10 Questions Tobias Churton (and Giveaway)

Today we’re talking with Tobias Churton, an authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism, and author of the book “Aleister Crowley in England: The Return of the Great Beast.”

1. I realize it’s hard to summarize, but for my readers who may not be familiar with him, who is Aleister Crowley?

Christened Edward Alexander Crowley, Aleister (his pen-name) Crowley was born in 1875 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, the son of a self-financing Plymouth Brethren Christian preacher whose family had made a fortune in brewing. An only child, Crowley was brought up with little contact with non-Brethren families and encouraged to see the Bible as having the literal truth about everything. After his father’s death, aged 11, he reacted against his mother and uncle’s indoctrination and started to see a pleasant life beyond strict doctrine. He was educated at numerous schools and by private tutors until recommended for Cambridge University’s Trinity College by the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury. He studied modern languages, literature and chemistry with a view to becoming a diplomat. While a student he distinguished himself as a daring, original mountaineer in the UK and the Alps and devoted his spare time when not climbing to poetry, inspired by Swinburne and Browning. When he came into his fortune he didn’t care to complete his final examinations, decided there was no lasting fame in diplomatic service, and struck out on a personal career in Magick, poetry and mountaineering. He was trained as a ceremonial magician in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded for men and women by British Freemasons. When the Order split apart in 1900 he began his world travels, crossing to America, thence to Hawaii, Japan, China and Ceylon where he studied raj yoga with his friend Allan Bennett, who would go on to lead the first Buddhist sangha to Great Britain. Crowley joined his friend Oscar Eckenstein on the first attempt on K2 in the Karakorams in 1902, then went to Cairo and Paris where he involved himself with the Montparnasse artistic scene, being friendly with painter Gerald Kelly, whose sister Rose, Crowley married as a ruse to get her out of an unwanted liaison in 1903. They fell in love. During their honeymoon in 1904, Rose told him in Cairo that “they” were waiting for him. “They” appeared to be the “Secret Chiefs” of the Order which Crowley had joined. Following Rose’s instructions, he invoked the god Horus in rented rooms in Cairo and over three days took down by direct voice dictation what came to be called The Book of the Law, a message from a kind of angel called “Aiwas” outlining that a new Aeon had come about with a distinctly Nietzschean quality to it; Crowley was its prophet. Crowley initially ignored the text but as time went on he attributed his gradually failing fortunes to his ignoring it. By 1909 he was dedicated to leading a new Order, the Astrum Argentinum, into the new Aeon, which set him against numerous prevailing doctrines of the times. What happened after that time until his death in Hastings in 1947, you can read about in the six volumes of Churton’s biography of Crowley.

2. “Aleister Crowley in England: The Return of the Great Beast” is your fifth book detailing a period of Crowley’s life. What made you to decide to focus on Crowley’s life as a topic?

I felt a great injustice had been done to Crowley and that his achievements and insights deserved an accurate telling without prejudice and based solely on the surviving records, of which there are a great deal. I gained access to his private papers, diaries and letters and have researched the subject over forty years.

3. I’m always so conflicted when considering Crowley. Is he an eccentric iconoclast, sensitive scholar, entitled snob, all of the above?

I think he was all of the above. He had snobbish tendencies but he never turned people away from himself on account of their background. He considered himself a chivalrous aristocrat, insofar as the word “aristocrat” implies government by “the best.” He had a passion for justice, and was a strong advocate of the rights of the individual, male or female to pursue their true goals in life without restriction.

4. I was surprised to learn that Crowley was using medically prescribed heroin for an assortment of health issues later in life. How far back does that use go and how much, if at all, you feel it affected his behavior?

Crowley was prescribed heroin for bronchitis and asthma in 1919 by his family doctor, Dr Harold Batty Shaw of Harley Street, London, a distinguished surgeon. It was the only medicine that brought temporary relief from a condition which got worse during the 1920s, several times nearly resulting in death. When in Germany in 1931-32 he found a German medication which he used instead but could not obtain it after returning to England in May 1932. His heroin was provided by doctor’s prescription. The use of the drug might have made him rather verbose in his writing at certain times, and emphasised occasionally the dreamy and mystical tendency to be out of this world, but his intellect was sharp, and his humour was rich, until the end. Physically he suffered badly during World War Two, on account of nerves over German bombing and concern for others and his mission in life, and he never recovered the great strength he enjoyed until the end of World War One.

5. You’re based out of England, and I’m curious if you notice a difference in the perception of Crowley between England and the United States?

I don’t see a great deal of difference. Perception of Crowley very much depends on education and personal experience. All kinds of “seekers” have some response to Crowley, and it often depends on which bodies of commitment any individual favours. Theosophists, for example, are often deeply suspicious of Crowley, whereas Freemasons vary one way or the other. Some only see the public image, which is ludicrous and deliberately off-putting. There are fanatically minded zealots who seems to be obsessed by their own propaganda, and the US seems to have more than its fair share of such cases, but fanaticism is to be found in most places where people have access to a little knowledge, but little inclination to study subjects in depth and with objectivity. The internet has been a great thing but also a dangerous thing because all information is presented on the same plane. People want to know what’s “really” happening in the world, but don’t want to wait long for an answer, and settle for sketches which are often no more than cartoons or mere graffiti. Obviously, it’s difficult for many Americans to understand the subtle nuances that go into an Edwardian Englishman’s outlook on the world (and vice versa), but Crowley had a universal mind and adored travel and meeting new phases of sensitivity and experience of things. He did not think much of the American dollar-oriented system as a system, but he liked Americans personally very much and would have liked to have spent the rest of his life in the States after he’d been back in England for eight years! He lived in the U.S. exclusively from the end of 1914 to the end of 1919: five long and eventful years. His American followers have been particularly devoted. His anti-Christian stance (which is not at all it seems to be) obviously alienates people who feel threatened by trenchant criticism of some traditional Christian doctrines (such as atonement by blood sacrifice).

6. I loved to learn that Crowley was quite the foodie, and enjoyed seeing his recipes in “Aleister Crowley in England.” Any chance of a Crowley cookbook in future?

I wanted to do that some years back but the copyright holder said the task had been given to someone else years ago – but they hadn’t done it. I should say the recipes in the book could all be created from the information in my book. But you’re right. I could have made it a real joy, I think.

7. You’re the founder of “Freemasonry Today” magazine. I think the general population considers Freemasons a secretive organization, so how did the magazine come about?

I heard the United Grand Lodge of England planned a magazine for public availability to help the public see what Freemasonry really was, and to help Freemasons understand their own Masonry better. So I wrote to the people who hoped to launch it, and was offered the job, which I was happy to do, as it was about finding the truth and telling it clearly.

8. Your work is academic, thoughtful, and accessible, yet you’re so prolific. Can you offer any insights into your research and writing process?

There’s no substitute for work. One thing is that after working in TV as a researcher, writer and director for about ten years in the 1980s, I had a terribly hard time in the 90s until 1997 – funnily enough the bad times followed after my biggest success, the book and TV series GNOSTICS – and I felt I had “lost” vital years where I wanted desperately to create and move forwards with new projects. I feared I would never regain my foothold on the mountain again, that my life was ruined. After 2000, an opening was made in the brick wall of resistance, and I started writing again, having got into the habit of writing and editing through the magazine Freemasonry Today which taught me new disciplines. I’ve felt that I had to make up for those awful lost years, so I do not procrastinate, and am grateful for every single new day where I know I can still write and think and create. My work-output would frighten many people, but I feel it is consistent with the very great driving force that has been in me since I was a child. I have long felt this world is in such a state that personally speaking, my only proper response is to give it every thing I possibly can in terms of the very best things that I can conceive of, and discover, and that I am hopefully and gratefully gifted and qualified to accomplish. The question is always there: how do we get out of the kind of fixed thinking that makes humankind keep repeating its mistakes and not learning from them, and growing up? This means deep, unremitting research and deep thought, and the energy to create. I work strict, long hours and like to finish the day with a trip to the pub and a chat with whoever enjoys good conversation and a joke. Then I like to eat a hearty dinner with a glass of wine, and see a good, classic movie – and hope my dreams match those of an older Hollywood for entertainment value!

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

I have just completed a new book called THE ORIGINS OF ALCHEMY. I have shared that fascination others have felt for this mysterious subject and wanted to get to the true bottom of it, and unravel the Gordian knot of confusion and obfuscation on the subject. I think this book will be the kind of experience I should like to have been presented with 40 years ago! It would have saved myself and others an awful lot of trouble! Next I intend to write an historical novel, and hopefully get my TV drama series I’ve written made for TV or film. It’s set in Paris in the 1880s and 1990s and is poetic, sexy and magical. It would also be nice if I could find a proper outlet for my music. I wrote my first orchestral tone-poem last year (52 minutes) as well as a new album of songs and instrumental works. I need several more lifetimes to feel I’ve given all I wish to give. And then, I expect I’d want to do more still. If my “cup runneth over” it’s because I haven’t yet been given a large enough cup!

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What do you think England has to offer the world these days?

Magically speaking, I feel England will always have something to offer. So many magical traditions have roots in the country that it will be kind of an eternal touchstone for magical studies. Also, England’s delicious curry and chips have yet to make their mark in America, so I have that to look forward to.

About Tobias Churton:
Tobias Churton is an authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism. Appointed Honorary Fellow of Exeter University in 2005, he holds a master’s degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and is the author of many books, including three previous books on Aleister Crowley—”Aleister Crowley in America”, “Aleister Crowley in India”, and “Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin”. He lives in the heart of England. You can find him at https://tobiaschurton.com/

You can learn more about “Aleiter Crowley in England” here.

Did you like the interview? Want to read “Aleister Crowley in England?” Good news! Inner Traditions was kind enough to send me an extra copy to give away to one of my readers! As per usual, I’ll be letting Rafflecopter do the work. The giveaway runs from 05/09/22 until 11:59pm eastern 05/13/22. The giveaway is open to people 18 year of age and older and reside in the United States. Good luck!

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Get your own copy here. (This is an affiliate link to my Bookshop, 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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10 Questions with Cairelle Crow & Laura Louella (Giveaway)

What happens when you interview two different authors separately about the same thing? In this case, you find out that they really do work well together. Please enjoy this interview with Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella as we discuss the anthology book they edited, “Brigid’s Light”, and everything that entailed.

1. I’m guessing most of my readers are familiar with Brigid, but for those who are not, can you explain who she is?

Cairelle Crow: Brigid is first documented in the folklore, mythology, and spiritual traditions of the Celtic nations of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany, as well as in England, where she is revered at numerous sacred sites. As a pre-Christian triple goddess of Ireland, she is an object of reverence over a wide expanse of northwestern Europe. She is also well-known as St. Brigid of Kildare. It is debated whether the saint is a continuation of the goddess, or whether the goddess and saint are completely different. Either way, many of her followers accept that the goddess and saint are inextricably entwined and it’s not unusual to see a mix of both traditions within one path.

Laura Louella: Brigid is multi-faceted. She is a mother, a daughter, a goddess and a saint. Her hearth fires blaze, she is the center. She has love and cares for the less fortunate. Brigid is a healer.

2. Why out of all the deities did you choose to devote an anthology to Brigid?

Cairelle Crow: While I work with a multitude of goddesses, Brigid is my matroness goddess and I wanted to honor her.

Laura Louella: I love her, she is at the heart of my home. She is a protectress, a humanitarian, lover of animals and she knows loss and grief. She is an example of how to live life.

3. Do you find there are any prevalent misconceptions about Brigid?

Cairelle Crow: Too many people mistakenly see Brigid as a “beginner” goddess, suitable only for those who need a gentle introduction to goddess spirituality and/or paganism. Brigid is multi-faceted and stands firmly within her boundaries and sovereignty. Her stories, myths, and legends reflect strength and determination. Practitioners of any level can learn from Brigid’s example.

Laura Louella: That she is a beginner goddess and only gentle. Some fail to see her many attributes, she stood up to power, she wasn’t afraid to face the hard things. She was not concerned about being popular when caring for the needs of others. And she showed her emotions and taught us how to as well.

4. Why an anthology, or compilation, instead of an entire book authored by yourself on the subject?

Cairelle Crow: There are so many perspectives on Brigid. I thought it would be great to highlight the many ways she is experienced by others. I was also interested in how she’s made her way around the world, traveling along with immigrants and through modern technology.

Laura Louella: There are so many people who love her, we wanted all the voices to shine their light on her.

5. How did you go about soliciting contributions for “Brigid’s Light”?

Cairelle Crow: We created a detailed request for submissions on our website and shared it on social media. We also asked others that we know are devotees and we asked them to write about their experiences.

Laura Louella: We reached out to people via social media, we contacted people we have studied with, and friends.

6. “Bridgid’s Light” was edited by both of you. How did that partnership come about and how did you divide the labor?

Cairelle Crow: We met when Laura picked me up from the airport. We were attending the same event and I needed a ride! We’d known each other online previously, and a close friendship developed after a discussion of our mutual devotion to Brigid. The anthology, from start to finish, was done together over Zoom sessions with a shared screen. We work well together, we shared a lot of laughs, and thoroughly enjoyed the process!

Laura Louella: We met when I picked up Cairelle at an airport in Oregon. We had met online but never in person. As we traveled back to California, we began sharing our stories, one conversation led to another and we began speaking of our devotion to Brigid. I believe Brigid brought us together and gave us the spark of inspiration we needed for Brigid’s Light.
We worked together, since we live in different time zones, we spent a lot of time on zoom! We wrote together, we edited together, and as the submissions came in, we rejoiced together. I will tell you that Cairelle is the tech person. Without that I would have struggled greatly. She walked me through some of the IT stuff with great patience.

7. There are loads of prayers, essays, and more in “Brigid’s Light.” Do you have a few personal favorites?

Cairelle Crow: Ohhh, this is hard! I love them all so much! Some that come to mind right in this moment are the poem by NiDara, Laura’s essay about her family’s quilting tradition, and Raven Morgaine’s beautiful portrayal of Maman Brijit. I also love Maria Jones’ essay about Brigid and astrology.

Laura Louella: It is so hard to choose a favorite. The one that made me cry is the submission from Bernadette Montana entitled My Personal Relationship with Brid. The one that reminded me that Brigid is always with us, by Tara Anura, Brigid of the Ozarks gave me a sense of knowing Brigid walks with us through great challenges. Love and Honey Baked Apples by Cairelle, I can feel the love in her grandma’s kitchen. Also, Jenne Micale’s, A Prayer to Brighid in Times of Violence, so profound and right now! I cannot choose one because everyone, all of the submissions shine a beautiful light on my beloved Brigid.

8. What do you think are some of the most basic ways to honor Brigid?

Cairelle Crow: The number one most basic way that I honor Brigid is to be of service to others, in whatever way is possible. Even offering a smile to another person on the street can be uplifting. Little things really matter! Other ways are keeping a flame, tending an altar that honors her, cooking a meal for loved ones. The possibilities are near-endless. People will know best what resonates within themselves.

Laura Louella: Watching the sun rise, sitting by a river or stream, lighting a candle and saying a prayer, tending my altar where I place my sacred items honoring her, and caring for others.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

Cairelle Crow: We are currently writing a book, we are planning retreats to Ireland and Glastonbury in 2023, and we continue to work on expanding our Elements of Philanthropy and Threads of Connection projects. Details about all of this can be found on our website, www.sanctuaryofbrigid.com.

Laura Louella: So much!! We are currently writing a book proposal that we are very excited about. We are planning on taking a group of women on a retreat to Ireland and Glastonbury, details are on www.sanctuaryofbrigid.com , where people that are interested can get on a list to be contacted about details. Also, on our website there is a page called Elements of Philanthropy where we encourage acts of service to honor Brigid.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Cairelle Crow: Do you have a matroness goddess? If so, who?

Not a particular individual goddess. I worship the divine feminine in many aspects. My altar pays homage to Quan Yin, Kali, Santa Muerte, Medusa, and Pandora.

Laura Louella: How do you see Brigid; do you have a story or recipe or poem that honors her?

I suspect many will find it surprising that I’ve never devoted much time to Brigid. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to read “Brigid’s Light.”

About Cairelle Crow:
Cairelle Crow has walked a goddess path for more than thirty years, exploring, learning, and growing. She is a priestess, genealogist, wanderess of wild and holy places, and co-foundress of the Sanctuary of Brigid and its flame-keeping circle, Sisters of the Flame. She lectures locally, nationally, and internationally on the blending of genealogy with magic and is dedicated to connecting magical people to their ancestral truths. When she’s not roaming the world in search of grandmothers, quirky art, and stone circles, Cairelle is home in New Orleans, where she lives joyfully, loves intensely, and laughs frequently with beloved family and friends. You can find her online at www.cairellecrow.com.

About Laura Louella:
Laura Louella is a priestess, certified Pilates instructor committed to teaching the strength that lies within, and the owner of Goddess Pilates, where she blends the art of sacred movement with the beauty of the goddess. She is also the co-foundress of the Sanctuary of Brigid and its flame-keeping circle, Sisters of the Flame. Many days, you can find her tending her garden, taking long walks through the forest, sitting by the river, or creating a quilt on her 1936 Featherweight Singer sewing machine. Laura lives in the Cascade Mountains of northern California.

You can learn more here.

Guess what? I accidentally received two copies of “Brigid’s Light”. You know what that means? GIVEAWAY! As usual, we’re using Rafflecopter. The giveaway is open to United States residents 18 years of age and old. Giveaway ends Monday 03/28/2022 at 11:59pm eastern.

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10 Questions with Heather Greene

Today we’re talking with editor, author, and journalist Heather Greene about her latest book, “Lights, Camera, Witchcraft: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television.”

1. Your latest book is “Lights, Camera, Witchcraft: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television.” I guess the most obvious question here is, why explore this particular facet of history?

Stories of witches and witchcraft permeate so much of our culture across time and space. It is a fascination that is made of both adoration and fear, it would seem. In this study, I examined how American pop culture, specifically Hollywood and television, told these age-old stories and defined the character of the witch.

2. Your book discusses a dizzying volume of movies and television shows. Do you have any idea how much time you spent watching movies as research?

I could do some math based on the average length of shows and movies, but no, I do not have a number. In fact, in some cases, I watched the films or shows multiple times for analysis, and I also watched a good number of films not listed or mentioned. So basically, the answer is “a whole lot.”

3. How has the role of women in American culture been reflected by the role of the witch in film?

This is actually one of the main threads in the book. In short, witchcraft is more often than not an allegory for a woman’s or girl’s power. Therefore, the witch character reflects mainstream society’s relationship with that power at any given point in time. When her innate power is feared as in mid-century, the witch is an example of what not to be. When it’s celebrated as in the 1990s, witchcraft is a symbol of feminist expression or so called ‘girl power’. This is just a taste of a complex social history.

4. Overall, how has the witch in cinema evolved?

Again, this is the main thrust of the book itself. A quick answer: the witch began as a copy of stories and lore that had come before and expanded over time with a changing society. Her stories became more involved, more focused on her as a central character, and more nuanced in the definition of magic itself. The witch evolved into a uniquely Hollywood creation and a true reflection of American society’s negotiation of religion, gender, race, ethnicity, and power.

5. Has the portrayal of men as witches been a part of your research?

Yes. While women make up most of Hollywood’s witches, there are some standout male figures, and that needs to be discussed as well. Given that witches have long been associated with women within Western society in general, it is important to examine male representations and the roles that they play. There is a distinct difference and I discuss that point in the book.

6. Do you remember the first witch you saw in American film or television?

I would guess it would be Glinda and The Wicked Witch of the West. I loved The Wizard of Oz. However, it may have been Sabrina the Teenage Witch in her cartoon form or a Disney animated witch.

7. Who’s your favorite fictional witch?

The Wicked Witch of the West, although I’m partial to Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel and Disney’s Maleficent.

8. Now that you’re done with this book, what are you watching on television?

I’ve been watching some wonderful British films that have absolutely nothing to do with witchcraft. British filmmakers have a wonderful way of telling compelling slice of life stories. The Beautiful Fantastic is one example. However, I did just start watching The Wheel of Time, which is in fact a great addition to the story of the witch on screen.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?

As an acquisition’s editor at Llewellyn, I’m currently spending most of my time working with other authors on their books, which is something that I deeply enjoy. Helping authors go from idea to book-in-hand is fantastic. We like to call ourselves “book midwives.” I do post the books that I work on publicly in my photo library on Facebook. It is called My Llewellyn Book Shelf. https://www.facebook.com/heather.greene.165

I am also a religion journalist, covering predominantly witchcraft and pagan related stories. Readers can follow my work through my Twitter account @miraselena01.

For all my antics in one place, www.heathergreene.net.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one questions.

What is your favorite witch movie and why?

That is a really tough question. When I was young, I went through a pretty hardcore “Bell, Book, and Candle” phase. Then I had the prerequisite “The Craft” love affair. My last witch movie obsession was “Practical Magic”, and I think that may be my favorite. It’s a mature take on magic and witchcraft, with a fantastic cast (Stockard Channing for life yo!), and a Stevie Nicks heavy soundtrack.

About Heather Greene:
Heather Greene is an editor, author, and journalist living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently an acquisitions editor with Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd and a freelance religion journalist. She has a BA from Wesleyan University and an MA from Emory University both in Film Studies. Her work can be found at Religion News Service, Religion Unplugged, The Washington Post, Circle Magazine, and The Wild Hunt. Her book “Lights Camera Witchcraft,” tracing witches in American film and television, was released October 2021. She is a member of Covenant of the Goddess, Religion Newswriters Association, and Circle Sanctuary.

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10 Questions with Brandon Weston

Today we’re speaking with Brandon Weston, owner of Ozark Healing Traditions and author of “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers, and Healing”.

1. How did you first become interested in the folk magic of the Ozarks?

My interest goes back to childhood. I’m from a multi-generational Ozark family, so I grew up with a lot of traditions, practices, and home remedies that I never thought were a part of some bigger culture. I just thought it was my weird family! For instance, I had a great uncle on my dad’s side who was a wart charmer, specifically a wart buyer. If you had a wart, you’d go see Uncle Bill and he’d pull out a penny or dime and say, “I’ll buy ‘em off you.” And you always knew to take the money and your warts would disappear overnight.

Things like that, and I have so many more examples, were just day-to-day life in the Ozarks. I only ever realized that I myself was a part of an actual culture when I was in college and I found Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore where he discusses all of the stories and traditions I’d grown up with. That was really the starting point for me. A sort of wake up call to my own heritage. After that I wanted to know the state of the Ozarks today. Were these practices still alive? Were there still witches and healers out in the hills? So, I started collecting stories from family first then moved outward into other families and communities across the Ozark region, from Arkansas up and through Missouri.

I didn’t start off as a practitioner at first, that came later. I wanted to be a folklorist like Vance Randolph. But then I met an old healer who kicked me in the rear and said, “You know you’re a part of this story too, right?” Up until that point I’d never considered myself a cultural representative; I was still in the old mindset of a stranger looking in and observing a culture without participating in it. So, I scrapped my work, stopped recording stories, and started actually listening and learning from these amazing keepers of so much power and wisdom. From there it all grew into the path I’m walking currently.

2. What made you decide to write your book “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers & Healing?”

It was really a desire to update the story. Nothing has been written about Ozark healing and magical practices from an actual practitioner. And I want to reiterate that because folks don’t often believe me. The only thing that even mentions more secretive practices is Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore and that was first published under the title Ozark Superstitions in 1947. Randolph wasn’t a practitioner and didn’t approach Ozark folk beliefs in a very respectful way. He was notorious for making things up that might appeal to the reader as well as publishing material without the permission of healers. There’s still a taboo amongst many old timers about writing down charms and spells as they believe it will “kill” the charm.

Since Vance Randolph, there has been a lot written about the history of the Ozarks and even the cultural traditions of its people, but still nothing about healing and magic which are so often relegated to the “simple” beliefs of a superstitious people. I knew this wasn’t true. I knew there were complex systems of practice hidden beneath that “simple” surface. So, I wanted to write the book that I would have loved reading as a kid. I wanted to write a work that would not only revitalize my culture but validate people as Ozarkers. We’ve been under the shadow of the hillbilly stereotype for so long and I really just wanted to help people break away from that while also getting in touch with their own magical roots.

3. I’ve noticed a definite uptick in excellent books on magic from the American mountains (yours, “Backwoods Witchcraft” by Jake Richards, and “Mountain Conjure and Southern Root Work” by Orion Foxwood, to name a few). What do you think has brought about an increased interest in this subject matter?

I know that personally, before I was ever a writer or practitioner, I was craving books to read about my own culture but there wasn’t anything out there apart from a few outdated publications. Growing up in this culture, I know the way the rest of the world has looked at us. I know how my grandparents and parents grew up, constantly trying to escape the hillbilly stereotype. Mountain people are sometimes just too nice to say anything when faced with such degrading experiences. Magic is one way for us to escape.

In the Ozarks, secrecy has always been an important part of the work. There’s a famous Ozark saying, “We always lie to strangers.” And it’s not because we’re trying to be rude or unfriendly, but it’s out of utmost respect for the traditions that we keep some things hidden. It used to be a lot more important as magic and healing practices meant survival out in the dangerous mountains. You also didn’t want to risk the conservative community around you thinking you were a witch. Nowadays things are a lot different and many people from mountain cultures are now seeing that a big part of our practice doesn’t need to be so secretive. We aren’t risking the same things as our ancestors were when we practice our magic openly.

Also, for me, I see my own culture dying every day with each passing old timer. I’m sure this is an experience shared by many others. For me, it’s important to share these stories now before it’s too late. Revitalizing the culture and making people proud of their mountain heritage actually helps save traditions because instead of running away from the “superstitions” of their families, people instead get interested in the old traditions and stories and start talking to those with the knowledge. So much has been lost by old timers passing away with no interested family or friends there to carry the torch into the future.

4. Personally, I loved the practical and pragmatic healing process that you provided a flow chart for in “Ozark Folk Magic”? Can you share it with my readers?

Traditionally, the healing process for Ozarkers began with observing the signs of physical illness. In some cases, no expert would be needed and home remedies that every family has would be enough to take care of most contagion. In rare occasions of serious injury or illness an expert would be called in. This was usually what the old timers called a “yarb doctor” or an herbalist. This could also include the granny woman who was traditionally considered a midwife but was also an all-encompassing healer figure for the community. Physical illness was diagnosed through physical means, usually observing the body, for example the color of the eyes or tongue as well as the pulse. Physical illness was treated with physical medicines derived from local plants, sometimes mixed with pharmaceutical compounds like tinctures and resins. Choosing a physical medicine was based on the humoral system as well as the system of hot/cold and wet/dry. A fever, for example, is considered hot/dry so the medicine used would aim at countering that condition and could include “yarbs” or healing plants like mountain mint, which has a cold/wet aspect. Physical illness might also include injuries like burns or cuts. In these cases there are specialized “blood stoppers” and “burn doctors” whose magical gift is focused solely on these areas. They might also be considered alongside a local herbalist as the first line of defense against illness and injury.

In most cases, physical cures would take care of physical illnesses. In cases of prolonged sickness, stronger medicines might be used. Illnesses that persist even at this point, or have strange symptoms that don’t match any know contagion, are suspected to be of a magical origin. At this point a magical expert would be called in to diagnose the real cause of the problem using magical means, usually various divination techniques. If the signs or “tokens” point to a magical cause, then magical cures are sought in the form of ritual, verbal charms, prayers, or creating talismans. Depending upon how serious the condition is, the more intense or involved the ritual might become.

To some extent this process is the same in the modern world. I always recommend folks see a doctor or therapist first before coming to me. I believe that the two sides of the healing process, the physical and spiritual can work together in balance. Many old timers no longer make such a separation between the physical and magical illnesses/cures. For example, one praying granny I met whose sole business was praying over and blessing prescription medications that locals would bring to her. She believed in the power of modern medicine but also knew her gift could make the medicines more effective.

5. I was surprised to learn about how diverse the types of “doctors” are and methods they use. Can you share a brief overview of them and their differences?

These doctors are considered a part of the “old Ozarks” or more traditional culture. You rarely hear these terms used today outside of tall tales around the campfire. Most people call simply call themselves “healers” or even “witches” today. You also on occasion hear someone saying they can “doctor” for illnesses, but this runs the risk of encounters with the law as practicing medicine without a license is still illegal across the region. Many people are much more careful about how they refer to their practice and use specific language to avoid trouble.

Traditionally though, there were a number of Ozark “doctors” or healers. The yarb doctor, as I mentioned earlier, was an herbal expert and specialized in healing using local plants, fungi, and mineral compounds. They rarely incorporated any verbal charms or prayers into their work.

Then there’s the power doctor, who unlike the yarb doctor almost exclusively worked with verbal charms, prayers, ritual, and the creation of amulets and talismans. While they often did use herbal concoctions, it was almost always in a magical way rather than for the benefit of the contained plant chemical compounds.

An all-encompassing figure in the community was the granny woman who was a combination midwife, herbalist, and magical expert. Granny women have often been degraded in many of the folk accounts but their position was often of the utmost importance in the community, especially since there used to be a strict taboo against male healers working on women.

There were also certain experts or specialized healers who worked in curing very specific needs. These include the blood stopper, burn doctor, wart charmer, and the witch master or goomer doctor who specialized in removing hexes and curses derived specifically from a physical assailant in the form of a witch.

6. Do you find people are surprised by the role that Christianity and the Bible play in these magic/healing traditions?

I definitely do. A lot of people in the Ozarks are still a part of a much more conservative Christian background and they automatically view anything called “magic” with witchcraft, which has traditionally been associated with evil. That’s changing, of course, as more and more people are reclaiming the title of witch for themselves, myself included. Ozark healing traditions were never called magic internally up until Vance Randolph and other folklorists like him who brought technical terms from the outside and applied them to the culture. Some of the more conservative Ozarkers still refer to their practice as “spiritual healing,” “praying,” “trying,” and many other old terms that would have separated this work from that of the so-called witch. Ozark culture is a complicated subject, though, and even though there might appear to be this very strict, very Christian exterior at times, this was often a way for healers to safely practice and avoid being labeled as a witch. I think there’s sometimes the mistaken view that more traditional or conservative cultures are therefore more religious and that’s not the case with the Ozarks. Religion or religious culture was often just the outward appearance whereas underneath the practices and traditions were, and still are, as diverse as there are practitioners. So, you might have a healer who is outwardly more traditional or conservative in their culture but underneath that they are working with the fairies in their healing practice, or angels, or other entities that definitely don’t fit into the more religiously conservative culture.

7. You make a good point in “Ozark Folk Magic.” Although it stems from certain traditions that can be traced WAY back, these things still continue to evolve. What evolution have you witnessed, and do you have an idea what may be next?

The first major evolution with Ozark folk traditions came around the beginning of the 20th century when roads got better and towns started building up. This was when tourists from outside the Ozarks starting flocking to the region to get a view of a real-life hillbilly, up close and in person. This was also when the major Ozark folklorists began their work. This influx of interest from the outside created a sort of folk culture revival for people where storytellers and traditional musicians started performing for large audiences and actually making some money. The folk culture became much more outward facing and a lot of the subtle nuances were lost as life became about either appeasing or avoiding the tourists.

The next evolution came in the 60’s and 70’s with the back to the land movement and an influx of outsiders into the hills, many of which were from much larger urban areas, in particular California. These groups were already a part of the New Age movement and would have brought with them different religious and spiritual traditions like yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Wicca, and many others. This clash of cultures with the Ozark hillfolk has lasted up until today in many places, but underneath the surface, many traditional healers and magical practitioners incorporated this new culture into their own.

Currently, more and more people are getting interested specifically in what we might call Traditional Witchcraft, which today often encompasses not only folk magic practices but also an earth-based spiritual system as well as folk herbalism and practical healing methods. This is one of the reasons I see so many people taking on the title of witch; so much information is now contained in such a simple word. This is where I see the practice going. Embracing cultural heritage practices in the form of traditional magic and spirituality, while at the same time taking a critical view of problematic pieces of our own history.

8. Is there a place for lifelong residents of urban environments in this practice?

Of course. Pretty soon even us Ozarkers are going to be in the middle of a vast urban landscape as well. Traditions have to change and move with the times. But, I do think at the heart of Ozark practice is a deep connection to the land, however that might manifest for the individual. While I personally draw a lot of power and inspiration from being out in the woods away from all the modern stuff, towns and cities are a part of the Ozark landscape as well and there’s absolutely a place in this practice for those who draw more from the urban environment than the wilds.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects my readers should be aware of?

Right now I’m working on my second book, which so release from Llewellyn next year. It’s going to be all the spells, recipes, and rituals I couldn’t squeeze into the first book. Basically, “Ozark Folk Magic” is the theory and the second book will be all the practice materials.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one questions.

Do you have any family or ancestral traditions that you’ve incorporated into your own practice?

Sadly no, and this uptick in folk magic that highlights family/ancestral traditions really drives it home. It makes me a sad panda.

About Brandon Weston:
Brandon Weston is a spiritual healer, medium, and writer living in the Arkansas Ozarks. He is author of “Ozark Folk Magic: Plants, Prayers, and Healing” and owner of Ozark Healing Traditions, a collective of articles, lectures, and workshops focusing on traditions of medicine, magic, and folklore from the Ozark Mountain region. As an active healer, his work with clients includes everything from spiritual cleanses to house blessings and all the weird and wonderful ailments in between. He comes from a long line of Ozark hillfolk and works hard to keep the traditions that he’s collected alive and true for generations to come.

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10 Questions with Michael William West

Author and filmmaker Michael William West wrote, “Sex Magicians: The Lives and Spiritual Practices of Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, Anton LaVey, and Others”. Today we have some sex talk!

1. What made you decide to specifically write about individuals that are associated with sexual magic practices for your book, “Sex Magicians?”

There seems to have been a kind of passing of the flame from Randolph onwards, as far as pioneers of sex magic are concerned. Likely because practitioners are extremely few in number. So there was a natural draw to the most prominent individuals, even though certain others could have been included. I tended towards diverse people, from different backgrounds, with different political views, with different objectives.

2. Considering how sex can be a taboo subject, is it hard to learn about people who have practiced sex magic?

I don’t think sex is a taboo subject anymore. You’d have to live an extremely sheltered life to be able to continue in that fallacy. What is taboo, however, is spirituality. A lot of western people are uncomfortable with admitting they have metaphysical longings…throbbings, even. I think far more people are experimenting with sex than are with metaphysics and questions of the human spirit.

3. You live in Paris. Americans tend to view France as having a more progressive attitude towards sex. Do you find that to be the case?

That’s a very difficult question. The answer could be very longwinded, and still be unsatisfactory. They are extremely different cultures. I think Americans suffer from more psychosexual trauma than the French, on the whole. However, I think the French are surprisingly conventional when it comes to sexuality – there’s a well-established code, which seems quite liberated, but there’s not much deviance from it. Also, sadly, you are much more likely to be sexually assaulted in France than in the US, which points to some deep societal problems which might not be as apparent in the US. I think the United States is a more mystical place than France, which is a country obsessed with rationality and measure. You can measure the universe, but you cannot measure your desire to explore it – and I believe Americans are more willing to make those kinds of explorations, whether through practicing sex magic or otherwise. France does have its mystical traditions, however, and when you do encounter them, they are magnificent.

4. What can we learn from studying the lives and works of the people featured in your book?

Fundamentally, they are all adventurers. These are people who fixed their lives on a goal, whether rocketry, poetry, music or whatever, and then explored the fullest extent of the tools available to them, within themselves. This led them to revelatory experiences which improved the quality of their work and gave them one of the most satisfying types of life available – that of the adventurer, and of the informed risk taker. They were not afraid of life, that is what I think they all have in common, and there’s a lot to be said for approaching life without fear.

5. “Sex Magicians” explores the lives a diverse group of people, including Jack Parsons, Aleister Crowley, Maria de Naglowska, Genesis P-Orridge, and others. For being such a diverse group, do you find that they all have things in common?

Yes, they all strove to understand themselves, to position themselves in the universe, rather than just in their immediate surroundings. They found power in themselves to do exceptional things, they are all adventurers.

6. How were you first introduced to the idea of sex being a component of magic?

My first literal understanding of it was through reading the works of Aleister Crowley. But what he spoke of correlated to ideas and experiences I’d already had, but not yet understood.

7. When we say, “sex magic”, it’s not just heterosexual intercourse, is it?

No, that would be absurd, especially in a book featuring people like Genesis, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs. If people are looking for arbitrary moral restrictions on their bodily functions, they are welcome to browse the Koran or the Bible. There’s no need for definitions of hetero- or homosexual in sex magic, there is just sexual; all it requires is that it be fully consensual and within the bounds of the law.

8. If someone is already a magical practitioner, how would suggest they incorporate sex into their practice? (If this is a topic you think you can speak about.)

There are magical practitioners who feel they do not need to incorporate any sexual component into their practice and that is perfectly reasonable. Sexual magic is sometimes considered as being more useful to westerners than purely meditative magic – as we might call it – as our society does not easily permit a life of free contemplation for extended periods of time. Not many societies do, but until recently enough, such things were possible in places like India. Sex magic can be a kind of short cut. If someone is already interested in incorporating sex into their practice, then I would guess they had already felt drawn in that direction, and so they should just follow their intuitive guidance system. Reading the works of Peter J. Carroll would be an excellent basis of ideas, but in truth it’s about allowing yourself to go down whichever path you are being drawn down. There really aren’t any rules when it comes to exploring the inner self, or how sex can be used to do so – apart from the obvious ones I mentioned earlier.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with our readers?

My belief, which I state in the book, is that magical practice, like transcendental meditation, or anything else in the spiritual realm, is a means to an end, a way of improving what you do in life. My end is as a film maker, and I will be releasing a short film based on the experience of using a Dream Machine, as invented by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville – and popularized by William Burroughs, Kurt Cobain and others – in the next few months. More information will be on my Instagram page @michaelwilliamwest or my website michaelwilliamwest.com

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What’s the greatest adventure you’ve been on from the comfort of your own bed?

Dreaming. Seriously. I have vivid, intense dreams.

About Michael William West:
Michael William West is an author and filmmaker from Paris, France. He has been a student of the occult and practitioner of left-hand traditions for almost 20 years. He writes for A Void magazine and released the film, “9 Circles: Limbo”. He lives in Paris.

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10 Questions with Wendy De Rosa

Wendy De Rosa’s latest book is “Becoming an Empowered Empath: How to Clear Energy, Set Boundaries & Embody Your Intuition.” Today she answers 10 questions about all things intuitive.

1. First things first, what is an empath? How can you tell if you’re one?
An energetic empath is someone who feels the energy of others, the energy in the environment, and energy in the collective. Empaths will often unknowingly take this energy on or absorb it into their own energy field and body. As a result, they experience physical symptoms, illness, fatigue, emotional overwhelm, and more. Learning how to clear other people’s energy from their body and strengthen the energetic center helps energetic empaths hold emotional and energetic boundaries and evolve from being over empathic to an empowered empath.

Here are ways you can tell if you are an empath: You sense other people’s emotions or feel you have absorbed other people’s energy when you enter a room. You pick up on the energy around you, how people are feeling, or what might be happening around you. In a conversation with someone they over share and walk away feeling great, while you end up feeling like you took on their issues. You get tired easily being around people. You may be vulnerable to illness, feel nauseated, or get headaches and other physical symptoms when around other people’s energy. You need introverted time to replenish. You keep the peace in a dynamic by taking on emotions of others so they don’t have to feel or express their feelings. The list can go on, but essentially, you know you are an empath when you feel the energy of others around you.

2. In your book “Becoming an Empowered Empath” you describe four aspects of intuition. What are they?
The seeing sense is called clairvoyance, which relates to intuitively seeing images or having a higher knowing and heightened perception. Clairaudience is the sense of hearing intuitively. Some people relate to that sense as receiving Divine messages, higher guidance, and mediumship. Claircognizance is the sense of knowing. People who relate to this sense will say “I know because I know, because I know, and I can’t tell you why I know, I just know“. Clairsentience is the power of feeling energy through the sentient body. This is ultimately the empathic sense.

3. You discuss the importance of the Root Chakra. Why is it important in relation to empaths?
The Root Chakra is located at the tail bone region of our spine and is our power center for safety, trust, belonging, survival, and attachment here on this physical plane and physical experience of life. It’s the power center that connects us to the earth’s frequency. When we’ve been raised in environments where safety has been compromised because there was trauma or fear in the family system, we will develop an insecure attachment to feeling safe in this human experience. That is often an underlying pattern for empathic and sensitive beings raised in environments that didn’t know how to nurture an empath. The root chakra can close down and contract when there is a feeling of not belonging or feeling unsafe. As a result, the second chakra which is the empathic power center in the body, opens up and becomes hyper vigilant. It senses and feels everything around us, and takes care of that energy in order to feel a sense of belonging, attachment and safety. Essentially it is doing the job of the root chakra. When an empath has a contracted Root Chakra and a hyper vigilant Second chakra, the pattern of managing external energy repeats itself over and over again throughout life. In order for empaths to stop taking on the energy of other people and managing so much energy externally, they have to build a relationship to the Root Chakra specifically to re-build a sense of safety, trust in self, security, and belonging.

4. In discussing chakras, you say there are upper-body intuitives and lower-body intuitives. What does that mean and what are the differences?
Upper body intuition relates to the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh charkras (and beyond!). Psychic intuition, mediumship, higher guidance, clairvoyance and channeling are aspects of upper body intuition. Lower body intuition is claircognizance, the sense of knowing and the empathic sense of feeling. These clairs relate to the first, second, third and sometimes fourth chakras. Empaths tend to be lower chakra intuitives. However, lower body intuitives can have upper body intuitive skills and vice versa. So, an empath can also be clairvoyant, and a medium can also be an empath. The primary difference is that either upper body or lower body intuition is dominant early in life. Intuitive skills can change based on one’s childhood or if they experience trauma. One’s healing process and to what extent their chakras are healing and evolving determines their access to their intuitive gifts. Some people can come into this world with both upper chakra and lower chakra intuition very activated.

5. In “Becoming an Empowered Empath” you say that empaths experience their world through intuition. Can you explain what this looks like?
Empaths experience the world through their “felt” sense. They feel when something isn’t right. They feel the emotions of other people, or the energy in a space. From an intuitive perspective, this means that they often know what another person needs and can offer acts of kindness, empathy, or connection to help the person rise up. Empathic intuition is the power of trusting your gut instinct and what’s felt beneath the surface. When empaths learn to trust their gut instincts, they make effective and trustworthy leaders because they can identify the shadow and clear the air when something does not feel right.

6. What are inherited belief systems and how do they impact our lives?
Inherited belief systems are beliefs that have come through our lineage or intergenerationally in order to help us survive in our society and family systems. Early in life, they are necessary and help us bond to the adults that are going to raise us and help us succeed in the world. Sometimes those inherited beliefs come from fear and a need to protect us from traumatic events happening to us. For example, if a parent was raised during the depression era, they may have a belief system that says, “save all your money and don’t trust anybody,” which gets passed down to us. Being raised with this belief system, a child may grow up overriding their own needs or their own intuition and maybe even miss opportunities in their life because this now internalized belief caused them to hoard and stay safe. This particular belief system may be outdated and may not match current times or where an individual is in their life. It’s important to recognize that belief systems help us survive and belong inside our family systems. As spiritually evolving souls, we can outgrow outdated beliefs systems and make conscious decisions about who we are and what we believe to be true now.

7. How does trauma affect our energy fields?
Trauma essentially makes up a significant amount of energy stored in our energetic body. Whether it’s personal trauma, collective trauma, or intergenerational trauma. Trauma is an experience that the cognitive mind and nervous system can’t make sense of or process at the time and so it stores it in the energy body for a later time when it’s safe to process that energy. In energy healing, there are several different terms that have been used over the decades that are synonyms to trauma. They include past life healing, karmic wounds, dark energy, shadow, or negative energy. Sometimes these words have been used to polarize people’s experiences as good or bad, right or wrong, and light and dark. However, as the conversation of trauma of trauma healing has surfaced over the past 20 years, energy work now addresses trauma through mindful practices, and it’s crucial for people to know that trauma is common, good people have trauma.

8. If someone wants to stop taking on other people’s energy, what do they need to know?
I think it’s so important to know that if you are living a pattern of taking on energy of others, then you most likely have a gift underneath that needs to be seen, needs to be validated, need to be reparented, and it’s probably been nudging you for a long time. The triggers that happen when you take on the energy of others are also a gift because they are pointing you in the direction of going deeper within you. That journey involves inner healing, understanding the energy you’ve been carrying, healing your past traumas, and living your God-given gifts in this life. My guess is that they’ve been squashed, and the body is acting out by having big reactions to other people’s energy. “Becoming an Empowered Empath” will help you get underneath the layers, clear your energy, and allow more of your gifts to emerge.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects are readers would be interested in?
I often have upcoming events listed on my websites: schoolofintuitivestudies.com and wendyderosa.com. Yet, every month I offer a guided healing live through my Divine Healing Inner Circle Monthly Membership. People from all over the world join in this powerful group healing and receive deep energy healing and higher guidance. I also take questions after the healing, and we have a mid-month Q&A call where I answer questions that come up for members as they’ve been integrating the healing. I highly recommend this monthly membership if you are someone who is in need of ongoing energy clearing and support. All the details are on wendyderosa.com.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Was there a time when you knew you should have listened to your intuition? And did trust in your intuition get stronger by knowing that you have inner knowing?

I believe I’m quite intuitive and try to listen to my intuition, but I do try to find a balance between the presented facts and realities of a given situation and my “gut feelings.” I know there have been times when I wish I had listened to my intuition, I think most people have had that experience, but a specific example doesn’t come to mind.

About Wendy De Rosa:
Wendy De Rosa is an international intuitive energy healer, speaker, teacher, and author. For the past two decades she has offered education and training programs for spiritual and personal growth to thousands of people wanting to develop their intuition and experience personal transformation.

She is the founder of the School of Intuitive Studies and the Intuitive Healer Training Program & Certification. Wendy is an esteemed teacher who leads workshops and trainings globally, including programs for Mindvalley’s Soulvana channel and as a top faculty member at The Shift Network.

Wendy is a contributing writer in the bestselling book “Bouncing Back: Thriving in Changing Times” with Wayne Dyer, Brian Tracy, John Assaraf, and other leaders in personal growth. Her book “Expanding Your Heart: Awakening through Four Stages of a Spiritual Opening” is an Amazon bestseller.

Wendy lives in Longmont, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, and stepson.

You can learn more here.

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10 Questions with Sandra Kynes & Giveaway

Today we’re talking with Sandra Kynes, author of “Herbal Remedies for Beginners” and many other wonderful books. We discuss herbs, research methodology, and more!

1. With this being such a tumultuous time, how are you doing?

Thank you for asking. My family and I are doing well. Of course, big servings of ice cream always help. It’s been a time of major changes in my life. Just before the pandemic I became semi-retired from my day job (yay, more time for writing!), sold my house in Portland, Maine, and moved north. It’s been very strange to be in a new place and not able to go out and meet people, not even my nearest neighbor who is about a quarter mile down the road.

Any way, I moved out of the city to the country. In England I lived in the countryside, but it was much more tame. Here in Maine we have all kinds of wildlife nearby including moose, bears, and coyotes. They’re known informally as coywolves since they’re a cross between coyote and gray wolf; they’re very wolf-like and beautiful. Although we hear them in the woods frequently I’m glad I haven’t met one face to face. I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors; it’s very inspirational to be living so close to nature.

2. At this point, you have written 17 books for Llewellyn. How did it all start?

Oh gosh, I think I always wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid I would write and put together little books and when I was a teenager I wrote a lot of poetry. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s when I started having articles published. I submitted short pieces to Llewellyn for various almanacs and calendars and then eventually sent in the manuscript for a book. They turned down the first one, but I persisted, revamped it and they liked it. There was no turning back because the muse was unleashed.

3. Ever since I read your book “Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences”, which released in 2013, I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how you take ALL that information and organize it, and then put it into a book. Any chance you can give us a glimpse of your process?

I must have been a librarian in a past life; I like organizing things. I think it’s just a skill. Some people are skilled carpenters and I would love to be able to build things, but I’m a complete klutz in that department. My process for writing, once I have an idea (or rather my muse decides what I’m going to work on) I start with a rough outline to get an idea of how it will flow. And then I dive into the research. I really enjoy that part of the process because sometimes it can be like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Sometimes you come up with differing information and have to keep digging to figure out what’s what. Occasionally a lead can take me down a rabbit hole and a dead end, but it’s all part of the process. I also like working on projects where I’m learning new things; it keeps life more interesting. I take tons of notes and that’s where organization comes in because it can be easy to get lost. I get annoyed when I can’t find something.

4. Your latest book is “Herbal Remedies for Beginners”, but you also wrote “Plant Magic”, “Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Essential Oils”, “Mixing Essential Oils for Magic”, and “Herb Gardener’s Essential Guide”. Is it safe to say that plants play a large role in your life? And if so, how?

Yes, and actually my first plant book was “Whispers from the Woods”. Yeah, plants have become a focus although I like to veer off now and then because there are so many interesting things to explore like birds and how they relate to the Goddess. My book “Bird Magic” is very dear to my heart.

The green world speaks to me and touches my soul, but I think that’s true for most people whether they realize it or not; being in nature is a spiritual experience. Nowadays it’s so important to be aware of the issues we’re facing as a planet and to do all that we can, no matter how small it may seem, to turn things around. In addition to connecting us with the natural world, plants provide a connection with the past. We have several millennia worth of information on how people have used plants. Even in my lifetime, witnessing what my grandmother did; her gardening, preserving, and using plants gives me a connection with her and all my ancestors. Plants can also connect us with the future, if we are mindful and good stewards.

5. How is “Herbal Remedies for Beginners” different from your other plant topic books?

This is one of my three mainstream, non-magical books, but it’s different in that it required a lot of medical research. I didn’t want to just say use this recipe or herb for this ailment, I wanted to provide explanations on what to look for and how it may differ from similar issues. I tried to keep in mind what information I wanted at my fingertips when I was first learning about herbal remedies. I wanted to put together a “best of” book to provide an introduction and foundation for making remedies and working with herbs that would also serve as a comprehensive reference. Although I prefer writing magical books, when my editors ask if I’m interested in doing something different I view it as a fun challenge.

6. How do you use herbs in your daily life?

I use the plants themselves and essential oils. I use them for cooking, cleaning, scenting my house; and of course, in magic and ritual. Also, growing herbs and other plants provides aesthetics and a connection with nature and magic. Working with or growing plants that my grandmother used brings back good memories.

7. What advice would you give someone just starting out working with herbs?

Don’t get overwhelmed. While it may seem as though there is so much to learn, don’t feel daunted because you don’t need to know everything all at once. Working with herbs is a journey, not a destination. An important point is to read precautions and warnings because herbs are powerful and need to be used with safety in mind.

You can start with one of your favorite herbs and learn its uses. Or, you can start with an ailment and learn which herbs can be used to treat it. As you go along, you will learn what you need to know for you and your family because you will be able to tailor remedies, personal care products, etc. to your specific needs and preferences. And you don’t have to remember everything, refer to books and keep notes. Most of all have fun.

8. I have repeatedly tried to grow my own herbs indoors in pots, and the poor plants die horrible deaths. In your experience, what are the best herbs for indoor growing, and any tips for those of us who continue to kill them?

First of all, don’t get discouraged. I managed to murder a pot of thyme this summer that I wanted to grow in the house for winter. Just like an outdoor garden, you need to assess the locations you have so you can choose the right herbs to grow indoors. Avoid windowsills that are above radiators as plants will dry out quickly and won’t do well with the fluctuating temperatures in the winter. Many indoor herbs that require a lot of sun will also need some shade. Instead of a windowsill, put them on a table near a window where they can get direct sun as well as some shade. An advantage of potted plants is that they can be moved to different windows to follow the sun throughout the year. Some herbs that work well indoors are basil, thyme, chives, oregano, and rosemary. Experiment.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?

When “Whispers from the Woods” went out of print, my editors asked if I would like to do a re-vamp of it that focused on magic. Of course I said “yes”. While I adapted some material from “Whispers from the Woods”, I did a lot more than re-vamp it. The entire section of tree profiles has been completely re-researched, rewritten, and expanded. “Tree Magic” will be out in June 2021. I have another project that my editors don’t know about yet so I have to keep that a secret for now. All I can say is my new surroundings have had a major and magical impact on me.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What is your favorite herb or other type of plant and why? Oops, that’s a double question; can it count as one?

I love rosemary! Many a poor rosemary plant has passed away due to my good intentions of having all the rosemary, all the time. It smells good and makes everything taste delicious. Since I can’t get rosemary from my own garden, I’m a big fan of Cucina Aurora’s rosemary olive oil. It’s made with love, and magic, and rosemary.

About Sandra Kynes:
Sandra is a writer who likes to develop creative ways to explore the world and integrate them with her spiritual path and everyday life. Her unique views and methods form the basis of her books. Her writing has been featured in a number of Llewellyn almanacs, “Sage Woman”, “The Magical Times”, “The Portal”, and “Circle magazines”, and “The World Ocean Journal”. Her work has also appeared online at Utne Reader and she was a contributor to The Meaning of Life at Excellence Reporter.

Sandra has lived in New York City, Europe, England, and now Mid-coast Maine where she lives with her family and cats in an 1850’s farmhouse surrounded by meadows and woods. She loves connecting with nature through gardening, hiking, bird watching, and kayaking. She can be found online on Facebook, her Plant Magic blog on PaganSquare, and www.kynes.net.

Guess what?!? Sandra Kynes was kind enough to give us a signed copy of “Herbal Remedies for Beginners” for me to give away to a reader! The contest is open internationally to entrants 18 years and older. The giveaway ends on Friday 08/21/2020 at 11:59 pm eastern.

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10 Questions with Deborah Blake (with Giveaway)

This is an interview with Deborah Blake, author of The Goddess is in the Details, Everyday Witchcraft and numerous other books from Llewellyn, along with popular tarot and oracle decks. She’s also written the award-winning author of the Baba Yaga and Broken Rider paranormal romance series and the Veiled Magic urban fantasies from Berkley.

1. Considering the current situation, we cannot really start without me first asking, how are you doing?

I’m hanging in there. I feel very fortunate, all things considered. I live in a rural area that hasn’t been as badly hit as some, and no one I know has gotten sick. I have a nice house to hide out in and the cats for company. On the down-side, I am definitely feeling the stress, as most people are. It has made it hard to be creative. And I miss being able to hang out with my friends. Blue Moon Circle, my coven, finally got together yesterday for the solstice for the first time since February (outside, safely distancing, of course). It was lovely.

2. Your latest book is “Modern Witchcraft: Goddess Empowerment for the Kick-Ass Woman.” What made you decide to do a goddess-oriented book on witchcraft?

It just felt like the right time. So many women I know are struggling with feeling scared/worried/angry/frustrated/triggered, sometimes all at the same time. I think many of us feel helpless, no matter how hard we work for positive change. So I wanted to write a book that would help women (anyone who identifies as female in any way, really) feel empowered and heard instead.

3. “Modern Witchcraft” serves as a comprehensive introduction to witchcraft practice, which is a huge topic. How difficult was it to decide what to include?

Nearly impossible! On the one hand, I am writing for a new audience, and I’m assuming that at least a portion of them are coming to Witchcraft for the first time. On the other hand, goddesses are such a huge topic on their own, I didn’t want to spend too much time in the book talking about basic practices and tenets, instead of the focus of the book. Hopefully I managed a good balance.

4. Who are some of your favorite goddesses and why?

I often call on the goddess in a general way, rather than invoking a specific one. But I confess to a certain fondness for Hecate, who is both protective and kick-ass, and very witchy. If I have a personal deity, it is Her. I love Brigid for Her healing and creative aspects, and of course, Bast because cats are Her sacred animal.
5. Do you have any goddesses on your altar?

At the moment, I have a statue on my main altar of Brigid that was a gift from my daughter. She is standing in front of a cauldron and holding a sacred flame. On the altar in my bedroom, which is devoted to the spirits of my cats who are no longer with me, I have two very rough pottery statues of god and goddess in their more primitive, less specific forms.

6. In these times of upheaval, how can witchcraft help?

I think having a spiritual path—no matter what it is—helps to ground us during the tough times, and brings us a measure of peace we may not find in other aspects of our lives. For me, Witchcraft also allows me to connect with the gods on a daily basis and to do spellwork for protection, healing, and other issues that are so important right now.

7. In “Modern Witchcraft” you mention that you have a lot of books about goddesses. I consider myself to be a lady with a lot of books about goddesses. So exactly how many books do you have? Yes, I want to see if mine is bigger than yours. Goddess book collections, that is.

Ooh, it’s on! Let me go count… Okay, I have ten books specifically focused on goddesses, and lots more that have large sections about them. Plus, five different goddess oracles (I suspect you’ve got me beat).

FYI, I have 3 about specific goddesses, 8 about assorted goddesses, and 3 oracle decks based on goddesses.

8. You have mentioned on social media that there have been knock off copies of your tarot decks (Everyday Witch Tarot and Everyday Witch Oracle) online. How prevalent of a problem is copyright infringement in your industry?

It’s insane. Until I became an author, I had no idea how bad the problem was, and it seems to be exploding exponentially. I get alerts daily about free downloads of my books (which not only means neither the publisher nor I make any money on them, but usually the people who download them get free viruses along with their stolen books) and I’m starting to get constant emails from people complaining to me that they bought a copy of the tarot for four dollars (instead of the 25-30 it should cost) and wondering why it didn’t come with the printed guidebook, or why there are cards missing—and can I please fix it. No, no I can’t. It is incredibly discouraging to work so hard and then have that work stolen.

9. Do you have any upcoming projects you want to share with our readers?

I do! I am working on a new book with Llewellyn which will be out sometime early in 2022, I think. It is The Modern Eclectic Witch’s Book of Shadows, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. It is going to be in full color! I also have a new cozy mystery series coming out from Berkley, about a woman who buys a rundown animal rescue. It’s actually loosely based on the shelter I got my cats Diana and Harry Dresden from, and I’m planning to donate part of my sales to them when it comes out. (February 2021.) The first book is called Furbidden Fatality. There is a little black kitten in it that might remind you of someone you once knew.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

I always see you posting amazing pictures of the breakfasts you get at local restaurants. I’m a little jealous! Which breakfast is your favorite?

Here in Ballston Spa, NY we have A LOT of great places to eat, run by so many passionate people. There are many delicious breakfasts to be found, but the absolute BEST way we’ve been doing breakfast is ordering the Breakfast Fries from The Ribbon Café. Brace yourself, it is a pile of fries, covered in sausage gravy (using sausage that’s made in house), with bacon, ham, cheese, and topped with a fried egg. We get it to go. Then stop at Nomad Coffee and Crepes, where the owner roasts his own coffee beans. There I get their new Espresso Fizz, which is iced espresso, with elder flower tonic, orange, and orange bitters. The two go together so well, and I’m being socially responsible getting it all as take out!

About Deborah Blake:
Deborah Blake is the award-winning author of the Baba Yaga and Broken Rider paranormal romance series and the Veiled Magic urban fantasies from Berkley.

Deborah has also written The Goddess is in the Details, Everyday Witchcraft and numerous other books from Llewellyn, along with popular tarot and oracle decks. She has published articles in Llewellyn annuals, and her ongoing column, “Everyday Witchcraft” is featured in Witches & Pagans Magazine.

Deborah can be found online at Facebook, Twitter, her popular blog (Writing the Witchy Way), and www.deborahblakeauthor.com She lives in a 130 year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with various cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.

Fun fact, Deborah Blake LOVES doing a giveaways! So, she has agreed to send one of my readers in the United States a free copy of her new book, “Modern Witchcraft”! As usual, I’m using Rafflecopter. The giveaway is open until 07/12/2020 11:59 pm eastern.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

10 Questions with Danielle Dulsky

Today we’re talking with author Danielle Dulsky about her books, hags, self-isolating, and more!

1. Your latest book Seasons of Moon and Flame focuses on hags. How do you define a hag, and why did you use this term in your book?

The hag archetype embodies the wildest and most generatively destructive aspects of feminine intuition. She is self-sufficient, sovereign, and strange. She lives on the fringes of what is socially acceptable — much like the Witch.

2. Why do you think we have these words like “crone” and “hag” for women, but no real equivalent for men?

Simply put, because of the patriarchy. The word “hag” comes from the old English “hagge” which was rooted in the Germanic word “hexe” meaning Witch. The word “Witch” is still being reclaimed, but it is being reclaimed. The reclamation of the terms “hag” and “crone” may be moving more slowly because of ageism in our society. In my work, I usually use the term “sage” to describe the masculine counterpart to “crone,” and, yes, “sage” has positive and world-wise connotations ,while “crone” immediately evokes images of the feared solitary woman of the woods.

3. Your previous books are Woman Most Wild and The Holy Wild. Does Seasons of Moon and Flame build on those earlier works?

My first book, Woman Most Wild is an invitation to the Witch-curious to consider the path of the Witch. The Holy Wild is about honoring the reader’s story as holy, as well as an invitation to revision the stories of what history has called “shamed women.” Seasons of Moon and Flame is a deep-dive into storytelling and rituals for each of the 13 moon cycles — in essence, a year-long witchcraft apprenticeship in a book.

4. What inspired you to start writing?

Nature has always been my inspiration. I’ve written for as long as I can remember, and I have countless childhood memories of being outside, usually at my grandparents’ humble mountain cabin, sitting on a pile of slate, scribbling away.

5. I find your writing style inspirational. What author’s writing inspires you?

Thank you! I’m inspired by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Bayo Akomolafe, Adrienne Maree Brown, and John O’Donohue, among many others.

6. Your new book, Seasons of Moon and Flame has 25 mini hag lessons scattered throughout. What’s your favorite hag lesson?

It’s tough to choose! The lesson I am really feeling right now is “What is Wild Must Always Change.” Nature always adapts, and we are all being called to adapt to some very sudden shifts in the collective right now. But if we remember that we are creaturely, this transformation is exactly what we were born for. These shifts can be more like a homecoming instead of a source of fear.

7. You also started an online coven called “The Hag Ways Collective.” Can you explain what that is?

The Hag Ways Collective is the online coven through The Hag School. We get together virtually once a month for storytelling and spellwork. It’s a wonderful group, and I’m absolutely in love with the work we are doing together.

8. In the current climate of self-isolating, do you have any advice for readers looking to be spiritually in touch with nature without endangering their health or the health of others?

Good question! I believe this is a time of metamorphosis or cocooning. That being said, not everyone’s cocoon looks the same. Many people are working harder than ever, such as healthcare workers, teachers, manufacturers, and more. But, regardless of what the cocoon looks like, everyone is experiencing a time of transformation. We all will emerge from this experience transformed in some way, and so I am asking that we look to the caterpillar in the cocoon who melts into a soup of imaginal cells before becoming reborn anew. That imaginal soup is nature — a primordial sort of nature that is the very essence of transformation. So, even though the caterpillar might feel removed from the world and from nature while in metamorphosis, it is in fact, embodying nature itself.

9. What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with my readers?

Yes! I’m launching two new online collectives through The Hag School: “The Hive of the Holy Wild Flesh” which is a body-prayer and moving spell-work group, and the “Heathens-in-Business” which is sort of a support circle for healers, witches, shop-owners and anyone else who is feeling into this invitation to do our work differently. I also have the next round of my “Hag Ways Apprenticeship Program” launching right around the Summer Solstice in June 2020.

10. What is one question you have for The Magical Buffet?

What are you being invited toward in this moment of cocooning?

Honestly, between my day job, The Magical Buffet, and my health issues, I’m already a bit of a homebody. So, this doesn’t feel much like cocooning. Over course, this is just starting for me and New York. My feelings may change as time goes on.

About Danielle Dulsky:
Danielle Dulsky is a heathen visionary, pagan poet, and word-witch. The author of “Seasons of Moon and Flame”, “The Holy Wild”, and “Woman Most Wild”, she teaches internationally and has facilitated circles, communal spell-work, and seasonal rituals since 2007. She is the founder of The Hag School and believes in the emerging power of wild collectives, cunning witches, and rebellious artists in healing our ailing world. Find her online at www.DanielleDulsky.com.

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

10 Questions with Natasha Helvin

Today we’re talking with the fascinating author of “Slavic Witchcraft” and “Russian Black Magic”, Natasha Helvin.

1. From what I understand, you lived in Russia until you were 18 years-old. What brought you to the United States?
I was born in Czech Republic and was raised in what’s today called Ukraine, but for almost 15 years I lived on a beautiful Greek island, before I came to the States. What brought me here, is what everyone else, yourself included, unless you are 100% Native American than you are immigrant. Maybe not your generation, but your mother or grandmother or great grandmother, came for the same reason we all do: freedom, opportunities and to live “THE American dream” lol.

2. How did your upbringing inform your magical work?
Not sure if this is the right question… It doesn’t really express me…You see, for me magical work has no separation from my life. It’s the way of living. Not certain/ part time conjuring or on my free time. My magic starts from the second I wake up, to the second I fell asleep. My upbringing exactly, is the way I was raised, and being raised by family of witches meaning you don’t do magic work you live by magic. In my radio podcasts I explain a little more about that. Superstition some call it, other call it magic, I call it life, I don’t know any different. Is what we say witchcraft is my nature and nurture.

3. How do you think Russian witchcraft differs from other culture’s versions of witchcraft?
I don’t think is different. I don’t believe witchcraft has nationality. It’s funny… My books are called so for commercial purpose and based on my background, but I really really like to believe that witchcraft has no nationality or race. Folk magic, this is how we call conjure/witchcraft act. To set an example, and I mention that before on my podcasts, when I was child my mother taught me to use human skin (dry skin from wife foot), to make wife calm down her violent and “go around” husband. There is a specific recipe for it. So, 30 years later, I saw with my own eyes lady doing same recipe in Haiti! My mother didn’t do voodoo, she has no idea what that is, and she never see African men in her life, as well as we didn’t have TV until I was 11! So folk magic. Has no identity, no race, no nationality.

4. Do you find people have misconceptions about Russia’s magical practices?
There are people have misconception about anything and everything, it’s fine, totally natural for human race. Sapienti sat!

5. You had two books release in 2019, “Slavic Witchcraft: Old World Conjuring Spells & Folklore” and “Russian Black Magic: The Beliefs and Practices of Heretics and Blasphemers”. How do the books differ?
In my first book, I would say it more spells -handbook, I’m focusing more on historical part and folklore/beliefs, my second book is more about dark side of folk magic, opposite-Christianity practices. I explain how people reacted to violent Christian baptism of (Russia/Ukraine) and how they converted paganism into so called satanic/demonic worshipping.. But! Not be confused with Christian Satanism. And this is I explain in my second book.

6. You’re also a priestess in the Haitian Vodou tradition. How did that come about?
I explore many religions, traditions and beliefs. Haitian Vodou was closest to my nature, ancestor wise, and working with the dead. I do not agree with some of the dogmas but practical part and foundation is I would say about 95% same to my own beliefs and tradition.

7. Have you experienced any push back for being a Caucasian American woman practicing Haitian Vodou?
As I mention before, people have all kind of problems with other people, or things, it’s a human nature. But what else I’m proud of is that my family raised me the way I am! I don’t really care what someone thinks of me. And by that I mean I don’t care at all. If I was, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and be assured, witchcraft/ occult are not for people who listening and suffer from other people’s opinions, crying at home and trying to be liked by everyone. You should NOT “fit in any box.” You need to be strong, you need to be master of your Spirit, otherwise you are in the wrong place.

8. With so many witchcraft traditions, what advice would you give to someone trying to find a path to follow?
Everyone listen to their inner self. What they called by.. Everyone has their own path, but we all stand on our ancestor’s shoulders. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. They fought for us, they died at wars and battles to protect us, they suffer hunger and humiliation, to make sure we are here today, do not forget that every time you look in the mirror. Always honor your ancestors.

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects to share with my readers?
Yes, I’m working on my next book…it’s going to be more of a “biography” kind of book, called “Ancestral Witch: Being born into family of witches.”

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Thank you! – Natasha Helvin

About Natasha Helvin:
Born in the Soviet Union, Natasha Helvin is an occultist, hereditary witch, and priestess in the Haitian Vodou tradition, as well as an avid scholar of other magical traditions. She learned the ancient Slavic secrets of magic and healing from her family and, as a child, often saw her grandmother and mother use magic in their everyday lives to help neighbors and friends. A professional rootworker, spiritual coach, and author of “Slavic Witchcraft” and “Russian Black Magic” she lives in the Pacific Northwest. https://www.worldofconjuring.com/

Shop your local indie bookstore! Buy Russian Black Magic here!

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