Familiars in Witchcraft

When I saw “Familiars in Witchcraft: Supernatural Guardians in the Magical Traditions of the World” by Maja D’Aoust I knew I wanted to read it. Who doesn’t love learning about those adorable animal familiars? In retrospect, it was a pretty myopic view. Fortunately, D’Aoust opened my eyes into what makes a familiar.

There’s so much more in the world to be considered a “familiar” than your typical black cat. D’Aoust takes a truly global approach to the conversation. Her discussion of Greek belly-talkers and sibyls and the source of their powers was eye-opening. The examination of the role of angels in Judeo-Christianity was something I never considered before as a “familiar” relationship. D’Aoust also looks at fairies, familiars in Chinese legend, and even their appearance in India. I also want to mention that the author’s own artwork is used throughout the book. It’s unusual that the author provides their own art, and in this case helps bring extra vitality to her words.

“Familiars in Witchcraft” is wonderful, global look at what defines a familiar and how that title is mutable depending on culture. A worthwhile read for all those interested in spirit.

You can learn more here.

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

Memory Palace and Masonic Lodges

Okay folks, this might be a pretty specific niche that I’m talking to today, but I’m going to tell you about “Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges: Esoteric Secrets of the Art of Memory” by Charles B. Jameux. Freemasonry baby!

Firstly, it’s important to differentiate between speculative and operative Masonry. Operative Masonry is referencing Masons who physically work with stone. Speculative Masonry, which obviously evolved out of operative, doesn’t work with stone but instead use the operative trappings as metaphoric tools for self-improvement. Knowing this helps greatly with understanding the text.

Next up are memory palaces. You might have seen references to these in popular culture. It’s a mnemonic device that allowed speakers to remember key points for their talks by associating them with a different part of the building in which they’re speaking. When it was rediscovered, the process evolved, and the elements of these memory palaces were not intended to trigger the memory but would transform into talismanic objects with knowledge entirely new to the seeker.

“Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges” is a response. The author, Charles B. Jameux, had an article published in 1995, where he detailed that the art of memory wasn’t unknown to Masons and that they grafted it onto their own practices. This, in and of itself, wasn’t in much dispute, however Jameux puts the time of this earlier than most scholars had previously thought. Obviously, there was much debate after its publication, so “Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges” is a thoughtful response to criticisms that were made after the first article’s release.

If you’re not overly familiar with Freemasonry, like myself, you’ll find this book to be an eye-opening look at some of the history and practices of Freemasons.

You can learn more here.

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

Grimoire of Aleister Crowley

Many of you may have seen on social media me asking why I request review copies of books featuring group magic rituals when I don’t belong to a group. In the case of “Grimoire of Aleister Crowley: Group Magick Rituals” by Rodney Orpheus there are many reasons why even if you don’t belong to a regularly practicing ritual group you’ll want to read it.

Orpheus doesn’t just rattle off a bunch of rituals and call it a day. He gives you the background and history of the work. He carefully outlines any adjustments made and his reasoning for doing so. I found his research and insights quite informative and well worth the cover price.

Of course, the book is about rituals and “Grimoire of Aleister Crowley” is full of them. After all the background info and details, you get to the actual ritual. I love that at the beginning of each ritual the author lists the number of participants required, how long it will take to perform, how wordy the ritual is (how much text you’ll need to memorize or read aloud), and the list of equipment needed. He also provides diagrams of the way you’ll want the room set up for each ritual.

If you’re an occult nerd, like me, or if you’re interested in magic rituals for more than one, “Grimoire of Aleister Crowley” is a must read.

You can learn more here.

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

Beyond the North Wind

When I requested a review copy of “Beyond the North Wind: The Fall and Rise of the Mystic North” by Christopher McIntosh I thought I was getting another general overview of the Norse religion and maybe some rune talk. What I got is so much more!

McIntosh discusses “the North” from every perspective imaginable. Its physical locales, its mystical realm, its past populations and current residents, and their belief systems.

“Beyond the North Wind” spends a lot of time discussing Hyperborea, a land from Greek mythology that was home to a race of giants who lived “beyond the North Wind”. The Greeks thought that Boreas, the god of the North Wind lived in Thrace, and therefore Hyperborea indicates that it is a region beyond Thrace. Unbeknownst to me, Hyperborea is much like Atlantis. There’s much discussion of whether it was a real place, if it is a real place, was it the same as Atlantis and/or other ancient mythological lands, etc. It’s interesting to see all the theories, far-fetched or not, about a land that’s entirely new to me.

McIntosh bookends the ancient past and mythological with a nice survey of the resurgence of the North in popular culture: television shows, comic books, music, and of course everything Thor. Not to mention the adoption of many of their spiritual practices among modern citizens around the globe. Vikings and runes of old, now new again.

Christopher McIntosh has presented a thoughtful overview of the North that I would encourage anyone to check out.

The author has a short video for the book you can watch below.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore <--- This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book I will make a small commission.

Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England

I was honestly not prepared for how amazing “Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England: The Magic of Toadmen, Plough Witches, Mummers, and Bonesmen” by Nigel Pennick turned out to be. I was expecting a scholarly text, or perhaps some fantastical legends, but what I ended up with was a perfect mix of both.

Pennick paints a vivid image of an earlier time in rural England. A time when magic and daily life coexisted seamlessly. The line between trade organizations and magical societies were blurred to make the average person’s difficult life a little easier. Millers, gardeners, people who worked with horses, and more, all had their own trade guilds that also functioned as secret societies. Tricks of the trade, as well as beneficial magic, that would aid them in their craft were shared. Entrance into these groups was harrowing and the price of betrayal was potentially quite high.

“Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England” pulls on extensive research as well as the author’s contact and participation with the modern-day remnants, and revivals, of these groups and practices. “Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England” is a fascinating read that I cannot recommend enough.

You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore <--- This is an affliate 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.

Justice Howard’s Voodoo

Photographer Justice Howard decided to tackle the subject of Voodoo from her perspective for her latest work, “Voodoo: Conjure and Sacrifice”. Howard’s photos are striking, and not for the faint of heart. She dove deep in assembling her shots, using real human skulls, actual animal parts, and true human forms (which includes nudity).

Paired with her photos are the writings of New Orleans Voodoo Queen Bloody Mary, who some of you may recognize as the author of “Bloody Mary’s Guide to Hauntings, Horrors, and Dancing with the Dead”. Bloody Mary helps provide a frame of reference, a starting point if you will, for the art that Howard creates. Howard presents her interpretation of such Voodoo notables as Papa Legba, Baron Samedi, and Marie Laveau. She also pays artistic respect to Voodoo trappings like snakes, the Crossroads, and animal sacrifice.

Justice Howard’s “Voodoo: Conjure and Sacrifice” is complex visual piece. One moment it presents a beautiful, rich, dark landscape and at the next turn it’s vibrant and sparse. Her work makes you contemplate Voodoo and its relationship with the outside world (with you being the outside world, assuming you don’t follow the faith). It’s definitely not for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You can learn more here.

Witchbody

I remember looking through the Weiser Books catalog and seeing “Witchbody” by Sabrina Scott. It was described as a graphic novel about everyday magic. I’m a fan of comic books, particularly in their collected form, commonly referred to as a “graphic novel”, so I had to check it out. Simply put, it’s amazing.

“Witchbody” is a beautiful and poetic exploration of ecology, magic, the environment, spirituality, and ontology. Scott’s art and prose combine to create not only a book, but a true magic item. Reading it changes you.

I don’t know what else to say. In my opinion “Witchbody” by Sabrina Scott is a must read and instant classic.


You can learn more here.

Shop your local indie bookstore <--- This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book I will make a small commission.

One Truth and One Spirit

Early on in my interest in magic and religion I was given the advice to steer clear of Aleister Crowley. Essentially that he, and his work, was not for beginners or dabblers. Since I am nothing if not a dabbler, I have basically remained mostly ignorant of Crowley and Thelema. I can say that “One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley’s Spiritual Legacy” by Keith Readdy has changed all that.

Readdy approaches Thelema as a new religious movement, which may seem odd to those of us on the outside looking in, but he lays out a compelling argument for its inclusion as one. And as with all new religious movements, things always getting interesting after the passing of its founder, since this is when you learn if a religion is sustainable. That’s why “One Truth and One Spirit” focuses on the years following Crowley’s death in 1947.

Readdy quite adeptly summarizes Crowley’s Thelema in enough detail for the novice such as myself without getting too bogged down as to become tedious, particularly for those versed in the practice. He outlines the framework for the O.T.O and AA (two intertwined, sister organizations within Thelema). Readdy also takes on the daunting task of trying outline the succession and evolution of the O.T.O. and AA following Crowley’s death. He utilizes a myriad of sources including some previously unavailable to the public.

It should be noted that Readdy is a member of the O.T.O. The author makes it clear when he is expressing his opinion, and overall, I feel he offers a balanced look at the subject matter. Of course, those involved with the organizations may feel differently.

“One Truth and One Spirit” by Keith Readdy is an excellent introduction to Aleister Crowley, Thelema, the associated organizations, and their past and future.

You can learn more here.

Witchcraft Activism

Not too long ago I posted a photo on social media of all the books/decks that I have yet to write reviews for and asked for people’s opinion on what they’d like to see first. The overwhelming response was to review “Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance” by David Salisbury next. I can’t say as I blame anyone who voted for it. In this time of political upheaval people now, more than ever, are looking for a way to take action.

The good news is, “Witchcraft Activism” gets the job done. Obviously if you’re a magical practitioner, the idea of effecting change with magic isn’t an outlandish idea. However, I was happy to see Salisbury clearly show the similarities (similarities that never occurred to me) between magic and activism. Both require a serious reflection on intention and the work of follow through. Salisbury has a background in activism and takes you step by step through any type of activism that may interest you: lobbying, letter writing, marches, and more. Then add to that an inspiring number of ways you can utilize magic to reinforce and improve on those actions! He discusses sigils, candle spells, spirit servitors, and of course, more.

David Salisbury has created a great guide for aspiring activists. You could ignore all the magical elements and still walk away with a fantastic book on activism. As far as I’m concerned, the informative magical information is just icing on the cake! Highly recommended!

You can learn more here.

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