Llewellyn’s 2017 Magical Almanac: Practical Magic for Everyday Living is one of the publisher’s annual offerings and contains a series of interesting articles geared toward pagans and witches. It is Llewellyn’s longest running annual and is similar to the Witches’ Companion, though it differs in some key ways.
The Almanac is divided into four sections: Earth Magic, Air Magic, Fire Magic, and Water Magic. In the center there is an Almanac Section that has information on Moon signs, Sabbats (Northern and Southern Hemisphere), and a calendar that contains Moon information and various festivals. The Elemental Magic sections are filled with 8-9 articles each with a total of 35 articles in this edition. Each article has a different author and are around 5-10 pages long apiece. There are many different kinds of articles, not all of which work for me, but there’s plenty to like. Below are my favorite articles from each section along with some information about them. At the bottom you will find some issues and concerns, along with my final recommendation.
“Luminous Labyrinths” by Natalie Zaman
This article discusses labyrinths, but also provides a lot of practical activities. There’s a guided visualization, a May Day labyrinth, and a tabletop version, all of which look intriguing. If you’re looking for something a little different to add to your coven’s celebrations, there are a lot of ideas here.
“Ten Essential Herbs” by Deborah Blake
Just a continuation of my Deborah Blake obsession; seriously, though, she pretty much always writes excellent articles. Frankly, the longer you’re a witch, the simpler your craft tends to get, so Blake’s list of essential herbs and their uses is very helpful. Many herbs have multiple purposes, and a lot of these are ‘catch-alls’ that can be found in any kitchen. All of them are affordable, as well, which is always a plus.
Honorable Mention: “From Care to Karma” by Hannah E. Johnston whose food blessing we used for our Thanksgiving.
“Fairy Roads” by Suzanne Ress
I really enjoyed this article, in part because the personal examples of fairy roads help me picture what the author was talking about. This article includes folklore of the fairy roads, including origins and beliefs, and reminds the reader about the history of our land that we often take for granted. There is a certain pull or tug that you feel along certain paths, and this article was quite captivating for me to read.
“Good Advice or Static Law? When Magical Knowledge is Passed Down” by Michael Furie
As many witches move toward a more self-guided ethics system, this article is an important reminder that many of the ‘laws’ of witchcraft are not really set in stone. Furie specifically addresses the threefold law, the Wiccan rede (harm none), and sunwise movement. I believe the threefold law and harm none really affect the way witches work, even the ones who aren’t Wiccan, because many of us were brought up in a culture of fear. Furie looks at the history of these rules and clarifies their meaning; a very good read for people who are worried about breaking the ‘rules’ of witchcraft.
“Wicca Your Way: The Eclectic Path” by Autumn Damiana
This article is less about Wicca and more about following an eclectic path, which I do, and you don’t need to be Wiccan to get something out of it. The author interviewed several friends of different eclectic paths and compiled their responses in this article. It covers types of eclectics, mixing pantheons, ethics, and, my current area of interest, cultural appropriation. It also addresses the issue of ‘Christian witches’ in a way that I think it interesting because I’ve never really been able to put my thoughts into words.
“The Astrological Elements of Tarot: Sun Sign Readings for All” by Sally Cragin
I am ever trying to expand my tarot knowledge, and this article was very helpful for linking the Sun signs of the zodiac to the tarot suits. I knew this already, of course, but Cragin gives specific spreads and ideas for exploring the tarot that play to each sign’s strengths, which I found very interesting.
Issues and Concerns
Much like last year, I had a few issues with a couple of articles. Multiple article refers to “shamans,” “dream catchers,” “spirit animals,” “totems,” and other Native American traditions, but the authors of those articles are not Native American. This whole “white people appropriating other cultures under the guise of paganism” thing has to stop, it’s a huge issue, and we are alienating people. This is especially true when it’s American witches taking from Native American traditions, whom white people in America mercilessly tried (and still try) to exterminate. I don’t care how much you want to call something your “spirit animal” or how bad you can to call your sage bundle a “smudge stick,” use “animal guides” and “smoke cleansing” instead. It’s better to err on the side of being too respectful, in my opinion.
The other article that bothered me was about going “skyclad” aka “doing magick naked so that we can never be accepted into the mainstream.” Please stop forcing your hippie nonsense on us when we live in a rape culture. Maybe if pedophiles didn’t invite me and my friends, when we were sixteen year old witches, to do a “skyclad” ritual with them I’d believe there was something to this. “It’s not sexual,” someone will surely say, please. Gardner was a nudist (per the article), this isn’t a religious thing but an invention of his, and it scares normal people; please stop forcing it on people, it is keeping them out of witchcraft. I literally know people who stopped being witches because they could only find skyclad Wiccan covens.
Okay, so no one can tell you how to be a witch or pagan, I get that, I do, but we’re trying to help people become witches, not scare them off forever, right?
In the end, however, I am always happy to read the 2017 Magical Almanac. It makes me think more deeply about my own beliefs, even if that means railing against people with whom I disagree (see above). I would recommend this book to more seasoned witches and pagans who are looking to go deeper into their Craft, but not new witches, who it might alienate. I hope this review was helpful and blessed be!