May has been a doozy of a month for me. Between lots of travel, events, and stress at work, missing my friends, trying to rebuild healthy habits, and huge shake ups in my personal life, I am exhausted. Mercury retrograde has been wrecking my ability to communicate how difficult this time has been for me, and I've been spending a lot of time alone. Fortunately, the alone time has encouraged me to focus on a lot of the things I don't always have time for. I've started DIYing some new home decor, making macrame plant hangers, researching the grad school application process, and, most importantly, reading a lot again. I am a confessed book hoarder, and normally I like to buy books I'm reading, either from thrift stores or Half Price Books. But even used books are too expensive to buy often, so I turned to an old friend.
Y'all: I have REDISCOVERED the library in a huge way. For a long time, I did all my witchy reading online because I assumed my library would be pretty limited in its offerings. Generally, my hometown library only carried books on magick if it was discussed in historical contexts, never anything practical or modern. Well, the Austin Public Library system has come through in a big way for me, and I have been absorbing all the (FREE!!!) knowledge like crazy.
1. The Modern Guide to Witchcraft by Skye Alexander
Unfortunately I ran out of time and was unable to finish this book (someone else had put it on hold and I couldn't renew my listing, boo), but the half that I did read was a pure delight. This is a great book for people who are brand new to magick, because it provides a historical run down of magick from all over the world (it wasn't just about Salem, you guys). I also loved the focus on covens and how to find/build them, because it incorporated a lot of virtual hangout apps, online communities, and alternative ways of meeting people than the traditional circle in the woods. It felt very real and useable for a young witch in 2016, and while it skewed a bit female it was definitely user-friendly for people of all gender and sex identities, something that many magick and witchcraft books fail to do. It also has some pre-built spells and ingredients lists, as well as tips for building your own spells, emphasizing that building a personal brand of magick will always be more effective than mimicking something that another witch has done. Mimickry is a great way to get started, but the ultimate goal should be developing personal magick, something that I am still working very hard on.
2. DIY Magic: A Strange and Whimsical Guide to Creativity by Anthony Alvarado
I just picked this book up three days ago, but I already LOVE it. It's perfect for people who are busy or prefer short rituals over long ones. The book is basically a long series of activities and practices you can do: some of them focus on magick, others focus on building creativity, and some emphasize building productivity routines. Each activity is 2-5 pages long, and starts with an overview of the activity, its purpose, and a list of ingredients or tools you need, as well as approximately how long it will take. Some of the activities don't require any physical materials, while others (like the spell jars or macrame meditation chain) require quite a few ingredients or previous experience with the skill. It's not meant to be a book that you sit down a read, but rather meant to get you up and moving and engaged in your practice.
3. The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life by Jessa Crispin
I saved the best for last. I love this tarot guide so much that my mom recently bought me my own copy so that I never have to be without it (yay)! I have been exploring the tarot for about a year now, but my commitment to it ebbs and flows. I use the traditional Rider-Waite deck because I like the art style and abundance of resources for learning the deck, but I hadn't really found a guide that inspired me and resonated with the type of life I live and the way I use the cards. Jessa Crispin is an artist, and uses her skills with the tarot to consult with creative types and give them guidance in their projects and artistic endeavors. She offers a unique perspective on the metaphors and imagery embedded in the cards, and she also draws parallels between the cards and other works of art, music, and movies. Each card has its own page for guidance, as well as a list of other works to pair with the cards and analyze in context with the card to glean a deeper meaning. I've discovered several new paintings that I love just by doing a daily card pull, and I find myself excited about my card pulls in a way that I honestly have not yet felt. I have a good feeling that this book is going to be well-worn, dog-eared, and scribbled in for many years to come as I strengthen my own relationship with the tarot.
4. Witch Way Magazine: For Pagans, by Pagans on etsy
I discovered Witch Way through Twitter, and downloaded my first issue at the beginning of May! I love that each month has a focus theme, and that they have cultivated a staff of writers with different areas of expertise. For $4.99, I downloaded the PDF from etsy and read several great articles about kitchen magic, nourishing the body to grow magickal resources, magickal minimalism, a Beltane tarot spread, and a article on developing scrying techniques. It has a LOT of information and inspiration for $5, and I was surprised at how often I've found myself going back to reference information in it. I'll definitely be keeping my eye on this publication and purchasing when I have the budget for it.
Luna Luna Magazine is not a magazine specifically about magick, but they have a wonderful occult section that often includes personal essays from witches, historical essays about the Salem witch trials, or features on people who live in close community with magick and alternative belief systems. I've been reading them regularly for about four months, and I'm particularly fond of their confessional style pieces in the "Dark" section. It's free to access, and a great way to discover new writers and artists to follow on Twitter or Instagram.
Have you read any of these books or publications? If not, I hope you think about them the next time you need to curl up on the couch and escape from the overwhelming bustle of your life. They've been doing wonders for my confidence and ability to put words to my beliefs, and I'm looking forward to putting the knowledge to use.