Here in New York we’re still in the cold, dark, grip of winter. As I type this, I’m waiting to see what happens with the next winter storm rolling through. Piled under blankets while listening to the fireplace makes me feel this is the perfect time to share my review of “The Witch’s Book of Self-Care: Magical Ways to Pamper, Soothe, and Care for Your Body and Spirit” by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. You may remember the author from the interview I did with her not too long ago.
Murphy-Hiscock states the goals of self-care as “healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy spirit.” At the beginning of the book she offers the simple definition of self-care as “self-care is any activity you do deliberately to take care of your mental, emotional or physical health.” She goes on to explain that the concept of self-care is compatible with magic “because magic is about listening to what’s inside you and the messages the Divine and nature have for you.” “The Witch’s Book of Self-Care” is truly proof of this because I feel it would appeal to people who practice magic looking for ideas for self-care, AND people who practice self-care looking to explore magic.
She divides the book into mental and emotional self-care, physical self-care, spiritual self-care, and household self-care. Contained within those chapters you’ll find diverse ideas ranging from a recipe for pot roast to affirmations to directions for making your own body butter. Seriously, this book has a little something for everyone.
If you’re like me, looking out a window into a cold, stormy winter, could I suggest “The Witch’s Book of Self-Care” to help fill the rest of the season?
As most readers know, I love me some books about crystals! So obviously I was excited when St. Martin’s Press reached out to me about a new book regarding crystals that releases February 19th, “Crystals: A Guide to Using the Crystal Compass for Energy, Healing, and Reclaiming Your Power” by Aisha Amarfio. It did not disappoint.
Amarfio is well versed in crystals, of course, or how else would this book have happened, right? What is truly unique about the author’s approach is the crystal compass referenced in the title. She starts with the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire, and how they correspond with body, emotion, spirit, and mind. From that point it expands further into the needs of those categories and then the best stones for that purpose. It’s well thought out, intuitive to use, and indispensable to those who work with crystals.
However, don’t think that “Crystals” is just a glorified chart. It’s a fantastic reference for crystals and their uses. To coincide with the compass, the stones are divided in the book by elements: earth, fire, water, and air. To make the book more user friendly there is a symptoms index and a results index. “Crystals” is a great book for anyone interested in crystals, however I think that holistic health practitioners such as massage therapists, energy workers, and estheticians will find this book especially useful. Particularly with its compact size, hardcover, and built in crystal compass making it an easily portable reference guide.
Way back in 2014 I tried my first mead. It was made by Helderberg Meadworks. The owner was kind enough to do an interview for our site, and then was super generous and invited me out to see how the mead was made. I got major booze drinking street cred from doing this because Helderberg Meadworks didn’t do tours or tastings. Well, my booze cred is gone because you can now visit the Helderberg Meadworks new tasting room, where you can try SO MANY MEADS and chat about it with Peter and Kirsten, the husband and wife owners.
I don’t even know where to begin. When we were there, they were offering 9 different meads, 2 ciders, 2 beer/mead hybrids that they did with Brown’s Brewing, one carbonated hard cider/mead blend that they did with Indian Ladder Farms, AND a switchel. What’s better AND worse is that it is all also available for purchase, with the tasting room being the only place you can purchase many of the products. I spent SO much money.
For their traditional meads, which are the meads they make with only honey, they offer:
Session, which is a lightly carbonated, not too sweet, and amazingly drinkable.
Odin’s Tears, which is quite dry and uses caramelized honey, doesn’t involve the oak of their other meads, and is still a deliciously smooth drink.
Heritage, which is the mead that started it all. It has the highest alcohol content of any of their offerings at 17% and is a balance of sweet honey and oak.
Feral, another Helderberg classic made from their own strain of wild yeast that Peter captured and cultivated. Despite the honey this one is more on the dry side, but yes, still super yummy.
Sweet Feral, which was a sweeter follow up after the success of the Feral Mead. I enjoy both greatly.
Then they offer other meads that are made with honey (because hey, it’s mead) and other ingredients, and these are:
Apple, a part of the core collection. It’s strong in apple flavor without the syrupy sweetness you might expect. This is crisp and dry.
Staghorn, which has the sweetness of honey balanced with foraged sumac (not the poisonous variety). An impressive and unexpected twist.
Black Currant, can you guess what makes the Black Currant Mead “black currant”? Yes. Firstly, this has the prettiest color! Also, the black currant flavor paired with the honey mead is fabulous without being overly sweet.
Maple Mead, another Helderberg mainstay. They use wood-fired maple syrup and oak age it, making it a smoky, drier drink than you would expect.
Cherry Vanilla. You know how I keep commenting that the meads you expect to be overly sweet aren’t? Well they went full throttle on sweetness with this one. The cherry and vanilla flavors are prominent and delicious. Much like a dense dessert, you only need a small slice to enjoy it.
When we were there, they had two ciders, a classic and Cassis. The classic is a semi-dry hard cider. The Cassis is made with black currants and that gives it a great twist on the flavor and again, a beautiful color.
They have two collaborations that they did with Brown’s Brewing Company, Saison de Miel and Braggoting Rights. Saison de Miel is light, dry, and floral. Braggoting Rights is where the Odin’s Tears Mead got its start. The mead was first created for this collaboration and the owner liked it so much he started producing the mead. There was also a collaboration they did with Indian Ladder Farms that pairs their hard cider with Helderberg’s mead. This is a carbonated, kind of funky but tasty hybrid.
Last, but not least is Myles Fulton’s Stormbender Switchel. This is made with Helderberg’s own pear cider vinegar, honey and ginger. It is unfiltered and probiotic. If you like probiotic drinks, this is for you. It’s refreshing, thirst quenching, and delicious. Way more drinkable than most kombucha.
So how can you try all these? Visit their website where you can learn about their tasting room and shop their products, which includes their meads, but also drinking horns, t-shirts, and bad ass mugs!
Right now, the tasting room is only open Saturdays Noon-5pm eastern, but they told me they will be expanding their hours in the spring. There will also be tables indoors and outdoors to hang out at along with games. A good way to keep tabs on them is to follow them on social media.
It’s no secret that I love me some Claude Lecouteux. Trust me when I say that his latest book, “The Hidden History of Elves & Dwarves: Avatars of Invisible Realms” showcases what he does best…. connecting the dots.
Whereas generally he uses his “gift for comparing cultures, for suddenly making an unexpected leap, but perfectly pertinent to the train of thought”, as Régis Boyer points out in the foreword. This time much of the focus is on the mystery of who is Auberon? By tracing this character’s existence in French, Norse, and Germanic tales we learn much about the difference and similarities of dwarfs and elves throughout time and cultures. What you come away with is that things back then were much more fluid, particularly in terms of physical appearance, than what you find in today’s Dungeons & Dragons books.
Of course, at the heart of every Lecouteux book is the eventual encroachment of Christianity and how it effects these original legends. As expected, the originals, if they remain are perverted versions of how they began their lives. Some also disappear, only to reappear in some new context. And if you’re like me, you sometimes try to revive the legend in its original context.
If you’re familiar with Lecouteux and like his work, this is one of his best. If you are not familiar with him, this is a great entry point.
I’ve tried to write an introduction to this review several times. Each time I rambled on and next thing I knew there would be a full page of text and I wouldn’t have even given the title of the book! Let me sum up, and in doing so you’ll see why I was predisposed to endless rambling. I’ve known author Deborah Blake for around 10 years. In all those years Blake has always had somewhere between 4 to 6 cats. I adore Deborah Blake and refer to her as my “sister from another mister”, and I always adore Deborah’s cats (although her assorted cats have held me at varying levels of affection). I could write pages of amusing and/or sweet stories about Deborah and her cats, but I tried that, and it didn’t make for a very concise book review. I’ll just tell you that there is no better qualified writer to author “The Little Book of Cat Magic: Spells, Charms, and Tales” than Deborah Blake.
Many authors have cats, but not only has Blake always had multiple cats, but for a long stretch she had an honest-to-goodness black cat familiar that went by the name, Magic the Cat, Queen of the Universe. Magic was so influential that I even interviewed her once! When Blake writes about working magic for, and with, your cat you know she’s speaking from experience. “The Little Book of Cat Magic” truly encompasses all aspects of “cat”. The history of cats and tales (or tails, as I prefer) abound. Tips, and spells, about finding a cat, living with cats, and cat deities are discussed. There is a section about crafts and treats you can make for your cat. Also, The Magical Buffet gets name checked in the section about cat tarot decks! Just sayin’.
And I cannot end this review without mentioning that the interior illustrations by Alice Rosen are top notch. Adorable, whimsical, magical cat illustrations run throughout the entire text.
Honestly, “The Little Book of Cat Magic” is for anyone who loves cats.
Now for some exciting news, we’ve got a giveaway! As I said, I’m friends with Deborah, so the last time I visited her she loaded me up with goodies for a giveaway, AND Llewellyn sent me a copy too! That means that we’re going to have 2 winners!
Grand Prize: autographed copy of “The Little Book of Cat Magic”, a broom pen, a cute toy cat, and a book plate created by artist Elizabeth Alba!
Second Prize: a copy of “The Little Book of Cat Magic” and a book plate created by artist Elizabeth Alba!
This contest is open internationally, for people 18 years of age or older. We’re doing the Rafflecopter thing, so see the widget below. Contest ends at 11:59pm eastern Saturday, January 12th.
If you follow The Magical Buffet in social media, you know it’s no secret that I love dogs. Sadly, I have none of my own, so I share photos of everyone else’s doggies. Fortunately, thanks to Mickie and Daniel Mueller I have a wonderful deck of 78 canines to amuse and delight.
Dog lovers and tarot fans rejoice because there is now the “Magical Dogs Tarot”! This deck features 78 cards and has the Major Arcana and then instead of Suits there are Packs: Fire Pack, Sea Pack, Sky Pack, and Earth Pack. Author Daniel Mueller put a lot of thought into the nature of dogs and artist Mickie Mueller captures it beautifully. Seriously, I actually giggled with delight at some of the cards.
For those of you who are curious, Fire Pack replaces Wands, Sea Pack replaces Cups, Sky Pack replaces Swords, and Earth Pack replaces Pentacles. The Major Arcana stays mostly intact, but it is noteworthy that the Hanged Man becomes The Seer, The Devil becomes The Trickster, Judgement becomes The Call, and The Star appropriately becomes The Dog Star.
The Companion Book with the deck is well written. Not only is there an image of every card, but there are extra lovely illustrations throughout, include some behind the scenes looks at how the art on the cards evolved.
What more is there to say? A considered look at dogs and nature captured in a whimsical tarot deck. If you don’t already own this one, you’ll want to!
“Notorious New England” by Summer Paradis and Sandra Vivian Graul opens with a definition of “Dark Tourism”.
Dark Tourism – noun – Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions, and exhibitions that have real or re-created death, suffering, or the seemingly macabre as a main theme.
And their book, subtitled “A Travel Guide to Tragedy and Treachery” certainly fits that description.
“Notorious New England” includes over 100 sites in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Some locations are classics, such as The Lizzy Borden Bed and Breakfast in Massachusetts, but there are also many lesser known historical sites like Madame Sherri’s Castle in New Hampshire and The Witch’s Grave in Maine. There are also sites you may not have considered like Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and the grave of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in The Challenger explosion. “Notorious New England” is definitely a travel guide of tragedy.
Paradis and Graul treat all the locations with the utmost respect of the law and spiritual decency. Being paranormal investigators, they make sure to include notes on any supernatural occurrences. The book is loaded with full color photos, always a plus. Also, they include all kinds of travel tips for going to the locations, including great places to stop for lunch and other random businesses in the area of note.
“Notorious New England” is a bizarre mix of history, folklore, the paranormal, tragedy, and tabloid fodder. For me it inspired a lot of reflections, and a desire to road trip New England.
Before 2018 concludes you may want to consider some sort of diary. Might I suggest the beautiful 2019 Lunar & Seasonal Diary by Stacey Demarco?
This is a full color diary. It’s spiral bound so it lies flat, making it easier to record notes in the space provided. There are profiles of gods and goddesses, seasonal spell castings, and of course detailed information on the moon phases. After the year is over, it becomes a great reference book and comes with its own attached bookmark to use to mark where you are in the diary.
It’s that magical time when I share my favorite things of the year. Everything has been featured on my site in one form or another in 2018, so even though an item released in 2017, it can end up on this list, and trust me, there are several things that came out in 2018 that will probably end up on 2019’s list. In a slightly more accurate world this would be the last article of the year, however I hope this list gives you some gift ideas, so I like to publish it when you still have time to purchase items for the holidays. Without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you my favorite things of 2018.
“Queen Up! Reclaim Your Crown When Life Knocks You Down: Unleash the Power of Your Inner Tarot Queen” by Angela Kaufman. Kaufman manages to make complex archetypal concepts simple and memorable using one of my favorite things…. tarot cards! Read my interview with the author here.
“Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive” by Kristen J. Sollee. This belongs in the list just for its badass cover. It inspired me to finally try out black lipstick (spoiler alert, it’s awesome). The book is also awesome. Three labels that society apply to women, their history, and how women are reclaiming them for the better. Check out my review here.
Christian History Magazine. I’ve featured Christian History Magazine on the site twice in 2018, and with good reason, it’s a great resource. And it’s free! No proselytizing, just raw, uncut history. Read my write up of their “Food & Faith” issue here.
“Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump” by Gary Lachman. A rollicking look at the potential influence of Chaos Magick in the ascension of Trump. You can read my interview with the author here.
“The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial” by Elizabeth Fournier. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you, or anyone you know, plans on dying, this is a must read. Check out my review here.
“Tarot Made Simple: The Ultimate Guide to Casting Spreads and Reading the Cards” by Liz Dean. There a zillion of guides to tarot out there, but “Tarot Made Simple” has a unique format that sets it apart from its peers. See what I’m talking about here.
“Calling All Earthlings”. One of the best documentaries I’ve seen. The story of George Van Tassel has it all: has it all, aliens, Howard Hughes, free energy, the FBI, Tesla, the military, and a death…or possibly murder. Read my review here.
A little self promotion folks. I came up with some cool statements that you can purchase on assorted t-shirts, mug, pint glass, tote bag, and journal! I’m kind of proud, so consider showing me some love by picking up something for you or a friend! Shop The Magical Buffet here!
“Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural” by Peter Bergal. This was one of the best adventures of 2018! Spirituality influencing technology and technology influencing spirituality. This book has something for everyone! You can check out my review here.
“The Real Witches of New England: History, Lore, and Modern Practice” by Ellen Evert Hopman. Hopman shares research on witch hysteria and persecution, biographies of witches who were accused followed by interviews with their descendants, and also interviews a myriad of modern day witches who influence culture today. Read my review here.
I like children’s picture books even though I have no children of my own. I think adults without children sometime overlook the value in these books. For instance, I own several children’s books that deal with Buddhism and Hinduism. Sure, the authors simplify the religions, but also, the authors SIMPLIFY the religions. They’re a great way for learning the basics, and often times they have beautiful art work! Also, children’s picture books are children’s PICTURE books. You know, they’re filled with varied, excellent artwork. This can make them artbooks, and you can also use children’s picture books as fantastic, elaborate, greeting cards for friends and family.
All of this leads us to today’s review of “Silent Night” by Lara Hawthorne. I’m going to spoil the plot for you by telling you the text is the lyrics to the holiday classic “Silent Night” and that the very end is a brief history of the song. It’s the art that makes this book truly special.
This book would make a great gift for children, but also consider purchasing it as a truly special holiday card for a special someone. Either way, “Silent Night” by Lara Hawthorne is a classic that will be cherished for years to come.