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Witchy Update: Back to School

Pagan Objects

Here we are, once again at the cusp of summer and fall, which means it's time for my favorite Witchy Update issue—"Back to School"

This is where I like to remind everyone, year after year, just because some of us are no longer pursuing degrees or diplomas, it doesn't mean we are done learning. Far from it! As Witches we are always looking to broaden or deepen our knowledge on just about everything. You name it—we're interested in crystals, trees, gardening, cooking, art, astronomy, history, mythology—there is very little out there that cannot add in some way to our Craft, our understanding of deity, our honoring the ancestors, our grasp of natural forces and magic.

Although I read manuscripts constantly at work, I am a sucker for buying new books and reading them in my elusive spare time. This year I've read books on local eating and sustainability, on magical initiation in Africa, on the Qabalah, and on natural cat care, in addition to travel books and loads of fiction. I'm also looking forward to reading books I've recently picked up on everyday life in ancient Mesopotamia, and on the pre-Christian religion of Hungary where (some of) my ancestors are from. What are you reading these days?

Autumn is a time when, even now, it seems easier to start a new course of study—I guess we were just trained that way through years in the education system. The weather starts to cool off, we stop feeling so lazy, and we can pretend we're school children again, setting goals for ourselves and maybe even doing some homework if we really buckle down. If you could create your very own personal mystery school, what courses would you choose this "semester" and how would you set up your weekly schedule? Do you want to learn more about Chinese herbalism? Greek mythology? Quantum physics? A new language? Or a craft like knitting or painting? What day of the week would you choose to study a book on Hermetic magic, versus cooking techniques? When scheduling your magical semester use the correspondences of the days of the week and their ruling planets to influence your success. (Psychic arts on Monday, Martial arts on Tuesday?)

Fall is a huge time of year for us at Llewellyn as well. We try to jam pack our fall catalog with new, exciting Witchcraft books. Here I'll run down our September releases, in case any of them turn out to be "required reading" for your magical studies this year. (Just remember even more are coming in October and November!)

HedgeWitch, the newest book by Silver RavenWolf, has been done in a neat scrapbook-y style, full of doo-dads and eye candy. In this book you'll find a "Guide for Personal Transformation," which is made up of 14 nights: "Night of the Mountain," "Night of the Starry Sky," "Night of Rain," "Night of Metal," etc. In each chapter (which can be done weekly instead of nightly) you'll focus on a goal, complete a "to do" assignment, release something (usually clutter from your house!), create your own sigil for the focus, learn about an herb, and conclude with a ritual. After 13 nights, the 14th evening will be a HedgeWitch dedication ritual. (At a one per week pace, this makes up a perfect semester-long course!) The rest of the book is filled with tips, techniques, and recipes for the HedgeWitch, for example: floor washes, soap making, furniture polish, scrying bowl, tea leaf reading, butterfly magick, organic bug killers, herbal butter, magickal ink, and much more. A fun, decorative book for learning natural magic.

The Real Witches' Year is a day-to-day book by British Witch Kate West. Now here's a great idea. If you really have no clue about your ideal "course of study," start with a book like this. Every day you'll get a short snippet of witchy knowledge. On February 20, learn about the Athame. April 10th, make a charm for travel protection. May 18th, chili peppers; June 15th, goats; July 12, poppies. Besides herbs, animals, magical basics, and spells, you'll also find daily entries on subjects like crystals and stones, deities, meditations, Sabbats, and psychic exercises. After you've used the book for a full year, you can take a look back to see which entries fascinated you the most. The entries are brief, but they can tickle your fancy and show you where to start digging deeper. It's kind of like dowsing for water before digging a deep well.

Shadow Magick Compendium is a new and thoughtful book by Raven Digitalis. Just as we are now entering the dark half of the year, we too are perfect balances of light and dark, waxing and waning. This book will help you connect to your "darker" (not evil!) undercurrents and harness their energy for magick and self-development. The book is divided into several different types of shadow work. In "The Internal Shadow" you'll learn to analyze, acknowledge and deal with your own negative behavioral cycles; you'll also explore mysticism as a shadow of mainstream religions. "The External Shadow" teaches you how to delve into invocation, fasting, and self-sacrifice, as well as sigilry and divination. "The Astral Shadow," takes a closer look at astral projection, animal guides, and spirit guides. "The Shadow of Nature" deals with the physical manifestations of the shadow such as the Dark Moon, eclipses, the dark part of the solar year, and dark herbs. Finally, "The Shadow of Society" examines everything from television to witch-hunts. A great book for those looking to go beyond "love and light" to a more balanced paradigm.

I am not sure how many Witchy Update readers consider themselves Magicians or Mages, rather than Witches or Wiccans, but for anyone who is interested in theoretical or ceremonial magic, I have a couple books to quickly recommend as well: Magic, Power, Language, Symbol by Patrick Dunn and The Veritable Key of Solomon, edited by Stephen Skinner and David Rankine. All three of these men are terrific scholars and these works are vital to "continuing education" in high magic. The new Key of Solomon is a translation of a 1796 edition of the Key, which is a greatly expanded edition compared to the incomplete manuscripts that S. L. MacGregor Mathers had access to when he published his version in 1889. It includes details that were simply missing from all previous editions, as well as great commentary by the editors. It is the ultimate grimoire. Magic, Power, Language, Symbol, or M.P.L.S. as I like to call it, is just an amazing theoretical look at magic from the point of view of linguistics and semiotics. I highly recommend it to all serious magicians. You won't regret buying this book—trust me!

If you're ready to hit the books again, now's the time to do it. Set yourself a schedule, create a cozy study area, buy yourself some new notebooks, and dedicate yourself to expanding your horizons and enhancing your craft.

Have fun, and see you in October!

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