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.

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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/

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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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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.

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/.

10 Questions with Amy Blackthorn

1. How did you get started with essential oils?

I started with essential oils after about ten years of practicing magic and had just gotten started in my horticulture studies program. I was looking for a way to work with the plant materials I was studying on a year-round basis, but also to preserve the materials I had an abundance of. I headed to my local natural foods cooperative and found a rack of essential oils and dove right in. The history of the materials as they related to the history of perfumery really enticed me, so I grabbed every book I could find, non-fiction and even a fiction book called, ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’ by Patrick Suskind and John E. Woods.

2. What made you decide to write a book on the subject?

It’s funny what makes each person write, isn’t it? I decided to write a book on the subject of aromatherapy after a death in my extended family. It was a great aunt whom I had never met and was already elderly when I was born. I returned to the family’s Catholic church where my mom grew up to attend the church service for this woman my mother had loved, but I had never encountered.

I arrived before my mother, but after my uncle’s family who were no longer Catholic but had converted to another sect of Christianity. I was a little anxious that my aunt would cause a scene about my being in a church as my family knew I was a Witch and had caused a scene at a previous family funeral. The longer I sat there, the more anxious I got.

Until they wheeled the casket in, with the attendants, and the priest. Suddenly, I was as calm as I’d ever been, I was centered, I was focused and I was ready for a ritual. It was as though someone had thrown a switch in my brain. It took a good minute for me to piece it together.

You see, in my very first coven, my high priestess was raised Catholic. So before every ritual (every full moon, and 8 holy festivals a year), we cleansed our ritual room with frankincense and myrrh, the same incense she had growing up in the Catholic church, and the same incense I encountered that day. My brain didn’t know the difference. My brain just knew it was time for a religious observance and switched gears on me without me having to think about it. I signed up for a clinical aromatherapist program the next day and started writing about my experiences with scent that night.

3. You have a company, Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends, that creates blends of teas. Why tea?

I started working with tea six years before I launched my company because I feel that tea speaks to the soul of people in a way that nothing else does. Tea is comprised of the vital nature of the plants. When you pour that water over the leaves you can’t help but take a deep breath. My aim in taking that time is to encourage people to turn their morning ritual into a ritual.

I had just left a toxic job at a security firm and I knew that if I was going to move on to the next thing successfully, I needed to make room for it in my life. I needed to clear out the baggage left behind by the old job. Anyone who has ever had to put in their two weeks notice knows how that feels.

My first morning as a joyfully unemployed woman, I knew I had to get back to the roots of my magic to make that room. I dug out the big cauldron that I burn my candles in (fire safety!) and my bottle of Vanvan oil for clearing out junk and bringing new opportunities your way. I thought this must be one of the fastest spells I’ve ever worked because the doorbell rang before I even lit the candle. I laughed all the way back to the kitchen after signing for a package from the postal worker.

Then the funniest thing happened. When I got back to the kitchen, I went to light my candle and I was overwhelmed by the scent of the lemongrass in the oil and all I could think to myself was, “If only I had a tea to sip while my candle burned, I could keep working on my working while the candle burned and did its job.” and Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends was born. A week later I had 15 blends, and now four years later I have over 55.

4. How do you go about creating a tea?

When I go about creating a tea, we have the genesis, an old hoodoo formula I’ve been making into oils for twenty years, ‘Justice, Power, and Peace’ is similar to my recipes for empowering blends like Just Judge and Boss Fix. It’s hard to do 1 to 1 recipe because the oil recipes call for things that aren’t edible, so I have to go back to my other materials, recipes and notes to help inspire me for things that have the same power, use and intent to get the job done. Run Devil Run, for example, nothing in that recipe is edible, but the banishing power of black pepper makes for an incredibly powerful banishing tea, and since black pepper makes sweet things taste sweeter it has a great flavor profile and is an easy drinking tea without the added sugar. You can drink these teas just because you want something good in your body. Magic is all about your intent so you can tap into the intent behind these blends, or you can just enjoy some Money Draw tea because it tastes like a popular fruity breakfast cereal.

5. Ever notice how things meant to clear negative energies stink? Do you think smelly is just a universal repellant? (because that’s my super scientific working theory)

A lot of people talk about how materials meant to clear negative energies to stink, but the stink is in the eye (nose?) of the beholder. There are two schools of thought here. The popular school of thought is that the stink will drive the nasty spirit back to where it belongs, and keep it away from you, and your home. The lesser known school of thought is that working with smells that the end user finds pleasant is infinitely more effective, for a few reasons, A) they’re more likely to use it. It can’t work if it just sits on the shelf. B) they’ll enjoy using it, therefore creating a happy environment which is more difficult for a nasty spirit to cling to. C) You’re more likely to ‘vibe’ with something that’s going to work with you anyway.

6. Given how stressful life seems to be for everyone lately, what are some aromas you’d suggest to help us all chill out?

Chill out, Cheer Up!
3 drops grapefruit essential oil (Citrus paradisi) to heal, protect, renew
3 drops lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) for harmony, peace, strength
3 drops peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita) to purify, release, lift spirits
2 tablespoons witch hazel

Place essential oils and witch hazel in a 2-ounce pump spray bottle. Cap it and give it a good shake. Unscrew the cap and fill it the rest of the way with cool water. Spritz well and often to banish melancholy and irritability and bring peace and centering.

7. What advice would you offer to someone looking to start working with essential oils?

Research, take classes online, or with an instructor. You can never know too much about this. It can seem overwhelming. Instead of buying a kit with 10 or twenty oils in it and trying to learn them all, pick three and learn everything you can about those three. Use them for cleaning your kitchen counters or for magic. Use them for everything the books tell you it’s safe to, but know those three inside and out, before adding another. Just keep it simple and you’ll keep yourself from getting overwhelmed. You can do a thousand things with one oil and this book.

8. What are some things people should look for when shopping for essential oils, particularly if shopping online?

Look out for clear bottles, that means they’re likely fragrance oils. The same goes for if the oils are all the same price. If the company offers a lot of organic essential oils, that’s a good sign, but you’re going to pay a lot for the option. If you’re looking to buy oils that are really expensive, melissa, rose, jasmine, sandalwood etc, get the smallest quantity you can buy and quality test it yourself at home. Put a drop of oil on a piece of watercolor paper. Come back twenty-four hours later. Is there red dye smeared on the paper from the rose oil? There shouldn’t be. Does the paper look like someone carried home french fries from the local greasy spoon? It shouldn’t. (For more info on quality testing at home there’s a chapter in the back of Blackthorn’s Botanical Magic.)

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

I’m happy to say that I’m back working with Weiser on my next book! They’re so great to work with, I just couldn’t stay away. I can’t say what it is just yet, but fans of this book will be dying to get their hands on this next book.

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

What’s your favorite sense memory related to this time of year?

It’s not tied to a specific fall memory, but kind of general amalgamation of memories. Thanksgiving dinner cooking smells. That warm, toasty kitchen filled with the aroma of roasted turkey and the fixings. I don’t take the holiday seriously because let’s face it, Thanksgiving is a horrible lie because our ancestors were total dicks to the Native Americans, but the food. Oh the food.

About Amy Blackthorn:
Amy Blackthorn has been described as an “arcane horticulturalist” for her lifelong work with magical plants and teaching of hoodoo. She incorporates her experiences in British Traditional Witchcraft with her horticulture studies. She is a clinical aromatherapist and is ordained. Amy’s company, Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends, creates tea based on old hoodoo herbal formulas. She lives in Delaware. Visit her at www.amyblackthorn.com and https://blackthornhoodooblends.com

10 More Questions with Gary Lachman

1. Believe it or not, you and I talked all the way back in 2009 about your book “Politics and the Occult.” How does your new book, “Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump” differ from that earlier work?

In Politics and the Occult, along with giving an overview of the relation between the two in the modern world, I also wanted to show that the association of occultism and far-right politics, which has become a kind of cliche, is not as necessary or exclusive as writers like Umberto Eco believed, and that there is plenty of evidence for what we can call a ‘progressive’ occult politics. Dark Star Rising is different, first because I am writing about current events – it’s a work of journalism to some degree, or ‘history in the making’ – but also because in it I am looking at what seems to be a rise of a form of occult politics in the alternative-right, both in the United States and in Russia. So in Dark Star Rising I am looking at some occult politics that seem to be happening on the right, here and now.

2. You draw a fairly direct line from New Thought to branches of Christianity (particularly Prosperity preachers) to Chaos Magick. Do you think any of these groups acknowledge their similarities and lineage?

One of the things that struck me as very interesting was that in terms of technique, theory, practice, and aim, there seems to be much in common between New Thought or positive thinking and chaos magic. You wouldn’t think that Norman Vincent Peale and Austin Osman Spare had a lot in common, but in some fundamentals they do. I recognized this when following up the idea that the alt-right had used ‘meme magic’ – via Pepe the Frog – to put Trump into office. Meme magic – using the internet as a way of making things happen in the real world – is an offshoot of chaos magic. Chaos magic differs from traditional magic in that it does not depend on the traditional methods and appurtenances, such as the circle, wand, sword, spells, etc. Instead it relies on the magician’s initiative, creativity, imagination, and will.

Chaos magicians use whatever is at hand, rather in the manner of an objet trouve, or found art, when some ordinary item is taken out of context, placed in another, and called ‘art’. What is most at hand today is the internet and the memes that propagate on it. The idea is that Pepe became a kind of hyper-sigil, or magical symbol or spell, and by saturating the internet with images of him, the people behind this believed they could affect the outcome of the election. And it seemed it did – Trump won. This was why Richard Spencer claimed that “we” – the Pepeists of the alt-right – “willed” him into office.

Now, Trump himself is a devotee of positive thinking; Norman Vincent Peale was a mentor, he says. Peale’s positive thinking comes in an upbeat, cheery Christian wrapping, rather different than chaos magic, but what he is actually getting at is not that different. Both are results oriented, positive thinking aiming at a “realizable wish,” and chaos magic at an “achievable reality.” Both have a very flexible attitude toward facts – in fact our attitude toward facts is for both more important than the facts themselves. There are other similarities. So we have Trump the positive thinker being helped into office by alt-right chaos magicians. But then, what word characterizes Trump’s presidency so far? I’d say chaos and I think others would too. And then Pepe of course turns out to be Kek, the ancient Egyptian god of chaos…

So in answer to your question, no, I don’t think that,say, people following the prosperity gospel know that in some basic way, what they are about is not very different from what a chaos magician may get up to. Some of the more Christian of them would most likely be appalled. In fact many Christian thinkers were appalled by Peale because of the links between positive thinking and more outright occult forms of New Thought, which Peale read and which he translated into a more palatable form. And I should point out that I’m not saying that there is a direct line in any historical sense, between positive thinking and chaos magic, but that what we can call the phenomenology of the magic involved is similar.

3. Are these things, such as New Thought, etc. inherently “bad”?

By asking if New Thought is bad, you have to decide in what sense you are asking this. If you dismiss the idea that New Thought can work, then what’s bad about it is that it is false and, like other scams, can harm people who get involved with it. But if you accept the basic premise that the mind, consciousness, in some way that we do not fully understand, is an active agent in the world and can affect it – that “thoughts are things” – then we enter a different area. This is where the notion of a responsibility of the imagination – as Owen Barfield called it – comes in. And this is something that practically all esoteric, spiritual, what have you traditions make clear. So if it is the case that, unlike Vegas, what happens in the mind doesn’t necessarily stay there, then it becomes rather important to be aware of what’s happening in the mind. Of course, from our rational, scientific perspective, this is nonsense. But as I say in the book, it is precisely this perspective that is being, or has been, undermined in our post-truth, alternative fact world – which is itself the result of a process that started early in the last century. The partitions separating what is possible from what is not are thin, just as the membranes separating fact from fiction, truth from falsehood, reality and fantasy, are dissolving. I’d say we have a responsibility now to be aware of this.

4. “Dark Star” is quite informative for those unfamiliar with Chaos Magick. Would you mind giving my readers a brief description of what Chaos Magick is?

I think I’ve given that in 2.

5. So, is the alt-right filled with unintentional magick users?

Ditto.

6. Several magick groups have been supporting and promoting group rituals to counter the effects of a Trump presidency. Do you think these can have any effect?

I know that the global “binding spell” cast to impede Trump and all those who abet him, goes on, and that there are other forms of what’s being called the “magical resistance.” Will it help? That is usually the first thing people ask. But as realistic magicians know, there are always many different forces at work, and what needs to be aimed it is, as I mention above, a “realizable wish” or ” achievable reality.” Which means, ironically enough, don’t expect miracles. But the idea of magical political opposition has been around for a long time. That was one of the points of Politics and the Occult – that the two are not as strange bedfellows as we might at first think. Did the witches put a monkey wrench into Trump’s first shot at the travel ban?

7. With such a fast-changing Presidential administration, and the inherently slower pace of writing and publishing a book, how much has changed between writing the book and now? Will you consider a book with timely subject matter again?

The main change since writing the book has been Steve Bannon’s exit from Trump’s inner circle. I finished the book last August. A lot happens very quickly these days – that, as we all know by now, is the fluid character of our time – and not long after I delivered it I knew that some of it would be old news by the time it appeared. I was able to add a short note at the end to say precisely this. But as I say above, this is ‘history in the making’. It struck me, as I’m sure it did other people, that with Trump’s election, something very different had taken place. In the book I say that in one sense we can see this as the singularity people have been waiting for for awhile now. A singularity is an event in which our usual, normal ideas about reality breakdown, or at least no longer apply. It strikes me that this is precisely what has happened, and we have our post-truth, alternative fact world to show for it. A world in which there is very little difference between reality and its electronic representation. This too is the result of a process that got going more than a century ago. We are feeling the effect of what I call “trickle down metaphysics.” The post-everything world is the outcome of the nihilism that the philosopher Nietzsche saw was irrevocably on its way back in the 1880s. The relativity of all values that we welcome as a liberation from the dominance of western rationality, is exactly what Nietzsche said was coming. To see this happening is disturbing but also thrilling. History has caught up to us.

In fact I am working on a follow up book about Russia but I can’t say more than that now.

8. In the mid-nineties you moved from the U.S. to London. How do think America and Britain compare when it comes to politics and magick?

I think Americans believe in the possibility of political change – or at least used to – more than Brits, but the Brits have a longer tradition of magic. But when Americans do occult politics, they do it up right. In October 1966, during the anti-Viet Nam War march on Washington, Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsburg tried to levitate the Pentagon, while the filmmaker and magician Kenneth Anger tried to exorcise it. The Brits are mostly just worried about Freemasons.

9. Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with my readers?

Covered in 7.

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

What do you think? New Thought, positive thinking, chaos magic – do they work?

Indeed I do. You see the power of the placebo effect and you learn that the human mind is capable of pretty amazing things.

About Gary Lachman:
Gary Lachman is the author of many books on consciousness, culture, and the Western esoteric tradition, including “Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work”, “A Secret History of Consciousness”, and “Politics and the Occult”. He writes for several journals in the US and UK and lectures on his work in the US and Europe. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he has appeared in several radio and television documentaries. A founding member of the rock group Blondie, Lachman was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Are you still reading? Congratulations because you’re about to learn about our giveaway! That’s right, the kind folks at TarcherPerigee gave me an extra copy of Lachman’s new book “Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump” to give to one lucky reader! The giveaway will end Sunday, June 3rd at 11:59pm Eastern. Must be 18 years or older to enter. Open to international readers.

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