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Book Review

There’s a lot of magickal self-defense books out there. Some are better than others but this book is my hands-down favorite. Jason Miller’s Protection and Reversal Magick: A Witch’s Defense Manual is exactly what it claims to be and more. While this may not be the best book for anyone who half-heartedly dabbles in the magickal arts, it’s a fantastic book for the more serious practitioner. Jason Miller himself is one of the occultists that I’m a huge fan of and whose work I deeply admire.

The book itself is heavily Hekate-centric, which I love. In fact, she’s essentially the main spirit worked with in this book. I particularly love that Jason doesn’t have a light understanding – or as is more common – a huge misunderstanding of Hekate. He focuses on her evolution as a more chthonic deity which occurred sometime around the 5th Century BCE, becoming one of the main spirits invoked in the Greek Magical Papyri and Curse Tablets around that time. Jason writes that “she has been identified as a goddess used in both defensive and offensive magick; a goddess both of darkness and of light. Her image, called a Hekataion, was once so prevalent as a defensive amulet that it was mentioned by Aristophanes in the Wasps as being on every door in Athens, thus making her an excellent choice as a protector. Her darker and more sinister aspects were often invoked by those seeking justice, and thus she makes an ideal goddess for reversing and counter-magick work.”

While Jason does have a great understanding of the importance of the historical Hekate throughout the ages, this doesn’t stop him from also providing some of his personal gnosis. He shares the name of four protective spirits related to Hekate that he personally received, each having the head of an animal sacred to her. These spirits are used as a protective guardian of each quarter. That being said, despite being personal unverified gnosis, they definitely come when called. I have found that these names, just as everything else in the book, work – and well at that.

Throughout the book Jason provides advice not only on protection but also on recognizing the symptoms of attack and creating early warning systems to alert you of magickal attacks. He provides methods of reversal, counter-attack, exorcism and healing. My favorite technique is “The Sphere of Hekas” which is an amazing Hekatean alternative to the more common LBRP techniques done by ceremonial magician traditions like the Golden Dawn, which is great for those like me who have a bit of a hard time or resistance connecting to the Hebrew and chanting his names. This book is not only one of my favorite books on “defense against the dark arts”, but is actually one of my favorite books in my whole library.

Harold Roth of Alchemy Works is pretty well known amongst serious magickal practitioners as THE expert when it comes to plants. Known for not only his wisdom of plant magick, but also his knowledge when it comes to planting, growing, taking care of and harvesting plants. When I heard he was writing a book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, because I knew it would be fantastic. As soon as you open the book you see the high praise of experts in the field of plant witchery such as Daniel Schulke, Christopher Penczak, Judika Illes, Ellen Evert Hopman, Jason Miller, Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold and more. So that should be the very first indication that this book is going to be amazing, if Harold Roth’s name didn’t already sell you.

The Witching Herbs: 13 Essential Plants and Herbs for Your Magical Garden definitely does not disappoint. His explanation of the Doctrine of Signature and plant correspondences is perhaps the clearest and best that I’ve ever come across. Harold provides expert advice from planting seeds to working with the plant spirits themselves. The 13 plants were chosen in honor of the thirteen full moons of the year. Harold provides the lore, history, uses, formulas and recipes for these thirteen plants. These particular plants have a long history in witchcraft and magick – poppy, clary sage, yarrow, rue, hyssop, vervain, mugwort, wormwood, thornapple, wild tobacco, henbane, belladonna and mandrake.

I would definitely read this book once through cover to cover before using it as a reference book, since some of the information on caring for plants builds on information given in a previous chapter regarding another plant. The writing style is clear, concise and easy to follow. The content is the perfect blend of down to earth practical and fascinating esotericism. While there are several books on witchcraft and plants, do not kid yourself, there is information in this book that you will absolutely not find in any other book. Any witch who works with plants needs this book in their library.

Julia Lawless’ The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils In Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health, and Well Being is a comprehensive resource on essential oil has completed an area of my library that I didn’t have information on. I approach this book as a magickal practitioner, and while there are many great books on the folk lore and magickal correspondences of plants and essential oil – this book takes a different approach – the aromatherapy and holistic healing of essential oils. While the book takes more of a medicinal and therapeutic approach she still adds enough to honor the folklore and traditions surrounding the history of these plants and their oils.

Full of old wood-cuts and illustrations that are always sure to win brownie points with me, the book begins with discussing the historical roots of essential oils – from ancient civilizations to alchemy to modern science to the birth of aromatherapy. One of the things I loved about this book was that it had therapeutic guidelines and safety precautions not mentioned in a lot of the books I’ve come across. A lot of people don’t realize how dangerous essential oils can be if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The book then dives into how essential oils work on various systems of the body including the skin, circulation, muscles, joints, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the genito-urinary and endocrine system, the immune system, the nervous system and the mind. The book also covers a whole chapter on various ways essential oils can be used in your life. There’s also a chapter on creating blends and a chapter discussing the chemistry of plants and how essential oils are extracted.

The encyclopedia portion of the book contains 204 common essential oils. The entries include the common name, scientific name, scientific family, synonyms, a general description, distribution, other species of the plant, herbal and folk tradition uses, actions, methods of extraction, characteristics, principal constituents, safety data, aromatherapy uses and other uses.

This is a greatly needed book on the relationship between the Goddess and America and a fascinating read. The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context edited by Trevor Greenfield is an anthology of various writers. The book is divided into four main parts; The Native Goddess, The Migrant Goddess, The Relational Goddess, and the Contemporary Goddess. The Native Goddess touches upon the influence matriarchal focused native tribes have had on modern goddess spirituality and feminism. The following chapters discuss the Goddess within Cherokee, Hopi and Mayan cultures.

The second part of the book, The Migrant Goddess, begins with tackling the topic of cultural appropriation – a great segway from the first part of the book discussing Native traditions. Thought-provoking and difficult questions and issues regarding cultural appropriation by those in Goddess Movements is presented and left as an open question, without any concrete answer. This is followed up with chapters discussing “imported” or “migrant” Goddesses that came from other non-American cultures such as Ireland, Africa, Creole Voodoo, Minoan and Hebrew traditions and how this has influenced the diversity of Goddess worship in modern day America. The third part of the book, The Relational Goddess discusses the Goddess in relation to very diverse areas of modern American spiritual life; Feminism, Modern Shamanistic Practices, Christianity, Psychology and Witchcraft.

The final section of the book, The Contemporary Goddess discusses how the Goddess has influenced pop culture – often through veiled guises. Next how Goddesses have changed since coming to America is discussed, examining different retellings of myths, reimagining attributes and reinterpretations of the Goddess as she made her way to America. The Goddess in relation to the Reclaiming Tradition with its focus on activism is discussed by a Reclaiming Witch. After that the importance of modern day priestesses is explored. Next up the Dark Goddesses and their relation to the goth sub-culture is examined. The book finishes with my favorite entry by Vivienne Moss, which creatively explores and honors nine women in American History who are revered in this as embodiments of different types of Goddess-hood, being likened almost to modern day saints and includes ways to honor their legacies today.

Review: Tarot For One

As a professional tarot reader I’m constantly reading books on the tarot and trying to expand and master my craft. That being said, I absolutely hate reading tarot for myself. I find it hard to get out of my own way and end up seeing what I want to see and ignoring what I don’t want to believe, instead of what I need to see. This is a common occurrence with tarot readers, we tend to be able to read other people easier than ourselves because we’re more invested in our own paths so there’s a natural bias. Courtney Weber’s Tarot For One: The Art of Reading for Yourself really helped me get past that. As an occult book worm one of the things that I appreciated about this book was how cleanly the layout of the book was organized, which is not always the case with books on the tarot. The book is illustrated with very clear line drawings of the Rider-Waite-Smith cards which makes it easy to observe what she’s discussing when talking about certain imagery within the cards.

Throughout the book she provides a more intuitive method to explore the cards that is seldom seen in books on the tarot adding more emphasis on your personal connection to the cards than their traditional meanings. One the subject of reading tarot for yourself there are very few books and fewer that are actually good. Tarot For One definitely stands out in this area. Courtney’s writing style is clear and easy to follow, providing a great intro for those completely new to the tarot while bringing enough to the table for the seasoned reader to bring their readings to the next level whether they’re reading for themselves or using the concepts and techniques to read for others. Full of anecdotes and examples, she clearly illustrates and translates her theory into practice for the reader. One of my favorite parts of the book was her touching upon one of the hardest aspects of a tarot reading, which is how to discern whether the cards are talking about you or someone else if that psychic insight isn’t popping out right away. While I will continue to get readings from others as I find other’s insight to be extremely valuable, I definitely feel that reading for myself has strengthened after reading this book.

Vivienne Moss’ Hekate: A Devotional is part grimoire, part poetry, part devotional and part spiritual diary. There are many published books on Hekate, most of them scholarly, academic or historical. This on the other hand is not that. The book is a time capsule containing mostly the relationship between Hekate and the author, a solitary hedge witch from Indiana. Sharing personal gnosis is a brave and vulnerable gift to the world, especially when it goes against what is established about a deity. Yet this book is not about fanciful reveries or made-up information, it is about the living spirit of Hekate in today’s age and much of it can be verified by the personal gnosis of other practitioners, even if it does not abide by history’s records.

Much of this book breaks the orthodoxy of the established history of Hekate, which is part of what I loved about this book. Humans often like to put things into nice and orderly boxes, including the gods themselves. However, if there’s one deity who defies dogma, orthodoxy and established rules it is most definitely Hekate. From fighting with the Olympians against her fellow Titans in the Titanomarchy to being the patron goddess of witches and outcast who defy conventional norms. She appears in extreme different forms and aspects throughout culture to culture and time period to time period. The vast spirit who is Hekate always challenges preconceived notions of who she is. She is not some relic of ancient history but rather a living spirit who shifts within history from Titan to Goddess to World Soul to Witch Queen.

I have found Hekate within this book, many of the experiences paralleling my own and many that were very different than mine. This includes many experiences that I have not read in any other book. While it is a small book at only 96 pages, the book itself is brim full of soul. It is completely evident to me as a devotee of Hekate that Vivienne is indeed in contact with Her. While an oddity amongst my other books on Hekate it is perhaps one of my favorites for this reason.