10 Questions with Brandon Weston

Today we’re speaking with Brandon Weston, owner of Ozark Healing Traditions and author of “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers, and Healing”.

1. How did you first become interested in the folk magic of the Ozarks?

My interest goes back to childhood. I’m from a multi-generational Ozark family, so I grew up with a lot of traditions, practices, and home remedies that I never thought were a part of some bigger culture. I just thought it was my weird family! For instance, I had a great uncle on my dad’s side who was a wart charmer, specifically a wart buyer. If you had a wart, you’d go see Uncle Bill and he’d pull out a penny or dime and say, “I’ll buy ‘em off you.” And you always knew to take the money and your warts would disappear overnight.

Things like that, and I have so many more examples, were just day-to-day life in the Ozarks. I only ever realized that I myself was a part of an actual culture when I was in college and I found Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore where he discusses all of the stories and traditions I’d grown up with. That was really the starting point for me. A sort of wake up call to my own heritage. After that I wanted to know the state of the Ozarks today. Were these practices still alive? Were there still witches and healers out in the hills? So, I started collecting stories from family first then moved outward into other families and communities across the Ozark region, from Arkansas up and through Missouri.

I didn’t start off as a practitioner at first, that came later. I wanted to be a folklorist like Vance Randolph. But then I met an old healer who kicked me in the rear and said, “You know you’re a part of this story too, right?” Up until that point I’d never considered myself a cultural representative; I was still in the old mindset of a stranger looking in and observing a culture without participating in it. So, I scrapped my work, stopped recording stories, and started actually listening and learning from these amazing keepers of so much power and wisdom. From there it all grew into the path I’m walking currently.

2. What made you decide to write your book “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers & Healing?”

It was really a desire to update the story. Nothing has been written about Ozark healing and magical practices from an actual practitioner. And I want to reiterate that because folks don’t often believe me. The only thing that even mentions more secretive practices is Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore and that was first published under the title Ozark Superstitions in 1947. Randolph wasn’t a practitioner and didn’t approach Ozark folk beliefs in a very respectful way. He was notorious for making things up that might appeal to the reader as well as publishing material without the permission of healers. There’s still a taboo amongst many old timers about writing down charms and spells as they believe it will “kill” the charm.

Since Vance Randolph, there has been a lot written about the history of the Ozarks and even the cultural traditions of its people, but still nothing about healing and magic which are so often relegated to the “simple” beliefs of a superstitious people. I knew this wasn’t true. I knew there were complex systems of practice hidden beneath that “simple” surface. So, I wanted to write the book that I would have loved reading as a kid. I wanted to write a work that would not only revitalize my culture but validate people as Ozarkers. We’ve been under the shadow of the hillbilly stereotype for so long and I really just wanted to help people break away from that while also getting in touch with their own magical roots.

3. I’ve noticed a definite uptick in excellent books on magic from the American mountains (yours, “Backwoods Witchcraft” by Jake Richards, and “Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work” by Orion Foxwood, to name a few). What do you think has brought about an increased interest in this subject matter?

I know that personally, before I was ever a writer or practitioner, I was craving books to read about my own culture but there wasn’t anything out there apart from a few outdated publications. Growing up in this culture, I know the way the rest of the world has looked at us. I know how my grandparents and parents grew up, constantly trying to escape the hillbilly stereotype. Mountain people are sometimes just too nice to say anything when faced with such degrading experiences. Magic is one way for us to escape.

In the Ozarks, secrecy has always been an important part of the work. There’s a famous Ozark saying, “We always lie to strangers.” And it’s not because we’re trying to be rude or unfriendly, but it’s out of utmost respect for the traditions that we keep some things hidden. It used to be a lot more important as magic and healing practices meant survival out in the dangerous mountains. You also didn’t want to risk the conservative community around you thinking you were a witch. Nowadays things are a lot different and many people from mountain cultures are now seeing that a big part of our practice doesn’t need to be so secretive. We aren’t risking the same things as our ancestors were when we practice our magic openly.

Also, for me, I see my own culture dying every day with each passing old timer. I’m sure this is an experience shared by many others. For me, it’s important to share these stories now before it’s too late. Revitalizing the culture and making people proud of their mountain heritage actually helps save traditions because instead of running away from the “superstitions” of their families, people instead get interested in the old traditions and stories and start talking to those with the knowledge. So much has been lost by old timers passing away with no interested family or friends there to carry the torch into the future.

4. Personally, I loved the practical and pragmatic healing process that you provided a flow chart for in “Ozark Folk Magic”? Can you share it with my readers?

Traditionally, the healing process for Ozarkers began with observing the signs of physical illness. In some cases, no expert would be needed and home remedies that every family has would be enough to take care of most contagion. In rare occasions of serious injury or illness an expert would be called in. This was usually what the old timers called a “yarb doctor” or an herbalist. This could also include the granny woman who was traditionally considered a midwife but was also an all-encompassing healer figure for the community. Physical illness was diagnosed through physical means, usually observing the body, for example the color of the eyes or tongue as well as the pulse. Physical illness was treated with physical medicines derived from local plants, sometimes mixed with pharmaceutical compounds like tinctures and resins. Choosing a physical medicine was based on the humoral system as well as the system of hot/cold and wet/dry. A fever, for example, is considered hot/dry so the medicine used would aim at countering that condition and could include “yarbs” or healing plants like mountain mint, which has a cold/wet aspect. Physical illness might also include injuries like burns or cuts. In these cases there are specialized “blood stoppers” and “burn doctors” whose magical gift is focused solely on these areas. They might also be considered alongside a local herbalist as the first line of defense against illness and injury.

In most cases, physical cures would take care of physical illnesses. In cases of prolonged sickness, stronger medicines might be used. Illnesses that persist even at this point, or have strange symptoms that don’t match any know contagion, are suspected to be of a magical origin. At this point a magical expert would be called in to diagnose the real cause of the problem using magical means, usually various divination techniques. If the signs or “tokens” point to a magical cause, then magical cures are sought in the form of ritual, verbal charms, prayers, or creating talismans. Depending upon how serious the condition is, the more intense or involved the ritual might become.

To some extent this process is the same in the modern world. I always recommend folks see a doctor or therapist first before coming to me. I believe that the two sides of the healing process, the physical and spiritual can work together in balance. Many old timers no longer make such a separation between the physical and magical illnesses/cures. For example, one praying granny I met whose sole business was praying over and blessing prescription medications that locals would bring to her. She believed in the power of modern medicine but also knew her gift could make the medicines more effective.

5. I was surprised to learn about how diverse the types of “doctors” are and methods they use. Can you share a brief overview of them and their differences?

These doctors are considered a part of the “old Ozarks” or more traditional culture. You rarely hear these terms used today outside of tall tales around the campfire. Most people call simply call themselves “healers” or even “witches” today. You also on occasion hear someone saying they can “doctor” for illnesses, but this runs the risk of encounters with the law as practicing medicine without a license is still illegal across the region. Many people are much more careful about how they refer to their practice and use specific language to avoid trouble.

Traditionally though, there were a number of Ozark “doctors” or healers. The yarb doctor, as I mentioned earlier, was an herbal expert and specialized in healing using local plants, fungi, and mineral compounds. They rarely incorporated any verbal charms or prayers into their work.

Then there’s the power doctor, who unlike the yarb doctor almost exclusively worked with verbal charms, prayers, ritual, and the creation of amulets and talismans. While they often did use herbal concoctions, it was almost always in a magical way rather than for the benefit of the contained plant chemical compounds.

An all-encompassing figure in the community was the granny woman who was a combination midwife, herbalist, and magical expert. Granny women have often been degraded in many of the folk accounts but their position was often of the utmost importance in the community, especially since there used to be a strict taboo against male healers working on women.

There were also certain experts or specialized healers who worked in curing very specific needs. These include the blood stopper, burn doctor, wart charmer, and the witch master or goomer doctor who specialized in removing hexes and curses derived specifically from a physical assailant in the form of a witch.

6. Do you find people are surprised by the role that Christianity and the Bible play in these magic/healing traditions?

I definitely do. A lot of people in the Ozarks are still a part of a much more conservative Christian background and they automatically view anything called “magic” with witchcraft, which has traditionally been associated with evil. That’s changing, of course, as more and more people are reclaiming the title of witch for themselves, myself included. Ozark healing traditions were never called magic internally up until Vance Randolph and other folklorists like him who brought technical terms from the outside and applied them to the culture. Some of the more conservative Ozarkers still refer to their practice as “spiritual healing,” “praying,” “trying,” and many other old terms that would have separated this work from that of the so-called witch. Ozark culture is a complicated subject, though, and even though there might appear to be this very strict, very Christian exterior at times, this was often a way for healers to safely practice and avoid being labeled as a witch. I think there’s sometimes the mistaken view that more traditional or conservative cultures are therefore more religious and that’s not the case with the Ozarks. Religion or religious culture was often just the outward appearance whereas underneath the practices and traditions were, and still are, as diverse as there are practitioners. So, you might have a healer who is outwardly more traditional or conservative in their culture but underneath that they are working with the fairies in their healing practice, or angels, or other entities that definitely don’t fit into the more religiously conservative culture.

7. You make a good point in “Ozark Folk Magic.” Although it stems from certain traditions that can be traced WAY back, these things still continue to evolve. What evolution have you witnessed, and do you have an idea what may be next?

The first major evolution with Ozark folk traditions came around the beginning of the 20th century when roads got better and towns started building up. This was when tourists from outside the Ozarks starting flocking to the region to get a view of a real-life hillbilly, up close and in person. This was also when the major Ozark folklorists began their work. This influx of interest from the outside created a sort of folk culture revival for people where storytellers and traditional musicians started performing for large audiences and actually making some money. The folk culture became much more outward facing and a lot of the subtle nuances were lost as life became about either appeasing or avoiding the tourists.

The next evolution came in the 60’s and 70’s with the back to the land movement and an influx of outsiders into the hills, many of which were from much larger urban areas, in particular California. These groups were already a part of the New Age movement and would have brought with them different religious and spiritual traditions like yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Wicca, and many others. This clash of cultures with the Ozark hillfolk has lasted up until today in many places, but underneath the surface, many traditional healers and magical practitioners incorporated this new culture into their own.

Currently, more and more people are getting interested specifically in what we might call Traditional Witchcraft, which today often encompasses not only folk magic practices but also an earth-based spiritual system as well as folk herbalism and practical healing methods. This is one of the reasons I see so many people taking on the title of witch; so much information is now contained in such a simple word. This is where I see the practice going. Embracing cultural heritage practices in the form of traditional magic and spirituality, while at the same time taking a critical view of problematic pieces of our own history.

8. Is there a place for lifelong residents of urban environments in this practice?

Of course. Pretty soon even us Ozarkers are going to be in the middle of a vast urban landscape as well. Traditions have to change and move with the times. But, I do think at the heart of Ozark practice is a deep connection to the land, however that might manifest for the individual. While I personally draw a lot of power and inspiration from being out in the woods away from all the modern stuff, towns and cities are a part of the Ozark landscape as well and there’s absolutely a place in this practice for those who draw more from the urban environment than the wilds.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects my readers should be aware of?

Right now I’m working on my second book, which so release from Llewellyn next year. It’s going to be all the spells, recipes, and rituals I couldn’t squeeze into the first book. Basically, “Ozark Folk Magic” is the theory and the second book will be all the practice materials.

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

Do you have any family or ancestral traditions that you’ve incorporated into your own practice?

Sadly no, and this uptick in folk magic that highlights family/ancestral traditions really drives it home. It makes me a sad panda.

About Brandon Weston:
Brandon Weston is a spiritual healer, medium, and writer living in the Arkansas Ozarks. He is author of “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers, and Healing” and owner of Ozark Healing Traditions, a collective of articles, lectures, and workshops focusing on traditions of medicine, magic, and folklore from the Ozark Mountain region. As an active healer, his work with clients includes everything from spiritual cleanses to house blessings and all the weird and wonderful ailments in between. He comes from a long line of Ozark hillfolk and works hard to keep the traditions that he’s collected alive and true for generations to come.

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New World Witchery

I don’t know where to begin with today’s review. “New World Witchery” by Cory Thomas Hutcheson is my kind of a book. A book I always wanted to find, but never did. Obviously until now.

“New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic” by Cory Thomas Hutcheson delivers on its subtitle. It is an amazing treasure trove of North American folk magic. Unbeknownst to me there is a podcast called “New World Witchery” that Hutcheson is the cohost. He also has a doctorate in American Studies with specializations in folklore, religion, and ethnicity from Penn State. Is this the North American Claude Lecouteux we’ve been waiting for? Or at least I’VE been waiting for? By all indications, yes!

The main difference between the 100% scholarly writings of Lecouteux and what you’ll find in “New World Witchery” is that Hutcheson also provides ways to practice some of the folk magic found in the different branches of North American magic. Hutcheson divides the book into 12 rites (essentially 12 parts): naming, initiation, casting the spell, second sight, flight, chewing the root, the familiar, hallowing the ground, calling the moon, working the charm, necromancy, and invisibility. Each section is filled with primary source writings about witchcraft and folk magic. There are also biographies of many of North America’s folk magic forebearers. And, of course, the aforementioned magical exercises you can try yourself.

Just in case this all wasn’t enough to nerd out too, there is a big ol’ bibliography and recommended reading.

I truly cannot imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy “New World Witchery” by Cory Thomas Hutcheson, which is why I’m so excited to say that I have an extra copy of this book to offer in a giveaway!

This giveaway is open to people 18 years-old and up in the United States. As usual, I’m using Rafflecopter. Giveaway ends on Saturday 08/01/2021 at 11:59pm eastern.

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You can learn more here.

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Occult Botany Review and Giveaway

I have got some SUPER, SUPER sexy book porn for you today! I have the translated, edited, and annotated “Occult Botany: Sedir’s Concise Guide to Magical Plants” by Paul Sedir. Sedir, pseudonym of Yvon Le Loup, passed away in 1926, but not before becoming a pivotal figure in the French occult revival. “Occult Botany” was first published in 1902 as a textbook for students of Papus’s Ecole hermetique where he was a professor. This is being presented in a 448-page hardcover tome loaded with original illustrations and built-in ribbon bookmark. I told you it was sexy!

As much as there is to applaud and celebrate with this text coming back in to print, we first need to appreciate R. Bailey, who went above and beyond in the translation of “Occult Botany”. If you treat yourself to this book, and you rightfully should, do not ignore the “Translator’s Forward”. Bailey provides us with a brief biography of Sedir and explains the sometimes-convoluted hoops he had to jump through to insure that “Occult Botany” was understood by modern readers. Bailey translated French and Latin, astrological and elemental symbols, AND used other texts that were available during Sedir’s time to help fill in any gaps that were discovered. All of this carefully noted so that the reader can clearly tell where everything is from. Seriously.

Now that I spent a whole paragraph praising the translator, let’s say we actually discuss what Sedir offers in “Occult Botany”? This book is a wonderful, if sometimes dated, resource for lovers of plants and their magical potential. Part One, “The Plant Kingdom”, discusses the vital forces at play in the plant kingdom. The assorted correspondences between individual plants and the planets, colors, aromas, and flavors. Part Two, “Plants and Humans”, explores the nature of our relationship with plants. Sedir talks about plants restoring organic deficiencies in the physical body, restoring electromagnetic deficiencies through herbal therapeutics, and help heal the astral body through their incorporation into rituals. He also suggests humans can return the favor by cultivating them using occult horticulture, restore them with vegetation magic, and resurrect them using plant palingenesis (reproduction of ancestral characteristics in the development of an individual organism). Part Three, “A Concise Dictionary of Magical Plants.” Here are individual plants with illustrations, their elemental qualities, ruling planets, zodiacal signatures, and occult properties.

“Occult Botany” has 3 appendixes. Appendix One is devoted to occult medicine. Sedir defines occult medicine as, “any therapeutic system that, when confronted with the pathological symptoms of the physical body, bases its diagnoses on an astral examination of the patient and treats the patient’s life force in its invisible form.” Appendix Two is dedicated to Paracelsian physiology, an early medical movement based on achieving balance of the body’s microcosm and macrocosm. The last appendix is “On Opium Use”. Yes, opium. I won’t tell you what Sedir says about it, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

You can learn more here.

Are you interested in the sexy hunk of book? Then I have got great news for you! The wonderful folks at Inner Traditions sent me an extra copy of “Occult Botany,” so giveaway! As usual, I’ll be using Rafflecopter. Due to the sheer mass that is this book, this giveaway will only be open to those residing in the United States and over 18 years of age. The giveaway closes on July 10, 2021 at 11:59pm eastern.

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Anatomy of a Witch

Laura Tempest Zakroff set out to write a “manual to the most magical tool in your possession,” and in this, she succeeded. What is this amazing tool? Your body. Welcome to “Anatomy of a Witch: A Map to the Magical Body.”

Zakroff utilizes all the tools at her disposal: tarot, meditation, journaling, ritual, her artistic talent (including her noteworthy sigil work) and writing skills to take you on a journey through your body. “Anatomy of a Witch” begins with lungs, moves to the heart, discusses the body’s primal part (referred to as the Serpent), moves on to the bones, and concludes with the mind. The end goal is to have a better relationship with yourself and your magic.

“Anatomy of a Witch” is a triumph of blending magical modalities and self-improvement. Essentially, if you have a body (even one as dysfunctional as mine!), you need this book. I feel this is destined to be a classic!

You can learn more here.

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How Witchcraft Saved My Life

I just didn’t know what to expect from “How Witchcraft Saved My Life: Practical Advice for Transformative Magick” by Vincent Higginbotham. The title has a “very special episode of Donahue” kind of vibe to it. And truth be told, it’s hard to determine exactly what I read and how to write a review.

Higginbotham has written an incredibly frank memoir of his past struggles with homelessness, understanding his sexuality, and journey to witchcraft. “How Witchcraft Saved My Life” is a brave work and not for the faint of heart. Woven throughout this memoir are the signs and synchronicities that in retrospect showed Higginbotham the magic that had been in his life all along.

What you’ll also find in “How Witchcraft Saved My Life” is some incredibly practical, realistic, advice on how to practice witchcraft and incorporate it into your everyday life. Seriously, his approach to witchcraft, paired with his writing voice, makes Higginbotham an accessible teacher of his style of witchcraft.

“How Witchcraft Saved My Life” is a testament to Vincent Higginbotham’s perseverance and the witchcraft that he credits for it.

You can learn more here.

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The Ancestral Power of Amulets, Talismans, and Mascots

It’s safe to say that I’ve become a Nigel Pennick fan. You may remember I reviewed his books “Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England: The Magic of Toadmen, Plough Witches, Mummers, and Bonesmen” and “Operative Witchcraft: Spellwork & Herbcraft in the British Isles”. His latest book, “The Ancestral Power of Amulets, Talismans, and Mascots: Folk Magic in Witchcraft and Religion” is destined to be my favorite.

“Things worn around the neck as pendants or carried somewhere on the person are generally amulets. The belief that certain objects, natural or artificial, composed of metals, stone, clay, or other materials sometimes possess occult powers capable of protecting those who carry them from danger, disease, or evil influences,” writes Pennick, “The word talisman has the meaning of objects bearing sigils, seals, or magical or religious texts that have been empowered by consecration or ritual. Like amulets, their function is to protect the person from evil, illness, and bodily harm.”

This is of particular interest to me because if you didn’t know, I make talismans. (SHAMELESS PLUG: Visit my store! Buy my stuff!) “The Ancestral Power of Amulets, Talismans, and Mascots” opened my eyes to all the ways people of different cultures and eras created and utilized amulets, charms, and mascots. As always, religion played a heavy hand in their evolution, but so has community tradition. Pennick has an impressive personal collection of these items and thankfully shared much of it as photos in the book. So many wonderful photos and illustrations!

I’m not going to say that “The Ancestral Power of Amulets, Talismans, and Mascots” by Nigel Pennick is for everyone, but if you ever found yourself curious about some of the symbols you see people wearing or adorning their homes with, this is absolutely the perfect book for you.

You can learn more here.

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10 Questions with Michael William West

Author and filmmaker Michael William West wrote, “Sex Magicians: The Lives and Spiritual Practices of Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, Anton LaVey, and Others”. Today we have some sex talk!

1. What made you decide to specifically write about individuals that are associated with sexual magic practices for your book, “Sex Magicians?”

There seems to have been a kind of passing of the flame from Randolph onwards, as far as pioneers of sex magic are concerned. Likely because practitioners are extremely few in number. So there was a natural draw to the most prominent individuals, even though certain others could have been included. I tended towards diverse people, from different backgrounds, with different political views, with different objectives.

2. Considering how sex can be a taboo subject, is it hard to learn about people who have practiced sex magic?

I don’t think sex is a taboo subject anymore. You’d have to live an extremely sheltered life to be able to continue in that fallacy. What is taboo, however, is spirituality. A lot of western people are uncomfortable with admitting they have metaphysical longings…throbbings, even. I think far more people are experimenting with sex than are with metaphysics and questions of the human spirit.

3. You live in Paris. Americans tend to view France as having a more progressive attitude towards sex. Do you find that to be the case?

That’s a very difficult question. The answer could be very longwinded, and still be unsatisfactory. They are extremely different cultures. I think Americans suffer from more psychosexual trauma than the French, on the whole. However, I think the French are surprisingly conventional when it comes to sexuality – there’s a well-established code, which seems quite liberated, but there’s not much deviance from it. Also, sadly, you are much more likely to be sexually assaulted in France than in the US, which points to some deep societal problems which might not be as apparent in the US. I think the United States is a more mystical place than France, which is a country obsessed with rationality and measure. You can measure the universe, but you cannot measure your desire to explore it – and I believe Americans are more willing to make those kinds of explorations, whether through practicing sex magic or otherwise. France does have its mystical traditions, however, and when you do encounter them, they are magnificent.

4. What can we learn from studying the lives and works of the people featured in your book?

Fundamentally, they are all adventurers. These are people who fixed their lives on a goal, whether rocketry, poetry, music or whatever, and then explored the fullest extent of the tools available to them, within themselves. This led them to revelatory experiences which improved the quality of their work and gave them one of the most satisfying types of life available – that of the adventurer, and of the informed risk taker. They were not afraid of life, that is what I think they all have in common, and there’s a lot to be said for approaching life without fear.

5. “Sex Magicians” explores the lives a diverse group of people, including Jack Parsons, Aleister Crowley, Maria de Naglowska, Genesis P-Orridge, and others. For being such a diverse group, do you find that they all have things in common?

Yes, they all strove to understand themselves, to position themselves in the universe, rather than just in their immediate surroundings. They found power in themselves to do exceptional things, they are all adventurers.

6. How were you first introduced to the idea of sex being a component of magic?

My first literal understanding of it was through reading the works of Aleister Crowley. But what he spoke of correlated to ideas and experiences I’d already had, but not yet understood.

7. When we say, “sex magic”, it’s not just heterosexual intercourse, is it?

No, that would be absurd, especially in a book featuring people like Genesis, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs. If people are looking for arbitrary moral restrictions on their bodily functions, they are welcome to browse the Koran or the Bible. There’s no need for definitions of hetero- or homosexual in sex magic, there is just sexual; all it requires is that it be fully consensual and within the bounds of the law.

8. If someone is already a magical practitioner, how would suggest they incorporate sex into their practice? (If this is a topic you think you can speak about.)

There are magical practitioners who feel they do not need to incorporate any sexual component into their practice and that is perfectly reasonable. Sexual magic is sometimes considered as being more useful to westerners than purely meditative magic – as we might call it – as our society does not easily permit a life of free contemplation for extended periods of time. Not many societies do, but until recently enough, such things were possible in places like India. Sex magic can be a kind of short cut. If someone is already interested in incorporating sex into their practice, then I would guess they had already felt drawn in that direction, and so they should just follow their intuitive guidance system. Reading the works of Peter J. Carroll would be an excellent basis of ideas, but in truth it’s about allowing yourself to go down whichever path you are being drawn down. There really aren’t any rules when it comes to exploring the inner self, or how sex can be used to do so – apart from the obvious ones I mentioned earlier.

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

My belief, which I state in the book, is that magical practice, like transcendental meditation, or anything else in the spiritual realm, is a means to an end, a way of improving what you do in life. My end is as a film maker, and I will be releasing a short film based on the experience of using a Dream Machine, as invented by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville – and popularized by William Burroughs, Kurt Cobain and others – in the next few months. More information will be on my Instagram page @michaelwilliamwest or my website michaelwilliamwest.com

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

What’s the greatest adventure you’ve been on from the comfort of your own bed?

Dreaming. Seriously. I have vivid, intense dreams.

About Michael William West:
Michael William West is an author and filmmaker from Paris, France. He has been a student of the occult and practitioner of left-hand traditions for almost 20 years. He writes for A Void magazine and released the film, “9 Circles: Limbo”. He lives in Paris.

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

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American Brujeria

There is a lot to discuss when it comes to “American Brujeria: Modern Mexican American Folk Magic” by J. Allen Cross, so let’s get this out of the way….I LOVE the cover art for this book. LOVE. IT. I’ll be taking no further questions about this.

As authors and publishers become more concerned with issues such as inclusion and cultural appropriation, we’re seeing books become more careful in the handling of these issues. Cross goes to great lengths to explain his mixed ancestry and how that affected him and this book. He also explains how he decided to call his practice American Brujeria (with no accent over the I as in the Spanish language). Most importantly, Cross identifies appropriation. As a middle-aged white woman who practices what one could kindly call an “eclectic” style of witchcraft/spirituality, I appreciated hearing some easy-to-understand dos and don’ts of being respectful.

“American Brujeria” combines research with interviews Cross did in Mexican communities, what he finds is a blend of Catholicism and folk magic. When you’re done with this book, you’ll know a lot about Saints, church supplies, Vicks VapoRub, baths, protection magic, and just so much more. It’s a great exploration of magic and Mexican culture. My review isn’t doing justice to this important work, you need to trust me on this, it is a good book.

You can learn more here.

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The Path of the Witch

When someone decides to study witchcraft, it can be a bit daunting. A practice that has ebbed and flowed based on the times is currently on an upswing and access to information on the subject is more plentiful than ever. On one hand, now is a great time to take up study, on the other, I don’t envy the newcomer attempting to discern where to start. Author Lidia Pradas does a great job trying to help seekers out with her latest book “The Path of the Witch: Rituals & Practices for Discovering Which Witch You Are.”

Pradas takes up the challenge of describing the similarities and differences between several different paths of witchcraft. Are you a green witch, kitchen witch, Wiccan, cosmic witch, elemental witch, sea witch, eclectic, or something else or combination? Pradas takes care to ensure eclectic witches don’t fall into the trap of cultural appropriation, an important issue. She is respectful in explaining the fundamentals of different branches of the witchcraft tree. Not only is this helpful for beginners, but I found it a wonderful was to reevaluate and reconsider my own current practice.

“The Path of the Witch” by Lidia Pradas is a great resource for anyone interested in the many ways you can approach the practice of witchcraft.

You can learn more here.

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

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The King in Orange

Early on, author John Michael Greer makes sure you know that he speaks about magic following the definition provided by Dion Fortune, “Magic is the art and science causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.” Knowing this makes it easier to see the intersection of magical influence and politics, the subject of Greer’s latest book, “The King in Orange: The Magical and Occult Roots of Political Power.” I feel like these days we’re all armchair politic pundits, I know I am. However, it takes a certain amount confidence to write a book on the divisive topic of politics and up the ante by adding magic to the mix. Since schools of magical thought are always known for being an eternal spring of agreeability (yes, sarcasm).

Greer does an excellent job explaining the primary division amongst Americans as being investment class, salary class, wage class, and welfare class. Your experience of America is greatly based on where you fall in these categories, with the investment and salary classes being catered to and the wage class and welfare class being left to fend for themselves. It is a more refined version of the “problems with the vanishing middle class” concern that politicians bandy about and that many Americans are actually experiencing. Everyone gets an opinion on why Trump won in 2016, and Greer’s is that the wage class was motivated by promises of bringing jobs back to the United States. A new generation Jim Carville’s, “It’s the economy stupid.” “The King in Orange” spends a great deal of time exploring Greer’s thoughts on the mundane reason for the Trump victory, which also include bring soldiers home and the wage class’s struggle with Obamacare.

Things get more interesting when Greer starts tracking the chaos magic of the 4Chans, and the reactionary workings of the magical resistance. “The King in Orange” does an excellent job comparing and contrasting not only the philosophies of these groups, but also their operational practices. There is much to be learned about magic, just from the author’s observations and explanations.

“The King in Orange” is a thought provoking look at the 2016 election through the prism of Greer’s political opinions and magical experience. Whether you agree 100% with his findings, you will still find yourself with much to consider.

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.

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