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 While the information in many of them is outdated, there is still a lot of good information in them.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: 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 #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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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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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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Dia de los Muertos for Witches and Pagans

My birthday happens to fall on Dia de los Muertos, which has invited many sugar skull themed items into my house, but I’ve never explored the holiday in much detail. Last year, when I told someone my birthday was on the Day of the Dead, they said, “Oh, November 1st?” I didn’t answer, but thought it was odd.

I did a little research and found out that Dia de los Muertos is, as I has assumed my whole life, November 2nd, but that it was a holiday to honor deceased adults. However, November 1st is also a holiday, Dia de los Inocentes (aka “Day of the Innocents”) designed to honor dead children and infants (angelitos). Traditional gravesite visits are reserved for the 2nd, though the spirits of the infants and children are given 24 hours to return to their families, starting at midnight on October 31st. Decorating family altars is common during this time, and I added photos of both of my grandmothers to our altar on Samhain last year.

Below is a list of Dia correspondences that you can add to your magickal journal, and below that is a list of suggested Dia activities that you can participate in.

Some Dia Correspondences

– Altars (ofrendas, family and public)
– Cleaning and Decorating Graves
– Epitaphs (written for yourself or friends)
– Food (nuts, fruit, or the deceased’s favorite meal)
– La Calavera Catrina (circa 1910)
– Marigolds (the flower of the dead, thought to attract souls to the offerings)
– Pan de Muerto (special bread)
– Sugar Skulls (made only as offerings, not for consumption by the living)
– Water (or alcohol, for the adult departed)

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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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Eight Beltane Season Celebration Ideas

The Beltane season is upon us! Whether you celebrate on May Day Eve (April 30th) or May Day (May 1st) the light half of the year has officially begun. Beltane is generally treated as a fertility festival with a heavy emphasis on sexuality. That’s not my interest in this Sabbat, however. In fact, fertility in the traditional sense is about the last thing that this Pagan couple wants. Additionally, I wanted to come up with a list that works for families with kids and LGBTQ folks who (must) feel excluded from traditionally hetero/Wiccan celebrations, especially Beltane. Witchcraft and paganism is for everyone folks, not just heterosexuals. I know a lot of people celebrate Beltane without the kids, as well, but we try to include them in some type of seasonal activity for every Sabbat.

Regardless of how you choose to observe the Sabbats, below are eight ideas for Beltane celebrations to add to your seasonal activities, be they solitary, in pairs, with kids, in a coven, or conducted from inside the “broom closet.” Remember that Beltane is a season and not just one day; these activities can be done any time in the six weeks between Beltane and Midsummer.

1. Ancestor Work: When you think of ancestor work you are probably going to think of Samhain. However, in the southern hemisphere, Beltane is Samhain. The veil is just as thin on Beltane as it is on Samhain, and each kicks off their respective halves of the year (Beltane for light and Samhain for dark). Because of this you can still communicate with the departed, ask for their blessing, or give them an offering. It’s a nice time to check in and update your ancestors on how you’ve been doing over the last six months. One way to do this is to write them a letter, address the envelope with their name(s), and then burn it in your cauldron or a fire safe container. Offerings to the deceased are traditionally burned as burning items releases it into the ether.

2. Aromatherapy: When you live in a place where the seasons don’t change much, using seasonal fragrances can make it feel like the Wheel of the Year is still turning. We aren’t super strict about it, but generally lavender is a spring/Imbolc scent whereas patchouli is used in the fall/Samhain season. Some suggested scents for Beltane include gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine, lilac, lily, rose, and any other floral that you enjoy.

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Numerology: Limping Through 2017

In December I posted about why 2016 was such a rough year and specifically used Numerology to explain it. I said, in short,  that 2016 was so rough for so many because it was a Year 9. What I didn’t write about was that, even though Year 1’s have the possibility to be better … they aren’t always so great at first. There are two potential reasons. One is because the trials of 9 only reward those who let go of what they were supposed to. The other hiccup is that sowing the seeds for the upcoming nine year cycle is hard work at a time when many of us are not yet ready for it. Especially if the necessary “letting go” process of last year was incomplete or didn’t happen at all. If the Year 9 “let go and leap” dictum wasn’t fully embraced, there are going to be unresolved issues lingering. This Year 1 of 2017 may be going great for you, and it may not. It may be lousy now and good later. The generally lousy vibe in the air right now may very well be due to the Saturn Retrograde that’s putting so many of us in statis (thanks Saturn) and/or the Mercury Retrograde in Taurus/Aries that’s sending us into a spendy semi-rage. There are a whopping five planets in Retrograde in April 2017 so it’s Retrograde City right now, basically. However, Retrogrades are perfect for ending things, so it’s actually a great opportunity to release anything you stubbornly brought with you into 2017 (like me, personal example to follow).

In December, here’s how I explained the Numerology cycle:

Crops are planted from seeds, they need tending to while they slowly grow, they are harvested so that we can be fed, and then you start over again from seed. The plant cannot be harvested and still keep growing forever. Our life also goes in cycles, it’s not all a rocketship ride going straight up; it’s a circle, looping again and again.

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The Magick of Tanabata

A few mornings ago I woke up and felt inspired to pick up my Llewellyn 2016 Witches’ Spell-a-Day Almanac, and that’s when I realized that July 7th is the holiday Tanabata. It is a traditional Japanese holiday also known as the Star Festival and was inspired by a Chinese folk story. This festival has magickal elements easily adapted to pagan practice, which you know is a pet project of mine. Below is the history of Tanabata and suggestions for how you can adapt this festival to your own pagan practice.

If we were in Japan, the July 7th this year Google doodle would look like this:

Tanabata 2016 Google Doodle

Tanabata occurs every year on the seventh day of the seventh month (July 7th) and commemorates the day that two long-separated lovers – the stars Vega and Altair – are briefly reunited. If it sounds like a familiar the story, it was referenced on Big Bang Theory in the form of Raj’s “romantic Astronomy” discussion (Season 7 Episode 19 specifically). The Chinese myth that inspired the festival is called “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl,” which you can read in full right here (it also has a Japanese equivalent, but with different names). This festival (or matsuri) day is also called the Qixi Festival in China or The Festival to Plead for Skills.

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