Book Review: Imbolc by Carl F. Neal (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials Series)

Imbolc Llewellyn Sabbat EssentialsLlewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series contains eight small books, one for each Sabbat in the pagan Wheel of the Year. The author varies by Sabbat with no author having more than two books in the series. Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes, and Lore for Brigid’s Day was written by Carl F. Neal. Neal is not an author with whom I am familiar; researching him it appears that his area of expertise is incense.

The standard sections in the Sabbat Essentials books are: Old Ways, New Ways, Spells and Divination, Recipes and Crafts, Prayers and Invocations, Rituals of Celebration, Correspondences, and Further Reading. There is also a Series Introduction that is the same in all eight books, so I won’t review it aside from saying that it is worth reading over annually. It also has two really beautiful Wheel of the Year illustrations, one for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere, which is worth copying into your Book of Shadows.

The Old Ways section is as interesting as always, and contains a lot of helpful information about the history of the Sabbat. The section discusses what winter meant to people throughout history, and why that meaning makes Imbolc so important. Roman, Egyptian, Native American, and Asian traditions are discussed, as well as Celtic traditions and the goddess Brigid. The New Ways section discusses the difficulties of the Sabbat, and Brigid’s importance to Imbolc as well as modern paganism. Secular holidays are examined, and there is a brief examination of activities that can be done during the Imbolc season. Both of these section are quick overviews.

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Full Moon January 1st 2018 in Cancer

Moon Magick January 2018

January 2018’s Full Moon is on Monday, January 1st at 9:24 PM EST; this Full Moon ends the cycle that started on June 23rd 2017 with the New Moon in Cancer. The Moon moves into Cancer at 3:10 AM on Monday January 1st, and exits Cancer at 5:46 PM on Tuesday January 2nd. This information is also detailed in my January 2018 Cosmic Concerns post and as in list below.

January 2018 Full Cold Moon Timing

  • January 1st, Monday: Moon enters Cancer 3:10 AM, Full Moon at 9:24 PM
  • January 2nd, Tuesday: Moon void-of-course 5:46 PM
  • January 3rd, Wednesday: Moon enters Leo 2:23 AM

I recommend doing your Full Moon ritual on the evening of January 1st, after 9:24 PM is ideal, but any time during the day is fine. You can do your ritual any time on January 2nd before 5:46 PM as well. Regardless, to charge items, they should sit out on the night of the 1st. January’s Full Moon is also a Supermoon, which will provide an extra dose of energy to your magick.

My guide, Witch’s Guide to Full Moon Magick, can be found on the site here; this post is a companion to that guide. If you’re new to Moon magick that’s a great place to begin.

About January’s Full Moon

The two most common names for January’s Full Moon are the Cold Moon and the Wolf Moon. The name Cold Moon comes from January being one of the coldest times of the year; the name Wolf Moon is related since this is the time of winter when food is running low and wolves are growing hungry. Another name for the January Full Moon is the Moon After Yule, since the January Full Moon always occurs after the pagan holiday Yule, but before Imbolc, the next Sabbat on the pagan calendar. This Moon is occasionally called the Snow Moon, but that title usually refers to the February Full Moon. The message of this Moon is that we are in the heart of winter and must survive. This indicates a time of patience and hibernation.

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Simple Sage Spell for Eliminating Everyday Negativity

Simple Sage Smoke Spell

There was a time in my life when there was a lot going wrong; not anything that was significant on its own, but lots of little things that added up to a bigger picture. The ‘run of bad luck’ that magickal folks are always a little suspicious of, shall we say. I worked on protecting my home multiple ways, which worked very well, but I also needed to work on myself.

While I believe there is absolutely a time and place for healthy negativity, I found myself thinking negative thoughts almost constantly, dwelling on things long after they were resolved, and finding a lot of negative things being attracted to my life. Along with a serious energy cleaning and protection work on my home, I started using this daily sage spell, and it worked wonders. Eventually the odd ‘coincidences’ went away, and the run of ‘bad luck’ ended. I hope that you will find it helpful as well!

Simple Sage Spell for Eliminating Everyday Negativity

Supplies:

  • Cauldron or fire-proof container
  • Lighter or matches
  • Sage bundle or loose leaves

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Book Review: Yule by Susan Pesznecker (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials)

Yule by Susan PeszneckerLlewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series contains eight small books, one for each Sabbat in the pagan Wheel of the Year. The author varies by the Sabbat with no author having more than two books in the series. Yule: Rituals, Recipes, and Lore for the Winter Solstice was penned by Susan Pesznecker and is one of the best books in the Sabbat Essentials series.

The standard sections in the Sabbat Essentials books are: Old Ways, New Ways, Spells and Divination, Recipes and Crafts, Prayers and Invocations, Rituals of Celebration, Correspondences, and Further Reading. There is also a Series Introduction that is the same in all eight books, so I won’t review it aside from saying that it is worth reading over annually. It also has two really beautiful Wheel of the Year illustrations, one for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere, which is worth copying into your book of shadows immediately.

The Old Ways section is extremely interesting and has a lot of helpful information. The section covers the origin of December as a month, the Yule log, traditional festivals, the gift giving tradition, the solar new year, as much more. The New Ways section discusses basic activities, different traditions in their modern form, and details important correspondences and activities. This section also addresses the living vs. artificial tree debate that seems to be an inevitable part of the pagan household, as well as what to do when only one half of a couple is pagan. Happily enough, so many ‘Christmas’ traditions are actually pagan in origin that you can openly celebrate Yule and still stay in the ‘broom closet’ without a lot of effort.

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Full Moon December 3rd 2017 in Gemini

December 2017 Full Moon in Gemini

December’s Full Moon is on Sunday, December 3rd at 10:47 PM EST; this Full Moon ends the cycle that started on May 25th 2017 with the New Moon in Gemini. The Moon moves into Gemini at 4:21 PM on Saturday December 2nd, and exits Gemini at 2:13 PM on Monday December 4th. This information is also available in list form in my December 2017 Cosmic Concerns post.

Importantly, Mercury, which is Gemini’s ruling planet, goes Retrograde just before the Full Moon at 2:34 AM EST on Sunday the 3rd. Because of that, I recommend doing your Full Moon ritual on the evening of December 2nd after 4:21 PM. You can do your ritual any time on December 3rd if you choose, of course. Regardless, to charge items, they should sit out on the night of the 2nd. December’s Full Moon is also a Supermoon, so enjoy the extra close Moon time.

My guide, Witch’s Guide to Full Moon Magick, can be found on the site here; this post is a companion to that guide. If you’re new to Moon magick that’s a great place to begin.

About December’s Full Moon

There are many names for December’s Full Moon, but the most common is the Cold Moon and Long Nights Moon. Native Americans called it the Cold Moon for obvious reasons; the December Full Moon shines down on some chilly weather. Additionally, some Native American tribes called it the Long Nights Moon because it’s the time of the year when the night is the longest. For modern people, winter can be anywhere between somewhat inconvenient and quite enjoyable, but traditionally winter was a time of extreme danger through which survival was not guaranteed. The message of December’s Full Moon, grounded in this tradition, is that the winter has arrived and it must be endured.

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Book Review: Llewellyn’s 2017 Witches’ Companion

Llewellyn's 2017 Witches' CompanionAfter I enjoyed last year’s volume so much that I was looking forward to reading the 2017 installment of Llewellyn’s Witches’ Companion: An Almanac for Contemporary Living; apparently the reviewing part just took a little while. However, my goal was to get this review up before the end of the year, and I did, but expect a review of the 2018 edition much sooner next year. This is the 9th installment in the Witches’ Companion series, and it has a very lovely urban witchcraft themed cover illustration. Can we get a foldout poster? The Companion series is a set of interesting articles, ranging between 8 to 13 pages long, that take up debates and interesting issues in the pagan and witchcraft community, and explore them in a well-written and thoughtful way. Not all of the articles will resonate, but the wide variety of articles means that something will almost certainly interest you, and you might learn about something you have never considered before. It’s also diverse enough that an eclectic pagan witch, like myself, will feel welcome. Instead of speaking in endless generalities I’ve decided to give more information and specific reviews of my favorite articles, just like last year. They are reviewed in order of appearance in the book.

“The Dark Aspects of Bright-Siding” by Charlie Rainbow Wolf

This article discusses a concept known as ‘bright-siding’ ie: always looking on the bright side of things despite that facts that life isn’t always so sunny. This article addresses the many downsides of having a relentlessly positive attitude, including the ways that it can lead to failure. This article is definitely worth a read, and a lot of it can be applied to non-magickal folks. I am decidedly not a ‘look on the bright side’ kind of person, and it’s nice to see someone extolling the virtues of this view. Everything in moderation, though, of course. If you don’t like this article you can read “Good Vibe Badass” in this same annual instead for the positive side of positive thinking.

“The Dark Goddess as Initiator: Reading into Fairy Tale and Myth” by Jane Meredith

I absolutely love fairy tales and teach them in my classroom whenever I can, so this article resonated with me. It explores the way dark goddesses appear in myth and fairy tale, and offers a lens through which to re-interpret them, not as ‘bad women’, but as dark goddesses. The article sets up a much more interesting reading of these characters, not viewing the young princess as opposite the ‘bad’ queen, but seeing them as connected and existing on the same path. This was my favorite article in the collection.

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Book Review: Practical Protection Magick by Ellen Dugan

Practical Protection Magick by Ellen DuganI picked up Ellen Dugan’s book, Practical Protection Magick: Guarding & Reclaiming Your Power, over a year before I read it, then once I did read it, months passed before I wrote this review of it. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reviewing this book because my views of it are, on the whole, quite positive (you all know how critical I can be of witchcraft books), and I think it deserves a spot in the library of anyone who is interested in the subject of protection magick.

Practical Protection Magick was published by Llewellyn in 2011 and has kind of a ‘look how witchy I am’ style cover, which I hope won’t deter you from reading it. In the introduction Dugan explains that this book on protection magick and psychic self defense exists in the ‘middle ground’ between so-called white and black magick. A lot of purists don’t believe in protection/defense magick, while others don’t feel comfortable with this, shall we say, shadier side of the magickal path. That’s partially because, as Dugan points out, witches either like to consider themselves invulnerable, or pretend that no one in our community is sketchy (yeah, right). The book contains information, spells, and exercises divided into nine chapters that include four elemental-themed (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) chapters, amongst others. The level of this book is definitely intermediate, though there are things in here that both beginning and advanced witches should find helpful.

I really enjoyed Chapter 1: “Psychic Awareness and Witchery,” which includes a self-assessment to help one determine what their psychic strengths (and, by association, their weaknesses) are. The four types of psychic strengths analyzed are clairvoyance, clairaudience, empathy, and intuition. Most witches consider themselves to be one or more of these things, but having a survey to take and analyze was very helpful. The results that I got provided me with some interesting insights. The section that follows discusses strengths and weaknesses of each type, which I found extremely informative. Chapter 2: “Knowledge is Power (Air)” also begins with a self-reflection; a series of questions to help the reader understand their own magickal background. This is followed by an exploration of psychic attack, including how to notice it, symptoms of it, how to deal with it, and a section on different types of hauntings.

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15 Magickal Self-Care Ideas for Witches

Now that we’re in the dark half of the year, ’tis the season for self-care.

I was very intrigued when the concept of ‘self-care’ came to my attention; I teach all day, which I enjoy, but being around people left me feeling drained (classic introvert). At first I thought that self-care meant laying in bed or hiding in the dark for an entire day, so I did just that, but it didn’t help me feel recharged.

In reality, self-care is more empowering than giving in to your impulse to never move. Self-care means that you need to make yourself a priority and push yourself to take care of yourself. The guiding principle of self-care is, in other words, to do something that fills you back up rather than something that drains you. Below is my list of witchy self-care activities, some of which can be done at a moment’s notice, and others that need minimal magickal preparation.

1. Active Meditation – This is doing something that puts you ‘in the zone’ versus traditional, passive meditation (see #13 below). Active meditation can be anything from art projects to walking the dog, but if you lose yourself in it, then it’s active meditation. Active meditation means that you are lost in the moment, that you don’t feel time passing, and doing the activity that enables it can feel very rewarding.

2. Aromatherapy – I don’t know many witches who don’t have at least a few candles around, and filling your space with fragrance can really lighten a mood. I like seasonal smells since the weather doesn’t change much around here, but you can use any scents that help you feel positive emotions. For a magickal boost, use incense that has been charged or has a specific benefit (ie: lavender to calm). Carve sigils into the candles or write affirmations on them to focus their energy release as they burn.

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Full Moon November 4th 2017 in Taurus

November’s Full Moon is on Saturday, November 4th at 1:23 AM EST; this Full Moon ends the cycle that started on April 26th 2017 with the New Moon in Taurus. The Moon moves into Taurus at 5:46 AM on Friday November 3rd, and exits Taurus at 4:49 AM on Sunday November 5th. This information is also available in list form in my November 2017 Cosmic Concerns post.

I recommend doing your Full Moon ritual on November 3rd after 5:46 AM, or any time on November 4th to work with Taurus energy. To charge items, they should sit out on either the night of the 3rd (recommended) or the 4th if you wake up super early.

My guide, Witch’s Guide to Full Moon Magick, can be found on the site here; this post is a companion to that guide. If you’re new to Moon magick that’s a great place to begin.

About November’s Full Moon

There are many names for November’s Full Moon, but the two most common are the Beaver Moon and the Mourning Moon. The Native Americans call it the Beaver Moon either because it was the last chance to put out beaver traps before everything froze or because this was the time beavers were actively preparing for winter; they also called it the Frost or Frosty Moon. The November Full Moon is called the Mourning Moon in the Pagan tradition, which represents the death of the old god (as in elderly, not as in past) and the mourning is of him by the goddess. This can also represent Demeter mourning Persephone as she spends her time in the underworld, since this is the Full Moon after Samhain and the Day of the Dead, or the beginning of winter’s shorter days meaning the loss of precious sunlight. Regardless of what you call it, the meaning of the November Moon is that winter is imminent and we must finish preparing for it.

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A Witch’s Guide to New Moon Magick

This post is meant to be used as a companion to my New Moon posts. Additionally, I wrote a Witch’s Guide to Full Moon Magick post. Hopefully, with these posts combined, you’ll have the tools you need to conduct your esbats. Witchcraft is very personal, so pick and choose things that you like to do, test it out, change it, and find something that works for your Craft.

What is New Moon Magick?

A New Moon, in the literal sense, is the phase in the moon’s orbit around the Earth wherein the moon is ‘invisible’ to us here on the planet. This is because the Earth is blocking the light from the Sun from reflecting off of the Moon as it normally does. The moon will appear dark during the New Moon, which occurs every 28 days.

Magickally speaking, New Moons are used for setting intentions with a manifestation point at the next Full Moon which happens about two weeks later. Also, and way more importantly, there is a second, larger manifestation at the Full Moon that happens around six months (six lunations) later in the same sign. For example, if the New Moon is in Scorpio, there will be a Full Moon in two weeks in a different sign, and six months later there will be a Full Moon in Scorpio that completes the lunar cycle.

The New Moons is an opportunity to set intentions and put into action things that really matter, and that you truly feel are beneficial to you as a person. Also, since the cycle won’t be complete for six months, I believe it’s important to do a little divination as well.

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A Witch’s Guide to Full Moon Magick

I’ve been writing Full and New Moon rituals for witches for over a year, but I have also been wanting to change how I write them for just as long. A lot of Full Moon and New Moon rituals that I write have a lot of the same components to them and, because of that, I’ve decided to take the framework I use and make a basic Full Moon Esbat that can be used any time. Witchcraft is very personal, so pick and choose things that you like to do, test it out, change it, and find something that works for your Craft.

What is Full Moon Magick?

A Full Moon ends a lunar cycle that last roughly six months (aka lunations) long. A New Moon is the beginning of the lunar cycle and each New Moon occurs in a specific sign of the zodiac. Two weeks after that New Moon there is a Full Moon in a different sign, but six lunations (months) after that there is a Full Moon in the same sign as the original New Moon. That Full Moon is the end of that lunar cycle. While New Moons are used for setting intentions, Full Moon are manifestation points. Full Moons are an excellent time for cleansing, charging, reflection, and spell work, all of which will be explained in more detail below.

Be aware that a lot of people do Moon work without being witches at all. Ezzie Spencer’s Lunar Abundance practice has nothing to do with witchcraft and is closer to The Secret. This guide, and all of my Moon Magick posts, are based on my own practice of witchcraft; while they can probably be used by anyone, they are designed specifically for witches. Hopefully, this guide can be used by any denomination of witch, but if anything feels like I’m excluding anyone, please leave a comment and I will do my best to remedy it.

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Tanabata Star Festival 2017

It’s hard to believe that it’s Tanabata once again, the year has flown by. Also known as the Star Festival, Tanabata occurs on the evening of July 7th to celebrate the one night that the stars Vega and Altair can be together. In China this festival is called Qixi Festival or The Festival to Plead for Skills which is held on the seventh day of the seventh month. Traditionally this was determined using a Lunar calendar, but more recently it has been celebrated using the Solar calendar. My Tanabata spell in 2016 was the first spell that I posted online, so it’s a bit of an anniversary for me as well.

Tanabata Spell for Witches

In celebration of that anniversary, the Tanabata Wish Spell that I wrote last year has been completely updated. It has been rewritten in a style that makes it easy to put in your Book of Shadows or Grimoire.

Tanabata 2017 Google Doodle

Stories of Tanabata

Additionally, one of my coven traditions is to tell different versions of the same seasonal story for each sabbat. In that same spirit there are many versions of the folktale “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl” available; the moving story is the inspiration for Tanabata festivals in multiple cultures.

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Witchcraft Basics: How to Cleanse a Space

This guide covers a witchcraft basic: how to cleanse the energy in a space. I created this because a lot of witchcraft writers, myself included, will say “cleanse your space” as though everyone knows exactly what that means. The truth of the matter is that, when you’re a new witch, you have no idea what that looks like! Intermediate and advanced witches will likely not find this guide helpful, but there are a lot of witches who are just starting out who I hope will benefit.

This is my own advice based on my own experiences and practice of witchcraft. There are three basic types of cleansing magick that I cover here: smoke, smokeless, and tool cleansing. I recommend cleansing the home or living space once every lunar cycle on the Full Moon. Cleansing can also be used after a negative energy event, like a fight or illness, or just when you feel that the energy could use a scrub.

Smoke Cleansing

Smoke cleansing is typically referred to as ‘smudging’, though that term has fallen out of favor as it references a specific Native American ritual. That’s a whole debate, however, with some saying that anyone is welcome to smudge who respects to practice, and others saying no do not call it smudging ever. I like to err on the side of caution and call it ‘smoke cleansing’ to be respectful.

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How to Spot Fake Witches Who Just Want to Sell You Something

Every time witchcraft becomes popular (the 70s, the 90s, the 20-teens) there are people and companies who want to sell us something witch-themed. Necklaces, buttons, shoes, and even tube tops emblazoned with the word “witch” suddenly appear, and for the most part, it’s great. However, if you’re actually a witch, sorting out people who are also actually witches from people who never have (and never will) do magick can be rather difficult. I’ll buy my tube tops from anyone (note: I won’t buy tube tops at all for any reason), but magickal supplies I’m picky about. If I’m buying a spell candle, for example, I’d rather buy one from a fellow witch. This is because the energy of a magickal tool is important, I want to support my community, and a witch is going to know what a witch needs.

Additionally, around the same time the tube tops show up, tons of people will crop up to sell classes, pdf files on ‘the divine feminine’, coven memberships, bespoke tarot decks, or a myriad of other magickal (or vaguely magickal) things. Basically, when witchcraft is popular, people who aren’t witches will try to make money off of us, even if that means pretending to be one of us. I thought it would be helpful to post some tips on how to spot phony witches in the wild and, if you choose, refuse to support them. Disclaimer: I’m not saying that non-witches can’t make awesome witchy stuff, but there are a lot of people who are low-key pretending to be witches just to sell to us. That’s worth being skeptical of, in my opinion.

No Experience or Baby Witch Turned Expert

Some people try to sell us witchcraft decor or supplies when they themselves have no experience with witchcraft. The first type will have “Get your witch on!” emblazoning their website, or they may also start posts/social media blasts with “Hey, coven!” or “This goddess/priestess is wearing our new x, y, z,” or something equally pandering. The brand or marketing is ‘witchy’, but the person or people behind is not. The second type are people who may actually be practicing witches … of a year or two. Sharing baby witch opinions/growth/experience? Great. Claiming to be an expert and teacher when you’ve just started out? Nope. If someone is still learning, their advice can be quite bad, and will likely hurt more than it helps. If they’re pretending to be an expert when they have very little experience, you can bet they’re trying to make money, and will almost certainly disappear in a few years when the trend passes.

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Cosmic Concerns: June 2017

For all the cosmic witches out there, or just witches and pagans who are interested in what’s going on in the cosmos, here is a list of June 2017’s important astrological events. All times listed are in EST (Eastern Standard) and should be adjusted for your own time zone. Please note that this list is not even close to being exhaustive, but compiled by me to list events that would be of magickal importance. This information is great to copy into your Book of Shadows if you maintain one; I hope that you find it helpful.

Planetary Movement, June

4th: Mars enters Cancer 12:16 PM
6th: Venus enters Taurus 3:27 AM; Mercury enters Gemini 6:15 PM
9th: Jupiter direct in Libra 10:03 AM
16th: Neptune retrograde begins 7:09 AM
21st: Summer Solstice; Sun enters Cancer 12:24 AM; Mercury enters Cancer 5:57 AM

Moon Cycle, June

6th: Moon void-of-course 8:35 PM
7th: Moon enters Sagittarius 6:59 PM
9th: Full Moon in Sagittarius 9:10 AM
10th: Moon void-of-course 2:20 AM, enters Capricorn 7:36 AM
23rd: Moon void-of-course 2:45 PM, enters Cancer 6:07 PM, New Moon in Cancer 10:31 PM
25th: Moon void-of-course 2:44 PM, enters Leo 6:06 PM

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How to Make and Use Cascarilla Powder

Cascarilla (kas-kuh-ree-uh) is powered eggshell that can be used in a wide variety of spells and charms. It is especially useful cleansing and protection magick; however, don’t confuse it with the plant of the same name. This wonderfully useful substance is easy to make and use. In fact, it’s so easy to make at home that I don’t see any point in buying it from someone else, though plenty of places sell it. Chicken egg cascarilla is the most common, by far, but theoretically any egg could be used.

Cascarilla is made from eggshells, so it’s not vegan, but with a little effort you can easily make sure it’s cruelty free. Another reason that I simply will not buy cascarilla is that there’s no way to know how the eggs were obtained and how the chickens that created those eggs were treated. If a chicken is tormented in a factory farm, how could that misery not infuse its egg? What energy does that then transfer to your space or magickal workings?

How to Make Cascarilla Powder

Supplies:

  • Airtight bottle or container
  • Eggshells
  • Mortar and pestle

Directions:

Begin by removing the membrane from the egg shells. Place the eggshells into a mortar and grind with the pestle using circular motions in a sunwise (clockwise) direction. Continue to grind until the egg shells are the desired texture. Store in airtight bottle or container.

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New Moon May 25th 2017 in Gemini

May’s New Moon in Gemini occurs at 3:44 PM EST on Thursday the 25th, and you can do your New Moon ritual on either the night of Thursday the 25th or Friday the 26th at any time. I’m very happy that this New Moon has more time in which to observe it than some of the previous ones this year. The only hiccup is if you try to observe the New Moon early on Wednesday the 24th, the Moon will be void-of-course from 3:08 PM until 8:15 AM on Thursday the 25th when it enters Gemini.

The two week manifestation point for this New Moon is June 9th with the Full Moon in Sagittarius. Its six month Full Moon will happen on December 3rd 2017 with the Full Moon in Gemini.

My guide, Witch’s Guide to New Moon Magick, can be found on the site here; this post is a companion to that guide. If you’re new to Moon magick that’s a great place to begin.

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Simple Kitchen Witch Coffee Spell

Kitchen witchery is the art of infusing home life with magick. Generally speaking, kitchen witches concern themselves with their families’ lives and use magick to make the home more harmonious and prosperous.

This simple coffee spell can be done daily. I use this spell almost every day and it works wonders. It can also adjusted for tea if you’re British and make black tea every day like my gran did.

Supplies:

  • Coffee (or tea)
  • Cup
  • Milk (cow or plant)
  • Spoon
  • Sugar

Directions:

Pour the coffee or tea into the cup and say, “Coffee for energy.” Then add the sugar and say, “Sugar to make the day sweet.” Finally add the milk and say, “Milk for productivity.” Stir the coffee 9 times sunwise (clockwise) and say, “By the power of three times three, as I will so mote it be!” Drink the coffee and have a productive day. Note: You can also think the words instead of saying them, it works just as well.

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Book Review: Ostara by Kerri Connor (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials)

Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials Series contains eight small books, one for each Sabbat in the pagan wheel of the year. The author varies by the Sabbat with no author having more than two books in the series. Ostara: Rituals, Recipes & Lore of the Spring Equinox was penned by Kerri Connor; this is one of the strongest books in the Sabbat Essentials series.

The standard sections in the Sabbat Essentials books are: Old Ways, New Ways, Spells and Divination, Recipes and Crafts, Prayers and Invocations, Rituals of Celebration, Correspondences, and Further Reading. There is also a Series Introduction that is the same in all eight books, so I won’t review it aside from saying that it is worth reading over annually. It also has two really beautiful Wheel of the Year illustrations, one for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere, which is worth copying into your book of shadows immediately.

The Old Ways section in many books can feel rambling, but this one is brief and covers some interesting information. Ostara – the Vernal Equinox – was traditionally the New Year, even in cultures that didn’t celebrate Ostara. In fact, we are unsure who did celebrate Ostara at all, the holiday is one of the most pieced together of all the pagan sabbats and the one most open to debate. The New Ways section gives advice on activities for the Ostara season. Yes season, not just sabbat. This is so important and often ignored: the sabbats are seasons, six week long periods, not eight days spaced six weeks apart. Connor suggests day trips, egg activities, herb gathering, and gives a little history on the egg hunt. There are a lot of useful tidbits in these small sections.

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Book Review: The Witch’s Book of Shadows by Jason Mankey

The Witch's Book of Shadows by Jason Mankey Llewellyn’s Witch’s Tools series currently contains six small books, one for each of the major tools in witchcraft (wand, broom, mirror, athame, book of shadows, and cauldron) though I assume more are forthcoming (familiar, I hope, will be on the list). The author varies by the book with no author having more than two books in the series at the moment, similar to the Sabbat Essentials series. The Witch’s Book of Shadows: The Craft, Lore and Magick of the Witch’s Grimoire was written/compiled by Jason Mankey, who also wrote The Witch’s Athame. Unfortunately, I was not thrilled with Mankey’s book, and I think it was largely due to the author’s personal magickal path more than anything else.

Since the book series is presented as a general guide to major tools in witchcraft, I feel that it’s important to not have one particular path emphasized. In this book, the author adds in a lot of Christian information that I feel does not belong, talking about Jesus and angels frequently. Mankey himself started on a Christo-pagan path, but that certainly doesn’t mean it belongs in the book. The book is based heavily around Mankey’s own experiences, perhaps more than it is on research on the Book of Shadows and/or Grimoire tradition, and he uses more examples from his personal life than I feel is appropriate. In that same vein Mankey is Wiccan, and much of the book is influenced by Wicca due to that fact. There are many witches, myself included, who are not Wiccan at all. Since these are general guides, or at least are presented as such, it would be nice if it wasn’t so specific as to a certain path. Additionally, and this is a writing gripe, he breaks the third wall and talks about his editor’s suggestions, letting the reader know that he was forced to add things. It felt out of place, but clearly the editor had no issue with it, since the passages were published. Still, it felt odd.

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