Memory Palace and Masonic Lodges

Okay folks, this might be a pretty specific niche that I’m talking to today, but I’m going to tell you about “Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges: Esoteric Secrets of the Art of Memory” by Charles B. Jameux. Freemasonry baby!

Firstly, it’s important to differentiate between speculative and operative Masonry. Operative Masonry is referencing Masons who physically work with stone. Speculative Masonry, which obviously evolved out of operative, doesn’t work with stone but instead use the operative trappings as metaphoric tools for self-improvement. Knowing this helps greatly with understanding the text.

Next up are memory palaces. You might have seen references to these in popular culture. It’s a mnemonic device that allowed speakers to remember key points for their talks by associating them with a different part of the building in which they’re speaking. When it was rediscovered, the process evolved, and the elements of these memory palaces were not intended to trigger the memory but would transform into talismanic objects with knowledge entirely new to the seeker.

“Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges” is a response. The author, Charles B. Jameux, had an article published in 1995, where he detailed that the art of memory wasn’t unknown to Masons and that they grafted it onto their own practices. This, in and of itself, wasn’t in much dispute, however Jameux puts the time of this earlier than most scholars had previously thought. Obviously, there was much debate after its publication, so “Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges” is a thoughtful response to criticisms that were made after the first article’s release.

If you’re not overly familiar with Freemasonry, like myself, you’ll find this book to be an eye-opening look at some of the history and practices of Freemasons.

You can learn more here.

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Super Soldiers

If you follow me on social media, particularly my personal Twitter (@ElsonRebecca), you know I’m a fan of comic books. However, I haven’t read a lot of superhero comics and with the rise of the superhero comic book movie I’d like to learn more. That’s why I agreed to read “Super Soldiers: A Salute to Comic Book Heroes and Villains Who Fought for Their Country” by Jason Inman. Well, that and the delightful endorsements from a variety of interesting folks like Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Swofford (author of “Jarhead”), Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer of “I, Vampire” and “The Ultimates”), Dan Jurgens (writer/artist of “Superman” and “Captain America” and creator of Booster Gold), and more!

Let’s get to what you really want to know, who did Inman write about? Here we go, starting at the top: Captain America, Gravedigger, Captain Marvel, War Machine, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Captain Atom, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Flash Thompson, Isaiah Bradley, Sgt. Rock, Batwoman, Beetle Bailey (that’s right, Beetle motherflarkin’ Bailey), Nuke, The Punisher, Deathstroke, and Nick Fury.

Now, why do we care what Inman has to say? Well firstly, Inman is a comic book lover and writes about their characters with obvious affection and enthusiasm. He is the co-creator and co-writer of “Science!” for Bedside Press and “Jupiter Jet” for Action Lab Entertainment. He was also the host of DC All Access, DC Comics official web series, for over three years. And you know, before becoming a writer he served in the U.S. Army and Kansas Army National Guard, deploying as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This means that not only does he talk about the characters military experience, but he compares that with his own. It offers a different perspective.

So, if you’re looking for an interesting introduction to world of comic superhero characters, “Super Soldier” by Jason Inman is the book for you!

You can learn more here.

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Grimoire of Aleister Crowley

Many of you may have seen on social media me asking why I request review copies of books featuring group magic rituals when I don’t belong to a group. In the case of “Grimoire of Aleister Crowley: Group Magick Rituals” by Rodney Orpheus there are many reasons why even if you don’t belong to a regularly practicing ritual group you’ll want to read it.

Orpheus doesn’t just rattle off a bunch of rituals and call it a day. He gives you the background and history of the work. He carefully outlines any adjustments made and his reasoning for doing so. I found his research and insights quite informative and well worth the cover price.

Of course, the book is about rituals and “Grimoire of Aleister Crowley” is full of them. After all the background info and details, you get to the actual ritual. I love that at the beginning of each ritual the author lists the number of participants required, how long it will take to perform, how wordy the ritual is (how much text you’ll need to memorize or read aloud), and the list of equipment needed. He also provides diagrams of the way you’ll want the room set up for each ritual.

If you’re an occult nerd, like me, or if you’re interested in magic rituals for more than one, “Grimoire of Aleister Crowley” is a must read.

You can learn more here.

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Just Enough

I’m writing today to tell you that you should read “Just Enough: Vegan Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Buddhist Temples” by Gesshin Claire Greenwood. Many of you have probably already clicked out thinking this in no way can apply to your life. Congratulations to those still reading these words, because “Just Enough” is a delightful read for anyone.

Gesshin Greenwood nicely combines a memoir of her life becoming a Buddhist nun and running the monastery’s kitchen, with recipes, and with bits of practical Buddhist wisdom. The book centers around the philosophy of oryoki, which translates to “just enough”. Oryoki is a highly ritualized form of eating that includes meticulous food preparation and consumption. However, Greenwood does an excellent job of showing how that concept can apply to many facets of your life. More importantly, FOOD!

If you know me, you know I love food! “Just Enough” is loaded with delicious looking vegan recipes. I couldn’t resist trying one out to share with you. I made “Crushed Cucumber and Tomato Salad”.

It didn’t require a lot of ingredients. The recipe calls for shiso, which the author describes as a Japanese herb reminiscent of basil. My grocery store didn’t have it, so I just used basil, and it worked fine.


Part of the preparation calls for you to beat up some cucumber. Here’s mine. I called it vegan roadkill. (I amuse myself.)


Here’s a sexy close up of the completed salad and let me tell you, it was delicious. I roped a few of our friends into trying a couple of forkfuls and they agree, it’s light, refreshing, perfect for summer. The dressing is great. Simple and delicious. I bet it would even make a good marinade for salmon or chicken.


While on the surface “Just Enough” may not seem readily accessible, I’d encourage you to give it a try. I think you’ll like what you find.


To learn more, click here.

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I Know What I Saw, with a Giveaway!

In the world of urban legends and cryptozoology it’s hard to proclaim anyone an “expert”, however if I was to try, Linda S. Godfrey would be one. Since 1991 Godfrey has been chronicling the stories of people who claim to have encountered the unusual. With Godfrey, nothing is off the table: goatmen, dire dogs, werewolves, big cats, creatures from other dimensions, and more are open to discussion. What sets her apart is that she does her best to attempt to fact check the stories and present mundane options for what occurs in them. Godfrey openly acknowledges that there is an obvious lack of scientific evidence for these things. The author isn’t a skeptic, she’s reasonable.

Her latest book, “I Know What I Saw: Modern Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore” is a fun, fast paced romp through the world of urban legends. You’ll read over a hundred different stories, grouped together in ways to compare them and tease out underlying connections. Godfrey also ponders which came first, the stories or the creatures? It’s fun to consider this chicken versus egg scenario, along with a world still containing unsolved mysteries.

Does this sound good? Well guess what? I have a copy of “I Know What I Saw” to giveaway to a lucky reader! We’re doing the Rafflecopter thing, so check out the widget below! This giveaway will run until Saturday, July 20, 2019 11:59pm eastern.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can learn more about the book here.

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The Little Book of Self-Care for….

Today we’ll be talking about “The Little Book of Self-Care for Gemini: Simple Ways to Refresh and Restore – According to the Stars” by Constance Stellas. I’ve got to start by telling you how much I love books like this for gift giving, and this one works great. Nice compact hard cover, with beautiful cover art, and sharp looking interior. Although I read the Gemini version, because I’m a Gemini, there is a book for each astrological sign. In other words, there’s a book for everyone!

The book opens with a good overview of self-care and its benefits. Stellas divides self-care into the categories of physical, emotional, social, mental, spiritual, and practical. She then goes on to provide a basic explanation of astrology and the advantage of practicing self-care that coordinates with it. Stellas presents over 100 options for self-care to add to your daily life. Many of them I already practice (meditation, stretching, skincare), and many appeal to me (Qigong, aromatherapy, travel). So, I guess as a Gemini I can say she did a good job of finding good options for me.

If you’re looking for some self-care ideas for yourself, or someone else, these “Little Books of Self-Care” are worth considering.

You can learn more here.

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Plum Village

I love comic books. Although technically what I love are “graphic novels”, which are issues of comics bound together into one paperback book that generally covers a story arc. A man whose opinion counts on such matters, Neil Gaiman, says we no longer need to use the term “graphic novels” because comics are now mainstream and recognized for their own artistic merit. However, I know no other term for a collection of comics other than “graphic novels”, so the name remains. At least for me. All this lead in and explanation is amusing because I am now reading a second of what is legitimately a graphic novel. A novel told in art and text. Should I call them picture books for adults? I need some serious help with labels here!

The first was the fabulous “Witchbody” by Sabrina Scott. (Read the review here.) Now, there’s “Plum Village: An Artist’s Journey: Finding Inner Peace at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Monastery” by Phap Ban.

The author’s biography is compelling. A freelance illustrator discovers meditation at the age of 24 years old. This leads him to Plum Village, a monastery in France founded by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. He eventually received ordination and 3 years later returned to his home country of Italy where he works as an artist for Disney. Who wouldn’t want to see that book?

What Ban has created with “Plum Village” is a visual love letter not just to Plum Village, but his journey while there. Somehow in riotous colors he captures the heart of stillness. With a beautiful montage of imagery, he demonstrates depths of gratitude. Never underestimate the power of images paired with words. Whereas Scott’s “Witchbody” was a transformative reading experience, Ban’s “Plum Village” evokes heartfelt emotions that on one occasion brought a tear to my eye.

This uptick in graphic novels in the mind, body, spirit genres is greatly welcome. Particularly if works like “Plum Village” are indicative of what we can expect.

You can learn more here.

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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.

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Self-Love and Compassion

By Lama Palden Drolam

Love on Every Breath is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana meditation from the Shangpa lineage that combines breath, awareness, imagination, and an energetic transformation process. The meditation brings all these components together in a powerful way in order to open our hearts, to reveal and cultivate our kindness, love, compassion, and wisdom. In Tibetan, this is called the Extraordinary Tonglen, since it uses special techniques of Vajrayana to transform suffering. The Tibetan word tonglen is composed of two words — tong means “giving or sending,” and len means “receiving or taking.” First, we open ourselves to receive and feel the suffering of ourselves and others, breathing it into our heart center. This is the “taking.” The suffering is then instantaneously and effortlessly liberated in the heart and transformed by a special method into unconditional love. At this point, on the out-breath, love and healing energy are sent back out to whomever you are doing the meditation for at the moment, whether yourself or another. This is the “sending.”

The primary purpose of the Love on Every Breath meditation is to cultivate our love and compassion, to transform and liberate our heart. When we come from a place of love, everything shifts for us. This book gives you the tools to transform and empower yourself and come to a place of creative engaged freedom.

The Love on Every Breath meditation is not an exotic Himalayan practice, but it is something that emerges out of us spontaneously and naturally. It is inherent in us to want to remove suffering — others’ or our own. The problem for many children (and adults) is that we absorb the suffering of others, and then it stagnates inside of us. Love on Every Breath gives a way for the suffering to be liberated in the body and the psyche and emerge as compassion. There is a felt sense as this happens.

Developing Self-Love

Traditionally, in Tibet, Love on Every Breath involves first developing compassion and love for ourselves before we do so for others. In the West, many people do not experience self-love, but rather self-criticism and self-hatred. We tend to be overly self-centered and often feel that something is wrong with us. Therefore, it is important that we start the Love on Every Breath meditation by generating compassion and love for ourselves. One of my students, a serious meditator for over thirty years, found that meditating on Love on Every Breath for himself healed a deep psychological angst that had not been touched by many years of quiet sitting meditation. It powerfully liberated wounds he had been carrying for many years.

Without love and compassion for ourselves, we cannot sustain love and compassion for others. Love and compassion can arise spontaneously in certain circumstances for all of us, but to fully actualize love and compassion, we need to work through our anger and hurt and have compassion and love for ourselves. Then we can authentically have more compassion for others. Otherwise, it is like living in a home where we behave with harshness and cruelty and then expect to go outside and be open and loving. If we do not include ourselves in our love, our love is not whole, not complete. This is essential. As Aristotle wrote (in Ethics, book 9), “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” It should be noted that self-love and compassion are not to be confused with self-centeredness or narcissism.

Developing love and compassion helps us to grow spiritually and emotionally by lessening our ego fixation and self-centeredness and helping our relationships with others. When we generate compassion, we do not excuse or condone our own or others’ negative actions. Likewise, awakened love does not enable our own or others’ negativity or destructiveness. Awakened compassion understands that everyone is trying to be happy. We often try to be happy in all the wrong ways, such as when we think that money, prestige, and power will bring us happiness. Some people think they will be happy by stepping on, cheating, or destroying others, but we can have compassion for them in their ignorance. This does not mean we endorse or in any way condone their behavior. We need to stand up to their destructive agendas. Our compassion means that we wish for them to be authentically happy and free of suffering — in other words, awakened.

About Lama Palden Drolma:
Lama Palden Drolma is the author of “Love on Every Breath”. A licensed psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and coach, she has studied Buddhism in the Himalayas with some of the most preeminent Tibetan masters of the twentieth century. Following a traditional three-year retreat under his guidance, Kalu Rinpoche authorized her to become one of the first Western lamas. She subsequently founded the Sukhasiddhi Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist teaching center in Fairfax, California. Visit her online at http://www.lamapalden.org.

Excerpted from the book “Love on Every Breath”. Copyright © 2019 by Lama Palden Drolma. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England

I was honestly not prepared for how amazing “Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England: The Magic of Toadmen, Plough Witches, Mummers, and Bonesmen” by Nigel Pennick turned out to be. I was expecting a scholarly text, or perhaps some fantastical legends, but what I ended up with was a perfect mix of both.

Pennick paints a vivid image of an earlier time in rural England. A time when magic and daily life coexisted seamlessly. The line between trade organizations and magical societies were blurred to make the average person’s difficult life a little easier. Millers, gardeners, people who worked with horses, and more, all had their own trade guilds that also functioned as secret societies. Tricks of the trade, as well as beneficial magic, that would aid them in their craft were shared. Entrance into these groups was harrowing and the price of betrayal was potentially quite high.

“Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England” pulls on extensive research as well as the author’s contact and participation with the modern-day remnants, and revivals, of these groups and practices. “Witchcraft & Secret Societies of Rural England” is a fascinating read that I cannot recommend enough.

You can learn more here.

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