Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf (Llewellyn’s Holiday Series)

Llewellyn’s Holidays Series was published in the late 90s and was eventually replaced by the Sabbat Essentials Series. The Holidays Series was what I had as a baby witch, and I decided to start collecting them about a year ago, partially out of nostalgia. While the information in many of them is outdated, there is still a lot of good information in them. In fact, some of the Holiday books are better than their modern Essential counterparts. One of the quirks of the series is that some books are titled the Christian or secular name of the holiday, which is a little odd. “Halloween: Customs, Recipes, and Spells” by Silver Ravenwolf is one of those, but the book, published in 1999, is about Samhain. It is still available on Llewellyn’s website here. A few other notable differences between this Holiday Series and the Sabbat Essentials Series are that the Holidays Series does not have uniform covers/spines or chapter structure, though they are of a uniform size, and that the Holiday Series books are much larger than the Essentials Series books.

Chapter 1 explores the historical origins of Halloween, but has sort of a gimmicky framework. While moving between locations and times the reader is on “Silver Flight 2000,” a sort of broomstick-airplane amalgam. It’s kind of cheesy to me, but I think a lot of other people would find it cute, and it’s only done in this section. Some of the historical Samhain information was interesting, but there were a few notable inaccuracies. The first is regarding “the burning times,” when millions of witches were allegedly killed. This is sort of a boogeyman in the pagan community, and has been debunked by historians, so Ravenwolf’s book shows its age by printing it. The next is that the original scarecrows were human sacrifices, which just rings false. It might not be, but a rudimentary Google search came up with nothing on the subject, and it seems like an unnecessarily gory footnote.

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Book Review: The History of Witchcraft by Lois Martin

The History of Witchcraft by Lois MartinOriginally published in 2002 as part of the Pocket Essentials series, I recently finished reading the 2016 edition of Lois Martin’s The History of Witchcraft. More appropriately, this book could be called A Brief History of Witchcraft Persecution by Christians Mostly in Europe and Great Britain. I believe it’s very important for modern witches to try and understand our history, and not only rely on pagan writers to inform us of our past. This is because writing history and writing spirituality are rather different pursuits. While I am extremely interested in learning about the history of witchcraft, this book is very much focused on people, who probably weren’t witches, being killed by Christians. The introduction – the first words of the book are “Harry Potter” – mentions that this is not a book about Wicca, and the author uses Wicca as synonymous with “modern pagan witchcraft,” which is mostly because the book is written by a historian. It’s not really an issue because the book focuses primarily on persecution.

One of the important things that modern witchcraft writers have not helped with is perpetuating the myth of ‘the burning times’ when millions of witches were alleged to have been killed. I’m also reading Silver Ravenwolf’s book Halloween right now, and she throws out that very same, inaccurate statistic. I believe that Martin’s book, and others like it, give more accurate counts because this was something of which the people involved were likely to keep track. Christian (lumping Catholics in here) ‘judges’ who sentences alleged witches to die were not ashamed, and records were usually kept of the charges, tortures, confessions, and punishments.

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Book Review: Llewellyn’s 2017 Magical Almanac

Llewellyn's 2017 Magical AlmanacLlewellyn’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.

Earth Magic

“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.

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Book Review: Llewellyn’s 2018 Witches’ Companion

Llewellyn's 2018 Witches' CompanionLlewellyn’s 2018 Witches Companion: An Almanac for Contemporary Living is the 10th installment in their Witches Companion Series, which started in 2008. Per usual I absolutely love the cover and want to have a backyard and then make that crescent moon flower bed. For those new to the series, “almanac” is a bit inaccurate, as the book is really just a set of short articles with a calendar in the back. My reviews of the 2016 and 2017 installments are on this site (click years to view). The articles range between six and twelve pages long with the average article being ten pages, very digestible if you are looking for a book to pick up and read casually. They’re divided into four sections: “Community Forum,” “Witchy Living,” “Witchcraft Essentials,” and “Magical Transformations.” The final section has a calendar from September 2017 through December 2018 that has the same information as Llewellyn’s Witches’ Calendar and Witches Datebook in a monthly grid format. Per my tradition I will be discussing my favorite articles below.

“Exonerating the Warlock: A Brief History and Revision of a Misunderstood Term” by Storm Faerywolf

I love linguistics and revision, so there was no way I was going to be able to resist this article. While ‘witch’ is a catch-all term with no gender, it can feel like there’s no term for witches who identify as men. In this article Faerywolf (I can’t with the name, I’m sorry) talks about how he identifies as a Warlock. The term, which means “oath breaker” is often not used or frowned upon, and the author argues for an attempt to reclaim it. I wasn’t completely won over, but I do admit that the umbrella term ‘witch’ doesn’t work for a lot of people, including my own partner.

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Book Review: The Magickal Family by Monica Crosson

The Magickal Family by Monica Crosson“The Magickal Family: Pagan Living in Harmony with Nature” by Monica Crosson was published in early October 2017. It caught my eye, but I didn’t read it for a new months because I assumed there wasn’t much that I would be able to get from it. We have a teenager who is magick-curious, but that’s it. However, my coven mate will be having a witchling soon, so I decided to get her this book for Yule. Of course, book nerd that I am, I couldn’t just wrap it without looking through it first, and before you know it I had read the whole thing. Even though this book does have a lot to do with raising Pagan children, an opportunity that our magickal household has missed out on, I still found myself getting a lot out of this book. It’s an excellent read, both informative and extremely engaging, and full of good ideas. While a lot of it works for families with witchlings, this book could also easily be used by adult witches without children, since there are a lot of ceremonies and magick for adult life events too (handfasting, recipes, cottage witchery).

The book is organized into two parts and has a total of fourteen chapters. Part 1: “Family Magick” has six chapters and is more general, while Part 2: “Family Sabbat Celebrations” covers the eight Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year.

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Guide to Llewellyn’s Pagan and Witchcraft Annuals

Ever since I was a baby witch, even before I worked the counter at a local metaphysical shop, I have been a Llewellyn fan. They’ve been publishing books for our magickal community for decades, and they have their annuals perfected. Even with new magickal publishing houses brings excellents texts to the market, you cannot get away from Llewellyn. There are quite a few annuals, too, so I thought it may be helpful if I listed them and explained their contents and uses to you all.

These annuals release in the summer, usually in very early July, but there’s often a sale in June on Amazon. This list covers Llewellyn’s witchcraft and paganism annuals, not their astrological ones, which may be a separate post at some point. They are listed in alphabetical order, and all covers open larger when clicked.

Llewellyn's 2017 Herbal Almanac Llewellyn's 2018 Herbal Almanac Llewellyn's 2019 Herbal Almanac

Herbal Almanac – The annual Herbal Almanac is perfect for green and kitchen witches, or anyone who is intrigued by our plant friends. It’s a series of articles written by various authors, but all of them are about plants and herbs. Topics include planting, gardening, cooking and home remedies, and poisonous plants. This annual has been published since 2000 and the covers are very clean and attractive. Unlike the other volumes here, many non-magickal folks read this annual.

Llewellyn's 2017 Magical Almanac Llewellyn's 2017 Magical Almanac Llewellyn's 2019 Magical Almanac

Magical Almanac: Practical Magic for Everyday Living – This annual, published since 1990, is organized in sections by element: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. It’s similar to the Witches’ Companion in that in contains a series of short articles, but they are paired with specific elements (though some don’t match their element as well as others do). The articles are not connected to specific dates, so, aside from the calendar section, it can be read any time. The calendar section, located in the middle of the book, covers Full Moons, New Moons, and holidays, both modern and traditional. The vibe of this book is different than the Companion in a lot of ways, and I would say that the Almanac is more pagan and practical with its emphasis on activities and education, whereas the Companion mostly deals with philosophical issues or current debates within the witchcraft community. I find that the Magical Almanac is a lot more accessible to newcomers, as well. The covers have always featured a magickal creature of some kind, and a best-of collection was published in 2015. A list of all Magical Almanacs is on Goodreads here.
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Weekly Witch Question #4: Man Witch

Welcome to week four of the Weekly Witch Question! This feature was inspired by a massive list of questions that my dad sent me about witchcraft. The phrasing of these questions were adjusted, if they were changed at all, for clarity.

Feel free to ask any questions about witchcraft that you may have, and, if the question inspires you, respond in your own magickal journal (a prompt can be found below). This week’s question addresses men in witchcraft.

4. Can a man be a witch?

Absolutely! Witchcraft is for everyone, regardless of gender identity, including if they reject gender altogether. Terminology is where it get a little sticky. The term ‘warlock’ which means “oath-breaker” was/can be used for witches who identify as male, but this is also considered to be a pejorative by some. This debate is taken up in the 2018 Witches’ Companion in the article “Exonerating the Warlock: A Brief History and Revision of a Misunderstood Term” by Storm Faerywolf. I’m not sure how Storm identifies, but for another perspective on the debate, that’s the article I recommend. This all seems simple enough, but things get complicated when we start to talk about gender.

Comme des Garcons Fall 2012

What is this? A witch.

Witch is a gender-neutral term and can be used by anyone who considers themselves to be a witch. However – and it’s a big however – the term “witch” is generally considered to be a ‘feminine’ term. Just like “purse” or “whore” the term “witch” is associated with women, and when indicating that it’s associated with a man, “man purse” and “man whore” enter the vernacular. (The title of this post is to poke fun at this, “man witch” it not a term anyone is using.) Since things that are coded as female are then devalued and read as ‘not masculine’, the association between witch and woman is problematic, specifically because it hurts recruitment. Many men interested in witchcraft end up instead in paganism (in general), Druidry, or Satanism rather than witchcraft. Even when pagan men work with magick they are hesitant to call themselves witches.

Looking at pop culture, for example, the most well known male witch in the world is probably Harry Potter, but within that story, male witches are called “wizards”. No magickal modern man that I know calls himself a “wizard,” or a “sorcerer” for that matter, since both of these terms are associated more with fantasy novels than magick. “Mage” has similar issues, as it evokes the feeling of choosing a character class in a fantasy video game.

So, while men are absolutely welcome in witchcraft, we have a real hurdle to get over when it comes to “witch/craft” and gender issues. If there are any magickal men out there reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

For your magick journal: What terms have you seen used for a man who is a witch? If you are are man and a witch, what do you call yourself? Do you think that the term “witch” is always going to be associated with women? How do you feel about that?

Image Credit

Comme des Garcons fashion via Vogue

Book Review: Brigid by Courtney Weber

Brigid by Courtney WeberBrigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess by Courtney Weber was published in 2015 by Weiser Books. I picked it up in 2016, but only got around to reading it recently. The book is divided into ten chapters ranging from about 15-30 pages each. I picked this book up off my shelf as Imbolc loomed large over the horizon. Having already read a couple of books on the Sabbat itself, I decided to learn more about the goddess associated with it: Brigid.

On the whole my feelings about this book are positive, but I did struggle to read it at points, and for multiple reasons. I found myself getting a little bored at parts, forgetting what I had just read, or letting my eyes flit around the page. I started out really enjoying the book, but early on, the author confides that the book is part of a ‘deal’ that she made with the goddess. Forgetting the deal and not holding up her end of the bargain, the author says that Brigid became cold and vengeful, culminating in the priestess doing Weber’s dedication hitting and berating her. Finally, a friend channels Brigid who, again, vengefully leaves the newly-pregnant woman with twins who resemble the goddess as punishment for the friend’s resistance. There’s something about 1) speaking the mystical aloud, and 2) this vengeful idea of Brigid, that cooled me on the book somewhat. I’m all for warrior goddess – all for them – but the idea of Brigid as petty and cruel over what amount to human error or misunderstandings just doesn’t resonate with me. Also, as witches and pagans we all have unusual mystical experiences, but when they’re stated aloud they lose something to me. I feel like the author’s personal stories about Brigid were a roadblock to me fully appreciating the book, and the research that went into it. All that being said, there’s quite a lot of good in the book as well, so let’s get to the content of the book itself.

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Weekly Witch Question #3: Witches in the Media

Welcome to the third installment of the (Bi)Weekly Witch Question! This feature was inspired by a massive list of questions that my dad sent me about witchcraft. The phrasing of these questions were adjusted, if they were changed at all, for clarity.

Feel free to ask any questions about witchcraft that you may have, and, if the question discussed here inspires you, respond in your own magickal journal (a prompt can be found at the bottom of the post). This week’s question addresses how witches are presented in popular culture, which, in turn, influences how non-magickal people view us.

Question 3: Are there really witches like the ones portrayed in popular media (e.g., Macbeth, Salem Witch Trials, Halloween, etc.)?

30 Rock Witch Undertones

The short answer is no, witches are not like the way we are portrayed in the popular imagination. To illustrate, I’m going to take a moment to address a few of the major ones and add a notable example to the list.

Macbeth: The Macbeth witches are based mostly on other people’s portrayals of witches from that time period; the 2018 Witches’ Companion published by Llewellyn actually has an article about them specifically. The witches three seem to be an adaptation of the three Fates (Greek) or the Norns (Norse) that rule over people’s lives.

Salem: The people who died in Salem weren’t witches at all. The Salem witchcraft trials were one of the last gasps of witchcraft persecution, a European import. There’s a trend at the moment to declare oneself a “descendant of Salem” aka a witch. I find this obnoxious for a few reasons: first, as stated, the people who died in Salem weren’t witches. The other is that I’m an actual descendant of Salem, specifically one of the ‘bad guys’, Cotton Mather. I really do have Salem in my blood; if you don’t, then please don’t buy a shirt pretending to be like me.

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Magickal Journal Ideas for February 2018

Magickal Journal Ideas for February 2018

Below I’ve have a list of topics to pack your magickal journal, grimoire, or book of shadows over the course of February. There are both prompts and correspondences below. Happy journaling!

Activities/Prompts

Imbolc Offerings: February 2nd is Imbolc, the pagan festival honoring Brigid that became the Christian holiday Candlemas. Consider making an offering to Brigid or adding information on Imbolc or Brigid to your grimoire. Offerings include candles and milk since Imbolc means “Ewe’s milk” or “of milk” in Gaelic. Journal about your offerings and, if you asked for something from Brigid, reflect on how it manifests.

Groundhog’s Day: February 2nd 2018 is both the pagan holiday Imbolc and the secular holiday Groundhog Day. One of my personal traditions is watching the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” either on the 2nd or the closest day that I’m alone. The tradition of this holiday has pagan origins, and the movie itself addresses karma and reincarnation as much as a popular movie possibly could. If you choose to watch it, reflect on its spiritual meaning in your magickal journal.

Lunar New Year: Often referred to as Chinese New Year (though China is not the only place that celebrates it), the Lunar New Year is the day after the New Moon in Pisces, the last sign of the zodiac. For 2018 the Lunar New Year is on February 16th which is a Year of the Dog. I posted ideas on how pagans can celebrate the Lunar New Year a while back, but some small things that can be done are wearing red, cleaning the house, and reflecting on the previous year. If you follow a lunar calendar, this New Year may feel more ‘natural’ than the solar one on January 1st.

Resolution Reflection: If you set New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the year, February is a natural point to reflect on them. Ask yourself what’s working and what isn’t, consider writing a revised list, or breaking larger goals down into monthly goals.

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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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Weekly Witch Question #2: Spells

Welcome to week two of the (Bi)Weekly Witch Question! This feature was inspired by a massive list of questions that my dad sent me about witchcraft. The phrasing of these questions were adjusted, if they were changed at all, for clarity. Feel free to ask any questions about witchcraft that you may have, and, if the question inspires you, respond in your own magickal journal. This question is another very common one that you will get asked after revealing that you’re a witch.

Question 2: Do witches cast spells? What sort of spells? Can they hurt people by casting spells? Is casting spells dangerous?

Yes, witches cast spells, but it would probably be more accurate to say that witches work with magick. Spells are of an almost infinite variety, but can truly be ‘for’ anything. Releasing negative energy, protection (both physical and non-physical), prosperity and abundance, love and self-love are some of the larger categories. However, it can be extremely specific: a spell to help you find your perfect home at the perfect price, a spell to make sure your baby is born safe and healthy, or a spell to ensure that a loved one recovers from a hospital stay are all spells that can be performed. There’s also weather magick, herbal magick, candle magick, and pretty much magick and witchcraft for every part of life including techno magick that uses technology. Other witches exclusively perform divination, so even though they don’t cast spells, they still work with magick.

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Weekly Witch Question #1: The Devil

I’m am very excited to introduce a new feature this week, the Weekly Witch Question! This feature was inspired by a massive list of questions that my dad sent me about witchcraft. This will be a regular feature this year, appearing every other Friday. The phrasing of these questions were adjusted, if they were changed at all, for clarity.

Feel free to ask any questions about witchcraft that you may have, too. You will also find a question for your magickal journal at the bottom. I absolutely promise you that, if and when you come out of the ‘broom closet’, this question will be one of the first you are asked.

Question 1: Do witches worship the Devil? Do they worship nature?

The Devil Mystic Mondays Tarot

Witches do not worship the Devil, though most people seem to think that we do. The easiest way to describe it is by explaining that witches don’t worship the Devil because the Devil is something that Christians made up; it has nothing to do with us. I would feel comfortable claiming that very few people worship the Christian Devil at all. Some pagans believe that the Christian Devil is based on the Great Horned God, who, with the Goddess, moves around the cyclic Wheel of the Year. He’s born again at Yule, which is akin to the Christian Christmas. However, that’s pagan, and not witchcraft.

While ‘pagan’ is an umbrella term for people who follow an Earth Based Belief System (EBBS) that usually involves the spark of ‘divinity’ in nature; witches do not all fall under this umbrella because not all witches are pagan. Witches don’t actually ‘worship’ anything because witchcraft isn’t a religion. Rather, it’s a practice, a Craft, something you do, rather than something you follow. The only witchcraft religion that is officially recognized by the government (at this time) is Wicca, and many witches and pagans are not Wiccan, myself included. This is potentially changing since there are many types of witches and none of us are afforded with religious protections that come with being an officially recognized religion. In other words, if you’re not a religion you can’t experience religious persecution or discrimination, but many of us do. So while witchcraft isn’t a religion, it gets into a gray area very quickly.

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Magickal Journal Ideas for January 2018

Magickal Journal Ideas for January 2018

Happy (almost) Solar New Year, everyone! Can we agree to call the first month of the year Plan-uary? Because I always seem to buy a new journal or planner right before the new year starts. Personally, I’m starting a BuJo this year (yes, I’m years behind on this), and I’m really excited. Below I’ve have a list of topics to pack your magickal journal, grimoire, or book of shadows over the course of January. There are both prompts and correspondences below.

Activities/Prompts

Planning Ahead: January is an excellent time to plan ahead. Even if you celebrate one of the many, many other ‘new year’ times on the calendar, the people around you will likely be observing a solar year in some form. Now is an excellent time to write down Full and New Moon dates, signs, and times; Sabbat days for the Wheel of the Year; or brainstorm a list of topics you would like to add to your magical journal over the course of 2018. This is also a great time to set up a magickal journal if you don’t already have one.

Release List: I enjoy a good gratitude list (aka my cat’s name and then a bunch of food I want to eat) just as much as the next person, but for the new solar year consider writing a list of things to release instead. What no longer serves you? What holds you back? Write them down and (try to) let them go. Burn the release list for an extra boost of GTFO.

Something New: Think of a new skill you’d like to add to your witchcraft repertoire. Have you always wanted to try a different type of scrying? Make your own oracle deck? Create charm bags? If you’re drawn to something that usually means you have a knack for it. Try out a new witchy skill and add the information to your magical journal.

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Yule by Dorothy Morrison (Llewellyn’s Holiday Series)

Yule a Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorthy MorrisonLlewellyn’s Holidays Series was published in the late 90s and was eventually replaced by the Sabbat Essentials Series. The Holidays Series was what I had as a baby witch, and I decided to start collecting them a while back. This was partially out of nostalgia and partially in the hopes of supplementing some of the weaker Sabbat Essentials books. “Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth” by Dorothy Morrison is the second book that I read in the Holiday Series, and it’s excellent. This book’s Sabbat Essentials counterpart is “Yule” by Susan Pesznecker, which is also great.

While the information in many of the Holiday books is outdated, there is still a lot of good information in them. In fact, some of the Holiday books are better than their more contemporary Essentials Series counterparts. One of the quirks of the Holiday series is that some books are titled the Christian or secular name of the holiday, which is a little odd. I think it was done so that you could read the books in public and/or give them to muggles, but it’s not consistent throughout the series. Thankfully “Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth” by Dorothy Morrison is not one of those.

Morrison’s “Yule” was first published in 2000 and I have a first edition, 11th printing from 2011. I absolutely love the cover, it’s so festive and pretty. A few more notable differences between the Holiday Series and the Sabbat Essentials Series are that the Holidays Series does not have consistent covers/spines (though they are all the same size), or a uniform chapter structure, and that the Holiday Series books are much larger in size than the Essentials Series books.

“Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth” is divided into four sections with a whopping twenty total chapters; in the interest of economy I will be review each of the four sections, rather than each sub-section, which would be tedious.

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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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Eight Yule Season Celebration Ideas

Yule Season Celebration Ideas

While Samhain is the New Year for Wiccans, Yule is the New Year in the Druid tradition. My partner is Druid, and the solar new year works well for me, so we celebrate Yule as the last Sabbat in the Wheel of the Year. Below you will find a list of ideas for solitaries, partners, covens, and witch families that I hope will add a little variety to your Yule celebrations. Remember that Yule is a six week long season, not just one day! Please feel free to post suggestions in the comments, and have a beautiful Yuletide, friends.

1. DIY Garlands: Decking the halls with garlands is a fun way to decorate for the Yule season without spending a lot of money. Garlands that are made with food items can be placed outside after Yule as offerings, as well as for animals. Outdoor food offerings in winter are just as important as outdoor water offerings are in summer (I’m looking at my fellow Floridian witches). Make garlands out of cranberries, popcorn, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Garlands made from fresh ingredients should be checked for mold, but shouldn’t attract critters unless you make a chocolate bonbon garland.

2. Enchanted Ornaments: There’s a craft that I’ve been wanting to do for years that I never get around to, and it’s making witchy ornaments. This year, it’s finally happening. Specifically, I got clear plastic ball ornaments (because I will drop them) and before our coven’s Yule ritual we are going to fill them with various herbs and crystals with specific correspondences. These would make awesome coven gifts, too, and could be tailored to the recipients by addings names, symbols, or sigils with paint markers. These fillable ornaments are widely available online, and are available in many sizes as well. My directions for this craft will be up on the website early next week, too.

3. Handmade Snow Globes: A fun Yule craft is making your own snow globes; this craft can be done with witchlings too, provided they are old enough and/or responsible enough. All you need are jars, fillers (small plastic toys, tumbled crystals, or anything that’s small and won’t dissolve in water), glitter or fake snow, aquarium glue or E6000, and water. Using waterproof glue, affix items to the inside of the lid of the jar – that will be the bottom of your snow globe – to form a scene, and let dry completely. Add glitter, fake snow, snowflake confetti, or whatever you want floating around, to the bottom of the jar, and fill partially with water. Test with the lid to see how much water your items displace, then glue the lid to the jar with waterproof glue and let dry. Once it’s dry, flip the jar over, and you have a beautiful, handmade snowglobe. You can even write the year on it and make it an annual tradition in your household.

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Magickal Journal Ideas for December 2017

Magickal Journal Ideas and Prompts for December 2017

I started this feature last month and it very helpful for my own writing. I am keeping it going this month because, to me, December is the perfect time to stay indoors and work on a project. Below I’ve have a list of topics to pack your magickal journal over the course of December. There are both prompts and correspondences below.

Activities/Prompts

Brag Letter: One of my favorite holiday traditions is the brag letter. A member of my own family sends one, and it’s always highly anticipated. The brag letter gets a bad reputation because we are supposed to be ‘humble’, but what’s wrong with being proud of our accomplishments? Consider writing a brag letter of your own in your magickal journal; there’s no need to send it if that makes you uncomfortable, just write it out. It can be as serious or as sarcastic as you want, and it might even surprise you.

Guided Meditation: December, for me, is a month of introspection. Consider a guided meditation; you can find one with the audio already recorded online, or you can use a written one and record yourself reading it. If you choose the latter, add the text of the guided meditation to your magickal journal, along with your reflection.

New Year’s Divination: The Yuletide season is the perfect time for divination, especially about the coming year. Record the results of your divination, and, if you have it, reflect on your divination from the previous Yule.

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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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My Current Magickal Book Wishlist

One of my proudest accomplishments of 2017 (the year’s not even over yet, but whatever) is that I started reading more. I’m a teacher, so I’m reading for work constantly, which means leisure reading takes a back seat whenever school is in session. Happily, I found a place for regular reading in my day-to-day life, at the gym of all places, and I’ve been steadily working my way through my magickal book shelves ever since.

This is essentially a Top 10 list of witchcraft and paganism books that I’d like to read before the end of next year. To be on the list it has to be on my Amazon wishlist and I have to not have a copy of it yet. You could use it as a guide to bulk up your own reading list/magickal library, and if you have read any of these, I would love to know what you think of them! They are organized alphabetically by book title; clicking on images opens the cover image larger, and book title links go to Amazon.

Ancient Ways by Pauline Campanelli

Ancient Ways: Reclaiming the Pagan Tradition by Pauline Campanelli (2014) – There are two Pauline Campanelli books on my wishlist, the other is Wheel of the Year: Living a Magical Life. This book is for the whole Wheel of the Year; most of the books I have are for one Sabbat, so I’m interested in adding another book to my shelves that covers the whole year.

The Hearth Witch's Compendium by Anna Franklin

The Hearth Witch’s Compendium: Magical and Natural Living for Every Day by Anna Franklin (2017) – I am always wanting to learn more about witchcraft, especially around the home, which is where I do the majority of my magickal work. This book is an assemblage of recipes, spells, and tips and it has excellent reviews. I leafed through it at the bookstore and it looks like a really good reference to have around.

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