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.

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The Enchanted Love Tarot

Like most people who read this website, I love tarot decks. Today I have a beautiful, whimsical, romantic deck to share, “The Enchanted Love Tarot: The Lover’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Relating” by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber. There is a lot to unpack with this deck, so let’s dive in.

“The Enchanted Love Tarot” is based on a traditional tarot deck, except it has been shot by Cupid’s arrow. You have the major arcana, but the minor arcana are roses (as fire, action, batons, wands, or clubs), wings (as air, ideas, swords, or spades), shells (as water, emotions, cups, or hearts), and gems (as earth, resources, coins, or pentacles). The romance factor is amped way up by the beautiful collage art by Amy Zerner. As per usual, Red Feather Mind, Body Spirit has done a fantastic job packaging this deck. An attractive, oversized, cardboard box with a magnetic closure houses the accompanying book, a 163 full color pages in a trade paperback that fits into the box perfectly. My only picky complaint is that the card stock is rather flimsy. It does make the deck easier to shuffle, but I do worry about its durability.

The book that comes with the deck provides so much more than your usual card meanings and suggested card spreads (although it does have them). The author, Monte Farber, is the husband to the deck’s artist, Amy Zerner, and their marriage inspire the deck and book. So included in the book are love spells and “The ABCs of True Love”.

If you want to take a lovey dovey tarot journey, “The Enchanted Love Tarot” is THE deck for you!

You can learn more here.

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.

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.

Oracle of the Radiant Sun

Astrology is hard. You must know SO much! It’s work. However, thanks to the “Oracle of the Radiant Sun” by Caroline Smith and John Astrop the subject seems much more manageable.

After reading the 144-page, paperback book that comes with the deck I almost feel like I understand astrology. The companion book shows the symbols for astrological signs and planets and qualities associated with the Houses, planets, and signs (an important chart in the book). Like most companion books for oracle/tarot decks each card is given its own section with detailed description and meaning.

The deck consists of 84 beautifully illustrated cards that describe the meaning of the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the 12 houses and 12 signs of astrology. “Oracle of the Radiant Sun” uses Horary astrology, which means it does not use the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto (although these days Pluto isn’t a planet). They offer a Sun Year reading, an astrology version of your year overview divination. The star of the show, in my opinion, is the Horary reading. You deal the cards out like the Sun Year, but then turn over only the cards covering the house positions that relate to your question. I told you those charts were important!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one problem. In the past I have extolled upon the high quality of Schiffer Publishing/Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. The quality of their boxes and companion books have always been top notch. With the “Oracle of the Radiant Sun” however, the packaging is excellent, the companion book is wonderful, the cards, though beautiful, are printed on a noticeably flimsy card stock. I’m not sure of the reasoning for this, but it is noticeable, even to my non-tarot reading husband.

If you can overlook the card stock issue, you’ll find “Oracle of the Radiant Sun” to be an interesting and fun addition to your tarot collection.

You can learn more here.

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.

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.