Category Archives: Reviews

Review: The Conjure workbook by Mama Starr

The Conjure Workbook Volume 1: Working the Root is an excellent tome on Southern Conjure work. When I picked up this tome I knew that it was going to be full of Christian mysticism and biblical references. That is what Hoodoo and conjure is. The Southern Hoodoo and conjure traditions are a mixture of folk beliefs from pre-slave days in Africa and the various Christian faiths in the south. This was how the slaves were able to hold on to a bit of their previous culture and identity.

If those who are looking to learn about Hoodoo and conjure work are expecting information to come from a pagan perspective and are looking at this work they will be disappointed. Mama Starr is very clear about her roots and the roots of Southern Conjure which are in Christian belief systems of the south. While she does say that you can be of any belief system and still work the spells and rituals she provides, unless you respect the Bible and understand that it is filled with lore, spells, and practices you will not get anything out of this book.

The author begins the book by discussing the work of ancestors. Here the author begins explaining one of the core concepts and beliefs across Conjure/Hoodoo/Rootwork traditions. There is an overall belief in an existence of an afterlife and that our ancestors will be there to answer us. The author starts by describing how they help us and work with us and finally ends with setting up an altar to venerate and pray to your ancestors.

I mentioned the importance of respect for the Bible as a sacred text and as a book of power as that is the second topic discussed in the book. As I said early on the author is clear in that this book is a southern conjure book which is going to have referenced to the Bible in there. Most of the references are in the Old Testament but they are still Bible references.

After working with the ancestors is covered, crafting altars and work spaces is discussed, and the Bible is mentioned as an important source the Author gets into the spirits and beings that are often worked with in her practice of Hoodoo. Prior to reading this book I was aware of the work with the archangels and the saints. Here I learned of new spirits and beings also associated with Conjure as well as how we can even work with the prophets in the bible.

Each being mentioned came with several different prayers and ways that you can work with them. These early workings are here to give you an idea about the powers each spirit has. These workings also introduce you to the concepts of repeating works, and how actual effort is put into the work. The author makes it clear that these things are repeated several times for effectiveness.

As the book continues the author mentions and focuses on another core belief in rootworking traditions. That belief and practice is one of divination. Starr provides many different ways of working divination including a very traditional practice of reading the bones. While the actual practice of bone reading is not discussed, the author does include its history of use. The author included a photo of her own bone set.

As the book continues the author continues an easy to follow step by step instruction on workings. The author also continues her straight talk. The author is very serious about their work and their tradition. Throughout the book the author mentions how some of these works are dangerous and are not to be simply played with. She does this not to discourage people from doing these works, but to encourage people to take the work seriously.

The author does speak only of their own tradition and practices. While the author does give you all the information you need to create your own Hoodoo/Conjure practice she does encourage you to find an actual teacher to learn more complex works. As an example the author explains why some packet spells written by other authors aren’t as effective as they could be because of folding the paper of the packet in a different manner than she was taught with an explanation of why the other method may actually backfire.

This book is filled with practical information. With the authors attitude, explanations, and the step by step processes in the book the tome The Conjure Workbook volume 1: Working the Root provides everything you need to know in order to effective start working your own spells and rituals. By working the spells in the book you develop understanding of associations and correspondences which can be useful in creating your own effective spells.

Review: The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates

The Way of Wyrd

The book The Way of Wyrd is a fictional story of a Christian Monk who is sent to learn the ways of the Anglo-Saxon pagans. The story is rich and entertaining. The author worked hard to research and present the information in a way that was informative and entertaining. By working the true beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers into this work of fiction the author has brought back the use of stories to transmit knowledge and information.

The book is actually in two parts. The first part focuses on the early aspects of the Monk’s training. Here the monk is very skeptical of all the powers the sorcerer claims to work with and hold. While he works hard to learn all he can learn, Brand (the name of the monk) never really believes the ways of the people or that the powers are real.

In this part of the book the author introduces the basic beliefs of the people. The story actually opens with Brand working with Wulf (the sorcerer) at a healing ceremony banishing an evil spirit. This powerful start to the book illustrates a few of the key practices and beliefs that Brand is exposed to as he begins the training. This ceremony is set after he has completed his journey so we see here that Brand has much to learn and yet he was open to them.

In this first part of the book Brand is highly skeptical of the beliefs and practices. There are some that even scare him. Though he is fascinated with the tales of the Gods and of the spirits he does not appreciate their real value aside from primitive beliefs and practices.

The first powerful ritual that Brand is exposed to is an example of his difficulty in attempting to switch worldviews to learn the beliefs and practices. Here Brand is taught about gathering power from plants and how to properly gather the plant and give it an offering.

Other powerful rituals are experienced in this section. Here the author also goes into reading the omens of nature such as the flight pattern of birds and the way fish swim. The largest concept of Germanic paganism introduced here is the concept of Wyrd and knowing how to read and work with Wyrd.

The final experience in this section of the book Brand has is watching Wulf heal an elf shot horse. When Brand declares the process a fraud Wulf knows then that he must make Brand experience these forces or the mission to learn their ways will be a failure. The experience at the farm and Brand’s declaration of being a fraud.

In the second part of the book Brand is forced to encounter the shamanic aspects of Germanic paganism. Here we learn about spirit flight, how our spirits can be stolen, and how to work a soul retrieval in the practices of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers.

The authors use of the narrative story teaches several elements of Germanic paganism. There are tales of the Gods taught, beliefs about plant lore explored, beliefs of the soul, and much more. The book provides through the story a basic concept and outline of many main beliefs found in Germanic Paganism as well as in Traditional Witchcraft, Anglo-Saxon shamanism, and much more. This book was well researched and written allowing a student to learn concepts in a way that non-fiction books may not be able to portray them.

Review: The Reiki Guidebook

The author Sasha Vivelo is clearly well informed about the practice of Reiki. This book The Reiki Guide provides what you need to know in order to understand Reiki. The author even provides some information and meditations which may possible allow you to attune to and become a practitioner of Reiki as well.

The Reiki Guidebook is divided into two parts. These two sections cover the first two degrees of Reiki material. These sections each provide a mixture of personal experience, exercises to try, and practical information. These two sections provide enough information for the reader to be able to start doing some energy work on themselves.

The first section covers the first degree material for Reiki which is the basic hands on aspects to the treatment. Here the author covered theory, practice, history, and what the three degrees of Reiki are. This section even includes a point by point guide for laying your hands on the person receiving the treatment.

The two most interesting sections in the first part of the book are the chapter on the atunement process and the chapter on further Reiki practice including how to treat small children, animals, and plants with reiki. In the chapter on the atunement process while the author does give an exercise for a personal atunement so you can practice on your own with your family and friends, the author does say that nothing can replace the in person atunement process given by a Master.

The second part of the book covers the material for the second degree of Reiki training. In this section you are given tools to treat family, friends, and many other people at a distance. You are even shown how to create and use the symbols associated with Reiki work. This part of the book also gives you an idea of how you can continue to give reiki treatments for extended time periods at a distance and even to yourself.

The most interesting chapter in the second part of the book was the section that dealt with using Reiki to aid in the transition from this life to the next life or from life to death. Here the author shared a few different experiences with her own end of the life work with her family members as well as with other people. We learn how Reiki can be beneficial in those with terminal illnesses by helping them manage the pain, and be more at peace with the world in general.

The combination of personal tales and experiences, the practical application, exercises, and the philosophy associated with Reiki makes this a very valuable book in anyone’s collection. For those who are interested in Reiki it gives you the tools to explore Reiki on your own before taking a formal plunge into the practice with your own Master.

Review: I am Healer, Story Teller, and Warrior Priest: Learning from Arianrhod

Learning from Arianrhod

The book I am Healer, Story Teller, and Warrior Priest: Learning from Arianrhod is a short book. This book focuses on the lessons of one specific Goddess within the Celtic pantheons. This book covers many different lessons for personal and spiritual development. The overall concept and goal behind the entire book is to gain a better sense of Self and the relationship to the divine.

The author divided the book up into 4 different sections. Each section of the book had a specific set of lessons in them. The first section of the book is basically an introduction section. Here you are given a starting point for the journey of the book. This is the only section of the book that is made up of one chapter.

The second section of the book is about myths and legends. This section of the book provides two key mythological tales from Celtic lore. The section here then discusses and provides and overview of those two mythic tales and the various lessons in them. Here we learn about some important deities in Celtic spirituality but also learn quite a bit about the relationships between the different divine groups within the Celtic pantheons.

The third section of the book covers the topic of the Goddesses Arianrhod and Bloudeuwedd. Here we get information about their specific characters and their roles in the mythos. We also learn about the symbols of these Goddesses and how they can be worked with spiritually. Section three is also made up of one chapter.

The final section in the book is titled “Manifesting the divine”. This is the section that finally ties in the title of the book to the rest of the book. Here we finally see the roles of the warrior, the healers, the priests, and other ways of manifesting and working with the divine energy explored earlier in this book. Here we get into some practical work and can find spiritual development.

The first chapter in the book covers the concepts of what which has been lost and that which has been found. Here the author introduces the concept of the self as a relation to the divine and the divine energy of the universe. The author touches on Jungian psychology and philosophy. This chapter forms the basic concept of the book which is to gain connection to the divine and the Gods.

The second chapter begins the section on mythology. Here the author starts us off by introducing the first set of myths one should read in regards to Irish paganism. These are the invasion cycles covering the three groups that battled over time for control of Ireland.

The third chapter talks about one of the most famous groups mentioned in the myths of Celtic tribes. This is the group called the Tuatha De Dannan. These are the people known as the fae and fairies to the Christians, while to the Celts these people were there deities and are deities to those who practice modern Celtic spirituality.

Chapter four is called “The ‘Tyranny’ of Bres”. This chapter covers a series of battles and challenges faced by the Tuatha de Dannan as they were ruled by this king. Here we learn of many hardships the Tuatha De Dannan are forced to face and how their teachings are forbidden.

Chapter five gets into some of the symbols that come up in the myths regarding the Tuatha De Dannan. Here the author provides insight as to some deeper meanings and concepts in the myths just read.

In chapter six we are introduced to The Mabinogion. Here the author gives an account of the various books and tales within this collection of Welsh myths. The author while not providing the entire extensive texts provides you with enough understanding to be able to know what the story contains and who the characters are.

Chapter seven discusses the importance of the Mabinogion in today’s world. Here the author discusses the themes and concepts found within the Mabinogion. You are provided with heroes and gods and how their symbolism and their stories are still relevant in the world we live in today.

Chapter eight makes up the entirety of the third section. This chapter focuses on two goddesses from The Mabinogion and their symbolism. We are taught their sides of the story and the symbols in the myths. Here we even learn the meanings behind the use of the flowers that make up the Goddess Blodeuwedd and how that plays into her character.

Chapter nine is where we enter the final section of the book. here the author discusses and goes over the concept of the wounded healer. Here we learn what it means to heal from wounds and what it means to be a true healer. Here we learn that it is ok for us to show our scars from healing ourselves. This shows that we can go on and live with the pain.

Chapter ten starts a discussion on shamanism. Here we learn the authors concept of the shaman soul. We learn about the different aspects of ourselves and how to work them together.

Chapter eleven teaches us some magical and spiritual philosophies involved in manifesting the divine and creating a relationship with the divine. Here the author gets into a few of the concepts found in The Kyballion.

In chapter twelve the author gets into their views on the different bodies that a person has. The concepts here include the emotional body, the physical body, the spiritual body, and the mental body. The author also gets into their relationship to each other and how they work to make us a whole person.

Chapter thirteen teaches us about being a spiritual warrior. Here the author talks about the concepts of what it means to be a warrior and the traits of a warrior. Here the author gets into our responsibilities in the role of a warrior, self discipline, and being honest with oneself.

Chapter fourteen is a Mandala created by the author for Warriors. Its a way of mapping all of the selves. It is a way of showing consequences and actions. This is a “living” document according to the author as it changes and evolves as each individual grows and involves. Its a tool for showing and exploring spiritual and personal growth.

The fifteenth chapter of this book is all about the healer. Healers have always had an important role in religious and spiritual traditions. Here the author gives us a unique healing technique that they created. The author then goes into many other spiritual healing traditions including sweat lodges, Reiki, and affirmative prayer to name a few.

The sixteenth chapter in this book gets into the concept of the storyteller. Here the author explains why we need storytellers today and how they can fill a spiritual void. The author here gets into the spiritual roles as well as the practical roles of the storyteller.

The final and seventeenth chapter in this book covers the concept of the priesthood. The concept of priesthood in pagan and alternative spiritual paths is not always understood today. Here the author gets into the importance of the education that the members of the priesthood have to get in order to best serve their gods. The author talks about how the priesthood has a concept of service and how those who are of the priesthood must provide service of some sort to the community. The author also touches on how it is important to have recognition by others that you are of a service to the community.

The author ends the book by giving some advice on finding balance between all of these concepts. The author continues to explain and expand on the concept that it is up to you to do the work to make the connection and develop yourself spiritually.

Overall this author provides a lot of concepts to consider for developing your spiritual path. The author does well to tie in the concepts to Celtic spirituality specifically as that was the focus of the book yet leaves it open enough for you to find your own paths and relationships. The author does a good job of introducing some of the myths and the lore of Celtic paganism while giving the reader something to read and need to research on their own. This book provides an excellent starting point for Celtic spirituality while giving those on other spiritual paths many things to think about.

RootWork:Using the Folk Magick of the Black America for Love, Money, and Success

Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money, and Success is a very short and concise book. The author clearly wanted to provide a short and easy to read introduction to the practice of Hoodoo. The author wanted to provide a book where the individuals reading could come away feeling at least on a surface level familiar with the topic of Hoodoo and what Hoodoo was.

The short book covers history, the practice, and provides some simple spells and recipes that a novice could use to start their practice. The book is divided up into three parts. Each of the sections of the book provided insightful information but could have been more in depth.

The first part of the book covers the basics which includes the history and some of the basic cultural influences that have made Hoodoo what it is today. This section also defines what Hoodoo is and how it is different from the religion and spirituality of Voodoo. The section also does a basic introduction into the beliefs behind Hoodoo or Rootwork into why this system works. With any folk magic tradition it is essential to understand the culture and the history of the culture the magic system comes from. Without these understandings the practical aspects of the system become useless and one will never really understand what the system has to provide.

The first chapter in the book covers what Hoodoo is as a practice. This is probably one of the most essential chapters in this book. Here the author illustrates why Hoodoo is actually a different system than voodoo. It is also here that we begin to understand the role that Hoodoo played within the slave communities during the years that the slave trade existed. The author also barely covers how the practice managed to survive and adapt. This is also where we see how important herbs played in the roles of the lives of the African Americans historically.

The second chapter covers the history of Hoodoo. Here we see why the practice basically disappeared thanks to regulations in the US regarding slaves and congregations. This chapter also explains why there are various regional differences in southern and central America as well as within the Caribbean Islands that you will not find in the United States tradition of Hoodoo. This is due to the culture of those regions and how easily the slaves were able to adapt their native practices to that of the practices of the slave owners. The author’s main point in these illustrations is that Hoodoo arose out of the slave trade and it is important that we never forget that Hoodoo was and is the connection African Americans have to their native ancestral tribal practices.

Here the author explains that Hollywood has bee one of the biggest contributors to the misunderstanding of hoodoo as a magical practice rather than a religious practice. It is thanks to Hollywood that Hoodoo is seen as an evil practice rather than a rich system of healing spells and life work. While it is true they had spells and practices to harm others and defend the family, Hoodoo originated as a healing system as the slaves could not afford traditional medical care.

The author also illustrates within the chapter the reasons that a person may practice Hoodoo. Given the origins of the tradition and the terrible history of slavery it is a solid question. The authors answers are simple. The author provides 5 simple reasons that any one of African descent may want to practice or learn Hoodoo. The two reasons I found most inspiring are to connect to your ancestors log dead and for spiritual and personal growth and empowerment.

The third chapter and final portion of part one is about how Hoodoo works. Before going into the basic techniques and practices of Hoodoo one should have a basic understanding of the beliefs associated with this tradition. The six commonly held beliefs of Hoodoo Rootworkers forms the basis of how the tradition works. A perfect way to end the first part of the book.

The second part of the book provides some insight as to what the practice of Hoodoo may entail. This section of the book is aptly titled “Elements of Rootwork”. This section of the book is not meant to be a practicum or how to. This is a section that talks about the practices you will find in the how to section. A few of the techniques and practices have some exercises on how to perform that particular practice or use that skill. Overall the segment of the book was designed to introduce you to the basic skills and practices you may find a Hoodoo or a Rootworker engaging in.

The fourth chapter in this book starts off the elements section. For those who are familiar with European systems of magic you may be surprised to find a chapter on the elements and how the elemental forces of earth, air, fire, and water, are used in Hoodoo. This chapter covers how each element has a specific type of magical act that may be used as well as the properties of that element. The concepts here are new and useful to those coming from a European background looking for other ways they can work with the elemental forces of magic.

The fifth chapter in the book covers talismans and charms. Out of all the practices associated with Hoodoo the practices of talismans and charms is probably the most thought of and common one. Here the author goes into some of the traditional Hoodoo charms and talismans that many people are not familiar with covering the use of herbs as talismans by themselves as well as covering the use of human and animal parts. There is also a section on how to most effectively place the talisman or charm for its effect called “laying a trick”.

The sixth chapter in this book covers spirits of the dead. The chapter begins by discussing the types of spirits of the dead that one can experience and meet. The book then goes on to how to honor them and provides a few different examples on how one can communicate with them.

The last chapter in this section covers the various forms of divination that a Hoodoo practitioner may engage in. There are many different methods of divination. The author here explains why divination is engaged in prior to spell and ritual work. The majority of this chapter covers how to perform divination using simple day to day playing cards.

The final section of the book is the one that I was most eagerly interested as a reader which was the selection of spells and recipes to try. The final section of this book is what brings the book from an informative book about the history, practices, and tradition into a practical handbook.

The eighth chapter of this book focuses on what one needs to know before one can actually practice or use the spells and rituals outlined in the following chapters. This very short chapter is essential as it provides a few guidelines to using the spells effectively.

The remaining three chapters are made up of spells and rituals that are written in a step by step manner making them easy to use. Each of the spells contains a list of materials that are required followed by a list of actions and steps to take. Some of the spells have ingredients or actions mentioned earlier in the elemental magic section, but when combined the spells provide useful tools for creating a basic practice.

To end the author provides a selection of providers for spell and ritual supplies. Combined with the spells earlier and the techniques outlined throughout the book this final touch creates a useful handbook for any one to use. Together with the spells the providers and the authors make Hoodoo accessible in the 21st century to a wider selection of people than ever before.


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