Wicca: A Modern Practitioner’s Guide

Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s latest book, “Wicca: A Modern Practitioner’s Guide”, is impressive in many ways. For starters, Adams Media did a wonderful job formatting the book. A beautiful hardcover book perfectly sized to carry around in a handbag or backpack. Once inside you realize Murphy-Hiscock has taken on a daunting task of defining Wicca. She starts out explaining that Wicca is not an ancient religion, despite what some people may tell you. Murphy-Hiscock painstakingly details the origins of a Wicca and the many ways it differs from witchcraft or other pagan traditions.

The author explains that “Wicca” was intended as a much-needed book to deal with the next level of Wicca practice. However, she discusses spells, sacred space, grounding, and more, which all provide nice information for beginners. Honestly, I have never seen such a thorough, well thought out, explanation of the beliefs and practices of Wicca. Arin Murphy-Hiscock has written a beautiful classic for anyone interested in Wicca.

You can learn more here.

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Women of the Reformation

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is available now. I wanted to bring it to your attention due to its look at women who played a role in well, Christian history.

This issue, #131, titled: Women of the Reformation: Lesser-known stories, features women who are not as well known, including a printer, Margarethe Prüss; preachers, Katherine Schütz Zell and Marie Dentière; pamphlet writer, Argula von Grumbach; mystic, Ursula Jost and others, alongside Katie Luther, who pioneered the brand new role/profession of pastor’s wife and Anna Bullinger, whose husband Heinrich’s courtship letters formed the basis of the only lengthy excerpt from a male theologian in this issue.

Prominent queens of the sixteenth century are included in the issue, such as Marguerite de Navarre and Jeanne d’Albret of France and all the six wives of England’s Henry VIII – the three Catherines, two Annes, one Jane and his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.

Articles in this issue are:

No simple story by Jennifer Powell McNutt – How women’s roles changed in the sixteenth century

“Honorable and holy” by Heinrich Bullinger – Bullinger’s book on Christian marriage was a best-seller

Like mother, like daughter? By S. Amanda Eurich – Marguerite de Navarre and Jeanne d’Albret shaped French religion for generations

“A very useful epistle”: Marie Dentière by Mary B. McKinley – In 2002 Dentière received belated recognition; her name was added to the Wall of the Reformers in Geneva.

Our first woman reformer by Peter Matheson – Argula von Grumbach proclaimed “no woman’s chit-chat, but the Word of God”

Not a soap opera by Calvin Lane – The women of the English Reformation were active participants in a theological drama

She would follow only Christ by Elsie McKee – From pamphlet writing to pastoral counsel, Katharina Schütz Zell fought for her right to speak

“Christ is the master”: Margaret Blaurer by Edwin Woodruff Tait – Blaurer was of use to the church as a single woman.

Dangerous pamphlets by Kirsi Stjerna – Margarethe Prüss helped advance the radical Reformation through her publishing

“God my Lord is even stronger” by Rebecca Giselbrecht – Exemplary women of the Reformation with confidence in their convictions

“The gates of Hell cannot prevail” by Argula von Grumbach – Von Grumbach’s letter to the University of Ingolstadt protesting the arrest and exile of Arsacius Seehofer for holding Lutheran views, excerpted here, became her most famous and best-selling piece of writing

Issue #131, contains 14 feature articles and shorter side-bar articles; a chronology timeline; an archive of rare artwork & photos; a ‘letter to the editor’ section and an extensive reading list compiled by the CH editorial staff. The magazine is available on-line and can be conveniently read on screen at: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine.

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.

<---Shop your local indie bookstoreThis 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.

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.

Latin American Christianity: Colorful, Complex, Conflicted

It’s that time again! Although I don’t mention every issue on the site, when Christian History Magazine has a real stand out issue that I think would be of interest to you I like to give it a shout out.

Christian History Institute (CHI), publisher of Christian History magazine (CH), announces its latest issue, #130, titled: “Latin American Christianity: colorful, complex, conflicted.” The entire issue explores the formation of more than 20 Central and South American nations since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the continent’s conquest by Spanish Crown and Conquistadors (conquerors), and the emigration of various Europeans, Africans and Asians. This is the story of the Catholic Church acting as an arm of the powers of conquest, colonialism and oppression in Latin America and those who repeatedly opposed them. As in previous Christian History issues covering difficult topics such as the Crusades and US slavery, these stories demonstrate how Christians who made terrible mistakes inspire others to avoid mistakes of the past.

The articles contained within are:

Christianity converted by Brian Larkin – The initial encounters between Europeans and Latin Americans

Dancing sickness, ancient gods by Javier Villa-Flore – Religious traditions clashed in Latin America

A long road by Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva – Slavery and Christianity in colonial Latin America

Making faith their own by Matt Forster – Worship, devotion, and folk religion in Latin America

Strangers in a strange land by Joel Morales Cruz – Protestantism and power in nineteenth-century Latin America

“¡Llegaron los pentecostales!” by Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi – How Pentecostalism spread in Latin America and the Caribbean

Virgins, nuns, preachers by Evelmyn Ivens – The many roles of women in Latin American Christianity

“A new Pentecost” by Edgardo Colón-Emeric – The story of Medellín

Charity toward all by Charlie Self – Fascinating stories from 500 years of Latin American Christianity

Rooted and released by the editors with Justo L. González and Ondina E. González – Diversity and complexity mark today’s Latin American church

The best part is, it’s FREE to view online! Visit here to check it out!

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.

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.

Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of goddesses, and so I’ll admit the main reason I wanted to check out Jo Jayson’s “Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine” was because the cover art was beautiful and the subtitle is “A Guide through the Paintings & Channelings of Jo Jayson”. I figured a book full of art like what was on the cover was worth a look.

“Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine: A Guide through the Paintings & Channelings of Jo Jayson” is a thoughtful exploration of what it is to identify as a woman. Jayson explores the lives/folklore and wisdom of Guinevere: The Queen, Mariamne of Magdala: The Magdalene, Brighid: Mother Goddess of Ireland, Isis: One Who is All, Mary: The Mother, Jeanne D’Arc: Maid of Orleans, Miriam: The Prophetess, Guan Yin: Mother of Compassion and Mercy, Morgan Le Fey: The Water Spirit, Artemis: Maiden of The Hunt, Kali Ma: The Dark Mother, Inanna: Star of Heaven and Earth, and Grandmother Spider: The Weaver.

First and foremost, the artwork is BEAUTIFUL! The book is hardcover with full color glossy pages, perfect for showcasing Jayson’s work. Each entry includes a brief history lesson and what we can learn from them. There is also a prayer and then some exercises you can work through. “Self-Love through the Sacred Feminine” is equal parts artbook, workbook, and history lesson. It’s wonderful book!

You can learn more here.

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.

Hail Satan?

I received a press release about a documentary that I definitely want to see! Check it out!

Chronicling the extraordinary rise of one of the most colorful and controversial religious movements in American history, Hail Satan? is an inspiring and entertaining new feature documentary from acclaimed director Penny Lane (Nuts!, Our Nixon). When media-savvy members of the Satanic Temple organize a series of public actions designed to advocate for religious freedom and challenge corrupt authority, they prove that with little more than a clever idea, a mischievous sense of humor, and a few rebellious friends, you can speak truth to power in some truly profound ways. As charming and funny as it is thought-provoking, Hail Satan? offers a timely look at a group of often misunderstood outsiders whose unwavering commitment to social and political justice has empowered thousands of people around the world.

Hail Satan? will be in theaters April 19th! You can learn more and find tickets at https://www.hailsatanfilm.com/.