Wicca: Plain & Simple

There are like a gazillion Wicca/Witchcraft for beginner type books out there. It’s a subject that is not in short supply of being discussed. So when I got a review copy of “Wicca, Plain & Simple” by Leanna Greenaway my response was, I’m sure this doesn’t suck, but I’m not going to bother. However I then noticed that it contained a foreword from Judika Illes, of whom I’m a huge fan, and I was like, guess I’m reading this book now! And so I read it.

And I was impressed. “Wicca, Plain & Simple” is a compact 127 pages, but I’ll be damned if Leanna Greenaway doesn’t manage to hit all the bases and more. Greenaway highlights the flexibility of Wicca and gives readers an amazing sampling of all the magical arts a modern Witch may have interest in, along with the variety of tools they’ll need. She manages to handily condense modern Wiccan ethics and philosophy and highlights them throughout the book.

Now, just like all the “Plain & Simple” books, this one has the tagline line, “The Only Book You’ll Ever Need”. This is absolutely not true. Once the beginning Witch reads “Wicca, Plain & Simple” they will have a road map to follow to pursue whatever Witchcraft paths they wish. “Wicca, Plain & Simple” by Leanna Greenaway is a great for those interested in starting the Wiccan journey, but certainly not necessary for the more established practitioner.

To learn more, visit here.

A Sandra Kynes Double Header

I love Sandra Kynes. She’s an insanely prolific writer whose work never seems repetitive, is always accessible to the average reader even while being scholarly, and despite my only sporadic support she always personally mails a copy of each of her new books. And you know, I don’t seem to see people talking about her as much as she deserves. I’m hopefully going to remedy that now with a Sandra Kynes book review double header. These two book go together great, and I hope after reading this little article you’ll be inspired to pick them both up!

First, get ready to get excited about gardening because I’ll be talking about “The Herb Gardener’s Essential Guide”. On the cover it also reads, “Creating Herbal Remedies & Oils for Health & Healing.” But it doesn’t do just that. Kynes takes you from how to design your garden, whether it’s a single pot or a whole backyard, to understanding your soil, recommended tools, garden maintenance, and more! Seriously, it’s like a super interesting gardening show in the palm of your hand!

Once you’re through that you get to harvest. Kynes discusses the best way to store your herbs based on type and intended use. This is also where she gets into the nitty gritty of making herbal remedies, and as usual, she leaves no stone unturned. Teas, infusions, infusion oils, infusing with essential oils, decoctions, tinctures, bath oils and salts, compresses, creams, diffusers, powders and capsules, foot soaks, ointments, salves, balms, and still more! If that wasn’t enough ways to use your herbs, Kynes also devotes time to culinary uses of herbs for good health, such as cooking oils, butters, and breads.

Then she has a nice selection of profiles for assorted herbs. It includes the herb’s uses, including precautions and contradictions, and their preferred growing environments. There is also a handy appendix that lets you look up herbs by the ailment they treat.

Maybe it’s just me, but “The Herb Gardener’s Essential Guide” got me really excited about herb and herbal gardening.

The other book I’d like to address is “Plant Magic: A Year of Green Wisdom for Pagans & Wiccans”. This book is a reminder that Sandra Kynes is one of the queens of cataloging connections and correspondences. After all, she did write the book “Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences: A Comprehensive & Cross Referenced Resource for Pagans & Wiccans”. Whereas “Complete Correspondences” covered anything and everything you can imagine, “Plant Magic” pulls the huge interconnected web in to focus solely on plants.

The book is primarily broken down into the 12 month of the year. Each month features “On the Calendar” (essentially holidays like New Year’s Day and Samhain), “In the Garden”, (highlighting plants that bloom during that month), “In the Wild” (profiling plants that can be found in the wild that month), “In the House” (offering ideas of things to do with plants that are appropriate for the month). Of course there is a handy appendix that’s a plant list/quick guide, and one full of magical correspondences. If you are a Wiccan, Pagan, or magical practitioner that’s into plants, I would call this book a must.

For more information on “The Herb Gardener’s Essential Guide”, visit here.

For more information on “Plant Magic”, visit here.

Everyday Witch Tarot for Everyone

Rejoice tarot lovers! A new classic is out in the wild and available for purchase now! I’m talking about “Everyday Witch Tarot” by Deborah Blake with art by Elisabeth Alba.

Imagine the Rider-Waite tarot and then infuse it with witch whimsy and you have the “Everyday Witch Tarot”. The 252 page “Guide to the Everyday Witch Tarot” that comes with the deck is a fabulous, full color, affair. The card descriptions are written in an accessible manner and sometimes give you a new perspective.

The Devil

The Devil made you do it? I don’t think so.

A handsome devil of a mage with dark hair, a pointed black beard, and a swirling black cape is offering money to a male witch and an ice cream cone to a young female witch. While he is smiling and pleasant, a pointed tail curls out from underneath his cape and his eyes have a reddish gleam. Each witch has a cat who is trying to pull them away and is being ignored. A volcano smokes in the far background. The mood is ominous but not hopeless.

Contrary to what you might think, the Devil doesn’t represent some evil being who comes in from the outside world to lure and ensnare us. That would be easier to fight than the reality, which is that each of us has devils that we have created for ourselves: addiction, bad habits, obsessions, and unhealthy decisions that we cling to long after it is clear that they are leading us in the wrong direction or holding our lives hostage. Temptation can be so hard to resist. That makes this seem like a scary, hopeless card, but it isn’t. We often hold onto the devil we know because we are more comfortable with the negativity and dysfunction we are used to than we are the idea of starting over and creating something better. But you can do it. You chose this devil, and you can choose to say “no more.”

I offered this example to give you a taste of Blake’s writing style to be found throughout the book, but I picked this particular card to warn you that kitty cats abound in this deck. It’s no surprise considering Magic the Cat oversees most of Blake’s projects. But the cats in this scenario are attempting to help? Obviously written by a cat lover. We all know that although cute, cats are more than happy to let you screw up. (See examples of cats being adorable, yet evil here.)

Let’s get real though, when considering buying a tarot deck you want to see the art. ALL THE ART! Well, we ain’t doing that here, but I did want to show you a few more examples of the great job artist Elisabeth Alba did bring “Everyday Witch Tarot” to life.

The back of every card has this adorable and classic looking design.

Magic the Cat was the model.
Magic the Cat was the model.

Also, here the joyous The Sun.

Do you feel the sun on your face?
Do you feel the sun on your face?

It’s no secret that Deborah Blake is my sister from another mister, but in all honesty this deck is a modern classic. Llewellyn would be stupid to ever let this go out of print because “Everyday Witch Tarot” is a deck that will be enjoyed again and again as it is rediscovered by each new generation of tarot reader.

Learn more about “Everyday Witch Tarot” here!

The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book

Let’s face it, there are hundreds, probably thousands (maybe more?), of adult coloring books at this point. I don’t want to sound all hipster, but my mom and I were coloring in coloring books as adults when all you could do was poke around the children’s book section for something to color. In fact, I have a Hello Kitty coloring book right now because if you like coloring, you never outgrow the classics. I’ve reviewed adult coloring books before now and I will again. Prepare thyself.

The Witches' Almanac Coloring Book
The Witches' Almanac Coloring Book

The latest in my growing collection of adult coloring books is “The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book”. I have to say I’m happy to see more occult, pagan, and witch oriented coloring books popping up and “The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book” doesn’t disappoint. It has 7 different categories, although some are larger than others: woodcuts, constellations, the planets, creatures, Egyptians, Americas, and tarot. Woodcuts features a wonderful mix of woodcut illustrations. What is nice about them, and most of the images used in this coloring book, is that that feature bold black outlines with nice spaces to color. Sometimes these adult coloring books are so fixated on having non-childlike images that they forget someone is supposed to be coloring those pictures in! Anyway, you’ve got nudity in here, doesn’t get more adult than that! That’s right, you can color Adam and Eve. In constellations you’ll find the stars in the images of their namesakes. The planets shows the mythological beings that represent them. Creatures is filled with some surprising twists. Instead of more traditional mythological creatures, you get the crazy mish mash that are creature images from the Medieval period. The Egyptians section if loaded with the traditional hieroglyphic images that are immediately recognizable and perfect for coloring. The Americas has Calaveras, Mayan images, and other south of the border pictures. Lastly tarot offers all the classic tarot cards to color. There is a blank page at the very end to test colors before using them on your chosen picture.

I colored this myself!
I colored this myself!

Each section has a brief introduction offering some information about the images and some ideas of what to contemplate upon while coloring. Just in case concentrating on staying in the lines isn’t enough for you!

“The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book” is a wonderful addition to the adult coloring book category. It’s perfect for those looking for an eclectic coloring experience.

You can find “The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book” here.

Icelandic Magic

Not too long ago I finished reading “Icelandic Magic: Practical Secrets of the Northern Grimoires” by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D. and it was a truly fascinating work, a wonderful blend of scholarly and practical. (For those of you who consider working magic practical.) “Icelandic Magic” is divided into two books. The first part is history and basics of Icelandic magic and the second part is referred to as “Gray-Skin”, which is a reference to a famous magical book of semi-legend and in this case a book of magic in traditional Icelandic form.

The history of magic in Iceland is interesting as their magical and religious interactions with the influx of Christianity were more intermingling than in other regions. It makes their magical practice come across as a pragmatic, get the job done, kind of school. The first section also discusses lore and legends of Iceland’s magicians, which I loved! I adore reading about magic users and this was hands down my favorite part of the book for me. Before you get into the nitty gritty of the second half of the book, Flowers gives you a rundown of equipment you’ll probably want or need and the basic ritual format.

Then, if you’re ready, willing, and able you can venture forth with workings. These cover the categories: Wisdom, Power, Protection, Control, Prosperity, Love, Reception of Luck and Release of Blessings, and Sleep Magic. The groundwork laid down leading up to this point makes the workings easy to understand if not simple to master. You’ll also find useful appendices that include runes and magical letters, the names of Odin (hint, there are many), and the “Our Father” prayer in Latin.

“Icelandic Magic” is great for those interesting in learning about magical theories, history, and/or practice!

Star Magic

Sandra Kynes is a magical woman of many interests as her book catalog reflects. She’s the author of “Your Altar”, “Sea Magic”, “Whispers from the Woods”, and “Change at Hand” to name a few. Now Kynes has written into new territory again with “Star Magic: The Wisdom of the Constellations for Pagans & Wiccans”.

She starts with some historical background about astronomy and astrology, getting started with stargazing, and using star energy for magic and ritual. Using star energy for magic was inspired. Somehow for all the books I’ve read on using nature energies, until “Star Magic” I had never encountered a book suggesting using star energies. The moon? All the time. The stars? Not until now. She discusses using the stars for astral travel, dream work, and ritual.

From there it becomes an incredible reference guide. To make it helpful to Pagans the chapters are divided seasonally. It focuses on the northern hemisphere, but she makes sure to flip it around for the southern for some of the southern hemisphere constellations that we catch up north as well. What do you get once looking at a single entry? A whole lot.

Obviously there is the name of the constellation, along with a pronunciation. To help you locate it she provides visible latitudes (In Appendix A Kynes explains latitude and how you can find yours.), a description of the constellation, what constellations border it, and some good ol’ directions on how to find it in the sky. From there Kynes fills you in on history and folklore involving the constellation and also a few of the prominent stars within the constellation. If that’s not enough for you, and it’s not because we were promised some magic, you’re given magical interpretations and uses for the constellation.

In the appendices Kynes has an interesting section about the fixed stars of medieval magic. She discusses how we take for granted that now we know the difference between a planet and a star in the sky. More importantly, Kynes covers in detail Agrippa’s fifteen powerful stars which throughout time have been used medicinally, magically, and for astrology.

Sandra Kynes has done it again! “Star Magic” is a wonderful reference that is accessible to anyone. It would certainly be a welcome addition on not only any Pagan or Wiccan’s bookshelf, but in any magic user or astrologer’s collection too.

CONTEST SURPRISE!

Did you know that Sandra Kynes wrote just as detailed of a resource about essential oils? Oh yes she did! “Mixing Essential Oils for Magic: Aromatic Alchemy for Personal Blends”.

Choose the best essential oils for your creative and magical mixing with this straightforward, hands-on guide. Through step-by-step instruction on how to measure, mix, and assess blends, you’ll move beyond following others’ recipes and into creating your own oil combinations.

“Mixing Essential Oils for Magic” offers everything you need to understand not only how to blend but also why specific blends work together. Learn how to mix oils by botanical family, scent group, and perfume note. Discover an encyclopedic listing of essential and carrier oil profiles, as well as thorough cross-references for the oils and their magical associations. With guidance on the historical and present-day uses of essential oils, you’ll make personal blending an integral part of your spiritual and magical practices.

Guess who has a copy to give away? Yup. May I direct your attention to the Rafflecopter entry form below?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Swept Away by The Witch’s Broom

Since pretty much always brooms have been associated with witches. And although Deborah Blake’s latest is called “The Witch’s Broom: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Broomsticks”, there is something there for more than just a Witchy reader.

Don’t get me wrong, “The Witch’s Broom” has loads for the witch who is looking to add a broom into their magical routines. Ritual use of brooms, spells and charms incorporating brooms, and segments Blake calls “Real Witches, Real Brooms” where other notable Witches talk about how they use brooms in their practices are all there for the magical practitioner.

However there are loads of great stuff to be found for the non-Pagan, non-Wiccan, non-magical practitioner. Just your average John Q. Broomfan. You can learn how to make your own broom, how to decorate store bought brooms, and get great gift ideas. I know I’m eager to hit the craft store now for some shopping. Also, there is fun broom folklore and history.

Oh, and there are wonderful, whimsical, interior illustrations throughout the book by Mickie Mueller. The totally adorable cover art was done by John Kachik.

“The Witch’s Broom” is just such a fun, informative read. I promise if this review has piqued your interest you will enjoy the book. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to buy some new brooms.

Sacred Objects, Sacred Space

“Sacred Objects, Sacred Space: Everyday Tools for the Modern-Day Witch” by Dayna Winters, Patricia Gardner, and Angela Kaufman isn’t necessarily a direct follow up to their first book “Wicca: What’s the Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions”, but if you were smart and followed my recommendation and bought their first book, this is an obvious “must buy”. For those of you who may need, or want, a bit more information than that, here we go.

The ladies (Winters, Gardner, and Kaufman) did it again. Just like “Wicca: What’s the Real Deal?”, “Sacred Objects, Sacred Space” manages to pack an insane amount of information into a compact little space. The writing never feels rushed or overwhelming, and yet in under 200 pages you will read about any tool you can imagine. Seriously! Here’s just a taste to get you going: potion bottles, cauldrons, poppets, Book of Shadows, candles, athame, mirrors, mala beads, singing bowls, and believe it or not, more! And with each item they discuss appropriate care, maintenance, and any cautions you need to be aware of with the item. I really enjoyed that with each item they also included craft ideas to decorate or personalize the items, or sometimes how to create the item from scratch.

But that’s just the objects part of “Sacred Objects, Sacred Space”. When it comes to spaces, they leave nothing out; living rooms, closets, dorm rooms, offices, balconies, bedrooms, gardens, and more. They cover the use of color in the home and creating your home altar.

If you want to know about everything that’s everything having to do with magical tools and spaces, “Sacred Objects, Sacred Space” is for you. Dayna Winters, Patricia Gardner, and Angela Kaufman (yes, of Moonlight Tarot) have created another book that seriously, honestly, and truly you should own. I hope they have another one in the works!

A Year at Stonehenge

A wonderful book showed up on my doorstep that transported me to the magical world of Stonehenge. With the holidays fast approaching I’m eager to share with all of you “A Year at Stonehenge” by James O. Davies with an introduction by Mike Pitts.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

For the last 23 years James O. Davies has been an architectural photographer for English Heritage. He has contributed to many books in that time and his work has been widely published and exhibited throughout the world. He is also a portrait photographer, having twice exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery. He has taken the official portrait of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Davies spent the last 5 years photographing Stonehenge at all times of day and night, and all through the seasons. He was given privileged access to the site so he built up an amazing portfolio. As you can see from the photos here.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

Amazing doesn’t do his work justice. Davies work with Stonehenge is mind blowing. Obviously I’ve always appreciated Stonehenge, how can you not? However I’m not sure I’ve ever truly seen the magic of Stonehenge until I received “A Year at Stonehenge”. Better still, Davies photos brought out the best in Mike Pitts who provided the introduction.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

Instead of getting someone to wax poetic about the beauty and magic of Stonehenge they wisely brought Mike Putts in to provide the introduction. Pitts is a well-known expert on the subject of Stonehenge being the author of “Hengeworld”. He began his career as an archaeologist and museum curator. He is now a freelance journalist specializing mainly in archaeology, while continuing to conduct original research at Stonehenge where he has directed excavations. In other words, he kind of knows his shit when it comes to Stonehenge.

© English Heritage/James O. Davies 2013

The pairing of these two makes “A Year at Stonehenge” a really special book.

I kick ass! Buy me!

Celebrate Samhain 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013, was the 8th annual Celebrate Samhain event in Peterborough, NH. This was my 4th year attending. That’s right folks, I’ve been there for half of this event’s lifespan. Why does this make me feel oddly old?

There were a few things that caused the energy to be “off” this year. We were all missing Cucina Aurora and its head kitchen witch in-chief Dawn Hunt, who was absent due to a death in the family. Her effervescent personality and delicious food were sorely missed. Also, Mike Dolan of Haunted Wood wasn’t around this year with his hearty laugh and giant bear hugs.

However, there were a few things that added some new fun. Jess G., co-founder and co-coordinator, who also happens to be a kick butt roller derby lady, spent the WHOLE day on roller skates. Let me tell you, she has some crazy skills! We were also blessed with beautiful weather, which was perfect for this year’s catering option of Goodness Gracious food truck. They were set up right outside the one entrance/exit to the venue.

Jess could move mountains in those skates!

Shopping, as usual, was excellent. I started telling people that Celebrate Samhain was the biggest shopping day of my year. Stuff purchased as holiday gifts I must keep mum about, but I picked up plenty of stuff to brag about/share with you. I picked up a little something at Muse Gifts & Books (that I must keep to myself) (but it’s pretty awesome) (you so wish you knew) (and could see) (it rocks is what I’m saying) (if I were to say anything). I restocked at FairySpa. I was literally down to a teeny, tiny square of my Goat’s Milk Facial Cleansing Bar and I finally got another bottle of Intense Lotion. Yay! I can feel almost human again!

Obviously I visited the Temple of Witchcraft table. This is where Christopher Penczak, Steve Kenson (wake up gamer friends!), and Adam Sartwell live! I picked up a copy of “Feast of the Morrighan: A Grimoire for the Dark Lady of the Emerald Isle”, which was the topic of his talk at last year’s Celebrate Samhain. I also learned that next year’s Templefest will be August 2-3, 2014. Save the date! I keep wanting to make it back. The Temple of Witchcraft folks put together a well organized event and were very welcoming. They haven’t announced any speakers yet, but I bet Christopher Penczak will be one!

I HAD to visit my friends at Inkubus since they had a booth again this year. I picked up a new table cloth for Dia de los Muertos. Another gift was also purchased. (It is so freakin’ cool. Cooler than the table cloth. So bad ass. You really wish you could see it. Seriously.) They were also nice enough to let me and Jim pick a few sugar skulls from their basket o’ skulls! Lastly, we visited Alchemy’s booth. What can I say? It’s as if someone had created an entire jewelry store just for me! You know how some famous people will wear one jewelry designers work almost exclusively? If I ever become rich and famous, I will wear Alchemy’s Tisha Harris’s curated work almost exclusively. (I have to leave room for Deborah Blake!) I bought myself a pink skull and cross bones cameo ring. That’s right boys, I’ve got myself a rum drinking ring! Watch out if you see me wearing it because that shows I means business.

Alchemy, where I shall do ALL my jewelry shopping!

Again I was amazed at the caliber of speakers that this event in Peterborough, NH attracts. Opening was Matooka Moonbear, who spoke about “Connecting and Working with Animal Spirit Guides”. I totally missed her introduction, but I recognize her as a member of the Temple of Witchcraft. I missed her talk catching up with people and going to get a palm reading from the wonderful Juliet Bell. Following her was musician Michael Long Rider. I didn’t get to watch him perform because….SHOPPING….but I got to enjoy his performance while browsing wares.

After that, my ass was planted and didn’t move. First was Christopher Penczak, “Avalon: The Isle of Nine Morgans”. Spoiler alert, this was my favorite talk of the event. It was a little all over the place but that was good because I wanted to actually hear more about Guinevere, Lancelot, and Arthur! Christopher, don’t just take on the Morgans in your writings, cover the whole Arthur mythology.

Christopher Penczak getting his groove on.

Then Raven Grimassi spoke about “The Mystery of Reincarnation and the Inner Teachings of the Sacred Tree”. As always, Grimassi was an excellent speaker and I’m always touched by the gratitude he shows at the end of his talks. I felt like such a Celebrate Samhain hipster. When someone asked me if I enjoyed his talk I said, “His talk was quite good; touched on a lot of themes from a talk he gave at a Celebrate Samhain 3 years ago.” It’s true! Those actual words came out of my mouth. If you haven’t been to 4 years of Celebrate Samhain, you just can’t hang.

Raven Grimassi working his mojo.

The last speaker for the day was Dorothy Morrison who’s topic was “Magic Down and Dirty”. I had never seen Morrison speak before and she is a total hoot. A fun Southern accent, beautiful fingernails, glittering jewelry, and a great black scoop neck shirt. She’s definitely a character that’s not to be missed.

A not entirely great photo of the lovely Dorothy Morrison.

With all the talks out of the way it was time to rock! That’s when Frenchy and the Punk took the stage. This is when long time Magical Buffet readers can all be hipsters by saying, “I knew them when they were The Gypsy Nomads.” As always, they were fantastic! So full of energy. The Celebrate Samhain crowd loves Frenchy and the Punk! They demanded more songs and when Samantha (aka Frenchy) asked for titles the crowd eagerly provided fan favorites.

Samantha and Scott kicking ass and taking names.

Coordinators Jess G. and Kevin Satoris with all their volunteers put together a great event. Their hard work has made Celebrate Samhain an amazing even that I look forward to every year and I suspect I’m not the only one. (Readers that offered input on The Magical Buffet’s Facebook page, I’m wearing the Hello Kitty shirt you guys picked!)

(left to right) Jess, Me, Kevin Satoris