10 Questions with Sandra Kynes & Giveaway

Today we’re talking with Sandra Kynes, author of “Herbal Remedies for Beginners” and many other wonderful books. We discuss herbs, research methodology, and more!

1. With this being such a tumultuous time, how are you doing?

Thank you for asking. My family and I are doing well. Of course, big servings of ice cream always help. It’s been a time of major changes in my life. Just before the pandemic I became semi-retired from my day job (yay, more time for writing!), sold my house in Portland, Maine, and moved north. It’s been very strange to be in a new place and not able to go out and meet people, not even my nearest neighbor who is about a quarter mile down the road.

Any way, I moved out of the city to the country. In England I lived in the countryside, but it was much more tame. Here in Maine we have all kinds of wildlife nearby including moose, bears, and coyotes. They’re known informally as coywolves since they’re a cross between coyote and gray wolf; they’re very wolf-like and beautiful. Although we hear them in the woods frequently I’m glad I haven’t met one face to face. I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors; it’s very inspirational to be living so close to nature.

2. At this point, you have written 17 books for Llewellyn. How did it all start?

Oh gosh, I think I always wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid I would write and put together little books and when I was a teenager I wrote a lot of poetry. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s when I started having articles published. I submitted short pieces to Llewellyn for various almanacs and calendars and then eventually sent in the manuscript for a book. They turned down the first one, but I persisted, revamped it and they liked it. There was no turning back because the muse was unleashed.

3. Ever since I read your book “Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences”, which released in 2013, I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how you take ALL that information and organize it, and then put it into a book. Any chance you can give us a glimpse of your process?

I must have been a librarian in a past life; I like organizing things. I think it’s just a skill. Some people are skilled carpenters and I would love to be able to build things, but I’m a complete klutz in that department. My process for writing, once I have an idea (or rather my muse decides what I’m going to work on) I start with a rough outline to get an idea of how it will flow. And then I dive into the research. I really enjoy that part of the process because sometimes it can be like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Sometimes you come up with differing information and have to keep digging to figure out what’s what. Occasionally a lead can take me down a rabbit hole and a dead end, but it’s all part of the process. I also like working on projects where I’m learning new things; it keeps life more interesting. I take tons of notes and that’s where organization comes in because it can be easy to get lost. I get annoyed when I can’t find something.

4. Your latest book is “Herbal Remedies for Beginners”, but you also wrote “Plant Magic”, “Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Essential Oils”, “Mixing Essential Oils for Magic”, and “Herb Gardener’s Essential Guide”. Is it safe to say that plants play a large role in your life? And if so, how?

Yes, and actually my first plant book was “Whispers from the Woods”. Yeah, plants have become a focus although I like to veer off now and then because there are so many interesting things to explore like birds and how they relate to the Goddess. My book “Bird Magic” is very dear to my heart.

The green world speaks to me and touches my soul, but I think that’s true for most people whether they realize it or not; being in nature is a spiritual experience. Nowadays it’s so important to be aware of the issues we’re facing as a planet and to do all that we can, no matter how small it may seem, to turn things around. In addition to connecting us with the natural world, plants provide a connection with the past. We have several millennia worth of information on how people have used plants. Even in my lifetime, witnessing what my grandmother did; her gardening, preserving, and using plants gives me a connection with her and all my ancestors. Plants can also connect us with the future, if we are mindful and good stewards.

5. How is “Herbal Remedies for Beginners” different from your other plant topic books?

This is one of my three mainstream, non-magical books, but it’s different in that it required a lot of medical research. I didn’t want to just say use this recipe or herb for this ailment, I wanted to provide explanations on what to look for and how it may differ from similar issues. I tried to keep in mind what information I wanted at my fingertips when I was first learning about herbal remedies. I wanted to put together a “best of” book to provide an introduction and foundation for making remedies and working with herbs that would also serve as a comprehensive reference. Although I prefer writing magical books, when my editors ask if I’m interested in doing something different I view it as a fun challenge.

6. How do you use herbs in your daily life?

I use the plants themselves and essential oils. I use them for cooking, cleaning, scenting my house; and of course, in magic and ritual. Also, growing herbs and other plants provides aesthetics and a connection with nature and magic. Working with or growing plants that my grandmother used brings back good memories.

7. What advice would you give someone just starting out working with herbs?

Don’t get overwhelmed. While it may seem as though there is so much to learn, don’t feel daunted because you don’t need to know everything all at once. Working with herbs is a journey, not a destination. An important point is to read precautions and warnings because herbs are powerful and need to be used with safety in mind.

You can start with one of your favorite herbs and learn its uses. Or, you can start with an ailment and learn which herbs can be used to treat it. As you go along, you will learn what you need to know for you and your family because you will be able to tailor remedies, personal care products, etc. to your specific needs and preferences. And you don’t have to remember everything, refer to books and keep notes. Most of all have fun.

8. I have repeatedly tried to grow my own herbs indoors in pots, and the poor plants die horrible deaths. In your experience, what are the best herbs for indoor growing, and any tips for those of us who continue to kill them?

First of all, don’t get discouraged. I managed to murder a pot of thyme this summer that I wanted to grow in the house for winter. Just like an outdoor garden, you need to assess the locations you have so you can choose the right herbs to grow indoors. Avoid windowsills that are above radiators as plants will dry out quickly and won’t do well with the fluctuating temperatures in the winter. Many indoor herbs that require a lot of sun will also need some shade. Instead of a windowsill, put them on a table near a window where they can get direct sun as well as some shade. An advantage of potted plants is that they can be moved to different windows to follow the sun throughout the year. Some herbs that work well indoors are basil, thyme, chives, oregano, and rosemary. Experiment.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?

When “Whispers from the Woods” went out of print, my editors asked if I would like to do a re-vamp of it that focused on magic. Of course I said “yes”. While I adapted some material from “Whispers from the Woods”, I did a lot more than re-vamp it. The entire section of tree profiles has been completely re-researched, rewritten, and expanded. “Tree Magic” will be out in June 2021. I have another project that my editors don’t know about yet so I have to keep that a secret for now. All I can say is my new surroundings have had a major and magical impact on me.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What is your favorite herb or other type of plant and why? Oops, that’s a double question; can it count as one?

I love rosemary! Many a poor rosemary plant has passed away due to my good intentions of having all the rosemary, all the time. It smells good and makes everything taste delicious. Since I can’t get rosemary from my own garden, I’m a big fan of Cucina Aurora’s rosemary olive oil. It’s made with love, and magic, and rosemary.

About Sandra Kynes:
Sandra is a writer who likes to develop creative ways to explore the world and integrate them with her spiritual path and everyday life. Her unique views and methods form the basis of her books. Her writing has been featured in a number of Llewellyn almanacs, “Sage Woman”, “The Magical Times”, “The Portal”, and “Circle magazines”, and “The World Ocean Journal”. Her work has also appeared online at Utne Reader and she was a contributor to The Meaning of Life at Excellence Reporter.

Sandra has lived in New York City, Europe, England, and now Mid-coast Maine where she lives with her family and cats in an 1850’s farmhouse surrounded by meadows and woods. She loves connecting with nature through gardening, hiking, bird watching, and kayaking. She can be found online on Facebook, her Plant Magic blog on PaganSquare, and www.kynes.net.

Guess what?!? Sandra Kynes was kind enough to give us a signed copy of “Herbal Remedies for Beginners” for me to give away to a reader! The contest is open internationally to entrants 18 years and older. The giveaway ends on Friday 08/21/2020 at 11:59 pm eastern.

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10 Questions with Deborah Blake (with Giveaway)

This is an interview with Deborah Blake, author of The Goddess is in the Details, Everyday Witchcraft and numerous other books from Llewellyn, along with popular tarot and oracle decks. She’s also written the award-winning author of the Baba Yaga and Broken Rider paranormal romance series and the Veiled Magic urban fantasies from Berkley.

1. Considering the current situation, we cannot really start without me first asking, how are you doing?

I’m hanging in there. I feel very fortunate, all things considered. I live in a rural area that hasn’t been as badly hit as some, and no one I know has gotten sick. I have a nice house to hide out in and the cats for company. On the down-side, I am definitely feeling the stress, as most people are. It has made it hard to be creative. And I miss being able to hang out with my friends. Blue Moon Circle, my coven, finally got together yesterday for the solstice for the first time since February (outside, safely distancing, of course). It was lovely.

2. Your latest book is “Modern Witchcraft: Goddess Empowerment for the Kick-Ass Woman.” What made you decide to do a goddess-oriented book on witchcraft?

It just felt like the right time. So many women I know are struggling with feeling scared/worried/angry/frustrated/triggered, sometimes all at the same time. I think many of us feel helpless, no matter how hard we work for positive change. So I wanted to write a book that would help women (anyone who identifies as female in any way, really) feel empowered and heard instead.

3. “Modern Witchcraft” serves as a comprehensive introduction to witchcraft practice, which is a huge topic. How difficult was it to decide what to include?

Nearly impossible! On the one hand, I am writing for a new audience, and I’m assuming that at least a portion of them are coming to Witchcraft for the first time. On the other hand, goddesses are such a huge topic on their own, I didn’t want to spend too much time in the book talking about basic practices and tenets, instead of the focus of the book. Hopefully I managed a good balance.

4. Who are some of your favorite goddesses and why?

I often call on the goddess in a general way, rather than invoking a specific one. But I confess to a certain fondness for Hecate, who is both protective and kick-ass, and very witchy. If I have a personal deity, it is Her. I love Brigid for Her healing and creative aspects, and of course, Bast because cats are Her sacred animal.
5. Do you have any goddesses on your altar?

At the moment, I have a statue on my main altar of Brigid that was a gift from my daughter. She is standing in front of a cauldron and holding a sacred flame. On the altar in my bedroom, which is devoted to the spirits of my cats who are no longer with me, I have two very rough pottery statues of god and goddess in their more primitive, less specific forms.

6. In these times of upheaval, how can witchcraft help?

I think having a spiritual path—no matter what it is—helps to ground us during the tough times, and brings us a measure of peace we may not find in other aspects of our lives. For me, Witchcraft also allows me to connect with the gods on a daily basis and to do spellwork for protection, healing, and other issues that are so important right now.

7. In “Modern Witchcraft” you mention that you have a lot of books about goddesses. I consider myself to be a lady with a lot of books about goddesses. So exactly how many books do you have? Yes, I want to see if mine is bigger than yours. Goddess book collections, that is.

Ooh, it’s on! Let me go count… Okay, I have ten books specifically focused on goddesses, and lots more that have large sections about them. Plus, five different goddess oracles (I suspect you’ve got me beat).

FYI, I have 3 about specific goddesses, 8 about assorted goddesses, and 3 oracle decks based on goddesses.

8. You have mentioned on social media that there have been knock off copies of your tarot decks (Everyday Witch Tarot and Everyday Witch Oracle) online. How prevalent of a problem is copyright infringement in your industry?

It’s insane. Until I became an author, I had no idea how bad the problem was, and it seems to be exploding exponentially. I get alerts daily about free downloads of my books (which not only means neither the publisher nor I make any money on them, but usually the people who download them get free viruses along with their stolen books) and I’m starting to get constant emails from people complaining to me that they bought a copy of the tarot for four dollars (instead of the 25-30 it should cost) and wondering why it didn’t come with the printed guidebook, or why there are cards missing—and can I please fix it. No, no I can’t. It is incredibly discouraging to work so hard and then have that work stolen.

9. Do you have any upcoming projects you want to share with our readers?

I do! I am working on a new book with Llewellyn which will be out sometime early in 2022, I think. It is The Modern Eclectic Witch’s Book of Shadows, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. It is going to be in full color! I also have a new cozy mystery series coming out from Berkley, about a woman who buys a rundown animal rescue. It’s actually loosely based on the shelter I got my cats Diana and Harry Dresden from, and I’m planning to donate part of my sales to them when it comes out. (February 2021.) The first book is called Furbidden Fatality. There is a little black kitten in it that might remind you of someone you once knew.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

I always see you posting amazing pictures of the breakfasts you get at local restaurants. I’m a little jealous! Which breakfast is your favorite?

Here in Ballston Spa, NY we have A LOT of great places to eat, run by so many passionate people. There are many delicious breakfasts to be found, but the absolute BEST way we’ve been doing breakfast is ordering the Breakfast Fries from The Ribbon Café. Brace yourself, it is a pile of fries, covered in sausage gravy (using sausage that’s made in house), with bacon, ham, cheese, and topped with a fried egg. We get it to go. Then stop at Nomad Coffee and Crepes, where the owner roasts his own coffee beans. There I get their new Espresso Fizz, which is iced espresso, with elder flower tonic, orange, and orange bitters. The two go together so well, and I’m being socially responsible getting it all as take out!

About Deborah Blake:
Deborah Blake is the award-winning author of the Baba Yaga and Broken Rider paranormal romance series and the Veiled Magic urban fantasies from Berkley.

Deborah has also written The Goddess is in the Details, Everyday Witchcraft and numerous other books from Llewellyn, along with popular tarot and oracle decks. She has published articles in Llewellyn annuals, and her ongoing column, “Everyday Witchcraft” is featured in Witches & Pagans Magazine.

Deborah can be found online at Facebook, Twitter, her popular blog (Writing the Witchy Way), and www.deborahblakeauthor.com She lives in a 130 year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with various cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.

Fun fact, Deborah Blake LOVES doing a giveaways! So, she has agreed to send one of my readers in the United States a free copy of her new book, “Modern Witchcraft”! As usual, I’m using Rafflecopter. The giveaway is open until 07/12/2020 11:59 pm eastern.

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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.

Do you enjoy The Magical Buffet? Considering supporting The Magical Buffet on Patreon! For only $5 a month you’ll receive monthly tarot/oracle forecasts, classes, and behind the scenes updates! https://www.patreon.com/magicalbuffet

10 Questions with Danielle Dulsky

Today we’re talking with author Danielle Dulsky about her books, hags, self-isolating, and more!

1. Your latest book Seasons of Moon and Flame focuses on hags. How do you define a hag, and why did you use this term in your book?

The hag archetype embodies the wildest and most generatively destructive aspects of feminine intuition. She is self-sufficient, sovereign, and strange. She lives on the fringes of what is socially acceptable — much like the Witch.

2. Why do you think we have these words like “crone” and “hag” for women, but no real equivalent for men?

Simply put, because of the patriarchy. The word “hag” comes from the old English “hagge” which was rooted in the Germanic word “hexe” meaning Witch. The word “Witch” is still being reclaimed, but it is being reclaimed. The reclamation of the terms “hag” and “crone” may be moving more slowly because of ageism in our society. In my work, I usually use the term “sage” to describe the masculine counterpart to “crone,” and, yes, “sage” has positive and world-wise connotations ,while “crone” immediately evokes images of the feared solitary woman of the woods.

3. Your previous books are Woman Most Wild and The Holy Wild. Does Seasons of Moon and Flame build on those earlier works?

My first book, Woman Most Wild is an invitation to the Witch-curious to consider the path of the Witch. The Holy Wild is about honoring the reader’s story as holy, as well as an invitation to revision the stories of what history has called “shamed women.” Seasons of Moon and Flame is a deep-dive into storytelling and rituals for each of the 13 moon cycles — in essence, a year-long witchcraft apprenticeship in a book.

4. What inspired you to start writing?

Nature has always been my inspiration. I’ve written for as long as I can remember, and I have countless childhood memories of being outside, usually at my grandparents’ humble mountain cabin, sitting on a pile of slate, scribbling away.

5. I find your writing style inspirational. What author’s writing inspires you?

Thank you! I’m inspired by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Bayo Akomolafe, Adrienne Maree Brown, and John O’Donohue, among many others.

6. Your new book, Seasons of Moon and Flame has 25 mini hag lessons scattered throughout. What’s your favorite hag lesson?

It’s tough to choose! The lesson I am really feeling right now is “What is Wild Must Always Change.” Nature always adapts, and we are all being called to adapt to some very sudden shifts in the collective right now. But if we remember that we are creaturely, this transformation is exactly what we were born for. These shifts can be more like a homecoming instead of a source of fear.

7. You also started an online coven called “The Hag Ways Collective.” Can you explain what that is?

The Hag Ways Collective is the online coven through The Hag School. We get together virtually once a month for storytelling and spellwork. It’s a wonderful group, and I’m absolutely in love with the work we are doing together.

8. In the current climate of self-isolating, do you have any advice for readers looking to be spiritually in touch with nature without endangering their health or the health of others?

Good question! I believe this is a time of metamorphosis or cocooning. That being said, not everyone’s cocoon looks the same. Many people are working harder than ever, such as healthcare workers, teachers, manufacturers, and more. But, regardless of what the cocoon looks like, everyone is experiencing a time of transformation. We all will emerge from this experience transformed in some way, and so I am asking that we look to the caterpillar in the cocoon who melts into a soup of imaginal cells before becoming reborn anew. That imaginal soup is nature — a primordial sort of nature that is the very essence of transformation. So, even though the caterpillar might feel removed from the world and from nature while in metamorphosis, it is in fact, embodying nature itself.

9. What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with my readers?

Yes! I’m launching two new online collectives through The Hag School: “The Hive of the Holy Wild Flesh” which is a body-prayer and moving spell-work group, and the “Heathens-in-Business” which is sort of a support circle for healers, witches, shop-owners and anyone else who is feeling into this invitation to do our work differently. I also have the next round of my “Hag Ways Apprenticeship Program” launching right around the Summer Solstice in June 2020.

10. What is one question you have for The Magical Buffet?

What are you being invited toward in this moment of cocooning?

Honestly, between my day job, The Magical Buffet, and my health issues, I’m already a bit of a homebody. So, this doesn’t feel much like cocooning. Over course, this is just starting for me and New York. My feelings may change as time goes on.

About Danielle Dulsky:
Danielle Dulsky is a heathen visionary, pagan poet, and word-witch. The author of “Seasons of Moon and Flame”, “The Holy Wild”, and “Woman Most Wild”, she teaches internationally and has facilitated circles, communal spell-work, and seasonal rituals since 2007. She is the founder of The Hag School and believes in the emerging power of wild collectives, cunning witches, and rebellious artists in healing our ailing world. Find her online at www.DanielleDulsky.com.

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.

Do you enjoy The Magical Buffet? Considering supporting The Magical Buffet on Patreon! For only $5 a month you’ll receive monthly tarot/oracle forecasts, classes, and behind the scenes updates! https://www.patreon.com/magicalbuffet

10 Questions with Natasha Helvin

Today we’re talking with the fascinating author of “Slavic Witchcraft” and “Russian Black Magic”, Natasha Helvin.

1. From what I understand, you lived in Russia until you were 18 years-old. What brought you to the United States?
I was born in Czech Republic and was raised in what’s today called Ukraine, but for almost 15 years I lived on a beautiful Greek island, before I came to the States. What brought me here, is what everyone else, yourself included, unless you are 100% Native American than you are immigrant. Maybe not your generation, but your mother or grandmother or great grandmother, came for the same reason we all do: freedom, opportunities and to live “THE American dream” lol.

2. How did your upbringing inform your magical work?
Not sure if this is the right question… It doesn’t really express me…You see, for me magical work has no separation from my life. It’s the way of living. Not certain/ part time conjuring or on my free time. My magic starts from the second I wake up, to the second I fell asleep. My upbringing exactly, is the way I was raised, and being raised by family of witches meaning you don’t do magic work you live by magic. In my radio podcasts I explain a little more about that. Superstition some call it, other call it magic, I call it life, I don’t know any different. Is what we say witchcraft is my nature and nurture.

3. How do you think Russian witchcraft differs from other culture’s versions of witchcraft?
I don’t think is different. I don’t believe witchcraft has nationality. It’s funny… My books are called so for commercial purpose and based on my background, but I really really like to believe that witchcraft has no nationality or race. Folk magic, this is how we call conjure/witchcraft act. To set an example, and I mention that before on my podcasts, when I was child my mother taught me to use human skin (dry skin from wife foot), to make wife calm down her violent and “go around” husband. There is a specific recipe for it. So, 30 years later, I saw with my own eyes lady doing same recipe in Haiti! My mother didn’t do voodoo, she has no idea what that is, and she never see African men in her life, as well as we didn’t have TV until I was 11! So folk magic. Has no identity, no race, no nationality.

4. Do you find people have misconceptions about Russia’s magical practices?
There are people have misconception about anything and everything, it’s fine, totally natural for human race. Sapienti sat!

5. You had two books release in 2019, “Slavic Witchcraft: Old World Conjuring Spells & Folklore” and “Russian Black Magic: The Beliefs and Practices of Heretics and Blasphemers”. How do the books differ?
In my first book, I would say it more spells -handbook, I’m focusing more on historical part and folklore/beliefs, my second book is more about dark side of folk magic, opposite-Christianity practices. I explain how people reacted to violent Christian baptism of (Russia/Ukraine) and how they converted paganism into so called satanic/demonic worshipping.. But! Not be confused with Christian Satanism. And this is I explain in my second book.

6. You’re also a priestess in the Haitian Vodou tradition. How did that come about?
I explore many religions, traditions and beliefs. Haitian Vodou was closest to my nature, ancestor wise, and working with the dead. I do not agree with some of the dogmas but practical part and foundation is I would say about 95% same to my own beliefs and tradition.

7. Have you experienced any push back for being a Caucasian American woman practicing Haitian Vodou?
As I mention before, people have all kind of problems with other people, or things, it’s a human nature. But what else I’m proud of is that my family raised me the way I am! I don’t really care what someone thinks of me. And by that I mean I don’t care at all. If I was, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and be assured, witchcraft/ occult are not for people who listening and suffer from other people’s opinions, crying at home and trying to be liked by everyone. You should NOT “fit in any box.” You need to be strong, you need to be master of your Spirit, otherwise you are in the wrong place.

8. With so many witchcraft traditions, what advice would you give to someone trying to find a path to follow?
Everyone listen to their inner self. What they called by.. Everyone has their own path, but we all stand on our ancestor’s shoulders. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. They fought for us, they died at wars and battles to protect us, they suffer hunger and humiliation, to make sure we are here today, do not forget that every time you look in the mirror. Always honor your ancestors.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects to share with my readers?
Yes, I’m working on my next book…it’s going to be more of a “biography” kind of book, called “Ancestral Witch: Being born into family of witches.”

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Thank you! – Natasha Helvin

About Natasha Helvin:
Born in the Soviet Union, Natasha Helvin is an occultist, hereditary witch, and priestess in the Haitian Vodou tradition, as well as an avid scholar of other magical traditions. She learned the ancient Slavic secrets of magic and healing from her family and, as a child, often saw her grandmother and mother use magic in their everyday lives to help neighbors and friends. A professional rootworker, spiritual coach, and author of “Slavic Witchcraft” and “Russian Black Magic” she lives in the Pacific Northwest. https://www.worldofconjuring.com/

Shop your local indie bookstore! Buy Russian Black Magic here!

Shop your local indie bookstore. Buy Slavic Witchcraft here!

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Penczak Discusses Grimassi

I reached out to author Christopher Penczak to discuss Raven Grimassi’s last book, “What We Knew in the Night”.

1. I just want to acknowledge up front that it feels so weird to phrase this in the past tense, but here we are. For any of my readers who may not be familiar with him, can you tell them who Raven Grimassi was?

I completely understand. I was talking about Raven to a new friend the other day, and she said, “I thought he passed.”
“He did,” I responded.
“But you are talking like he is still here.”
“He is.” And I truly believe that. She was new to Witchcraft, so it took her a bit to get what I meant by it, but I still sometimes forget he’s not physically with us when I want to call upon the phone and hear his voice. It’s been a weird year trying to get used to that, and remembering I can still talk to him, but in a different way.

You can learn all the formal stuff about Raven anywhere online. He was a prolific award winning writer and teacher, and an experienced occultist with a focus on Italian Witchcraft and his own tradition called Ash, Birch and Willow, but that doesn’t convey to everyone that Raven was, in this incarnation, an extremely loving and fun man, with a devious sense of humor, who enjoyed a glass of sloe gin and tonic, would give great advice and was deeply passionate about the mysteries of life and magick, which were one in the same to him.

Despite the humor and fun, Raven was deeply dignified, and could hold both that warm and that nobility of the Craft as a priest of the Craft. Throughout his illness, he held a sense of deep dignity, regardless of what was going on with his health. It was this presence of self I saw shine through in his classes and rituals and he held that in all how he lived and in how he died.

Raven wasn’t one to tout his prowess magically or psychically, but he was an excellent medium with a clear gift to talk to the spirits, and many magickal things would just occur around him, just in everyday life. He could see and point out the magickal around you with a keen awareness. The faces of creatures within the trees and land around him, that you might swear were not there until he pointed them out, always astounded me, and they were not just tricks of the eye, but had a presence he was sensing.

Raven was deeply concerned about the preservation of the mysteries, of the essence of the Craft and what it means. I think sometimes people misunderstood that passion, but it was deeply rooted in the wisdom of the ancestors, the desire to help people connect to something bigger than themselves, and to serve a greater good.

2. You, and the Temple of Witchcraft, had a close relationship with the Grimassis, how did that come about?

I was very lucky to be befriend Stephanie and Raven early in my own writing career. I believe we met at the Book Expo America, or BEA, in Los Angeles in 2003. I got to meet a lot of amazing people that year. I had met Donald Michael Kraig earlier, in 2002 at the Llewellyn offices, but we got to spend time at BEA and he was an old friend and former student of Raven’s, so I got some quality time with them both and Stephanie. I started my friendships with Ted Andrews, Richard Webster, and Kala Trobe on that trip. We got more time together at International New Age Show, or INATS, just a month or so later in Denver. I found out at one point that my publisher was touting me as the “next Scott Cunningham” to retailers, and both Raven and Don heard that, and were curious to meet me. I met a lot of Scott’s friends and family around that time, which was weird, though I didn’t know that was how I was being billed. Scott was also a student of Raven’s, and thankfully we all hit it off. Raven remarked that it was surprising how quickly the older generation of authors were welcoming to me years later, and I’m very grateful that happened. On my first major book tour for “The Outer Temple of Witchcraft”, Stephanie and Raven graciously opened their home to me, as I was on a budget. My last night of the tour in San Diego area, they hosted me, took me to dinner and then to the event and we hung out for two days. They were just starting work on “The Well Worn Path” card deck and I got to see Raven’s original sketches and the preliminary art with someone who wasn’t actually chosen for the project in the end. After that, we were at several festivals together and they kindly took me under their wing and showed me the ropes for festival work, as I had no idea what I was doing, or of the Pagan cultures beyond New England. We attended Pantheacon, Heartland, and the Florida Pagan Gathering together, along with a few more INATS.

When Raven and Stephanie decided to move out to New England, we visited more and did more local events together. When we began the Temple of Witchcraft, they were our first guest speakers and not long after that, were keynote speakers for our Templefest summer gathering. They have been tremendously supportive in our establishment and success, and offered great advice when things were difficult and how to handle tough situations and people. The community loves them and really feels the loss of Raven. We have fostered bonds between the students of Ash, Birch and Willow and the Temple, and one of their initiates, Julia Radford, even had a main part in our Qabalistic ritual at Templefest, along with Stephanie. We held a memorial altar for Raven at Templefest, and Stephanie shared an ancestral honoring song from their traditions with us.

3. Following Grimassi’s death, it was left to you and his spouse Stephanie to do the final edits of his last book. What was the experience of editing someone else’s work like?

While I have edited other people’s work, this was entirely different. To be of aid to a friend and mentor’s last book was humbling and while I’d like to say I had a clarity at the time about it, I am not sure I did. Although due to his health his passing wasn’t unexpected, I think I was still in shock at the reality of it and our deadline was literally the two weeks after his death, so editing came amid making funeral plans and helping host friends and family coming out for the services. Stephanie did the majority of it with him, and most of it was done the day before he passed. The rest were follow up queries. Much of that part was done together, in front of one computer or print out, going over the edits while Steve, Adam and I were staying with her, and other times Stephanie and I were on the phone, going over the file. We were often having to come to agreement that, yes, that is how Raven would want it, particularly when answering questions and queries from the in-house staff editors. Honestly, I’m giving myself a bit more time before I sit down and read it again cover to cover now that it’s in print. I have it on my “to read” pile and keep looking at it, but I’m not ready.

Tremendous thanks goes to Judika Illes, who was a guiding light, support and stopped us from freaking out too much, particularly about references we could not look up, as much of Raven’s library was still packed up from the move back into the main house after their fire. When we had to stop, to deal with funeral arrangements, Judika took over the parts we could not go further to do. I am deeply grateful as it felt like we had a lot of balls in the air to be juggled and were afraid to drop one. Folks at Weiser in general were just lovely to us both during that process.

4. I feel like this book, “What We Knew in the Night: Reawakening the Heart of Witchcraft” was Grimassi’s most honest, truest expression of his craft. Would you agree with that?

I really love the book, though I love most of his books. But I think “What We Knew in the Night” reveals a Raven Grimassi who is quite honestly out of fucks to give. And by that I don’t mean he doesn’t care about the book, quite the opposite, but he’s writing from a place where he has nothing to prove to anyone, just to share what he has known, lived, and seen.

I remember the first conversations about it. He asked me on a road trip to do some shopping in Northampton, MA, if I had heard about “x,” a little-known technique. I hadn’t. Then he told the story of how he learned it, and a strange world of quiet occultists and Witches, sharing knowledge if you were in the right place and the right time. His telling of this youthful stories reminded me of some of the chats and teachings I would receive just hanging out with him at the house, or by the fire at a Pagan festival. After a few stories, he told me he was thinking about writing about these things, and what they meant to him, how he used them and asked me if younger Witches would be interested. I was, so I did think so, and he began the book. The vision morphed a few times as he worked on it, but that was the essence of it.

While his other books, perhaps until his Weiser books, were heavy on the academics as a reference, he began a process about sharing more intimate practices. I think the DVD “Ever Ancient, Ever New: Witchcraft by the Hearthside” helped him get into a new mode of writing, as that hearthside experience was mentioned a lot with this book and the origins of the material when he was a young Witch in California, being introduced to these unusual Craft folk by others in the community.

While he planned it to be his last Witchcraft book, he had a lot of ideas for other books on occultism, history and spirituality on his mind and I am sad that they won’t be in the world and I won’t get to read them.

5. What separates the witchcraft discussed in the book with other witchcraft titles?

This book has a level of grit, or realness, to it because the focus is not on providing an academic argument as a foundation for understanding. The foundation was in a time that some would think is past in the craft, a time of study with elders, and learning mouth to ear that Raven is preserving by this important work. While having his own experience with the material, it’s also not his own pure gnosis, but set in a foundation of what came before, yet conveyed in that very earthy, tactile way that speaks to the soul of the Witch. He describes it through his own eyes and use, in his own poetic style that was evident in his rituals and music. He even takes on the concepts of academics head on in preparing you for the material of the book.

6. “What We Knew in the Night” outlines 5 steps to following the witchcraft tradition Grimassi discusses. Can you briefly outline them for our readers?

Raven described five steps to his idea of quintessence, and they are:

1. Gathering the Virtue of the Moon – this step is drawing to you the beneficial qualities and powers of the Moon through a “V” shaped hand gesture. This teaching has one of my favorite quotes ever from Raven: “Remember that this moon is the exact same one that every Witch from the past once looked upon.” This Virtue of the Moon is the energy of Witchcraft that guides us in the work.

2. Meeting the Wafting – the Wafting of the Night is the pre-sentient energy of the night, of the primordial darkness. It is an awareness that wafts from the trees, giving us an experience of the mystical. Through words of power, we become aware of its presence, and it becomes aware of ours, and shares in our magical work.

3. Aligning the Witch’s Blade – the work of Aligning with the Witch’s Blade is one of uniting the stars and the darkness of the underworld, and uses some often forgotten traditional techniques of heating the blade, plunging it in cold water with herbs and roots, and magnetizing it.

4. Creating the Clay Witch’s Pentacle – the device of the Witch’s Clay Pentacle is one of the cthonic underworld. The pentacle also as an embodiment of the terrestrial world helps create the final link of the circuit between the heavens and the underworld.

5. Making the Witch’s Ring – the ring uses a stone that has two mates, one within the pentacle and one upon the altar as an altar stone, allowing the work of these five aspects of Witchery to be mobile with the Witch at all time, via the power of the ring. The three stones create a “trine” or harmonious aspect with the powers gathered, and allows the deeper alignment of the heavens, earth and underworld, the classic three worlds of the Witch.

It’s really a beautiful system he has shared involving aspects and elements of things he has both talked about and written about for years, but its framed in a very poetic, magickal and evocative way.

7. What is the one thing you want to make sure my readers know about Raven Grimassi?

That he was, and is, a man of deep honor and love.

8. You, along with Steve Kenson and Adam Sartwell, founded the Temple of Witchcraft. How are things going with the Temple?

Things are really good overall. We are currently in our academic sessions for online classes and have a wonderful group of students in study. We are making plans for our community center, seeking approval with our town planning board and generally enjoying the Hallow’s season.

9. What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with my readers?

I am in the process of helping in the work of another mentor and friend, Laurie Cabot, as Copper Cauldron releases Laurie Cabot’s “Book of Visions”, a meditation book, for the yuletide season. I also have three books in various stages of production I hope to have out next year if all goes well.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

I know you’ve attended many events in the Northeast and I believe you’ve met Raven. What’s your favorite Raven memory?

I remember one year at Celebrate Samhain, an annual event in New Hampshire, Raven was one of the speakers. I don’t remember the topic of his talk, not even a little. However, the thing I remember was him thanking the audience and talking about his readers. He spoke with such genuine appreciation that it was then I decided I liked him. I’ve seen him speak or attended a class he instructed several times, but him thanking everyone, that’s the memory that sticks out.

You can learn more about “What We Knew in the Night” here.

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About Raven Grimassi:
Raven Grimassi was a neo-pagan scholar and award-winning author of more than 12 books on witchcraft, Wicca, and neo-paganism. He was a member of the American Folklore Society and was a co-founder and co-director of the Crossroads Fellowship, a modern Mystery School tradition. Photo credit: Peter Paradise, Raven Wolfe Photography

About Christopher Penczak:
Christopher Penczak is a modern Witch, teacher, and healer. He is the author of the acclaimed Inner Temple of Witchcraft series and of “Gay Witchcraft”, Weiser Books, 2003. He offers classes and workshops throughout the U.S. Visit him at: www.christopherpenczak.com.

10 Questions with Mallorie Vaudoise

Today we’re talking with Mallorie Vaudoise, author of “Honoring Your Ancestors”. We talk about family, mediumship, Italian magic, and more!

1. What is ancestor veneration?

Any spiritual practice that connects us with the people who were here before us is a form of ancestor veneration. This could take the form of prayer, ritual, and offerings. Or it could take the form of genealogical research, cooking traditional foods, and playing folk music.

Ancestor veneration is found throughout the world. Even within our own culture, which I consider spiritually impoverished, we still see the impulse to hold funerary rituals, create memorials, and leave offerings of flowers at cemeteries.

My book is about adding new depth and color to these simple actions. It’s also about grounding your magical practice in a loving relationship with these powerful spirits who have a vested interest in you as their descendant.

2. What sparked your interest in working with ancestors?

I was a weird kid. Some of that weirdness was unique to me. But in retrospect, some of it was a failure to integrate messages that I was receiving from spirits through mediumship. I didn’t have a framework for understanding the weird physical and emotional sensations that I now associate with spirit contact. And yet, there were some things that I could perceive, like the presence of my great-grandparents around me.

As an adult, I became involved in two lineages of African-diasporic traditions. Both traditions required me to undergo rituals aimed at nourishing and seeking the blessing of my ancestors before I could be initiated. They gave me a practical understanding of the phenomena that I had experienced throughout my life. It was life changing. I wanted to share the gift of ancestral consciousness with other people, outside of any traditional lineage. That’s why I wrote the book: as a guide for people who don’t have the benefit of a tradition or teacher, so they can find their own path. Or for people who are working within a tradition but want to further develop their ancestor veneration practice into something more personal.

3. In your book you explain there are different types of ancestors. Can you explain this for our readers?

When we think of ancestors, sometimes we assume these are always blood relations. I definitely think there is an inherent power in connecting with your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. because they made your body with their bodies. So, as ancestors, they are connected to the great Mysteries of incarnation: birth, death, and rebirth.

But there are other types of ancestors that we may honor as well. For example, the ancestors of an initiatic lineage might consider you their descendant as much as your blood ancestors if you ritually died and were reborn as their godchild. We also have connections to ancestors that come about without ritual initiation that I refer to as “affinity ancestors”. And of course, there are other spirits of dead humans that we might incorporate into our ancestor veneration practice, like saints and spirit guides.

At the end of the day, they’re your ancestors. You get to decide who you honor and how. You’re already the high priest/ess of this religion. That means you have the power and the responsibility to honor them in a way that works for both sides of the equation.

4. Can ancestor veneration be incorporated into any spiritual practice?

If you’ve got ancestors, you can venerate them. How you do it and how it relates to your other spiritual practices is entirely up to you.

5. Is making offerings a requirement of ancestor veneration? What constitutes an offering?

I don’t think there are any universal requirements in ancestor veneration. But offerings can be profoundly meaningful for many people, especially for those of us who were raised never to show up to a party empty-handed.

An offering is anything given as a gift to your ancestors. This could be incense, food, or flowers. It could be the sacrifice of time or money to charity. I consider writing this book the biggest offering I’ve made to the ancestors to date.

6. You talk about mediumship as part of ancestor veneration in the book. What is mediumship?

Ancestor veneration is a two-way street. If prayers and offerings are communication in one direction, then mediumship is communication in the other direction.

Unlike other spirits, our ancestors were all once human. They remember what it’s like to have a body, to go hungry, to fall in love, to stub their toes, to feel feelings, and to have dreams. Just like us, they once chose to come here and learn the lessons that can only be learned through a human body. But their day was different from our day, and their lessons where different from our lessons. Through mediumship, they can share their learnings with us so we can be free to focus on the new lessons we have come here to experience.

7. Can anyone perform mediumship, or do you need to have special gifts to do it?

Anyone can perform mediumship. But what that looks like for you may differ from what it looks like for me. Some people see spirits. Some people hear them. I am always shocked to find how many people feel them physically like I do.

I’ve met mediums who can give hard facts, like names and dates, through mediumship. I’m not that type of medium. But names and dates wouldn’t be terribly helpful for me anyway. I need guidance on how to accomplish the unique work that my spirit chose to incarnate for. Names and dates aren’t going to help me with that.

Mediumship is like any other skill. Anyone can do it. Not everyone can do it in the same way. But ultimately, if you want to get better at it, you have to practice it.

8. You have a beautiful website, Italian Folk Magic. What inspired you to create a site devoted to the subject matter?

I’m Italian-American. Growing up, it felt like my family was haunted by Italy. I was raised with stories about how difficult my grandparents and great-grandparents’ lives were, both in Italy and when they immigrated to the United States. But at the same time, it was almost taboo to talk about our heritage. That tension between the depth of gratitude that I was taught to show and the shame my family had acquired about our roots led me to go searching for our ancestral traditions. I wanted to find the things we had sacrificed to become American: the passion, the ecstasy, the magic.

At the time, there were very few resources on the topic in English. Now, I see more and more Italian-Americans proudly embracing their heritage in the form of traditional herbalism, devotion to the saints, and yes, folk magic. I like to think my site played a small part in inspiring other Italian-Americans to explore their roots.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?

Right now, I’m focused on getting Honoring Your Ancestors to as many people as possible. Your readers can stay a part of that conversation by following me on Instagram and Facebook.

I think of myself as a missionary for the spirit world. I started with the ancestors because people were already asking me about them. But I’d like to start writing more about other types of spirits: spirits of place, for example. Ultimately, the goal of all of my projects is to remind people that they are not alone. We are all connected with each other and with a vast ecosystem which includes every other living organism as well as discarnate spirits.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one questions!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from a dead person?

“Don’t check the value of your retirement accounts daily, it will just make you crazy. You’ve got a long time to retirement.” That’s what my father always said, and now my day job is working for a financial advisor and seriously, a lot of people would be a lot happier if they followed this advice.

About Mallorie Vaudoise:
Mallorie Vaudoise is a NYC-based spiritualist of Italian descent. She is the author of Honoring Your Ancestors: A Guide to Ancestral Veneration (Llewellyn, 2019) and Italian Folk Magic, a blog about devotional practices from Southern Italy and Sicily. She is an initiated Olorisha (Orisha priestess) and an apprentice in the ecstatic music and dance traditions of her ancestors. She believes that music, food, wine, and kissing are vital tools of spiritual evolution. Visit Mallorie online at www.roadsideomens.com or follow her Instagram account @honoringyourancestors.

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10 Questions with Nicholas Pearson

1. What first sparked your interest in crystals?

I’ve been collecting rocks since about as far back as I can remember. My grandfather was the first person to give me a proper mineral specimen (a piece of quartz from Hot Springs, Arkansas–if you look at the color plates in The Seven Archetypal Stones you’ll find it pictured there). I’ve been hooked ever since.

2. How do you go about researching crystals for your books?

It always starts with an idea that holds my interest. I really only write about things that excite me, which is why I haven’t done a “crystals for beginners” book yet. Once I’ve got an idea, I try to map it out from all angles. Examining the mineral kingdom through the lenses of language, culture, history, spirituality and religion, medicine, art, industry, science, etc. allows me to look for connections between mineral science and the metaphysics of crystal energy.

As for the how-to part of my research, I have a large part of my library devoted solely to minerals (getting closer to 400 books on rocks every day…), so I usually start there. Depending on the topic, I try to get as close to primary sources as possible, looking for the oldest and most reliable written accounts that I can access. Books that capture historic gemstone use, such as those by Lecouteux and Kunz, are invaluable. I try to compare the information in these with modern crystal mystics, like Katrina Raphaell, Naisha Ahsian, and Judy Hall, to name just a few. Next, I look for the threads of mineral science that unite them, perhaps by seeking common themes grouped around particular constituent elements or crystal systems. Ultimately, research for every project is unique, and it is guided by the overarching theme of the work itself.

3. How do you incorporate crystals into your everyday life?

I often say that there is no horizontal surface in my home without a crystal (or five). The mineral kingdom is a big support system for me. I keep crystals around my house, in my pockets, in the car, on my desk, and around my neck. I incorporate them into my daily meditation and use them for gem therapy protocols on myself and clients. Most importantly, I try to just take time out of my everyday experience and listen to the stones themselves.

4. I always say, “When in doubt, quartz!” Is it just me or is a good, clear quartz crystal the Swiss Army knife of the crystal kingdom?

Quartz is wonderful as an all-purpose tool. In gemstone therapy, we use quartz for a lot of basic treatments because it is said to offer the full spectrum of life-force to us. From the cultural and historical perspective, few stones have been held in such high regard as universally as quartz crystal. Even through the lens of mineral science, we see that the crystallography, optics, and other properties of quartz lend tremendous potential to this stone. It is a profound healer, teacher, and guide on our path, and for that reason it is often esteemed as the “master” mineral. I think part of what makes quartz so versatile is that it is easily programmed or charged to hold virtually any intention, and it is a master of reflecting our own psychological and spiritual makeup so we can better ourselves through crystal healing.

5. What inspired your latest book Stones of the Goddess: Crystals for the Divine Feminine?

Stones of the Goddess started as a persistent idea that I kept trying to sweep to the back of my head so I could focus on other projects. You see, the idea of Earth-as-Mother is cross-cultural; we find it throughout the ancient world, and it is even extant in scientific literature today (albeit metaphorically) through ideas such as the Gaia Hypothesis. If we conceive of the planet as the embodiment of the Great Mother, rock and stone are part and parcel of Her body. The mineral kingdom becomes a powerful conduit through which we can experience the love, power, and wisdom of the Goddess. Further, there is an extraordinary amount of folklore that links rocks and minerals to myths and themes associated with the Divine Feminine.

I admit that I was skeptical about writing this book at the onset because the idea for Stones of the Goddess felt a little out of place next to some of my other titles. Thankfully, after chatting with one of the editors at Inner Traditions about it at the International New Age Trade Show two years ago, I felt encouraged that there would be an audience. That really paved the way for the manuscript to take form.

6. Were you concerned that there could be backlash with you being a male writing about the Divine Feminine?

I’ve been transparent about this idea from the inception of the book. I totally understand that as someone who identifies as male, there will be concepts, experiences, and feelings that I’ll never fully grasp. However, I’ve cultivated a personal relationship with the Divine Feminine through daily practice for almost twenty years now. I think it’s fair for me to write from the perspective of a scholar and practitioner, so long as I own my maleness. Since I have a public vehicle to honor the Divine Feminine, I really want to do that as respectfully and sincerely as possible, and whenever there is an opportunity to cede my space at the table for someone who identifies as female to take the spotlight and have her voice heard, I will do so. Ultimately, I hope that conversations about the Divine Feminine lead us all–male, female, or otherwise–to act in ways that honor our inner Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine.

7. Stones of the Goddess is a huge, full color book LOADED with some seriously sexy photos of crystals. Are those all from your collection? (Actually, how large is your collection?)

Thank you for your kind words about the photos. My partner, Steven, is a talented photographer who has worked on all my books so far. We decided to create scenes that were evocative of spells, rituals, and sacred spaces with the images for Stones of the Goddess. It’s definitely our most beautiful collaboration yet.

Sadly, not all the stones pictured in the book are mine. Some of my most beloved tools are a little less photogenic than we needed, or they’d been photographed for other books. Although I managed to borrow a couple of stones from friends, many of the crystals (and the props like candles, herbs, statues, and more) were graciously loaned to us for photos by my friend Miranda, owner of Avalon, a historic metaphysical store near downtown Orlando.

As for the size of my collection, it’s at the point where I really can’t keep track. I can tell you this much, I wouldn’t want to get trapped underneath all my rocks and minerals if they were piled together.

8. You also wrote Foundations of Reiki Ryoho: A Manual of Shoden and Okuden. Do you feel there is an overlap with your work with crystals and Reiki?

I get asked a lot about crystals and Reiki together. In my earlier days, I often combined the two in my everyday practice, but these days I tend to allow each modality to stand on its own. The understanding of energy, and the sensitivity to subtle energies overall, have certainly enriched both my awareness of crystals and my Reiki practice.

In spite of a theoretical overlap of the theory behind crystals and Reiki, I do keep them separate. Right now there is a big trend in the modern metaphysical milieu to equate Reiki with energy healing of almost any variety. This is can be helpful when broaching the topic with the general populace, but it ultimately does a disservice to Reiki itself. The practice of Reiki, called Usui Reiki Ryoho, or “Usui’s Reiki Healing Method,” is a spiritual practice in and of itself–a complete system that doesn’t require any add-ons, substitutions, or deletions. A lot of the fundamentals of traditional Reiki practice are misunderstood or omitted entirely, and my hope is that we can reclaim these tools and teachings to maintain the integrity of the system for future generations.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?

I’m always working on something new! Next year I’ll have a manual of practical crystal healing (much more than just a crystals 101 book) coming out. For this year, I’m focused a little more on travel and teaching. I’ll be on the road a lot, so there will be a better opportunity to connect with my readers. And eventually I’ve got two sequels to Stones of the Goddess planned, too.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Buffet any one question.

If you could have any Goddess over for tea, who would it be and why?

I’ve given this question a lot of thought by contemplating my own personal altar. I have 4 goddesses on my altar: Kwan Yin, Santa Muerte, Medusa, and Kali. I think I’d have tea with Kwan Yin and Santa Muerte. I feel they would be soothing, thoughtful companions. On the other hand, I think doing some hard drinking with Medusa and Kali would be fun. Definitely a sitting at the bar trash talking good time would be had by all!

About Nicholas Pearson:
Nicholas Pearson has been immersed in all aspects of the mineral kingdom for more than 20 years. He began teaching crystal workshops in high school, later studying mineral science at Stetson University while pursuing a degree in music. He worked for several years at the Gillespie Museum, home to the largest mineral collection in the southern United States. A certified teacher and practitioner of Usui Reiki Ryoho, he teaches crystal and Reiki classes throughout the United States. He lives in Orlando, Florida. www.theluminouspearl.com

10 Questions with Arin Murphy-Hiscock

1. What first drew you to magical practices?

In the mid-nineties I was doing research for a storytelling project. I’d decided a character was going to be a modern witch, but I had no idea what that might entail, let alone in an urban setting the way I was planning. So I found a local metaphysical bookstore and browsed the shelves. It only took about ten minutes to realize that all these ideas I was seeing really resonated deeply with me. And I’ve never looked back, only gone deeper!

2. Your latest book, “The House Witch”, focuses on hearthcraft. What is it?

I define it as the recognition and celebration of the home as sacred space, and magic that focuses specifically on the home.

3. How does it differ from kitchen witchery?

I feel kitchen witchery is focused on practical magic done within the kitchen itself, associated with food and herbal-based energy. There’s absolutely an element of that within hearthcraft, and kitchen witchery is certainly an aspect of hearthcraft practice, but hearthcraft goes beyond kitchen magic to encompass the energies of the entire home, the people living in it, the land around it, and honoring the spiritual aspect of all those things and how they interact. It specifically focuses on the home and living space.

4. What’s the most magical room in your home?

This is going to sound cliched, but whatever room I’m in at the moment. We work hard to make sure the energies in all the rooms of my house are welcoming and supportive. We tweak things a lot here; it’s an ongoing process, because we feel that the space should respond to our needs as we should respond to the needs of the space. It’s a dynamic relationship, always active and shifting.

There are two places I gravitate to, though. One room is the living room, the main room of the house. It has our family altar in it, as well as lots of original art. My biggest spinning wheel lives there, as does the stereo and my CDs (music is a huge part of my life). The second is my office, which is in the lovely attic my husband built. It’s airy and light, and I have one of my smaller spinning wheels up there, an upholstered rocking chair, lots of books, my desk, my cello, all my spinning fibre… it’s where I do my yoga and my meditation, as well as write my books. I have inspirational quotes and pins and art all around me there. It’s lovely. The cats seem to like it, and my kids often end up here as well.

5. If you could change anything about your house, what would it be?

I would have a fireplace! Or possibly my bedroom would be bigger and not in the basement.

6. You wrote “The House Witch”, “The Green Witch” (that focuses on herbs, flowers, etc.), “Protection Spells”, and more. How do you incorporate all this magic into your daily life?

I don’t make a big defined effort to inject or impose magical activity. For me, it’s part of living, part of the everyday, so I don’t work to incorporate it; it grows out of my daily life.

7. People may not be aware, but you’re Canadian. Do you find the witch culture in Canada differs from other countries?

That’s a hard question to answer, because I don’t spend enough time in other countries to make a valid observation. I can say that where I live, things are pretty laid back. There’s a solid Pagan community here, with a core of people who facilitate activities. I live in Quebec, so we have the added bonus of anglophone/francophone communities offering different activities for the community to share. On a practical level, we have weather that is unfavourable to outdoor meetings a lot of the time, so our rituals tend to take place indoors perhaps more often than in other places. On the other hand, with such markedly different seasons, we get to fully immerse ourselves in the energies of seasonal change.

8. In looking over books written by Arin Murphy-Hiscock I couldn’t help but notice “Assassin’s Creed: The Ultimate Guide” showed up. Did you author this book? And oh my gosh, tell me how that came about if you did! (We’re Assassin’s Creed fans!)

I did write it! I started working with the AC team in Montreal a few years ago when Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was being made. They were looking for a copyeditor to help synthesize the writing styles and material coming in from the different Ubisoft studios working on the project. I had done work for Ubisoft about ten years before, and a good friend on the writing team for Syndicate said “Hey, I know a terrific editor!” The brand team liked what I did enough to call me back for other AC-associated editorial work, and then the idea of writing the Essential Guide came up. I do a lot of writing work centered on the AC brand now. I love working with them; they’re terrific people.

9. Do you have any upcoming projects my readers can look out for?

Protection Spells was my first new book in a long time, and it’s been good to slip back into writing New Age and witchcraft topics.

In December 2018 my new book The Witch’s Book of Self-Care is coming out, and it’s a project that is very close to my heart! Ironically, I was juggling a zillion things when I was asked to write it, and I had to weigh the pros and cons before accepting the offer. In the end I decided putting the book out there was important enough to short my own self-care for a while; I ended up working two full-time jobs as well as single-parenting my kids while my husband was out of town for two months to hit the deadline. I absolutely made the right decision, because I think the topic of self-care is really important in general, but it certainly had repercussions. Part of self-care is knowing and accepting the consequences of something, and going into a situation with your eyes open and with all the facts. I did that, and I’m not sorry. I’m still handling the long-term healing, that’s all.

After that one, there are a couple more new editions coming out! One of them is The Hidden Meaning of Birds, a revision of another book that is close to my heart. I’m thrilled it’s going to find new readership. And there are more projects coming down the pipe… in fact, I’m scribbling notes for a new project I plan to propose to the editorial team sometime in January!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

How do you define self care? Do you do enough of it? In what ways could you take better care of your energy?

I suppose I define self care as taking time for yourself. I think most people assume restful activity, but I feel that if it’s something you enjoy and makes you happy, carving out time to indulge in the activity counts as self care.

It’s hard to say how I could better take care of my energy. I suffer from chronic migraines and small fiber neuropathy. It’s pretty draining so I spend a lot of time sleeping on our sofa. It doesn’t really feel like self care, because it’s almost like I don’t have no say in the matter. I almost feel like the times I force myself to go out and see friends is more like self care. However draining it may be.

About Arin Murphy-Hiscock:
Arin Murphy-Hiscock is the author of “The Way of the Green Witch”, “The Green Witch”, “The Way of the Hedge Witch”, “Pagan Pregnancy”, “Power Spellcraft for Life”, “Solitary Wicca for Life”, and “The Hidden Meaning of Birds: A Spiritual Field Guide”. She has been active in the field of alternative spirituality for over twenty years, and lives in Montreal, Canada.

You can learn more here.

The Real Witches of New England

I’m nosey. I’m super interested in people’s lives, particularly spiritual leaders and magic users. So, you can understand why it was impossible to resist Ellen Evert Hopman’s latest book “The Real Witches of New England: History, Lore, and Modern Practice”. It is a big ol’ book of interviews and biographies of modern-day witches and people who were accused of being witches in the still too recent for comfort past.

The first part of the book is dedicated to the history of witch persecutions. It’s a concise round up of who was targeted, why there was witch paranoia, where there was witch hysteria, and what actual witches were doing during this period. This next part is truly inspired. You can find loads of books with biographies of people accused of witchcraft, however what Hopman has done is not only provide you with their biographies, but also includes interviews with their modern-day descedants. She asks them questions such as were they always aware they were descended from an accused witch, how do they define witchcraft, and do they practice themselves.

Lastly, and my favorite part, is a whose who of contemporary witches of New England. There are some big names, such as Raven Grimassi, Christopher Penczak, and Christian Day, and many that were new to me. Hopman conducted email interviews with 25 different people. By asking a relatively consistent set of questions of each person it gives you a unique perspective of the various ways people define and practice witchcraft. I do have one question though, she interviewed Christopher Penczak and Adam Sartwell, two of the three founding members of the Temple of Witchcraft, why not also include Steve Kenson, the third founder and all around magical bad ass? Seriously, his absence totally stuck out to me. (What can I say, I’m a ride or die Kenson girl!)

I can’t imagine who wouldn’t love “The Real Witches of New England”. Hopman has managed to put all New England’s witchcraft history, and its future, into one enjoyable book. I only hope she does more books like this focusing on other geographic areas.

To learn more, visit here.

10 Questions with Mitch Horowitz

1. Your latest book is “The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality”, so let’s address the 30 million copy selling elephant in the room. How does your book differ from “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne?

I applaud Rhonda’s achievements but her book leaves unsettled the real elephant in the room—which is the persistence of tragedy and catastrophe; what happens when mind-power methods appear not to work; and a theory of why thoughts makes things happen. The Miracle Club is, I hope, a complete journey into all facets of the seeker’s experience. It revives the serious and critical interpretation of New Thought methods that I think we haven’t seen since the death of William James in 1910.

2. What sparked your interest in New Thought?

I came to realize at a certain point in my life, even as I couldn’t always admit it to myself, that my spiritual search is really a search for personal power and agency; I yearned for a spirituality that was, above all, practical and actionable. Some people may be turned off by that, and may feel that I’ve entirely missed the point of the search. But I submit that this is what most of us are after, regardless of what we tell ourselves. New Thought meets the seeker in that place, while also holding to ethical standards.

3. Do you feel like there is a convenient excuse of victim blaming in positive thought circles? Like the chronic pain sufferer who doesn’t experience improvement, they just didn’t want it enough?

Although there isn’t as much “victim blaming” in New Thought circles as critics suppose (often critics who have never attended a single church service or read their way through a New Thought book), some of this does persist. There’s no denying it. My contention is that we live under many laws and forces, of which the mind is one vital part. New Thoughters need to use this idea to develop a theology of suffering, which is something we’ve never fully done. This is increasingly important today as people are dealing with end-of-life issues that weren’t as prevalent at the movement’s founding more than a century ago.

4. You discuss the importance of establishing a moral code before undertaking positive thought work. Why is that?

It’s very easy to fall into an attitude of soft hedonism when using New Thought methods. I’ve done it myself. In order to go through life in a manner that is nonviolent—by which I mean not violating other people’s ability to pursue their own highest aims—it is vital to have some code of honor or ethical or religious teaching at your back. This is one area in which New Thought excels because it stands on gospel ethics.

5. In your book you describe the hypnagogic state, something I’ve never encountered before. Can you explain what it is for my readers and its importance in New Thought?

This is the extremely relaxed state that we all enter just before drifting off to sleep at night or when coming to in the morning. It is a state of mind that can seem dreamy and hallucinogenic, yet one in which we remain cognizant and able to direct our attention. Both sleep researchers and psychical experimenters have discovered that the mind is extremely supple, suggestible, and sensitive at such times. This is a natural state in which to use affirmations, visualizations, intentions, and prayers. It is a time when you can impress your subconscious mind with an idea, so to speak. In The Miracle Club I maintain that it is also “prime time” in which episodes of extra-physicality have been found to occur, such as mind-to-mind communication or telepathy. This is not fantasy. It is a cycle that comes to all of us naturally, and it can be used.

6. If I recall correctly, didn’t President Trump come up through a prosperity ministry, a branch of the positive thought family tree? Can we attribute any of his success/survival to this?

Yes, the Trump family was close to the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), author of The Power of Positive Thinking. There’s no question that Trump has used and harnessed these methods, but without ethics. His life is the story of the unprincipled pursuit of power. This is why I alluded above to the need for a serious ethical code. But do not despair. As the saying goes, “Use the force, Luke.”

7. Is it possible for someone to be using the power of positive thought without training or structure, just through their own force of will?

Absolutely. The poet William Blake did this. Figures throughout history realized organically that thought possesses causative dimensions, and acted on this without naming or devising a system. Blake famously wrote that if “the doors of perception were cleansed” we could see life in its infinitude. That statement more or less captures the theology of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

8. When you’re not busy thinking positively, what do you do with your time?

I wish I were always busy thinking positively! I came to this philosophy because I am not a positive thinker by nature, so it’s a real challenge for me. But mostly I raise my two boys, ages 11 and 14, I write, I bike and exercise, and I hang with people I love. I watch very little TV (with the exception of Rachel Maddow and Better Call Saul). I do like to hang with close friends, eat a bit, and imbibe nature’s pleasures.

9. What’s next? Do you have an upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?

One of the projects I’m excited about is a movie version of the occult book The Kybalion, which I’m working on with my friend Ronni Thomas, a brilliant director whose work has been featured at the Tribeca Film Festival and who is known, among other things, for the digital series Midnight Archive. Ronni and I are making a documentary-style feature about this book, exploring its historical backstory and illuminating its principles.

Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?

It is same the question I ask myself: What do you want?

I always tell people who asked me this that I want world peace and a body like Cindy Crawford’s. And that is as true today as when I said it in junior high school. However given the nature of your book, I’m going to tell you what I really want (what I really, really want) (the Spice Girls cannot be denied). I’d like to make a comfortable living doing The Magical Buffet, which is getting to share all the great books, products, and people I enjoy with everyone else.

About Mitch Horowitz:
Mitch Horowitz is a PEN Award-winning historian, longtime publishing executive, and a leading New Thought commentator with bylines in The New York Times, Time, Politico, Salon, and The Wall Street Journal and media appearances on Dateline NBC, CBS Sunday Morning, All Things Considered, and Coast to Coast AM. He is the author of several books, including Occult America and One Simple Idea. He lives in New York City. Visit him at https://mitchhorowitz.com/.