Baneful - A Review

Today I'm reviewing Baneful - 95 of the World's Worst Herbs by Deborah Martin.

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I did a quick search on my blog yesterday and realized I have never published by review of Baneful. I rated it back in 2015 but didn't add it here. The story of how I got this book is amazing.  My dear sister requested a copy of the book signed by the author for my birthday.  The snow was coming down and there was some question if it might arrive on time.  This author signed and managed to get my book to the post office and it arrived just in time.  That says so much about someone who is willing to go the extra step to make someone's day.  DJ and I have been friends ever since.  I cherish this book and adore my sister for thinking of me.  <3

Now on with the review.

I became interested in this book through working on a project with the Covenant of Hekate. Working through the associations I searched online and found a list of books to check out. I decided to check out Baneful.  First, it's a hefty book.  I like that I can pick it up and really open the pages and get into reading it.  The illustrations are great and the introductions  (book and section) are informative and witty. 

Photo Credit - Renee Sosanna Olson
Source Credit: Baneful

When I learn something new, I like to associate the new "thing" with a story or funny reminder. The author provides a section called "Interesting Tidbits" that I found really helpful.  I really enjoy the references on page 13 related to the mythological creation of Aconite from the spit of Cerberus.

Photo Credit: Renee Sosanna Olson
Image Source - Baneful

Each herb is sectioned out in side effects, medicinal uses, and magical uses. I found the story of the Cheyenne on page 55, using a piece of sweet flag root into a child's coverings to ward off night spirits.  This writing style is perfect for this content because it makes you want to learn things. Like did you know that wolfsbane may have been named such due to Ancient Greeks using it on the tips of their arrows while hunting wolves? Or how about the Ancient Greeks and Romans use of mandrake amulets against bewitchment!!  Learning that the Yew was so toxic was fascinating to me. The author tells me that it was used in fertility rituals for both men and women but also for raising the dead!  I could go on and on.

Photo Credit: Renee Sosanna Olson
Image Source - Baneful

Over all I think this is a great addition to any library.  Witchy or otherwise.  It is well written and easy to follow.  I love the "Cheat Sheet" in the back of the book and the note section after each herb was very helpful.  I highly recommend picking up a copy today!

Protection Spells: Clear Negative Energy, Banish Unhealthy Influences and Embrace Your Power - A Review

Today I'm reviewing Protection Spells - Clear Negative Energy, Banish Unhealthy Influences and Embrace your Power by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

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Release Date - August 7, 2018

About the Author  from Good Reads

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Currently a resident of Montreal, Canada, Arin works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Power Spellcraft for Life: The Art of Crafting and Casting for Positive Change (2005), Solitary Wicca for Life: A Complete Guide to Mastering the Craft on Your Own(2005), The Way of the Green Witch (2006), The Way of the Hedge Witch (2009), and Pagan Pregnancy: The Journey From Maiden to Mother (TBA). She is also the editor of the anthology Out of the Broom Closet (2009).

Arin is a third-degree Wiccan High Priestess in the Black Forest Clan, a tradition linked both by lineage and practice to several other branches of Wiccan thought and philosophy including the Caledonii Tradition, Druidism, Gardnerian practice, Seax-Wicca, general Celtic Wicca, and German witchcraft. She works as a priestess in her community performing rites of passage and giving occasional workshops, and leads a private coven.

Generally I like to start out with a disclaimer. I am an atheist witch.  I look for the connection between magic and science without the need for a deity. I receive no compensation for these reviews and all my links are standard Amazon links and not affiliate links. I am a practicing photo reader and have spent the last 13 years honing my craft.  I offer personal readings by request and have a strong online history that boasts nearly 400,000 views.

Like many spell books, this author starts this book with the the ins and outs of spell work. I really like the section on how spells work.  The author tells us, "... if you're looking to use spells to avoid work, you're in for a rude awakening."   Ain't it the truth!!  Time, patience and more patience are key to working with magic. It is refreshing to see a book confess this at the very beginning. There's no easy way to get what you want in life.  In order to succeed, you must work for it.

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Image Source - Protection Spells by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

The section on ethics is also very good. On page 17 the author tells the reader, "You don't get to do magic on or for people without their permission."   So many new witches jump right into binding magic, curses or even healing spells without first consulting with your client or perspective client. Sometimes a client may be working against the very magic you're casting. Sometimes consent to cast isn't enough. An example of this is when I was working a binding spell for an abusive partner and the client was actively calling the target of the spell. They were following them from work, and driving by the abusive partner's house. This is directly counter productive for a binding spell.  Once I found out, I quickly cut the cord with this client. So consent is indeed critical in spell work but so is the responsibility of the client to follow the path the adviser has laid out for them.

Photo Credit - Renee Sosanna Olson
Image Source - Protection Spells by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

Circle basics, casting and altars are at the very beginning of the text. Something I find that many spell books are lacking. The author fails to add "Wards" in the Types of spells section on page 25. I was a bit surprised by this; as wards are the most common type of protection spells out there.  We only hear about binding more due to Hollywood, but wards are super simple and work well to return magic back to its origin either in reverse or directly as the sender intended.  For me, I see this come to fruition in many of my day to day activities. Wards only work on those sending magic to you.  If they're sending good magic, they get good magic back.  If they send bad magic - well, you know how that goes.

The books is divided up on spells related to  Body and Spirit, House and Home and Rituals and Protective Objects. On page 166, the author gives us a spell for protecting oneself on public transport. This spell pulls in the Raidho and Eihwaz runes and gives the reader direction on how to apply the runes to a transit pass (bus pass/ticket) for a trouble free journey.  The spell is extremely easy and could even be preformed at the bus stop while you wait.

Photo Credit - Renee Sosanna Olson
Image Source - Protection Spells by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

As with many of the books I review, my favorite part is the reference section. The key to any good spell book is to be able to find exactly what I'm looking for quickly.  The author makes it easy for me to find purification spells, cord magic and much more with the full index in the back. I believe many authors skip this important step. We're witches on the go, we have shit to do, please let me find the spells a bit more easily.  

Photo Credit - Renee Sosanna Olson
Image Source - Protection Spells by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

Over all I would say this is a great book for those not interested in writing their own spells. They are simply written, easy to use and well thought out.  The Purifying Spray on page 88 for example is extremely easy to use and for the most part, made up of ingredients that most witches would have on hand.

Photo Credit - Renee Sosanna Olson
Image Source - Protection Spells by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

I would highly recommend adding this book to your standard witchy library. I believe you won't be disappointed.

Spiritual Evolution - Science, Religion and Magic

This morning I felt the urge to talk about the evolution of spirituality. As many of you know my path has evolved from its inception. As a child (roughly age 8) I was raised Southern Baptist.  I was taught that if I donated money to the church, I would be blessed. If I were blessed, my step father would stop molesting me.  My mother would stop living in soaps and we would have more food on the table.

My path as an adult has moved from a general interest in Wicca, to a Devotee to the Covenant of Hekate, to a Torchbearer and today, it still progresses.

Photo Credit - Renee Sosanna Olson

Over my stay with the Covenant of Hekate I was encouraged to explore my path. Read more books and learn more about the path I was traveling. As we look at our past, we can see that as we learned more about the world around us, we began to understand that some things we attributed to a deity was actually science, magic or insanity.

Let's start with Abraham. (Link) -  In the Hebrew Bible, a very dedicated servant of God is told by his God that he must kill his son in order to prove his loyalty. Abraham puts his son on an altar and pulls out a knife to sacrifice him to his God.  The story continues that an angel stops Abraham from killing his son.

By Caravaggio - scan, Public Domain, Link
Here we have a man killing his child because a voice told him to.  Today, if this happened, we would tell the person they were insane and lock them up for attempted murder.  We frown on parents who use religious objections to not seek medical care for their children. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics is against these types of medical objections.  (link)

Remember, there's a huge margin here as it relates to insanity vs. hearing voice or reading images. I certainly don't believe or mean to imply that everyone who has "heard" the voice of their deity is insane. We have to look at literal vs. figurative.

Then we have this, in the United States the government has passed a religious freedom bill that allows medical professionals to decline treatment those those people or for those procedures that are against their religious beliefs.  Which basically means, LGBTQI people get kicked to the curb, OH and if you want an abortion or birth control, guess what??  You don't get that either. (link)

(I follow my book, but only when I want to)

Today many out there like to use words like "I'm not that kind of Christian"  or "That's not what Christianity is about today".  They see their religious frame work as being some thing that has evolved to include LGBTQI - People of Color (because yes, in the not so distant past, these same folks used the Bible to defend slavery)

One of the things that I watched along my journey was Caesar's Messiah. I'll link the trailer below. I highly recommend taking a look at this.

**Just for the fun of it, here's another website that lists all the times "murder" is called for in the bible.

Just to reiterate, I do not believe that those who "hear" their deity are insane.  I believe that there are some that are, but there are also some who are indeed hearing their message.

Now let's talk about Pyhthia - Oracle of Delphi

"Priestess of Delphi" by John Collier, 1891. 

In this example oracle goes into the Temple of Apollo where there are assorted fumes and then the oracle gives a reading and provides and answer to the questioning from the Gods.

Today we see groups that still engage in the use of drugs to contact a deity. Peyote for example is in the same class of drugs as Heroin.

A quick look at the ingredients of "Flying Ointment" will quickly reveal, if we weren't flying, we certainly thought we were. (lol)

Source - Wikipedia

Still anyone using drugs today and telling us they speak for a God/Deity is generally met with a huge amount of skepticism.  Today we look to make sure that those who claim to have contact with a deity are not in a place where they can hurt themselves or others.  This is another form of religious evolution. We move from blanket belief to a healthy does of critical thinking to ensure the safety of our people.

Photo Credit - Renee Sosanna Olson

In our final example, I want to have a look at Hecate Devotees.

Followers of the Goddess Hecate have certainly changed from what we see in the assorted historic texts related to her. We know, for example that many of her followers were/are vegetarian or vegan. (Hekate: Liminal Rites (Avalonia Press, 2009).  You can find more on vegetarianism and Hecate here.
Now does that mean everyone who follows Hecate should be/is  vegan or vegetarian?  Of course not. Each person follows their own dietary practices. Science tells us that some people cannot eat only a vegan diet.  My DNA tests revealed that when I eat animal products, I tend to put on more weight and have more adverse side effects.  So I choose to eat vegan. Not for the goddess but for my own health and well being.

Hecate has a thirst for the blood of black dogs and puppies? Or so I've read. There are several references to black dogs in various documents that equate them to being evil or the devil. Dogs which are said to be sacred to her were sacrificed as well.  Today very few cults still use animal sacrifice as part of their ritual practice. For me, as an animal lover, I completed my dedication to Hecate by helping homeless animals.  This allowed me to embrace the part of the Goddess that was said to love dogs and then to weed out or EVOLVE my practice away from something distasteful into something useful.

To round out this discussion on Hecate, you cannot complete her story with out reference to the Eunuchs who were said to follow her in Lagina.  This discovery has led to many discussions and all out fights online as to if men were even allowed to be Devotees of Hecate. Because of her further association with childbirth as well as being seen has as a virgin/maiden Goddess, it could be said that she was, indeed a Goddess for women. The following link has a great deal of information on Hecate and women, however the association of Hecate with the Crone aspect of the MMC construct is not something I subscribe to.  That being said, I do like to supply all views so here is the link.

Video from the Temple of Lagina.

Today we do not expect ritual castration, sacrificing puppies (your kids) or even inhaling noxious fumes to follow your path.  Today, our thoughts have evolved to allow for others to follow their own path. If that path contains a deity or if that path is absent of one, it is still one's own path and should only be judged by themselves.  It is not our place to say one way is right or wrong but more of which way grants peace to all those involved.

Our science has shown us where an eclipse comes from.  Where earth quakes and hurricanes originate. We know that we have the ability to think freely for ourselves and not rely on some antiquated text (don't even get me started on that) or messages from a doped up oracle for our direction in this world.  We have evolved to understand that our magic, our religion can usually be explained by science. And where it cannot, my hope is that one day we will be able to tap into those areas and explore them fully.  Because we know that space is there.  We can all feel the magic when we are in our ritual, in our meditation or even just walking into our sacred space to commune with what we may call our deity or our reality.

I'm a reader.  I read photos and people to learn about them.  I can see extramarital affairs. I can see illness and sadness. I can spot resentment and evil. I do not attribute this to any deity. I have had it my entire life. From Baptist to Atheist, my skill at reading has improved with age and my disconnection with negativity. I know that it is real and cannot be explained currently by science. But we'll get there.

We have to remember that each person, even those ancients that some embrace as being the only way, were merely interpreting what they see/heard/felt.  It was the UPG of its time.

So until you're walking around tossing black puppies in wells and hacking off your testicles I really don't need to hear about how your way is the only way to follow Hecate. Each person makes their own way. They have to walk that path, not you.

There's always room to evolve. No matter where you are in science, religion or magic.

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Additional Reading:

In Focus - Palmistry - Your Personal Guide - A Review

I'm reviewing a few books from the "In Focus" series from Wellfleet Press.  The first is called In Focus Palmistry - Your Personal Guide by Roberta Vernon.

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Release Date - July 31, 2018

Generally I like to start out with a disclaimer. I am an atheist witch.  I look for the connection between magic and science without the need for a deity. I receive no compensation for these reviews and all my links are standard Amazon links and not affiliate links. I am a practicing photo reader and have spent the last 12 years honing my craft.  I offer personal readings by request and have a strong online history that boasts nearly 400,000 views.

This is the fourth book in this series I have reviewed.  Up to this point I have been pleasantly surprised with the content and the direction of each of the books.  I was most excited about getting into this one. I know little to nothing about palmistry and was really excited about learning more.  As I sat down and started getting into the book I felt that it was pretty boring.  First the images that are in the book are line drawings and really don't give you the full look at what a palm looks like.  Now I know I could just open my hand right?  Well no, not really.  The imagery was vague and I wasn't sure really about any of it.  Don't get me wrong at all. The book completely views the Mound of Venus, your life line and love line, just like we see in the movies but I just didn't connect it together.

On page 45 for example the author goes into fingertips.  Square, rounded and pointed. Most of my fingers appears to be rounded at the tips.  The description says, "gets along well with people and can be quite amusing".  I do try to use laughter when I'm uncomfortable and that is the most of the time when I'm around people.  Next it says, generous, kind, a little lazy or maybe just laid back.  I'm probably one of the most up tight people you'll ever meet.  I like rules, I like fairness and I like structure.  While I want to be laid back and chill, most of the time I'm simply a bundle of nerves.  Finally is said, most people with rounded fingers are very musical and will play an instrument for a career.  Hrm... Only if that instrument is an HP.   And don't even get me started on the whorls, arches and composite patterns. Perhaps I needed to read this when my eyes were better, because I can't see crap on my finger tips.  (lol)

Even though early in the book I found myself pretty much disagreeing with the author, I went ahead and read through the remaining pages.  The back of the book has a pocked with a 18X24 inch wall poster of the Palmistry imagery for quick reference.  Physically the book is made well, great hard cover and vibrant cover imagery. Just as the other books in this series, I could recommend that it come with a dust jacket to help spruce it up a bit.  

Overall, this book was difficult to read and challenging to follow along unlike the other books in this series. Now keep in mind, I have some back ground knowledge of the other subjects and it could be that I just don't know enough about Palmistry to benefit from this book.   The section on fingernails (pages 146-149) I did find very helpful as it relates to identifying health related issues based on the color of the fingernail as well as the 1/2 moon shape (Lunulae) at the base of the nail bed.  Only my thumbs show any hint of a 1/2 moon and I have not head heart trouble or a stroke.  I did do some more digging on the web and found that a small or missing lunulae could indicate anemia, malnutrition and depression.  All of which I have so, there's that.

My final thoughts on the book are, I would like to read it again to see if I can glean more knowledge from it, as I don't feel as thought I benefited much from the initial read.  I would love to hear what learned Palmist think about it. If you have read this book and would like to do a guest review blog post, message me and we'll set that up.