10 Questions with S. Elizabeth

Today we’re talking with S. Elizabeth, writer and curator extraordinaire of “The Art of the Occult” and “The Art of Darkness.”

1. I became familiar with you when your previous book “The Art of the Occult” released, and now you’re back with “The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic and Macabre.” Was it hard to convince your publisher that there was an audience for books discussing art?

I don’t think it took much convincing at at all, and as it happens, my editor is the one who pitched both ideas to me! She reached out to me originally in 2019 for The Art of the Occult, a book which she had the idea for, she just needed someone to write it! I am not sure how she happened upon me and I have never asked (I’m weirdly shy to ask such a thing!) but I imagine it’s because I have been writing about art and artists for well over a decade now, and many of these artists have esoteric or occult leanings. I have been privileged to work with the same editor at the same publisher over the past 3 years, and I think for the most part she really “gets” me. She’s the impetus for The Art of Darkness as well–she presented the idea to me! And this publisher, The Quarto Group, as far as I can tell, is very big on art and artists, that’s very much their thing, to publish inspiring niche-interest books are visually appealing, information rich, and stimulating.

2. What is your process for selecting art for these books? Do you need to seek permission to use works of art in your books?

I’ve been collecting art online for as long as I’ve been online…I’ve been keeping a sort of mental rolodex for the past 20 years! So for both books, I already had so many works in mind for each of the projects. What I did is I started with a wish list of hundreds of artists that I would like to include in the book, which I would then share with my editor, who would give me feedback. Feedback usually looked like “too illustrative or too comic book-y or cartoon-y “or what have you (those pieces absolutely have a place in the art world and in my heart, but they may have not been quite the right fit for the books, I get it, even if I might have been a little disappointed!) So I would whittle down my list and build it back up based on loads of research and my editor’s suggestions, and then when I had a good-sized list to look at, I would look it over with an eye toward building groupings of images based on themes. I didn’t want the chapters ordered chronologically, or in terms of art movements, I wanted something that felt much more interesting and imaginative. So after some thought, I structured The Art of Darkness into three parts, each broken down further into four chapters. So you’d have something like Part I: It’s All In Your Head, in which we would then have chapters about dreams and nightmares, psychological distress and whispers from the void. Further parts include The Human Condition, The World Around Us, and Visions from Beyond. I am really quite pleased with how it all pulled together!

AND YES ABSOLUTELY. Permission to use the artwork is a MUST and it is a PROCESS. Gathering the permissions nearly takes as long as writing the book. Some images are in the public domain, and some can be acquired from museums and galleries, but there is a lot of reaching out to individual artists that has to occur, as well. And I did a lot of that work myself…and it’s not exactly a straightforward process. Between tracking down contact information for the artist (if they are still alive, that is–otherwise, you might be dealing with galleries, estates, etc.) and actually finding them and receiving those permissions, you then have the concern of whether or not the artist can provide a high-enough resolution of the work, whether it fits with the layout of the book, and to backtrack a bit–whether or not the publisher even agrees that the images you’ve suggested will be appropriate for the overall project. In the course of this process of research and reaching out, which was never tedious, believe it or not–I love to track down elusive art and artists!– I got a lot of email bounce backs, and oftentimes even if the email appeared to go through, there were a handful of artists I never heard back from. Sometimes I did get a response and received a “no” right off the bat. Sometimes, too, this occurred after some back and forth between myself and the artist, and we arrived at the determination that maybe my book wasn’t a good fit for their artistic vision. And that’s OK! It really is. It’s not all going to work out, and you can’t always get everything you want, and after getting over a bit of initial frustration, I frequently came to the conclusion that it was probably for the best.

With regard to those artists who are no longer with us, sometimes I couldn’t track down an estate contact, and when I did I never heard back from them. If it was the publisher reaching out, sometimes they either couldn’t come to an agreement or they were perhaps unable to acquire a high enough resolution image that would work for this particular print medium.

I know that was a lot of not -terribly-interesting info and not everyone cares how the sausage is made, but that all brings me to a point that I cannot stress enough. There are always going to be readers or critics who say “oh, I can’t believe she forgot to include X/Y/Z artist!” All of that boring explanation I gave just now? Any one of those reasons could be why I was unable to include such-and-such or so-and-so. It’s so galling that people automatically presume that I (or anyone in this position) “forgot.” Okay, so I don’t want to end that thought on a negative note, but that’s just something that always burns my muffins. Ugh.

3. After “The Art of the Occult”, what made you decide that darkness would be a good theme to explore, and were your publishers like, “What?”

I believe what happened is that over the course of working with me on The Art of the Occult, my editor had seen a blog post of mine in which I wrote about where my fascination with horror/darkness grew from, and the idea for The Art of Darkness was born from that. She came to me with a mostly fully fleshed out pitch, we built it out a little and she took it to the marketing team, who, I am told, loved the idea. I don’t quite get how that end of it works, and I realize that most of the time, probably none of it works that way at all, so I got pretty lucky! Sometimes we’re just too close to a thing to even think about it as a viable idea that others might have an interest in, so I wonder if it it ever would have occurred to me to write such a book if it wasn’t suggested to me? Maybe …? Who knows! I am glad I don’t have to guess. I will share that at first they wanted to call it “The Art of the Macabre,” and to be honest I didn’t love that. I feel like you’re going into that knowing exactly what you’re going to get. The Art of Darkness, though? That’s a bit more nebulous, there’s some mystery there. I liked that, and I really pushed for it.

4. What is the importance of exploring dark themes in artwork?

Well, The Art of Darkness was conceived of at a time when “Good Vibes Only” was a big thing that influencers and wellness gurus were all espousing. And that really rubbed me the wrong way. We’ve since started talking about that attitude as “toxic positivity” and I was sort of thinking of this book as the antidote to aggressively good vibes. A way to sit in a safe space with unpleasant, distressing, things that don’t feel good, and maybe find something beautiful or meaningful there. Or at least give yourself the opportunity to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Ever since I learned as a child that we all at some point experience difficult and troubling feelings or behaviors or conditions, whether that be fright or fury, melancholy or misery, sadness or sickness, I have been fascinated by how we describe and communicate these things, these darker aspects of the human condition–especially as it relates to language and visuals, and in particular the way these things are depicted in art. We all experience darkness. We can’t avoid it, and I don’t think we should. When we dismiss negative emotions and respond to distress with false reassurances, we are neither dealing with reality as it is nor adequately readying ourselves for the random pains and struggles that life has in store for us. As humans, for our emotional wellbeing, we need to experience and embody the full spectrum of feelings and emotions. Shit happens. Pain is pain, feelings are feelings. And we need to feel them. I think art is one of the ways that we can experience some dark shit and feel those feelings in a space of your own choosing that feels controlled and safe. Granted I am not an artist, a therapist, or an art therapist. But this is how I feel as a human who experiences darkness, and I think the idea has a great deal of merit to it.

5. You frequently discuss the darkness that haunts many of the artists featured in your book. Do you feel the “tortured artist” archetype is too frequently held up as the way to successfully be creative?

I do feel like the romanticization or the fetishizing of the tortured artist is a harmful mindset. We have for the longest time perpetuated this myth implying that an artist must experience pain, physically or mentally, to produce great works of art, that “madness makes the artist.” That artists need to make something beautiful from their pain for it to have meaning. That they must find meaning in their pain at all. Personally, I think that’s horseshit. This is of course the opinion of a layperson. The relationship between art and mental illness/wellness is complex and I don’t know how much I can really comment on it, having exactly zero background or training in mental health …although I do come from a family where every member suffers either with some form of depression or struggles with substance abuse, myself included…so maybe on some level that gives me a tiny bit of insight? Personally speaking, do I lean into my depression and anxiety and self-destructive behavior, because that suffering enriches my writing, and the torment proliferates my creativity? Those who glorify such things would suggest that yes, it’s vital for my work. But you know what? Art is vital. Period. Full stop. We’ve earned the right to share our art because we’re alive and we made that art. We painted the canvas, sculpted the statue, wrote the book, did the thing, not because we’re fucked up in some kind of way, but despite it. That is success as I define it.

6. What are a few of your favorite pieces featured in “The Art of Darkness,” and why?

Oh GOSH. I love so many of them, so much! I’ve been interviewing artists for years and it was amazing to include many of them in these pages, artists whose work has captivated me from the moment I saw it, and over the time that I’ve known them, I’ve seen their work grow and evolve in the most fascinating ways, such as Becky Munich, Amy Earles, Caitlin McCormack. Death Positive artists such as Rebecca Reeves, Susan Jamison, and Paul Koudanaris, whose works spark empathy and awareness and that conversations about death and dying are a cornerstone of a healthy society. But my favorite pieces? Well. Here’s a thing about me. It’s true, while I live to revel in the velvet shadows of a moonlit midnight and seek spirits in every lonely, crumbling corner, it’s not like I’m a gloomy Gus about it. If you can’t laugh at what lies waiting in the hungry maw of darkness, if you can’t giggle with the ghosts, or cackle into the nothing of the abyss–well, that’s hardly living, you know? If I have somehow fooled people into thinking I’m all about mystery and melancholy, monsters and morbidity, okay, well, that’s all true, I am. But it’s more than balanced with a significant sense of silliness, an appreciation of the absurd, and an adoration of ridiculousness. My favorite emotion to express is “demented glee”! I mean, I’m really just a goofy weirdo, is what I am trying to say here.

So it would stand to reason that I have massive admiration for artists who can combine these sensibilities in their practice, and these works of the kooky and the macabre, often filled with sly, weird humor are some of my favorite canvases to gaze upon. Enter Ruth Marten and Charley Harper. AND the cherry on top is cover artist Alex Eckman-Lawn, whose work I have described thusly:

“Initially, I was torn, truly torn, when examining the painstaking collage work of Alex Eckman-Lawn. Deep, dense, full of doom and gloom and dark details, these surreal, lonely portraits, on one hand, called forth a sickening dread in the pit of my stomach and give my heart a little lurch. But on the other, and at the same time… they caused an involuntary, choking giggle. As if a shadowy horror had crawled its way from the void to the sanctity of my home, and after an agonizing wait whilst I cowered at the peephole, it gave a smart rap on the door and told me a knock-knock joke.

Perhaps it’s an odd take on things, but I once envisioned the above scenario, I saw these pieces through fresh eyes– and instead of a face-full of nightmarish chaos, they appeared wondrously playful, like a funny postcard from the midnight recesses of your soul, just when you need it most. Have a laugh, they seem to say, or here, have a kitten! Oh, hey, it’s just your dear old skull peeking out to say hello, that’s all, no worries! Little voids, the faces-within-your face, checking in on you from the inside, popping out to say, “hi!” and, “how’s it going?” and, “have you heard the one about…?”

7. Goya, Van Gogh, or Brom? (FYI, loved seeing Brom turn up in the book!)

Ok, this is maybe a controversial take, but while we absolutely need to learn from and honor all those that came before…I don’t believe dead artists need our support all that much, you know? So Brom’s macabre, majestic creations, for sure. Or maybe the choice out of these three is too easy because while I can certainly appreciate Goya and Van Gogh, they just don’t excite me the way a moody 16th century Dutch still life might or a lonely midnight mountaintop by a lesser-known artist would. Maybe I’m just a philistine, who knows. Or maybe you’d show me paintings of what I just described and I’d still choose Brom! I mean, I really love Brom.

8. What type of art do you have on display in your home?

It’s mostly contemporary, like I would say probably 99% of it. And I would say that it is also mostly artists that I know. Again, going back to that idea of supporting artists. I’d much rather give my money to someone alive and creating and making art right now, and even better if it is something that I’ve interacted with, rather than buying a reproduction online of some renowned piece of art that was painted by someone who lived and died a hundred years ago. Although I am not criticizing that! However one chooses to beautify their home is up to them and certainly none of my business. Except I will say that I always see this quote:

“People need art in their houses. They don’t need Bed Bath and Beyond dentist-office art. They need weird stuff.”

…and I’m like, really?? Who is out there buying Bed Bath and Beyond art??

As to what “type”…I guess you could say it’s all pretty dark. I l do like my witches and ghosts and eerie landscapes and spooky castles and creepy crawlies. I can think of only two exceptions; one is a giant print from the NYPL of a carte de visite of my creepy fashion icon, Maria Germanova and the other is a canvas that my mother in law painted for my husband and I when we got married. It’s weird and charming and I love it more than words can say.

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

I sure do! I just started a newsletter, where I share little treasuries of stuff that I like or that I’m up to/into; at the beginning of the summer I started my Patreon where I talk about perfume, which is another passion of mine, and I do have a YouTube channel where I talk about various nonsense, and I hope to be updating it regularly soon! The biggest thing, I guess is that I am currently working on a third book for the Art in the Margins series, and this one will have a focus on fantasy! It is scheduled for publishing in September of 2023.

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

Just one?! Argh! Ok, but I will make it a two-parter:

Dark art–who is your favorite artist? Above ground and below?

Above ground, a favorite of mine who have own many prints from is NeNe Thomas, who does fantasy illustrations. I wouldn’t describe much of her work as “dark”, but her artistic landscape is sometimes populated by desolate winterscapes and the occasional vampire or demon.

Below ground, Keith Haring. Again, not traditionally “dark”, however, people frequently forget that buried in his MASSIVE catalog of brightly colored, cartoon art, are pieces that reflect the pain and fear of the AIDs epidemic.

I also should mention, I’m a HUGE fan of artwork inspired by Dia de Muertos and Santa Muerte. LOVE IT!

About S. Elizabeth:
S.Elizabeth is a writer, curator, and frill-seeker. Her essays and interviews focusing on esoteric art have appeared in Haute Macabre, Coilhouse, Dirge Magazine, Death & The Maiden, and her occulture blog Unquiet Things, which intersects music, fashion, horror, perfume, and grief. She is the co-creator of The Occult Activity Book Vol. 1 and 2 and the author of The Art of the Occult (2020), The Art of Darkness (2022), and The Art of Fantasy (2023)

Get your own copy of “The Art of Darkness” 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.)

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 Liz Dean

Today we’re talking about all things tarot with Liz Dean, author of over 20 books focusing on tarot and spirituality and the new book “Tarot By Numbers: Learn the Codes that Unlock the Meaning of the Cards.”

1. What first drew you to tarot?

As a child, I was fascinated by portrayals of tarot and tarot readings on television – UK shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, with its opening credits showing a carousel of tarot cards, and of course Solitaire in the Bond film Live and Let Die. I loved the cards’ imagery without understanding them – so it was very much an intuitive pull for me.

2. Your latest book, “Tarot by Numbers” discusses using the number of the card as a jumping off point to doing a reading. When did you realize this was a viable way to use the tarot?

I began to experience number as symbol around ten years or so ago (I’ve been reading cards for almost 35 years); and more intensely, over the past three years. It then struck me that, in tarot teaching, this is a way for students to access the whole deck, rather than only relate the cards’ numbers to, say, timescales for future events. Numbers have particular energies, and like images, act as portals to other ways of seeing. Numbers make understanding tarot so accessible, because we all have an innate relationship with certain numbers (unlucky 13, lucky 7); that’s the starting point.

3. It seems like readers are continually finding new ways to use and/or interpret tarot cards. Do you think we’ll ever run out of tarot discoveries?

Tarot is always relevant to the times in which we live because the cards show archetypes that are a part of our human experience. We interpret these archetypes – the Fool, Empress (mother), Hermit (seeker, monk), for example, in the language of our times. So the potential is endless.

4. How do you feel about oracle decks and other non-tarot style decks?

I welcome all means of self-discovery. Often, I find that tarot students begin with oracle decks and progress to tarot. At times I work with both – pulling an oracle card at the end of a tarot reading can bring through a closing nugget of wisdom.

5. You’re British and reside in the U.K. Do you find there is a difference in the way Americans approach tarot compared to the British?

I don’t feel that there is a difference – only in pronunciation! (West coast, ‘ta-row’, East Coast, ‘tarot’). I do love the US tarot community – I’ve met so many passionate and erudite readers at Reader’s Studio in New York, the world’s largest tarot gathering.

6. What are a few of your favorite tarot decks, and why?

Of course, I love my Game of Thrones Tarot, which I co-created with artist Craig Coss. Then there’s Janine Worthington’s In Between Tarot; Modern Witch Tarot from Lisa Sterle, and the Rider Waite Smith.

7. What is your best advice to someone who wants to start learning how to read tarot?

Find a deck you love. You need to adore the colour, the imagery, and even the box artwork. Buy a deck you naturally want to touch. When you have the right deck, invest in a tarot journal. Begin reading for yourself and record your readings. You’ll get to see which cards recur for you and investigate them more deeply. Do a daily three-card reading; this builds a relationship between you and your cards. Take your time and try not to get overwhelmed with YouTube tutorials or too many tarot books.

And – when you read cards, resist the temptation to check the card’s meaning in the book. Instead, go with how the card makes you feel – look at the colour, the number, the symbols and landscapes: images stimulate imagination, intuition and creativity. Speak your impressions aloud when you’re on your own, as this energizes your reading. Tarot is a live practice, so read in the moment and don’t worry that you should know a card’s meaning. Take the Fool’s leap of faith!

8. Are there any misconceptions about tarot that you’d like to take a moment here to address?

First, Tarot has nothing to do with evil or negative ideas of the occult – the earliest cards date to the Renaissance and have Christian imagery (and these are the archetypes used in many decks today). Second, your future is not set. You have free will; tarot helps you see the influences around you, and how those influences might unfold given present circumstances. With this awareness, you become better placed to make decisions, understand relationships, communicate effectively and follow your passion.

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

Tarot by Numbers is my twenty-second book, so I’ll be having a lie down with a gin and tonic. But watch this space…

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

Have you ever seen a ghost?

Not yet.

About Liz Dean:
Liz Dean (London, England) is a professional tarot reader and Angelic Reiki™ Healer at Psychic Sisters in Selfridges, London. A best-selling tarot author, Liz had studied divination for over 20 years. Liz is the author of “The Golden Tarot” (over 300,000 sold worldwide), “The Ultimate Guide to Tarot”, “The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Spreads”, “The Victorian Steampunk Tarot”, “Fairy Tale Fortune Cards”, “44 Ways to Talk to Your Angels”, “The Tarot Companion”, “The Divination Handbook”, and “Tarot Made Simple”. Liz is also one of the “Tarot Masters” included in Kim Arnold’s eponymous collection of 38 essays. In addition, she is a former co-editor of the UK’s leading spiritual magazine, “Kindred Spirit” (2011–2013), and an award-winning poet. Find Liz online at https://lizdean.info/.

You can learn more here.

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.)

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 Mike Nevitt

Today we’re talking with Mike Nevitt about his life as a full-time yoga and meditation instructor and his adorable and humorous new book “The Lighter Side of Yoga.”

1. What first drew you to the practice of yoga?
Like so many others I was initially drawn to the practice of yoga as a way to control stress and find some mental balance and calm.

2. What made you decide to become a full-time teacher of yoga and meditation?
After a while of practicing I realised that I loved what it offered more and more, it became a lifestyle and eventually I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. My move towards becoming a full time teacher was a very natural and organic process. I didn’t take any formal teacher training, just shared with small groups what I had learned. The small groups became bigger and bigger and I just became a very well-known teacher in the UK. No one ever asked to see any formal qualifications.

3. Did you always have a sense of humor about the yoga/spiritual space, or was it something that developed with time and experience?
I have a deep respect for yoga and meditation and if anything I always took myself, and the practice a little too seriously. The sense of humour thing was something that developed gradually, especially as I became more and more disillusioned with trends that were occurring within the modern yoga scene. Even though the cartoons in the book can be seen as funny, each of them contains a statement that is more grounded in truth than humour.

4. What inspired you to start creating comics about the foibles of those who practice and teach yoga and meditation?
I think it was just a rising frustration and increasing dismay with the ‘yoga scene’ As I say in my introduction to the book I did a little scribble one day of a guy disturbing everyone in relaxation by answering a call on his phone. I posted it online and it got a huge positive response. To get such a large response from people identifying with the situation was like therapy. Inspired I did another scribble and that also got a large response. So began the process of pouring out all these little scribbles which ultimately turned into the book ‘The Lighter Side of Yoga’.

5. You have a few recurring characters in your comics. Do you have a personal favorite and why?
Cosmic Johnny is my favourite character, I love him, he’s me! He’s completely out there and crazy with ideas and contemplations!

6. How do you create your comics? Do you draw it freehand, use software, a combination of both?
I draw the initial cartoon as a freehand line drawing and then take it into some paint software to add colour and text.

7. Yoga and meditation with music or without? If with, what do you like for it?
Yoga sometimes with music, usually a relaxing background mantra. Meditation is always in silence for me, absolute contemplation of breathing in and breathing out and the ‘feeling’ of the present moment. Nothing else.

8. What do you find to be common misconception about yoga?
The classic ‘You have to be flexible to do yoga and the equally classic ‘I can’t do meditation, my mind is just too busy’

9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?
Yeah, a number of exciting new projects that I’m getting together to present to my publisher. First one is titled ‘A journey through Strange with Cosmic Johnny and Yogi Mike’ It’s basically me and Cosmic Johnny sharing our thoughts and contemplations about meditation, the mind, the universe, consciousness, time travel and the delights of a fine red wine. The second is titled ‘Running for the Swings’ which is a collection of magical memories from my childhood growing up in poverty on a harsh northern council estate in the UK.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Your page is amazing, why do you not have more followers?!
Obviously not everyone has such refined taste as yourself.

About Mike Nevitt:
Mike Nevitt has been a practitioner and full-time teacher of yoga and meditation for over 25 years and has led workshops and seminars worldwide. He was formerly a graphic designer and commercial artist working in advertising agencies and design studios in the UK. You can find him at The Lighter Side of Yoga on Facebook and you can find his book here.

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.)

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 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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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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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