The Art of the Occult

Since the beginning of time art has been used to convey everything from simple human emotion to historic events. With that in mind, it should surprise no one that art has been a medium to illustrate magical practices for just as long. Anyone interested in witchcraft and/or the occult is sure to have seen the iconic witch-centric art of John William Waterhouse or classic alchemical illustrations.

In walks “The Art of the Occult” by S. Elizabeth, a wonderful book for art and magic lovers. By no means a complete overview of all art influenced by the occult, “The Art of the Occult” has over 175 full color reproductions of art from the 15th century and earlier right up to modern times. Each work is accompanied with insightful commentary.

Each individual finds different art appeals to them, just the way each person finds a specific magical style that suits them. I guarantee no matter who you are, you will find something in this book for you.

You can learn more here.

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Witch Hunt

Several years ago, I featured the fantastic book “Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive” by Kristen J. Sollée on the site. I loved it so much, and frequently wondered if/when I would see the author’s work out in the world again. You can imagine how excited I was when flipping through the Weiser Books catalog and saw her name once again.

This time the book is “Witch Hunt: A Traveler’s Guide to the Power & Persecution of the Witch.” It is the perfect follow up to “Witches, Sluts, Feminists”. Where her first book followed much of the evolution of the persecuted female witch, her latest, “Witch Hunt”, Sollée literally travels that history. A personal memoir and travelogue, “Witch Hunt” shares the authors reflections and experiences in unexpected and widespread locales. Visit Italy and Vatican City, France, Germany, Ireland, England, and Scotland. In the United States you will learn more about America’s misadventures with witchcraft in Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, and of course, Salem, Massachusetts.

Sollée does everyone a huge favor by providing travel resources in the back of the book. Trust me, by the time you are done with “Witch Hunt” you are going to want to check them all out! “Witch Hunt” is a thoughtful exploration time and place, and the convergence of religion, spirituality, and gender.

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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Crystal Grids Handbook

It is no secret that I’m a lady that loves crystals. If you are like me, you’re probably familiar with Judy Hall. She’s easily one of the most recognizable authorities of all things crystal. When offered the opportunity to review her book “Crystal Grids Handbook: Use the Power of the Stones for Healing and Manifestation” I could not refuse.

To be honest, although always finding them attractive, I never understood the purpose of crystal grids. Obviously, Hall does an excellent job of breaking it down for me. The first line of the book is, “Crystal grids synthesize powerful crystal vibrations and sacred geometric energy.” She starts by providing an excellent description of sacred geometry and a basic guide to shapes and their potential meanings. Then she explores the power of color, different types of crystal formations, and the different shapes crystals come in. There is also a prerequisite section about the care and keeping of crystals.

After that is a wonderful step by step roadmap to creating your own crystal grid from the ground up (pun not intended). Hall’s guidance allows for you to create as simple or complex grid as desired. Better still, there are LOADS of FULL COLOR photos of different crystals and crystal grids.

After reading “Crystal Grids Handbook” not only do I understand crystal grids, but I also feel like I could competently construct one. Judy Hall’s “Crystal Grids Handbook” is the only book on the subject you will ever need.

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 Tarot of Light and Shadow

It is not unheard of for a tarot deck to have an additional card or two added for an added effect. You may remember when I reviewed the Santa Muerte Oracle, the creator discussed how it could be used in conjunction with his Santa Muerte Tarot Deck. (Both decks are wonderful, by the way.) However, I was particularly intrigued when I learned about “The Tarot of Light and Shadow” by John Matthews and Andrea Aste, which has two decks packaged together.

What is so compelling about the “Tarot of Light and Shadow” is the decks and their accompanying guide are built from the ground up on the idea of using both decks for a single reading. Examining a shadow side is not as misunderstood as it used to be. It is not as simple as Light = good and Shadow = bad. From the accompanying guide:

“It is important to understand that when you choose to work with the double deck that it shows us truths from two angles, mirroring each other in a strange and wonderful way. The two sides should never be seen as somehow positive and negative, with the light deck good and the shadow deck bad. Put such thoughts from your mind. We are a naturally dualistic species, and it can be hard not to see things in this way – but the “Tarot of Light and Shadow” is not like this. It sets out to show you not only two aspects of card, but to show you h ow they relate – how the inclusion of cards from one aspect or the other changes what you see.”

The artwork by Andrea Aste is wonderful, full stop. However, genuine applause is due for the effort put into creating paired artwork. The cards mirror each other but are not just reflections. Subtle changes are made between Light and Shadow to highlight deeper and different meanings between them. For instance, let’s looks at one of my favorites from the deck, Death. Note the different flags, how the Light version has heads on the ground, where the shadow shows plants blooming. Each card deserves careful study, which only makes you appreciate the work of Matthews and Aste more.

Obviously, if you choose, you can use each deck by itself. Although Matthews outlines several thoughtful ways you can use the decks together.

On social media I called out Watkins for putting on the back of the deck box, “The most subtle and insightful tarot ever created.” Now I am not claiming to have seen every deck ever made, or even being a tarot expert, but in my opinion “The Tarot of Light and Shadow” by John Matthews and Andre Aste may very well be the most subtle and insightful tarot ever created. A truly impressive feat.

You can learn more here.

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

Finding Faeries

I never get tired of dictionaries/encyclopedias/guidebooks about mythological or cryptozoological creatures. That said, there are no shortage of books like that out there to read. What IS a different, and offers a unique take on the subject, is “Finding Faeries: Discovering Sprites, Pixies, Redcaps and Other Fantastical Creatures in an Urban Environment” by Alexandra Rowland.

“Finding Faeries” explores creatures of folklore and what happens when those legends migrate to new lands and urban environments. They discuss everything from faeries to black dogs, and Thunderbirds to dryads. Rowland does an excellent job blending tales of the past with the realities of the present. Their writing style is informative and entertaining, and throughout the book are wonderful illustrations by Miles Äijälä. Just when you think you are done; you are given instructions on how to go out in the world with a fresh set of eyes to find the magic around you.

“Finding Faeries” is actuality quite the achievement. Entertaining and informative, while being sensitive to the assorted cultures involved and emphasizing the importance of environmental conservation.

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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Favorite Things 2020

Every year I go through the emotionally tortuous task of putting together The Magical Buffet’s Favorite Things list. Honestly, I do not know how Oprah does it. However, I will tell you this, every year I feel smugly superior to Oprah because I know my list is filled with 100%, guaranteed bad ass things, that just about any person can afford. No surprise bougie, overpriced items here. I am truly, the people’s favorite things list maker.

By the mid-point of this year I knew it was going to be hard to do this list. The first draft had 21 entries that I needed to whittle down to 10. I even cheated and clustered some together and still had a bunch to eliminate. This list is pulled from my favorite things featured on The Magical Buffet’s website since the 2019 list was published. So, the things featured here may not have been produced in 2020, but they were featured on the site in 2020.

I am providing the links to each entry’s original post on The Magical Buffet website. There you will also find links to places you can purchase these items, because holidays.

With no further ado, and presented in no particular order, here are The Magical Buffet’s Favorite Things 2020!

1. SO MUCH FOOD AND DRINK MAGIC! This year on the site I was able to review 4 different books that encourage you to incorporate magic into mealtime. This is an expanding magical niche that I am thrilled to see.
“The Magick of Food: Rituals, Offerings, and Why We Eat Together” by Gwion Raven
“Witchcraft Cocktails: 70 Seasonal Drinks Infused with Magic & Ritual” by Julia Halina Hadas.
“A Kitchen Witch’s Guide to Recipes for Love & Romance” by Dawn Aurora Hunt
“Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews” by Amy Blackthorn

2. “The Magic of Marie Laveau: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans” by Denise Alvarado

3. “Crystal Basics: The Energetic, Healing & Spiritual Power of 200 Gemstones” by Nicholas Pearson (aka, the only crystal book you’ll ever need)

4. “The Hoodoo Tarot” by Tayannah Lee McQuillar, the most informative tarot deck ever!

5. “Magical Symbols and Alphabets: A Practitioner’s Guide to Spells, Rites, and History” by Sandra Kynes, an amazing resource!

6. “The Green Witch’s Grimoire: Your Complete Guide to Creating Your Own Book of Natural Magic” by Arin Murphy-Hiscock, she thinks of EVERYTHING when it comes to grimoire creation.

7. “Modern Witchcraft: Goddess Empowerment for the Kick-Ass Woman” by Deborah Blake, a fantastic introduction to female fueled witchcraft.

8. “Travels to the Otherworld and Other Fantastic Realms” by Claude and Corinne Lecouteux, because Lecouteux will ALWAYS be on the list!

9. “Magic: A History: From Alchemy to Witchcraft from the Ice Age to the Present” by Chris Gosden, the book on the history of magic that I have been waiting for!

10. “The Hermetic Science of Transformation: The Initiatic Path of Natural & Divine Magic” by Giuliano Kremmerz

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the year’s limited-edition Magical Buffet merchandise featuring frenemies Krampus and Saint Nicholas! This vintage art inspired collection will be gone New Year’s Day, so get it while the getting is good! https://www.cafepress.com/themagicalbuffet

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

Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews

If you’ve learned one thing by now, it’s that Becky likey excuses to eat and drink. Fortunately for me, 2020 has delivered ample excuses and we’ll be talking about the latest one today, “Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews: Herbal Potions, Magical Teas, and Spirited Libations” by Amy Blackthorn.

You may remember that not too long ago I reviewed “Witchcraft Cocktails: 70 Seasonal Drinks Infused with Magic & Ritual” by Julia Halina Hadas. It would be silly to not acknowledge there are many similarities between that book and “Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews”. Both provide ample information to make you a competent home bartender, and both provide enough witchy info to effectively add magic to your drinks.

Where the two books diverge in a big way is what drinks are offered. Where “Witchcraft Cocktails” is strictly cocktails, “Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews” focuses on almost anything you can drink. Obviously, there is booze involved with many of the recipes, but Blackthorn goes out of her way to provide non-alcoholic options as well. You’ll find cocktails, mocktails, teas, kombucha (which is low enough in alcoholic content that I consider it non-alcoholic), and more!

Of course, when it comes to me, I opted to make a little booze-based magic! I tried my hand at the Bishop, a recipe that goes back to the 18th century and generates success and prosperity. It calls for red wine, which I happened to have a bottle kicking around in need of using up. Along with the wine is orange juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup.

It is delicious! I’ve made it many times since my first attempt. It is sweet and smooth. I highly recommend it!

Amy Blackthorn’s “Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews” is wonderful addition to the expanding category for food and beverage-based magic. As far as I’m concerned, it is a must own.

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

Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule

You might remember that I really loved Jason Mankey’s book “Witch’s Wheel of the Year”. If not, I loved it. I made sure to keep an eye out for what would be published from him next. When it turned out to be “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule”, I reached out to Llewellyn for a copy, even though I expected it to just be a repacking of the Yule stuff from “Witch’s Wheel of the Year”. I was wrong.

Considering how great “Witch’s Wheel of the Year” was, I should have known that Mankey wouldn’t just phone it in for “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule”. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer abundance of enthusiasm Mankey for all things winter holiday. Normally I don’t look at reviews or ratings for books I plan on reviewing, but I couldn’t help but notice that many readers were disappointed in the lack of laser focus on Yule. I suppose it’s a fair criticism, considering the title is “Llewellyn’s Little Book of YULE”, however, what some found a weakness I found a strength. Just like in “Witch’s Wheel of the Year”, Mankey is effortlessly inclusive, working to make sure all holidays from right after American Thanksgiving through the New Year. In a world of overlapping religions and traditions, “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule” does an excellent job guiding you in ways to incorporate as many, or as few, observances as you wish.

Honestly, don’t go into the holiday season without “Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule” by Jason Mankey.

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

How to Learn Tarot

Learning tarot sucks. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but I have an AWFUL memory regardless of how interested I am in the subject I’m studying. I mean, after YEARS and YEARS I am finally starting to wrap my head around it. People learn in different ways. I’m at the point where I learn by doing. However, in the past when it comes to tarot, I’ve worked with flash cards and rote memorization. Perhaps my learning trajectory would have been different if years ago I had access to “How to Learn Tarot: A Guided Tarot Journal with Intuitive Prompts and Spreads” by Jess Carlson.

Carlson’s approach is simple in appearance, but has the potential to create personal, long-lasting, connections to the tarot. “How to Learn Tarot” dedicates a page to each tarot card, showing it in the corner of the page. She provides a prompt and encourages the reader to write down all their thoughts and associations with the card. No wrong answers. The act of writing helps you remember what you are learning, and creating an idea makes it personal to you. The back of the book includes keywords associated with each card, but Carlson encourages you to go through the entire journal, which includes exercises and sample spreads, before browsing the keywords.

Considering its full-color and trade paperback format, a suggested retail price of $14.99 is reasonable for a tool that would be great for beginning tarot fans or for more experienced readers looking to add depth to their readings.

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

Byzantine Intersectionality

Today we are talking about an academic work exploring the Byzantine empire that is an accessible read and incredibly relevant for today. “Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, & Race in the Middle Ages” by Roland Betancourt is an eye-opening, thought provoking work.

Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” (Oxford Dictionary) It was coined in 1989, but obviously marginalized identities existed before then.

Betancourt utilizes literature, religious texts, and art to examine lives of transgendered monks, sexual consent and the Virgin Mary, slut shaming of society women, race around the Ethiopian Eunuch, and same sex desire in the lives of monks and the story of Doubting Thomas. Medical texts of the time show that late term abortions and sex affirming surgeries were part of the era.

Honestly, this review is not doing the book justice. “Byzantine Intersectionality” by Roland Betancourt is a riveting read that made me view the past differently, and in turn, think more deliberately about our future. I think everyone should read this book.

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