Book Review: Rise Sister Rise

I picked up Rise Sister Rise: A Guide to Unleashing the Wise, Wild Woman Within by Rebecca Campbell at a Barnes and Noble about three months ago.  I was looking for a book on women’s spirituality from a broader perspective. Something a bit more mulitfaith or from a non religious standpoint.  I was attempting to get myself out of my spiritual comfort zone of standard Pagan, Wiccan, witchcraft and magic books and manuals.41cRIs-0anL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

What I found was a book that was so much more.   Continue reading

Book Review: The Witches’ Almanac Issue 35

I am a sucker for a good almanac.  They are such a trove of information and insight and are one of the most valuable resources for newbies and seasoned Pagans alike.  This year I obtained a copy of The Witches’ Almanac Issue 35, Air: The Breath of Life.

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Source: http://www.amazon.com/Witches-Almanac-Issue-Spring-2016/dp/188109832X

The actual almanac itself starts at the Spring Equinox, the beginning of the astrological new year. Continue reading

Book Review: To Walk the Pagan Path

To Walk the Pagan Path: Practical Spirituality for Everyday Life by Alaric Albertsson provides a comprehensive look at the Pagan religion and lifestyle.  The topics it explores is extensive: daily devotionals, familiar relationships, sacred gardening, home crafts, and the Wheel of the Year.  Along the way Albertsson, who come from an Anglo-Saxon tradition, shares his methodology for living his spirituality deeply and fully. Continue reading

Review: Everyday Magic

The Everyday series by Dorothy Morrison is an iconic set of grimoires in the Craft canon.  While this tome is the most general of the works, the other three deal with solar, lunar, and tarot magic.

When opening this book one of my first impression is how modern it is.  Flipping through it casually one comes across spells for computer problems and plane travel.  It is refreshing to encounter a wide variety of issues some of which are part of everyday life.  Morrison also advocates for the use of modern technology as magical tools.  She makes the argument that a mortar and pestle were once the height of advancement, so why shouldn’t witches adapt to current tools?

Another element is the opening chapters, which discuss spellcasting theory, correspondences, and symbols.  She discusses the role of the moon, sun, days of the week, colors, common plants, and gemstones in magical work.  However Morrison shines when talking about the role of magic and the variety of theories surrounding the art.  One poignant point about if witchcraft should be avoided due to its nature to cause a ripple effect comes down to intention.  “We need to be absolutely certain of what we want before beginning any magical work and very specific in our requests of the Cosmos when we set a spell in motion” (76 Morrison).  She presents a strong consideration of any concerns a witch may have.

Morrison makes the point that she tested the spells in the book, so to give credit to her work I did a few.  I won’t tell you which ones, but they were simple to follow and worked exceedingly well.  While I don’t think a novice witch should try some of them, there are workings for a wide variety of skills.

Overall this book is essential to a witch’s arsenal.  Well done, Ms. Morrison.

© Ariadne Woods

Review: Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery

If you will pardon the joke, the word I would use to describe Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery: Everyday Magic, Spells, and Recipes is enchanting.  By Kris Bradley, creator of the blog Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, it is a comprehensive guide that discusses everything from herb lore to simple sabat worship.

Its fifth section, “The Domestic Witch’s Herbal,” is the best I’ve found outside of Cunningham’s famous tome.  The focus is on herbs, vegetables, fruits, and other food products that are not just in the witch’s cabinet, but also in every pantry.  Every entry gives a little bit of lore spanning Greek mythology (beans) to astronauts (peanuts) as well as all appropriate correspondences and uses.  Even if you’re not a house witch yet love to cook or to work with herbs, this book is something worth picking up.

The book also goes through the various rooms of the house and outlines rituals and types of workings for all these spaces.  Mind you, not all homes have all these places (for example my landlord would be pissed if I put an altar in my building’s laundry) and some homes have extra rooms not covered in this book.  But the basics–kitchen, living room, bedrooms–are all discussed with great ideas on how to incorporate magical elements into everyday tasks.

When it comes to sabats, Ms. Bradley has you covered.  She gives an outline for one personal five-minute ritual and one with the family.  The one drawback of this book is that this book is geared to family life, yet doesn’t discuss kids and ritual or sabat activities and kids.  Of course there are wonderful books (Circle Round by Starhawk et al.) and vlogs (CharmingPixieFlora the early years, 2009-10) that cover this topic, but this is one discussion that is missed from this book.

Overall I would recommend this book to several categories of people.  For hedge and house witches, this is a must have.  Also, herb people and cooks should pick it up for the herbal.  Depending on personal practice, I’d also recommend it for busy Pagan parents.

© Ariadne Woods

Review: The Real Witches’ Book of Spells and Rituals

The Real Witches’ Book of Spells and Rituals by Kate West is a delightful read for the experienced practitioner.  The author is funny and down-to-earth.  I felt like through most of the book I was having a conversation with a friend.

The type of Witch I would recommend this book is someone who has perhaps been practicing for a while and needs a refresher.  West spends a lot of time describing ritual structure and outlining the differences between a Rite and a Ritual.  For someone experienced in the Craft it is refreshing to see her perspective. I would also recommend this book to a blossoming coven looking to write their rituals.

The two sections I thought were the most useful for my practice are the ones discussing the creation and examples of spellcraft.  West poses a series of questions a Witch should think through before performing a spell.  This practice broadens the understanding of a ritual or a spell, and therefore makes practices more effective and meaningful.

For a solitary, the rituals in this edition are generally coven-oriented.  While interesting to read, it also subverts the usefulness of the examples.

Overall, this book is a useful guide to creating ritual and spellcraft practice.

© Ariadne Woods

Review: The Good Spell Book

With the recommendation of a friend, I began reading The Good Spell Book: Love Charms, Magical Cures, and Other Practical Sorcery by Gillian Kemp as a window into the world of Romany magic.  Kemp operates under the premise that she knows what she knows because of her relationship with the Romany people.  There is no work cited or bibliography.  As a person who does frequent academic research, this claim is a bit of a red flag.  If I were writing a book on behalf of a people, I would do as much research as possible, even if it was entirely oral tradition and credit the people by name, pseudonym if needed.  While I am willing to go along with Kemp’s claim, I urge readers to keep this in mind while reading the book.

As a frequent spell caster, I appreciate the comprehensive structure of the book under the headings of love, health, wealth, and happiness.  If I were to use it as a guide for workings,  I wouldn’t have to dig around the book to find what I wanted.  The one thing about the structure I thought was a bad choice is the author inserts “handwritten” spells that do not necessarily have anything to do with the amain spell on the page.  It’s distracting.  I know the supposed-feel of the book is a tome written by an ancient people, but the author also makes it clear that she is not Romany and is writing from an outsider standpoint.  I like the added wisdom, but I think I would have put the add-ins in their own section.

As for the spells themselves, I do not feel all of them are created equally.  The anointing oil recipes contained in the book seem harmonious and absolutely lovely.  I plan to note them before I return the book.  A lot of the spells utilize elemental principles effectively, such as earth spells for long-term problems.  However, the variety of spells is lacking.  For example, many of the love spells are variations on apple spells, which is fine except I live in an apartment complex and only have so much room for burying apples. I feel it may have been prudent for the author to adapt some of the spells for modern life.  Also, the spell ingredients are also easy to find.  Although to Kemp’s credit, perhaps she did in terms of accessibility of materials.  I like the idea that I could find everything I need in a grocery store.  It’s refreshing.

Bottom line: it’s a good read for the experienced spell-caster.  While the information seems a bit like personal gnosis, I would use these spells in congress with personal knowledge and judgment.

© Ariadne Woods