 8:30. The last of these is generally speaking reserved for those who have already some knowledge of these matters and who do not feel the need of any introduction to basic principles. The group which meets on Thursdays at 3:15 has not yet been started again, but will begin as soon as arrangements can be made, and those who would like to come on Thursday afternoons would assist me by letting me know as soon as possible. And may I say again that comments on these letters will always be welcome and will always be answered.
Alan W. Watts, New York City, January 1940
About Alan Watts: Alan Watts (January 6, 1915 – November 16, 1973) was a British-born American philosopher, writer, speaker, and counterculture hero, best known as an interpreter of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and numerous articles applying the teachings of Eastern and Western religion and philosophy to our everyday lives.
Before 2018 concludes you may want to consider some sort of diary. Might I suggest the beautiful 2019 Lunar & Seasonal Diary by Stacey Demarco?
This is a full color diary. It’s spiral bound so it lies flat, making it easier to record notes in the space provided. There are profiles of gods and goddesses, seasonal spell castings, and of course detailed information on the moon phases. After the year is over, it becomes a great reference book and comes with its own attached bookmark to use to mark where you are in the diary.