The Almanack by Martine Bailey is an astrological murder mystery story set in 18th century England. It followed the mysteries surrounding an almanack whose sinister predictions came true and the scandalous village life that found itself at the mercy of this strange prophetic stellarium.
I thought this book was a breath of fresh air. As an Astrologer myself, I loved how an almanack was the main character, which is an obscure part of history that hasn’t found its way into many fictional stories. The mystery was intriguing and every character was suspicious which kept me on the edge of my seat. The characters were flawed and relatable and the cosmic tidbits woven throughout the story satisfied my Astrology background. I loved how each chapter began with a riddle, an astrological observation, and a prognostication which foreshadowed the events in the chapter. It was as though I was reading an actual almanack!
I whizzed right through this stellar murder mystery and can’t wait to read more from Martine Bailey! My prognostication is that readers who love classic whodunnits and those who have an appreciation for the occult, will absolutely adore this story.
This book looked at the so called wizards of history- famous figures and more obscure trailblazers who by using what we would consider occult practices attempted to unravel the mysteries and secrets of life. The first section explored ‘Prehistoric and Mythic Magic’ specifically focusing on the Lion Man which was very interesting and something I never knew about prior to reading this book. Section two examined ‘Pre-socratic Sorcerers of Ancient Greece,’ which was a drier section but still interesting nonetheless. Finally, the third section looked at ‘The Western Alchemical Tradition’ which I found to be the most fascinating, especially the stories about the Islamic alchemists and the chapter on James Price. A good portion of the book focused on philosophers whose theories about the existence of humanity are in many ways considered magical, for how they were able to come to such conclusions is truly astonishing.
The book contained some personal magical experiences of author Guy Ogilvy, which were a little eerie, but certainly helped to bring a sense of realism to the overall book. This book was also well sourced and I liked that large sections of primary sources were included in the chapters as well. I jotted down many notes and obscure facts that I want to research further which is quite exciting.
Overall this was a fascinating book and even though I never would have called Pythagoras or Epimenides “wizards,” if a wizard is someone who is wise, than yes, after reading this book, I also agree that these individuals possessed so much wisdom, that they were indeed magical.
The No-Self Help Book by Kate Gustin proposes that the inner voice inside of us has hijacked our sense of knowing who we are. Essentially, we are not our “self” because the self does not exist. The self in modern Western society and psychology is most similar to the “ego” but further research has discovered that it’s actually a complex system that is controlling, persecuting, and dis-empowering. This was layed out in the ‘Introduction’ which was easy to understand and got me interested in reading the rest of the book.
The first part of the book ‘Selfhoods’ was the strongest section of this book in my opinion. It clearly outlined all of the ways we buy into our own stories at the expense of truly living an expansive life. We tend to over-identify with our emotions and narratives which degrades any values and dreams that we might have. The theme throughout this first section was about understanding that we are not our thoughts, and this is facilitated through having a solid value system. The second section of the book ‘No-Self Speaks’ was eye-opening. It was written in first person so that it seemed like the “no-self” was speaking directly to you. It outlined all of the ways we distort reality by listening to the demands of our emotions. On a side note, this whole section could have been included in the introduction whereby we learn that the “no-self” is just a clever name for consciousness…that we are an extension of everything. The theme throughout this second section was about not taking anything personally. The third section of the book ‘To Self or Not to Self’ combined the previous two sections of the book to show how following the guidance presented in this book can bring more presence and awareness to your life, as the author says “No-self is the largest context in which awareness of everything arises.” It becomes obvious in this chapter that we do have the power to choose our thoughts and feelings. Questions to ask oneself in certain situations and in interactions to bring attention to the “no-self” were included throughout this section which was very much needed. I will say that the sub-section on ‘Decision Making’ was weak and unresolved.
I have only read this book once, but I know I will be using these techniques to the best of my ability. As someone who tends to over-think and over-analyze things, I found this book to be extremely eye-opening. It was a little unsettling to discover that most self-help books out there are indirectly serving the ego. For this reason, I believe Kate Gustin is disrupting the whole self-help industry which is long over-due. This book is revolutionary, and ironically, The No-Self Help Book has helped me a lot.
Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill is a collection of reinvented fairy tale poems and prose for the those of us who wear our crowns slightly askew, for those of us who live our lives asleep like sleeping beauty, and for those of us who lock ourselves up in our towers, waiting for Prince Charming. What appealed to me about this book was the idea that perhaps Gill would be the new Grimm, that perhaps her stories would enchant, inspire, and ignite a sense of adventure and self-empowerment for the now age. Thankfully, this work did not disappoint. The consistent theme throughout is that princesses and fairytales are not exclusive to dusty old books and Disney films- we slay dragons everyday, we dream our own dreams, and only we can be our own knights in shining armour.
Gill has taken the morals of the classic fairytales and have injected them with a much needed modern day context. Some poems are dark, going deep into the woods to confront society’s demons such as eating disorders, absent fathers, the patriarchy etc. This was needed and speaks to the issue about the romanticism of fairytales. For those looking for stories about glamorous balls, glass slippers, and talking fauna, this is not the collection for you. There’s a reason this book is called Fierce Fairytales, the stories are meant to uplift you by first deconstructing the harsher lessons of classic tales. It becomes evident that “once upon a time” is our time.
While I did enjoy some of the poems, I felt the themes were redundant. This book could have been cut down in size by half and it would have been a lot more effective. I did enjoy many of the poems- particularly ‘Why the Leaves Change Colour’, ‘The Woods Reincarnated,’ ‘Somewhere Across the Universe, This Intergalactic Fairytale Is Being Told,’ and ‘The Healing,’ just to name a few.
If fairytales exist for the purpose of teaching and instilling morals and values into the people, then Fierce Fairytales will motivate you to get out of your cold dark cellar and rescue your self-love that you have put into the hands of wolves, villains, and enchanted mirrors.
Daughter of Light and Shadows by Anna McKerrow is a sexy and intoxicating novel set in the fairy kingdom and the price one has to pay to embrace their darkness. The story follows Faye- a proprietor of a new age shop in Abercolme who descends from a long line of witches. We follow Faye trying to come to terms with her Mother’s death and casting love spells with her two good friends. Along the way she comes to learn about her true ancestry which carries a heavy burden for many.
I really enjoyed the blending of the witchy genre with the fairy genre which I haven’t come across in many other books. There was just enough magic without it being too fantastical and this book reminded me of another similar story The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle. There was plenty of romance and eroticism which I didn’t mind in this particular story since it was used to show how the enchantment of the fairy world brings out people’s greatest desires that would otherwise linger in the peripheries of their being. It was this exploration of light and dark that kept me engaged from beginning to end. The fairy kingdom served as a metaphor for our own shadows. A place where desire, lust, and beauty can distort one’s personal power. The real world setting of Abercolme is the reality we live everyday, fighting our own shadows in order to stay in the light of what is acceptable. The mystical cold beach was the border between the two worlds- the place where spells and magic consummated. The murky waters of the sea were representative of our emotional depths- how far and deep would one go to discover themselves? This battle between light and dark played out in very magical way for Faye that kept me on the edge of my seat. I found myself struggling as Faye did. There were points in the story where I wanted Faye to fully embrace her fairy side- I mean, who wouldn’t be enamoured with gilt, jewels, and gorgeous supernatural creatures? Yet, there were other times when I wanted to see her exact revenge upon Glitonea and Finn, using her full witchy power. Daughter of Light and Shadows cast its own spell upon me, leaving me wanting more and more.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton is a haunting tale about an artist, a manor, and a priceless gem, and the interwoven lives of the manor’s mysterious occupants. I had high expectations for this book as I am a fan of Kate’s previous book The Lake House and trained as an Archivist like one of the characters. With that being said, I was left feeling disappointed with this book. I found it to be extremely slow-paced and the story itself was boring. It was an average whodunnit that really wasn’t all that interesting. I was confused as to what the story was really about? Was it a ghost story? A crime story? A story about a mysterious manor? Birchwood Manor was the main character, so I think it might have been more appropriate to rename the book as such. I felt the story was saturated with too many characters and it was difficult to keep up with them. As other readers have pointed out, it would have been nice if the two main characters didn’t share a similar names- Lily and Lucy. The Eldritch Children seemed last-minute and I’m not really sure why Elodie’s subplot was included since it was left unresolved. The Clockmaker’s Daughter needed a stronger supernatural element, less characters, and a more intriguing central mystery.
Crystals Your Personal Guide (In Focus) by Bernice Cockram is a beginner’s guide on healing crystals. Everything you need to know about them is included. Cockram’s explanations and descriptions are easy to understand so the reader will not be overwhelmed by the content. Cockram included information about crystals that I haven’t always seen in beginner’s guides such as the Moh’s Scale of Hardness, tips on how to create crystal healing nets for yourself and others, crystal divination using Astrology and Chinese Magic Squares, and Numerology. These were all nice touches that anyone can incorporate after reading this book. I applaud Cockram for explaining the different types of sacred geometrical patterns for crystal grids such as when you would use a flower of life grid versus a vesica pisces grid. I have not come across this type of information in a crystal book before so I thoroughly appreciated that section. The same goes for the different types of crystal systems that were also explained. Once again, most crystal books neglect to include this information so I was pleasantly surprised to read about this. My only complaint is that the author should have listed crystals that are safe and unsafe for making gem elixirs because a beginner would not necessarily know this. Since Cockram described the steps in making a gem elixir, a short list of safe and toxic crystals would have been a big help. The illustrations throughout were effective and the images of the crystals were crisp and clear. Overall a very informative and quick guide on crystals that I will surely be adding to my collection.
Strange Heavens by Philip J. Imbrogno is a love letter to the sky. This book looks at the historical, physiological, psychological, and psychic connections civilizations have had with the sky over time. In essence, this is a biography of the celestial heavens. The author makes no effort to hide his investigative work into UFOs so this is also discussed throughout which needs to be included if this is meant to be a complete story about the sky. I enjoyed a deeper look at the constellations, and a deeper look at the mythologies and fascination with Sirius, the Pleiades, Orion, the luminaries, and comets. The book ended a little abruptly and I presume this is because it isn’t finished, so I would look forward to reading a conclusion. If you are someone who had stared up at the starry expanse of the sky wondering what’s up there, surely Strange Heavens will be able to answer many of your questions.
Light Magic for Dark Times by Lisa Maria Basile is the modern-day witch’s guide on magic. No there aren’t any spells for winning the lottery or making someone fall in love with you, but there are spells on how to empower yourself…in a confident and feminist way. What I most loved about this grimoire was that the spells all featured ways to alchemize negative emotions and states of mind into positive healthy vibes. I have never actually read a spell book that emphasized personal growth so this book was a lavender breath of fresh air. The spells and rituals featured help you to cast a shining light upon those parts of yourself that you have hidden away, much like the woman healers of the past (whom we call witches), who had to hide themselves away to avoid persecution. Society today can often times feel as though we are being burned at the stake, and Light Magic for Dark Times will help you realize that a little self-care is the magical potion you need so you can brew some positive changes in your life.
If the point of witchcraft is to bring about practical change, this book is revolutionary. Modern day grimoires focus heavily on traditional magick such as creating love potions, protective amulets, and so forth. What’s missing from those spells are a modern and relatable context. In Light Magic for Dark Times there are spells for saying no to labels, to end loneliness, to recharge after doing social justice work, and rituals for going with the flow, to celebrate yourself after you’ve lost confidence, releasing parental resentment etc. I was particularly drawn to the lunar rituals being the moon-child I am, and I plan on performing the new moon rituals this month. The spells and rituals are categorized under Love, Grief and Trauma, Negativity, Regeneration and Recharge, Identity and Body, Shadow Work, Writing Magic, Last-Minute Light, and Finding Your Craft.
The beauty of magic is that it doesn’t require a lot of tools or objects. What is required is self-awareness and a willingness to grow, which are the key tools needed in this grimoire if you expect the spells to work. Sure a piece of rose quartz is recommended, along with some basic candles, but the essential materials required for the spells are a few moments of silence, a comfy chair, and a paper and pen. Basile’s writing background comes across strongly throughout this book as the majority of the spells and rituals require journaling. This book is the perfect companion to Basile’s Luna Luna Magazine which is of the same essence.
The luminous thread that bound this book together was self-care and personal empowerment. Being a modern-day witch is less about pentagram necklaces and black cats and more about honouring thyself through meaningful intentions and sacred work that makes a difference in a time when it’s becoming harder and harder to find the light. Even if you don’t identify as a witch or spell caster, read this book anyways, because if you are a woman trying to navigate her way through the murky waters of 2018 and beyond, Light Magic for Dark Times will become a very handy paper familiar.
Shamanic Qabalah is one of my favourite books I have read from Llewellyn this year. Author Daniel Moler takes the reader on an initiatory journey through the mystical Qabalah from the perspective of South American Shamanism. At first, it seemed that the “shamanic” aspects of the book were missing. There was definitely more emphasis and time spent on the Tree of Life, but as with Western Mystery Traditions, things are not what they seem. Shamanic Qabalahism is about grounding the mystical into the practical. For those who know little about Shamanism, it can appear as a mind tripping exploration of altered states of consciousness. However, this book proposes that the whole purpose of exploring the spiritual should be to harmonize the material world, which allows one to truly acknowledge and embrace their divine essence. My favourite part of the book was the deep look at the Sephiras. I thought they were beautifully and concisely explained. I especially enjoyed the discussions of the corresponding Tarot cards which I feel other books on the Qabalah have skipped past. I wish there was more discussion about how Shamanism incorporates into the Tree of Life in the chapters that delved deep into each Sephira, because from my understanding, it was missing. If you are new to the Qabalah this book will be difficult to understand, but do not let that scare you away. There is an abundance of information contained within this volume that your consciousness will know what to do with. Afterall, one of the main tenets of Shamanism is to create a bridge of trust between the supernatural and natural worlds.
It almost doesn’t seem right to review a book of this type. I would have to re-read this a few more times to fully grasp its messages, but I believe this would only be scratching the surface. Daniel Moler said in his conclusion that this book was only an introductory book on this topic. I sincerely hope that Daniel will follow-up this book with more on this unique subject. As someone who is looking to imbue life with practical spirituality, Shamanic Qabalah has awakened my soul to a new way of viewing the world and cross cultural traditions.