The Witches Book of the Dead by Christian Day- Book Review

For my next installment of 7 Days of Samhain, I decided I would review a book which was my 25th Birthday gift from Earthdragon.

I have been eyeballing this book online since I first heard about it, and was very excited to receive it for my birthday, in spite of the mixed reviews that it has been given.

Right off the bat, I have to say that this book impressed me greatly, I was thoroughly entertained by Christian Day’s catty humour, and gained some inspiration for my own work with Anubis and Hekate, and the necromantic direction that my Work has taken with them.

It is no secret that I tend toward what some might call a darker aesthetic, and a darker craft. I have always loved cemeteries even as a good little Catholic girl, and have always been fascinated with ghosts, the dead, and all things morbid, macabre and controversial, so when this book came into my sights I just had to have it.

Upon receiving the book, I excitedly devoured it within the week, and even managed to do a ritual from the book, which gained some impressive results in my opinion.

Day writes as he speaks, with wit, humour and cheekiness, and his voice coming through so strongly in this book is what made me enjoy it all the more. It was like sitting down in the room with him and having a lovely conversation about the Dead, witchcraft and necromancy.

He owns his opinions, and doesn’t drizzle them full of sugar. He gets into the nitty-gritty of necromancy, both ancient and modern, and does not water down the darker aspects of historical witchcraft and modern necromancy, outlining safe, hygienic methods of blood sacrifice using a medical lancet. He also supplies an array of suggestions of offerings for the dead.

He has a number of rituals in the book, including cleansing and exorcism rites, rituals for blessing the altar and skull, (which is an integral part of his necromantic rites). He also writes about mediumship, necromancy and dream work with the dead as well as ghost hunting and festivals of the dead.

The book is informative, impressive, and a must-have for those who wish to explore beyond the grave into the deeper mysteries of the dead.

“To journey to the realms of the dead is to undergo one of the very same great labours that Hercules himself endured. The Spirits will not suffer fools and you will be challenged if you travel on the roads of the dead.” – Afterward…and Beyond

This book is not for the masses, it is not for the mainstreamers, or the many pagans who wish so much just to fit in with the rest of society. This book is for those who dare to be different, who dare to walk the fringe, who do not ignore the dead and their sonorous call from beyond the veil.

Day is a flamboyant, no-nonsense, cheeky and completely admirable author, who does not allow his voice to get swallowed up by the plethora of books geared toward the masses. His views are bold and can be frightening to those who wish to perpetuate the notion of Witchcraft as safe and sweet and completely ordinary.

“Every time a Witch performs an act of magic, he becomes more godlike and less human. As the Witch evolves, he becomes more attuned to the guiding presence of the spirit forces around him. Our spirits yearn to fly across time and space and to travel as dignitaries to the kingdoms of the dead. For this to happen, we must set our souls free from the obsolete restrictions of antiquated religious drama. a Witch’s spirit bows to no one” p 13

Of course as a disclaimer, I would like to state that one must always read things with a critical eye, you cannot allow yourself to idolize any author, no matter how well a book is written. Just as in real life, where you and your greatest friends might disagree, so shall there be times when you disagree with an author. This is so with almost all books I have read

So many books I have read in recent years have left me with a sour taste in my mouth, authors who have written somewhat good books have ruined my opinions of them through writing watered down nonsense.  This book has however, surpassed so many of my expectations that any disagreements I have are only minor and on a personal level, and certainly do not detract from the richness of information within the book.

Tarot Tuesdays- Tarot and Astrology

I apologize for my mini absence, I’ve been a bit busy with my mother visiting me during the last week of March and then I was unable to get online last week, so I missed Tarot Tuesday :(.

Since I missed Tarot Tuesday I will be catching up with it today by reviewing the book Tarot and Astrology by Corrine Kenner.


Eyeing the esoteric shelves at the local bookstore has become more and more of a struggle. Often the books on this shelves are geared toward newcomers to the craft,  a little bit of To Ride a Silver Broomstick here, and a little “Book geared toward Northern Hemispherean Pagan” there. I glance around and see some new-age titles, notice that eastern religion has moved closer to the esoteric shelf, and see that the majority of the esoteric shelf has been taken up by Beginners Astrology and Beginners Tarot, which of course awesome things in and of themselves, but nonetheless I walk away slightly disappointed.

But then in the corner of my eye, I notice a glimmer of a book, Tarot and Astrology, and I hear my bf’s amused mumble, “Not another Tarot book”, and I smile to myself and say, “Yes! Another Tarot book!”

I started reading this book last year and finished it about a month or so ago and I must say I am utterly delighted by it. As the title suggests this book combines both Tarot and Astrology so that one can get a deeper understanding of both. I’ve often looked at my Crows Magick tarot and seen the little astrological glyphs with a little confusion, never understanding the full significance of them.

I have always loved astrology but have never been able to understand certain things like houses and some of the ruling planets, this book has definitely helped me to understand them better. Earthdragon has also read the book and agrees that Corinne Kenner explains things in a concise manner that makes the material easy to understand.

In Part One of the book Kenner talks about the Tarot Planets and Signs- this section deals with the Major Arcana cards and the Astrological Planetary Rulers and the Signs that are associated with each of the cards. This was quite an interesting read as I had known  some of the associations already, but had never really put them into practice, for instance, Libra “The Scales” is personified in Justice, and Mercury The planet of communication and the mind is depicted as The Magician, Master of his own universe.

Part Two deals with the Minor Arcana, their elemental associations, a little bit of Kabbalah and the astrological associations of the minor arcana which helped me to understand the Golden Dawn names of the cards a little better as well, for instance the 9 of Wands: Moon in Sagittarius named the “Lord of Great Strength”. Part Two also explains the Court Cards and how they fit around the astrological wheel.

Part Three talks about Astrology in-depth and the houses of the horoscope as well as how to read the Astrological chart with Tarot Cards.

Throughout the book Kenner gives sample tarot readings, and has concise explanations of astrological terminology like retrogrades,returns and the void of course moon.

One of the readings she shares is a simple Astrological Personality spread, in which you take out the cards that are associated with your Sun sign, Moon Sign and Rising Sign.

Here is mine, I will give brief interpretations of how I see the cards reflecting my personality, which could be expanded on more at a later date:

Sun- Taurus- The Hierophant

Moon- Scorpio- Death

Rising Sign- Virgo- The Hermit

Robin Wood Tarot

Robin Wood Tarot

“In ancient Greece, the hierophants were priests who guided their followers through the sacred rites of the Eleusinian Mysteries- A mythic scenario of death and rebirth- by enacting the story of Persephone.” p 45

Often when one draws the Hierophant in a personality reading, it is an indication that the querent is religious and/or traditional, they may be an educator or advisor of some kind, and may even be a spiritual leader. In many astrological texts I have also noted that the astrologer often will state that Taureans have a proclivity to religiousness and uphold traditional values.

In my case I’m not sure how many of my values are “traditional”, being the Goth, Hippy, vegetarian, LGBTQI supporting, slutwalking feminist, that I am, but I would certainly describe myself as religious. Many pagans shy away from the terms “religion” and “religious”, often associating it with the religion they came from before which is often Christianity. But I am a religious person. My Craft is largely devotional. I worship Gods, I honour Spirits and I work with Both. It is my life, especially lately. The Gods have been very busy, and I take my work as Priestess very seriously.

The Moon is the ruler of emotions, and those things which are hidden beneath the surface. It becomes all the more mysterious when the Moon is ruled by Scorpio, Lord of Death and Sex. The Death Card has been spoken about many times on my blog, it is practically the poster “card” of my System, signifying my devotion to  Anpu and Hekate, as well as being one of the main paths of my system, “Transformation”.

Scorpio is all about the “occult”, the hidden and often those with the Sun or Moon in Scorpio are drawn to the Occult and some of the darker mysteries of life. One of my good friends exemplifies Scorpio, with his dark writing and his interest in tarot.

I am a witch, and have always had an obsession with the occult, especially with the so-called darker aspects of the occult, like cursing, shadow work and sex magic. I practice ecstatic craft which recognizes the connection between sex and death and I am always working to delve deeper and deeper into the Mysteries of my System as they unfold.

The final card in this spread, The Hermit, depicts my Rising Sign in Virgo.  ” The Hermit card usually represents wisdom, prudence, and illumination, as well as philosophy, introspection and meditation. The card illustrates the concepts of solitude, silence, and leadership by example” p54

I have often described myself as a hermit as I am quite solitary in nature. I have few friends and the ones that I have I keep close to my heart. I am also solitary in my religious practices, my system is largely based on my own Gnosis and also in its initial stages. Like the Hermit, I am on a solitary journey forged by my will and the Gods, seeking enlightenment and spiritual fulfillment.

As I wish to get this post out tonight, I will leave it at that. This book was incredibly insightful and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in knowing more about both Tarot and Astrology.

7 Days of Samhain: Day 3- Halloween:Silver Ravenwolf- Book Review

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. I don’t think it is Ravenwolf’s worst book, but it certainly isn’t phenomenal either.

Chapter 1- The Search for Halloween

The first thing I noticed about this book and in this chapter was this annoying flight attendant speech. Although I’ve always appreciated the easy-going conversationalist style of Ravenwolf’s books, in this book her acting as a flight attendant was just plain irritating. It made this book seem more trivial than a serious look at the beautiful festival which many of us celebrate.

In this chapter she introduces us to the origins of Halloween. Silver Ravenwolf isn’t known for her historical accuracy, and often twists things to suit her own agenda, much like she derides people for having done in the past. I’d be very weary of this section, although she does give endnotes (which is unusual for Llewellyn), she definitely does show her own bias. This is seen in the way that she portrays Christianity.

She claims that the Roman Empire was the start of Patriarchy which I’m disinclined to believe.

She of course mentions the “burning times” and all the drama that comes with it. I personally believe that the “burning times” has no place within my spiritual beliefs and my life as a witch. We have very real persecutions today even in South Africa against those who are wrongfully called Witches.

She eventually goes on to talk about Halloween and how it came to America, this section is interesting for the American Witch, but is neither here nor there for me.

“The American Halloween became a cultural celebration rather than a religious one.” P 33

Halloween is definitely an American cultural celebration. In South Africa, however, it is not quite as large as Diwali (Hindu Festival of lights which happens near October). I celebrate both Halloween October 31 (Horror fest, masquerades, Parties, fun, somewhat secular the veil thinning again) and Samhain April 30- May 1. In October, clubs are definitely taking full advantage of Halloween dress up for all the urban party goers, and shops do have Halloween decorations and book sales but it is still far from becoming a part of South African culture. Samhain is only celebrated by Pagans, and the South African Pagan community is still largely in the broom closet, so it’s not recognised on a large-scale.

Chapter 2- Halloween Customs and Traditions

In this chapter she goes over some things we traditionally associate with Halloween including a folktale about the Jack o Lantern. She also talks about Trick or Treating, Bonfires, Masks and Costumes.

Chapter 3- Halloween Symbols and Superstitions

Here she talks about Black cats, the pitchfork, Scarecrows and corndollies, skeletons and the Mexican day of the dead, ghosts, witches, vampires and bats, werewolves and some superstitions associated with Halloween.

I personally think this chapter could have been made more serious with a proper mention of Memento Mori and what they meant to the cultures and people who used them rather than just a quick glossing over of funeral rites and how delightful Los Dias de los Muertos is.

When she talks about Vampires and Bats, she does not really mention bats aside from their connection to the modern vampire and how they may have been flying over bonfires.

According to Ted Andrews  in Animal Speak,* “In Babylonia bats represented the souls of the dead” (p248), bats are also creatures of transition and initiation, powerful themes for this time of year. The bat has also been linked to the Shaman’s death. In our modern culture bats are often feared, with their link to Rabies (which is minimal), and their association with modern vampires, as well as so-called bad luck. Many of us Goths love bats, not only are hey damn adorable, but they also are nocturnal creatures who are surrounded by amazing folklore and spooky things. To many of us who work with animal spirits, bats are symbols of facing our fears and ourselves, which Andrews also confirms. This is all potent symbolism for this time of year, the fact that Ravenwolf doesn’t delve into the deeper aspects of the symbol, and just glosses over it with a tiny mention, annoys me and demonstrates how she writes practically all of her books. She rarely delves into psychospiritual aspects of symbols and prefers to stay on the surface and glamourise the craft.

In her summary she briefly hints at an understanding of the symbolism within this chapter :

“The ghosts of Halloween’s past have not lain themselves to a peaceful rest. They dance and cavort through the collective unconscious of the people, and emerge each October 31 to once again remind us of our tribal roots, of fears we do not wish to face, and of the possibility of life after death” p 69

I really think this chapter could have been pushed past the glamour and made into something a bit more useful.

Chapter 4- Halloween Divinations

This is an interesting mix of serious divination techniques such as the runes, and ones which are more geared toward Halloween parties. Ravenwolf feels most comfortable with Runes, and uses them quite often in her books. In this chapter she suggests making them out of large pumpkin seeds. I’m more of a Tarot reader than a rune caster myself, but if you’re into runes this may be a nice way to bring the season into your divination.

Some of the other forms of divination are based more on superstition and folklore like the apple divinations.

She goes over how to make a magic mirror and how to prepare it and use it for Scrying. Samhain is a powerful time to create and bless a magic mirror, as the veil is thin, and the mirror is a symbol of looking through the veil.

The summary has some nice do’s and don’ts of divination.

“Divination can be a rewarding and useful process, assisting in goal planning, problem solving, and raising your self-esteem.” P 9

Chapter 5- Halloween in the Kitchen

Here she has some blessings, including the general ingredient blessing, cooking blessing and Samhain Serving blessing.

I have done two of the Recipes from this book, Pumpkin Bread and Prosperity Pumpkin raisin muffins. I am planning on making All Souls Day bread for the 7 days of Samhain so check that out.

She also includes recipes for Pumpkin Pie, Divination Doughnuts, Green Man Cake, punches, Candied Love apples, Corn on the Cob, and some party dishes like Prosperity Popcorn balls and Sugar Snakes in graveyard dust.

The two that I’ve tried from her have been really good and simple to make!

Chapter 6- Halloween – Halloween Magick

“This chapter contains a compendium of enjoyable Halloween magick that you can try, designed and tested by myself and the members of the Black Forest Clan.” P126

This chapter is exactly that… Included are various Love spells, Abundance and harvest spells, protection spells, corn husk magic, charm bags for money, health and luck, spells for prosperity and a ritual for the Harvest.

Many of these spells employ the use of apples, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds for the season. I am interested in the Love apple lights which I’ll gear for a different purpose, the potpourri which I might make next year and the protection powder.

Silver Ravenwolf is very good at crafting spells, which is one reason she has made such a great success of her spell books.

Chapter 7- Halloween: A Time to Honor the Dead

“There is nothing wrong with going into a room by yourself, or taking a walk in the cemetery, or sitting in a favourite nature spot and talking aloud to a dead loved one.” P165

This is by far my favourite chapter of the book, as it deals with one of the main reasons why this festival is so important to me- honouring the dead.

She begins the chapter with her experience of having lost her mother at 17, she then carries on to say that the dead can hear us and that they indeed will listen.

She includes a ritual to receive answers from the dead, setting up ancestral altar, offerings to the dead, and a prayer of offering which I’ll be using.

There is a 7 Day Samhain Vigil for honouring the dead, especially those who have recently passed. She has a Cauldron wake for those who need closure, a Samhain fire ritual and Soul lights.

There is also a section on making a spirit rattle or spirit bowl which are “…used to call forth the spirits of the ancestors in hopes of bringing their wisdom to the ritual, rite or bonfire.” P179

I will be doing the Dumb Supper for Samhain as well as the Solitary Samhain Ritual, of course both will be adapted to my particular system.

At the end of the Chapter she includes an official Funeral of the Black Forest Clan and an essay by Lady Janette Copeland on current Druidic Samhain practices.

I think this book would be helpful for beginners and those who are just beginning to celebrate the Sabbats or create family traditions of them. It is a good starter book, aside from the questionable history prior to American Halloween. It also offers ways in which to honour the dead, the season and the transition from Summer into Winter. This book’s rating reflects my opinion of her not going deep enough and not exploring the more psychospiritual aspects of Halloween in popular culture as a secular holiday (since her book is named Halloween) as well as Samhain. The glamourisation of witchcraft may be fun, and at certain times I revel in the more glamourous surface concerns, but I feel that the glamourisation of “Samhain” into “Halloween” does not allow a deep enough exploration into what Samhain means to many witches and pagans.

*I highly recommend Ted Andrews (1952-2009) Animal Speak (1993). He was an incredibly wise man and will forever be missed in the pagan community. This book is a must on the shelves of anyone interested in any kind of animal symbolism as it provides a wealth of information on many animals, as well as ways in which to work with them.

All blog content is copyright 2012 of Nightshade author of, unless otherwise stated

Goddess Aloud! Goddess Worship and Getting Vocal!

This book is a companion to Goddess Afoot! and Goddess Alive! I do not have these first two books, but found Goddess Aloud! on sale for Summer in January.

This book and (I’m assuming) its companions, are books about Goddess spirituality or what some call Goddess Worship. This book may have been what I was looking for years ago, when I was at the height of my “Goddess” phase but mainly interests me from an academic perspective. Although I still practice Goddess Spirituality in the form of (mostly) Dark Goddess work, God work is included alongside it with Gods like Anubis, Thoth, Khepri, Sobek, Set, Horus and Osiris to name a few (all of whom funnily enough come from the Egyptian Pantheon).

I recognise that as a third wave feminist my understandings have been pushed and threaded differently than 4 years ago when I first started using feminist theory to analyse and critique media, art and literature, so my understanding of Goddess work is different to before. When I was 18 I was still, to all intents and purposes, a second wave informed feminist. Of course as my studies deepened both academically and spiritually I realised that my views were beginning to change and thus a little third wave feminist was born.

Many people understand feminism to be the fight to end “patriarchy and male domination”, this however is not 100% the case. According to bell hooks, Feminism is the fight to end sexist oppression. A key voice in the Post-colonial feminist movement, hooks brought an understanding of the intersecting oppressions of class, race, gender and sexual orientation to the table, critiquing (along with many others), the second wave feminists and the exclusions of their struggle. Second wave feminism was a movement of largely middle class, white women, and those who fell outside of that criteria were still oppressed in great ways, and in today’s world, many still are.

It is from this perspective, one which critiques classifications, dominance by a heteronormative system of capitalism that I come, and it is from this perspective that I will look at this book.

I think that Goddess work is incredibly beneficial. In our society where bodies are now plasticised and airbrushed, controlled and classified violently, celebrating what is becomes incredibly important to heal the sickness of the “mainstream ideal”. Goddess work is not only beneficial for those identifying as women (ALL women now, not just those who were born with a vagina), it is beneficial for those who identify as men as well.

In a post-feminist society where many women feel that the fight to end sexist oppression is over, that all feminists are lesbian “butch” and man haters, women are forgetting that through advertising and all media, bodies are controlled by distortions. The Media is creating an ideal, one that doesn’t include imperfections. We are never allowed to just be who we are, we are forced from the time we are born into models of what our parents, society and the media want us to be, and we are labelled as boys and girls due to genitalia and because of our genitalia and/or chromosomes we are told to like pink, like blue, play with dolls, play with cars, be demure, be strong and not cry. We are never allowed to just be people in our own rights with our own interests. Luckily for me, I didn’t have much gender coaching from my parents, I was allowed to like blue, wear pants, play with cowboy guns and racing cars. I was allowed to decide for myself whether Barbie should be with Ken or with a Biker mouse from Mars, or just remain an independent lady. I was what people call a “tomboy” but I really loathe that term.

Goddess work is incredibly beneficial for all, so that we may heal. Men are suffering under the system as much as women have because now women are apparently displacing men. In The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, patriarchy is determined to be just as mortifying, soul-crushing and oppressive toward men as it is women, and so I recommend working with Goddesses regardless of your gender, sex, and sexual orientation. *

Goddesses, teach us their struggles through their mythology, some Goddesses, are raped and oppressed by Patriarchy, some goddesses are maidens with independence. Some goddesses are mothers and daughters. Some are lovers and warriors. Some are Queens and some have lost their sovereignty. They can all teach us something about being ourselves. God work is also beneficial, they also teach us lessons, and it is important IMO to work with Gods as well in order to fully heal, rather than just heal one part of ourselves. But since this book is about Goddesses I’ll keep on that for now.

“You are an expression of the divine Feminine. You love like Freyja, Norse Goddess of passion and sex; Heal Like Uzume, Shinto Goddess of Laughter and Shadow, and celebrate your power like Isis, Egyptian Goddess of magic and motherhood” -from the blurb

This book goes over 27 different goddesses, who demonstrate the 9 fundamental spiritual principles which according to Skye are: Peace, Caring for the Environment, Love, Self Love, Forgiveness, Healing, Growth, hope and Spirituality.

Each of the 9 principles is accompanied by three goddesses who Skye associates with those principles, these goddesses include:

Peace: Pax, Our Lady of Fatima, Branwen

Caring for the environment: Asase Yaa, Pachamama, Eriu

Love: Venus, Caelia, Freyja

Self Love: Venus of Willendorf, Hina, Cessair

Forgiveness: Tlazolteotl, Mary Magdalene, Arianrhod

Healing: Uzume, Sulis, Airmid

Growth: Heqet, Pomona, Blodeuwedd

Hope: Demeter, Persephone, Sunna

Spirituality:  The Pleiades, Isis, Rhiannon

To be honest I really only connect with four of them on a personal level, and those are Demeter, Persephone, Isis and Heqet.

Each goddess is accompanied by a lengthy telling of myths and stories that surround them that relate to the corresponding principles. Some of these stories were fascinating, some I found a bit tedious. Each Goddess also has included a pathway to them, or a way in which to connect with them and work with them. Some of these are a bit New Age for me but give them a go if you like New Age Spirituality.

Each chapter is introduced with the basic understanding of the principle. And Each Goddess has a mantra which can be repeated to bring change into your life through inward healing and growth. Some of the Mantra’s are really beautiful and helpful, but others were too specific to Goddesses that I don’t work with, that for me they are unworkable. I have, however, found inspiration to write a few of my own mantras in these cases.

The first chapter of the book goes over the reason why Skye thought this book was necessary in the first place. Skye felt that she had lost her voice, and that this book and working with mantras would help her regain the use of her voice. She details the differences between the masculine and feminine voices which I’m not really comfortable with, as to her the masculine voice is associated with dominance, which is an arbitrary association of a particular culture. She does state on p5 that the Voice of the Feminine as she calls is not male or female but “intrinsic to all life on the planet.” The problem here, is then is either she is mislabelling the Voice, or she is using gendered language intentionally. I would rather call it the “Intrinsic” Voice to avoid gendered language which still evokes problematic associations, in relation to other gendered terms which she uses.

“By refusing to use your voice, you deny your right to be an active participant in life. In your life.” p2 on a Spiritual level I partially agree with this, I also believe that “retreating into silence”, actually may be better in some situations. Sometimes acting like you’re dead, like a lizard’s defence mechanism, may just be what you need in a particular situation.  A wise witch knows which battles to pick, when to stand up for herself and which battles are best won with silence. Silence helps us listen to our inner voice too. That voice is important to listen to, it will tell you when to shut up and when to speak.  “To keep Silent” is as important as “To speak your truth”.

From a Feminist perspective, we are coming from having our voices oppressed, to having our voices heard, and this is important. The voice can be a weapon, a weapon to end oppression, a weapon to speak against the oppressive forces. Performance poetry is one way in which this is done creatively, and is thriving here in South Africa (I had the wonderful opportunity to help with a performance Poetry competition about sex and sexuality last year.) Zanele Muholi, a black lesbian artistic photographer, makes that which is in-visible, visible. While Voice has always been important in struggling against oppression, Visibility is the concern of many South African Visual Artists, Visual Activism is as important as Vocal activism. “Breaking the silence” around certain issues is exactly what was needed and still needed in order for oppressive systems to collapse.

Whichever way you understand “Voice” it is important for you to acknowledge your own voice (inner or outer).  Whether it is to free you from oppression (self-imposed or imposed by others), or to come into yourself, working with mantras can certainly be helpful. Your intrinsic voice, that voice that sings the threads of magic, healing and love, needs to be spoken, needs to be heard and needs to be set free.

At the end of each chapter there is a ritual for each of the principles, I did the one for love, although two others interest me as well. I combined it with a ceremony in celebration of Hathor and found it to be hugely successful. Any resentments I had were now washed away by an understanding of mutual communication and just loving fully and openly.

The Ritual for forgiveness is a Mandala ritual which I’m interested in doing. A quote from this ritual, “Throughout the process, you should be cognizant of the fluidity of life and the change and transformation that occurs every moment of everyday”

A few minor issues with the book: She repeatedly used then instead of than which, even though I know I make many typo’s, still gets under my nails; she equates prayer with pleading, which I find a very one-sided view, as to me Prayer is about communion. It is a way in which for me to commune, love and share with my gods in a formal or non formal manner as the case may be. Lastly her insertion of the Three- fold law in the spirituality section kills me “The Wiccan Three-Fold law states that whatever you do comes back to you, magnified three times. So, if you do something nasty, you’re going to get slammed with nasty stuff. Hello Bankruptcy, divorce, life threatening illness.”

On all counts this is hogwash. Traditionally trained Wiccans interpret the three-fold law thusly: whatever action you do, you will be affected mentally, spiritually and physically. This is not magnified by three rather it demonstrates that we are affected on all levels by the consequences of our actions whatever those actions may be. Newton’s law and balance anyone? Secondly this reeks of the notion of punishment to me, a carry-over from a previous faith. Divorce might happen because you grew apart, that’s not Karma or the three-fold law, that’s life! The same is true for life threatening illness, and Bankruptcy it is life, poor decisions, shit hits the fan life!

I give this book, 3 & 1/2 stars out of 5. It is a great book to get if you are into goddess spirituality and specifically New Age Goddess Worship. It may also be helpful if you are interested in reclaiming your voice, as it were. I think this book can be immensely helpful if you are struggling with your own self, and allowing your “self” to come through. These Goddesses spoken of in the book, showed their flaws, showed their beauty and showed that they were not afraid to be themselves. We need to relearn this, in order to heal ourselves from the growing sickness of the media and other oppressive forms of reality.

All Blog Content (including this article) is copyright of Nightshade 2012, author of unless otherwise stated.

Image used in terms of fair use.

  • Please note, that I do not advocate Matriarchy in place of Patriarchy. I don’t have much faith in “archy’s” as it were.

Circle of Isis- Ellen Cannon Reed: Book review

I found this book while looking for more on working with the Egyptian Pantheon.

This book is written from a Wiccan perspective, so do not expect any hard-boiled Egyptian rituals. This book is best for those who are on the path to learning Tameran Wicca, or those who have a Neo-Wiccan background who wish to work with the Egyptian gods and look at them through modern Wiccan eyes. This book is not for Kemetic Recons.

“The magic you will find here is more than ways to cast spells. It is the magic of growing closer to the Gods, the magic of learning the mysteries of the universe” p16

Throughout the book she uses the word Tamera “Beloved Land” instead of “Ancient Egypt” to lessen tedium.

Part 1 Gods and Goddesses of Egypt

This part opens with a personal experience that Reed has with Isis. It is very touching and helps us to understand her deep love for this particular Goddess.

Nut, Geb, Ra, Tehuti, Asar, Aset, Set, Nebt Het, Anpu, Horus, Hathor, Bast, Khnum, Bes, Shu, Sekhmet, Ptah, Khonsu, Seshat, Khephera, Mut, Tefnut, Tenent, Neith and other deities are looked at in this section as well. It focuses on the nature of the gods from a modern perspective but does take into account some of the myths surrounding the gods. Throughout this section, we see that Reed has a deep love for the Egyptian pantheon, they are not merely other people’s gods but her own.

Throughout her descriptions of the Gods, she places personal experiences of her own and of her coven mates with those particular gods. Although this can be annoying for the dedicated scholar in all of us, I do feel it emphasises a personal relationship with the gods, rather than making them into “correspondences” she writes of them as friends. This of course is a bonus to me, as I constantly come across texts which do not treat the gods in any other capacity than as correspondences.

One critique of this section is the way in which she shows a lack of faith in her readers. When she refers to Sekhmet for instance, “Neither of these deities is evil. Neither of them is necessarily easy to understand, and both are often difficult to love. Sekhmet’s name is the feminine of the word “Sekhem,” which means strength, or power. In other words, her name means “Lady of Strength,” or “Lady of Power.” She is that. She is power. She is energy. She is force. “AH HAH!” you say. Destructive force! “I thought you said She wasn’t evil!” ” p84

I do know that there are some fluffy people out there who do not acknowledge darkness and destruction in any form, but I do think that many pagans, either eventually get a grip on reality or they know that destruction and darkness are not equivalent to evil. I do think that it would be better to not handle the reader in such a condescending manner. There are better ways to explain it to the reader. She does this more than once.

She uses the Qabalah to explain the destructive forces of both Set and Sekhmet. Although I’m not familiar with the Qabalah (but I will look into it sometime in the future – when this challenge is finished.) This is a very interesting way to view destruction, and can be helpful for those who still do not understand that destruction is a necessary part of life.

The longest sections on the gods belong to Asar (Osiris) and Aset (Isis). This is due to them being the major two gods of her Circle, and show her personal relationship with them.

Part 2: Rituals, Meditation and developing Relationships with deities.

“It is this approach, this development of a personal relationship, that most reflects the difference in attitude between ours and that of many other religions. We believe our deities are both immanent and transcendent; both here and there, near us always. Our deities are not distant judges, but loving parents, teachers, sisters, brothers, and friends.” p129

For Reed, Meditation is an “integral part of craft work”, and to a large extent I agree. Not only does meditation have health benefits brought on by relaxation, and the consequent stress management, it also helps attune us spiritually with gods, spirits and our higher selves.

Her Mantra meditation, which I’ve tried, is quite a nice way in which to connect with a particular deity. This method employs the use of the four fold breath.

She includes another meditation called a “contact ritual” which one can also use in order to get to know the deities better.

She also includes Guided meditations for Osiris, Nephtys, Thoth, Anubis, as well as other types of meditation for connecting to Nut and Geb, as well as Ra and Nun.

In her section on rituals  which were specifically written for this book, she includes a Celebration of the Birthday’s of the Gods, Blessing a child and a  festival of Bast.

She also has a section on songs, which is interesting for those who can read music, otherwise they can be used as chants within the rituals.

Incenses and oils, is another section included within this part of the book.

“To the Tamerans, incenses served two spiritual purposes. The Gods were said to have a very sweet smell, so the fragrance of the incense reminded them of and turned their minds toward the Gods. They also believed the smoke carried their prayers to the Gods.”p 176

In this section she gives recipes for Kyphi, Isis, Lotus Bouquet, Osiris, Hathor, Bast and other Deities.

The next section within this part o the book is on food and drink, where she gives recipes and ideas for Mead, wine, bread, barley cakes, and various fruit, vegetable and meat dishes.

In her section on prayers she includes prayers for the dead and protection.

Part 3: Magic and Magical Tools

In this section Reed gives information on Divination and her own divination system, Amulets, Wax and Ushabti Figures, instructions on creating a Sistrum, a Scarab, an Egyptian Kilt and Nemyss, as well as a Wand.

She also goes over the Hieroglyphs used in Ancient Egypt.

Appendix A

Tameran names which can be used as craft names.

Appendix B

An Egyptian Calendar.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars, as it gives a practical way in which to work with the Egyptian Gods in modern times, and includes many interesting details including recipes and instructions on making tools.  For a Neo-wiccan who is interested in the Egyptian pantheon, or Tameran Wiccans this book is a must!

More reviews can be found on Amazon over HERE.

All blog content is Copyright © 2012 of Nightshade unless otherwise stated

Autumn Equinox- Ellen Dugan: Book Review image

This book is a must-have for Wiccan’s, Neo-Wiccan’s and Witchy pagans who love Autumn!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have found some inspiration for the autumn months and the second Harvest Festival, autumn Equinox or Mabon, or whatever else you may call it.

This book forms part of a series of books on the 8 Sabbats, celebrated by Wiccan’s. The only book I’m missing from the series is the Lammas one by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason. Even though I am not planning to celebrate Lammas I would still like this book for the sake of completion.

As a Southern Hemispherean Pagan we are about to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, which is March 20 this year.

This book is well-researched from what I gather and goes into the various harvest festivals celebrated by different cultures. A wonderful, albeit small, inclusion is the Southern Hemisphere. We are all Topsy Turvy, and the majority of books that we in the SH are able to purchase are from a largely Northern perspective. When I first started practicing I was confused as all heck as to how to relate the festivals and for about half a year I celebrated the way NH’s do, it felt wrong, confusing and made no sense according to the nature around us. I eventually consented to celebrate my way, and have two Halloween’s, one more religious, the other more secular and to follow the flow of nature.

This book would have been a godsend earlier on in my practice, as it supplies spells, recipe’s, myths, crafts and gardening during the autumn months. Since I am creating my own system of religious witchcraft I really found it helpful to add some recipes and crafts as well as review the myth of Persephone and Demeter.





Chapter 1: The Autumnal Equinox and Harvest Home

This chapter is an introduction to the festival of the autumn Equinox, including the various names it goes by, Goddess associations, the problem of Corn/Grain/Maize/Wheat, John Barleycorn and the theme of the sacrificial god, European Harvest Customs, Folklore,Equinox and Autumn festivals, and the Harvest “Down Under” and celebrating the Harvest in the modern world .

Chapter 2: September Sun Signs and Stars

This is the only section that does not actually apply directly to me as a southern hemispherean, as it is dealing with NH dates only and the Signs of September; Virgo and Libra, while here, as the Equinox is in March our Autumn signs are Pisces and Aries.  Beginnings and Endings of the Zodiac, rather than Scales and Maidens. This year on the Equinox, the sun will be entering Aries, while just moving out of Pisces, the moon will be in Pisces. These balancing energies of beginnings and endings are what I’ll be working with.

If, however, you are in the NH, this section will be nice for you, she includes spells for the energies of Libra and Virgo. They would be suitable for both Sun and Moon energies so even in the SH we can work these spells under the suitable moon sign.

Chapter 3- Harvest Moon Magick

She shares a personal experience of the Harvest moon and her son, which I enjoyed.

She has an invocation to Chang-O and includes information on the Chinese Mid-autumn moon festival.

She includes a full moon solitary ritual for the Wine Moon (here the grapes are ripe in early March).

In the full moon faery spell she shares some faery etiquette, like not working with iron tools.

She offers a full moon group ritual for those who have covens or circles.

Chapter 4- Harvest Goddesses

She writes about the goddesses Demeter and Persephone and offers a modern take on the old myth. She includes two spells/rituals that can be done while working with Perspehone and Demeter, one for abundance and prosperity and one when you feel you need to follow your own path.

She writes of Elen of the ways and includes an invocation to her.

Pomona is another goddess she refers to and has a Fall Apple spell for attraction/ getting the attention of someone.

Chapter 5- The Gods of Vegetation and Vine 

Here she talks about Dionysus, the playful god of wine and celebration, and offers a group ritual for Mabon.

The Green man and Herne the Hunter are also focused upon with rituals on facing fears and Autumn Magick.

This section is a great departure from all the Goddess-centric focus in many Neo-Wiccan books.

Chapter 6- The Garden in Autumn: Fall Flower and Foliage Fascination

Here we are in the author’s element. Dugan feels most at home in the garden, and as I myself am a gardener, this section was fantastic, she talks about the various plants of Fall including Asters, American Bittersweet, Morning Glory, Pineapple Sage and more, writing about their properties and what conditions they best grow in.

She includes flower spells and charms which I’d love to try out sometime soon.

In her section on Fall foliage she goes into the scientific explanation of why Fall leaves change colour. In this section she includes the autumn colours, Yellow,Gold, Orange, Rust, Red, Burgundy and which tree’s these colour leaves are most easily found on.

If you are a gardener this section is for you!

Chapter 7- Equinox Enchantment: The Charm of Autumn

“There is something extra enchanting about the Autumn Months. Perhaps it is the snap in the air or the luminous colors of the fall foliage. Apples are ripe, tart, and juicy, and waiting to be made into pies or simply enjoyed for a snack. Grapes dangle temptingly from the vine and are gathered in to make jellies, jams, or wine. There is the spice of the bright jewel-tone colors of the chrysanthemums and whimsy of the scarecrows that guard and add humor to many a home and garden. Of course we have the annual appearance of bright orange pumpkins dotting the neighborhoods and rustling the bundles of cornstalks that stand like sentries around porch posts and entrances” p 130

In this chapter she talks about the folklore, interesting facts and historical information about apples, grapes, ornamental corn, pumpkins, cornucopias, wheat and grain and the scarecrow.

For her Scarecrow Property Protection spell look at my post here.

She also has a scarecrow Abundance charm.

No magical book would be complete without candle magic, and Dugan includes candle magic in this section, using autumn colour correspondences, and some candle spells and rituals including one for the equinox.

Chapter 8- The Harvest Tide Feast

Dugan felt that this section was the hardest for her to approach due to her not enjoying cooking, once she started researching recipes and gaining confidence in her ability she started enjoying cooking and voila this section got written. This section includes the three recipes which I have reviewed and tried out, Vegetarian Spinach Lasagna, Harvest Apple Upside-Down Cake and Apple-Sauce Cookies. Also included are some pumpkin recipes (which I prefer for Samhain and Halloween), Turkey for the non vegetarians and Apple and Blackberry Pies.

I enjoy cooking and baking, and as a kitchen witch, my magic and intention is always put into the food I create, whether it is a simple cheese sandwich or a cake I’ve never tried before.

She includes some kitchen hints, an all-purpose food blessing and bewitching tricks and tips like “Instead of using plastic cups to dole out your warm apple cider to your guests, try serving it in hollowed out apples instead. Scoop out the core  and the center of a large apple- try Granny Smith or Rome apples, these are good choices-and fill it with warm cider. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.” p169

In the last section of this chapter she includes Pagan Prayers.

Chapter 9- Autumn Potpourri: Spellcrafts and Magickal Projects

Here she includes crafts like a grape wreath for the autumn equinox, lighted fall garlands, leafy luminaries, and herbal soaps.

In the last section of this chapter she includes correspondences for Autumn, but lists deities in this section. Obviously Deities are not correspondences, so this annoys me a little.

Before the closing she has an autumn enchantment Worksheet for you to fill out your autumn spells, rituals, crafts, to keep track of them.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars!

Here you can find some Amazon reviews!

Harvest Witch Blessing- Dugan

This intriguing season brings joy and abundance true,

Remember all of the Magick that I have shown you.

Look to the earth during the fall season of red and gold,

Open your heart and rediscover this magick of old.

May the simple enchantment of these bright autumn days,

Bring you love and laughter in many bewitching ways.

All blog content is Copyright © 2012 of Nightshade unless otherwise stated

Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul- Book Review and What We Need To Nourish Us… image

This book is a collection of Essays, stories, practical work and wisdom from Elders, Writers, and Teachers within the Pagan Community. I picked up this book hoping it would fill a void within the pagan book section at home, and I believe that it did.

Dianne Sylvan Author of “The circle within” and blogger of the former “Dancing Down The moon” once said  that the Pagan community was lacking books on how to get through life’s obstacles, how to deal with the very real tragedies and ups and downs in life. Her post deals mostly with Crises of Faith but it can apply equally to anything that shatters our world. Another note on her blog post is that Christianity has no lack of ministers, support groups and television programs. Not to mention when I’ve browsed the Christian religion section, they have tonnes of books on how to deal with certain issues and some of these books are personal stories of healing.

To an extent I agreed with this point.

One way Witches, Wiccans and Neo-Wiccans often deal with life’s issues is obviously through spellwork and ritual. But there are a plethora of books on Abundance, Cursing, Protection, Romance and anything else under the sun. Not all Pagans however are Witches, Wiccans and Neo-Wiccans, and even the ones that are, need more than just spells to get through life’s tragedies and problems. “The Pagan book of living and dying” I do not own yet (but it’s on my to get list), is one book that deals with this lack, it helps people to deal with death and the grieving process.

When this point was brought up elsewhere one person had stated that Paganism and Wicca were so broad and open, and therefore a book like this would not be necessary and would in fact not work within Paganism. And to an extent I agree with this as well. The beauty of the Path that I follow is that It is my own, and that it is my own system that I am creating. And I’ve gone through losing family, pets and rejection, financial problems etc without the need of these books, but desperately wanting them.

When I lost my father, I dealt with it by not practicing magic at all, not formally praying, not doing any magical rituals and generally just not being at all involved in the witchcraft community. I did not see a psychologist because I’ve been to psychologists in the past and I found it largely unhelpful, not to mention, they often do not get alternative spirituality especially in the form of Witchcraft. (This is not to paint all Psychologists by the same brush, or to say that others shouldn’t go to one as I think they can help, they just didn’t help with me).

Spiritually speaking, I was drained. I loved my gods and believed in them and spoke to them, but I was drained and I needed to talk to an elder, someone who had gone through this before, someone who knew what it was like to be a Pagan and a Witch, and to have lost a parent, and I had no one. I had no books. My mom was there for me, and so was my boyfriend and my grandparents, but it wasn’t enough I needed someone priestly and frankly the Pagan Priests that I had known were all ego-maniacs, doing it to be the biggest coven in SA, and just generally fluffy. Solitary witches, are often at a loss, because of this very thing.  We have no coven support structure, we have no HP/S, and even though many books have started being written and getting out there, largely they remain inaccessible as the Esoteric section in book stores is largely new age or spells and My Pagan Book Stores have no clue about these books (shockingly).

Along the Way I found books, “Walking the Twilight Path” (Working with death and transformation) “Reaching through the veil to heal” (not exclusively a pagan book but on death and loss), but I was hungry for more personal stories, understanding and healing energies, and years later I stumbled upon this book “Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul”  edited by Patricia Telesco.

Part of the Blurb says “Take a seat on the communal hearth and let these bards regale you with tales of hope, transformation, love, struggle, and victory. The bounty herein will fill you with warmth, sustenance, and inspiration that every spiritual seeker needs” This book  is very much that. In my opinion it bridges the gap between How To get through_____ books and Spell books. It is filled with tales and reflections on grief, fear, pregnancy, financial struggle, and healing. It also contains spells and recipes. It keeps the openness of our pagan path, without being a “This is what you HAVE to do” and allows the reader to get involved in the stories to decide what they need to do with practical advice on how to do it along the way.

To a large extent Pagan books already offer practical solutions, and Pagan religions tend to be active, rather than passive, so we  only have to look more closely at some of our texts.

I think for the most part, we know that we should talk to family, our gods and do therapeutic and recuperative practices, but while we are in the situation we feel completely at a loss and lost is what we are, a book like this can help you with a much-needed push, as it offers a means for recuperation and healing through pagan stories and experiences.  It very definitely for me, offers the sustenance it promises in the blurb.

I only wish this book was longer with some focus on the dark night of the soul. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars (a very rare rating for me), because it was very much what I was looking for. I do, however, feel that there are more books like this that need to made accessible. “Herbal tea for the Pagan Spirit” looks like it could be good too, but what with my notorious spending habits, I’ll probably buy 30 more books before I get to that one, and unfortunately books like this are rarely sold in book stores near me.

There are many books I believe that have been overlooked in the pagan community because they are not well-known, many of them I still don’t know about. If there are any books you recommend on the dark night of the soul, pagan stories, dealing with grief, financial problems, love, through a Pagan’s perspective feel free to mention them in the comments. Books that aren’t exclusively pagan can be mentioned as well if they helped you.

M Shaffer has a review of this book so check it out!

Currently reading:

Goddess Aloud- Michelle Skye

Circle of Isis- Ellen Cannon Reed

Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion- eds  Christopher A. Foraone and Dirk Obbink


All blog content is Copyright © 2012 of Nightshade unless otherwise stated