Our next book for the May Book Coven is Ancestral Medicine by Daniel Foor. They say that once you start planning a ritual, the ritual has already begun, and I think a similar notion may be applied with certain books such as this one. Once you decide to acquire and read it, the work has already begun – and the spirits are paying attention.
This book covers foundations of ancestor work, ancestral healing, ancestor contact, ancestors of place, funeral rites, and more. Each chapter has at least one exercise to integrate the information in your personal work. Our optional activity is to simply pick one of these exercises to do on our own, then share our experiences with it at the meet-up (if you feel comfortable doing so). If you are interested in participating please email me at email@example.com. And if you’d like to be added to the ongoing Book Coven mailing list, let me know and I’ll get that set up for you.
The book selection for our April Book Coven was Apocalytpic Witchcraft by Peter Grey. Below are the journal prompts for diving deeper:
In the second chapter, Grey presents a Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft. (pg. 14)
Which points do you agree with?
Which would you redact?
What would you add to your own manifesto?
“The work of witchcraft is intimately connected with dreaming; some say it is simply that.” (pg. 25) “…we could go so far as to define witchcraft as the art of navigating dream.” (pg. 35)
What is the quality of your dreams?
Have you had any significant dreams recently, or repeating themes in your dreams?
How can you connect more deeply with your dreaming? Some ideas are keeping a dream journal, disconnecting from the digital, fasting and/or bathing before sleep, evening meditation, and using herbal aids such as lavender, mugwort, and poppy.
“Hughes relates that: ‘The inner world separated from the outer world is a place of demons, the outer world separated from the inner world is a place of meaningless objects and machines.'” (pg. 57)
How do you balance the inner and outer world? Some ideas are through myth, poetry, art, dream work, active imagination, magick, and ritual.
“We do not need to begin with an exterior cult if we can diligently apply the basic exercises, and in doing so nurture the flowering of our own gifts.” (pg. 152)
Grey goes on to describe these basic exercises as orientation, presence, and imperative. What do you consider to be the foundational exercises of your Craft? For example meditation, ritual, offerings, etc.
“Orientation demands a mythic topography of witchcraft to replace the lost dream of a unified cult.” (pg. 156)
What does the landscape of your witchcraft look like?
“The witch must be present and this presence means the body.” (pg. 158)
How do you practice presence and embodiment?
“The third principle is: imperative…Witchcraft is defined in that it acts. This is not a path of contemplation, but of engagement.” (pg. 162)
Grey presents the imperative of apocalyptic witchcraft as animism. What is your imperative as a witch?
For the March/April Book Coven we will be reading Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey. I think this is going to be a challenging read, considering the times we are in. It is a challenging read regardless. However, if you are ready to dive in, let me know (contact info below) and I’ll make sure you’re on the email thread for it! Our meet-up time is still TBD, but will be sometime around mid-April.
One of the chapters presents a “Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft”, so the *optional* activity is to create your own Witchcraft Manifesto (aka Rules, Guidelines, Laws, etc), which may include or omit from the one presented in the book. As a Witch I believe it is important to work on defining our Craft, and this would be an excellent addition to your personal grimoire. It is of course not set in stone, but rather an ever-evolving philosophy. If you feel comfortable doing so, you may share some of your Manifesto with the group at the meet-up. It would be great to get insight and inspiration from one another.
I encourage you to purchase this book directly from the publisher, Scarlet Imprint, if possible. While they are based in the UK, my order was shipped promptly and it took about two weeks for it to arrive. Here is the link to purchase from them (or you can purchase a digital edition to start reading right away):
If you do not have the resources to purchase it, you can find a free pdf for it here.
Here’s an excellent interview with the author and his partner, both who also run Scarlet Imprint:
If you would like to be added to the ongoing mailing list for the Book Coven and receive monthly updates directly to your inbox, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you to it!
Book Coven General info:
A monthly book club with Zoom meet-up at the end of the month.
Book selection announced mid-month (for the upcoming month).
This is a month-to-month opt-in, you aren’t expected to participate every month!
You do not have to be a Witch to join the Book Coven, just know that witchcraft will be a running theme with the book selections and probably a part of the discussions.
There will be a bonus activity (optional) inspired by the book, as well as journal prompts.
Email me at email@example.com if you want to join in for the upcoming month!
We read this for the Jan/Feb Book Coven, but in case you missed it and wanted to dive deeper into this fantastic book, here are a few journal prompts to consider when reading it:
Ch. 1 (The Howl: Resurrection of the Wild Woman), pg. 30*: “Each woman has potential access to Rio Abaja Rio, this river beneath the river. She arrives there through deep meditation, dance, writing, painting, prayer making, singing, drumming, active imagination, or any activity which requires an intense altered consciousness. A woman arrives in this world-between-worlds through yearning and by seeking something she can see just out of the corner of her eye.”
What are some of the ways you access this “river beneath the river”?
Is there an activity you can do on a daily basis to travel to this place?
What do you seek in this “river beneath the river”?
Ch. 3 (Nosing Out the Facts: The Retrieval of Intuition as Initiation), pg. 80: “Vasalisa turned to her doll as soon as the Yaga had gone. ‘What shall I do? Can I complete these tasks in time?’ The doll assured her she could, and to eat a little and go to sleep. Vasalisa fed the doll a little too, then she slept.”
Vasalisa’s doll can be seen as a talisman, an object imbued with life and magickal intent. If you are creating a talisman, how will you “feed” it? Some ideas are:
–passing it through sacred smoke
–making offerings to it
–bathing it in salt and/or water
–charging it with crystals
–anointing it with oils/herbs/flower essences
Ch. 5 (Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter), pg. 159: “It is good to make a meditative and daily practice of untangling the Life/Death/Life nature over and over again…When we are untangling this nature, it would be good for us to sing something like this: What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know should die, but am hesitant to allow to do so? What must die in me in order for me to love? What not-beauty do I fear? Of what use is the power of the not-beautiful to me today? What should die today? What should live? What life am I afraid to give birth to? If not now, when?“
Ch. 9 (Homing: Returning to Oneself), pg. 306: “The exact answer to ‘Where is home?’ is more complex…but in some way it is an internal place, a place somewhere in time rather than space, where a woman feels of one piece. Home is where a thought or feeling can be sustained instead of being interrupted or torn away from us because something else is demanding our time and attention… Home is a sustained mood or sense that allows us to experience feeling not necessarily sustained in the mundane world: wonder, vision, peace, freedom from worry, freedom from demands, freedom from constant clacking. All these treasures from home are meant to be cached in the psyche for later use in the topside world…. Although there are many physical places one can go to ‘feel’ her way back to this special home, the physical place itself is not home; it is only the vehicle that rocks the ego to sleep so that we can go the rest of the way by ourselves. The vehicles through and by which women reach home are many: music, art, forest, ocean spume, sunrise, solitude. These take us home to a nutritive inner world that has ideas, order, and sustenance all of its own… In truth, home is holographic.”
-what physical space and/or actions bring you home?
-what does home feel like for you?
-how can you access home on a daily basis?
-how can you bring the treasures from home to the “topside world”?
Ch. 14 (La Selva Subterranea: Initiation in the Underground Forest), pg. 458: “How does one live in the topside world and the underworld at the same time and on a day-to-day basis? What does one have to do to come down into the underworld on one’s own? What circumstances in life help women with the descent? Do we have a choice about going or staying? What spontaneous help have you received from the instinctive nature during such a time?”
*Page numbers are from the 1st edition, paperback.
I am excited to announce that I’ll be starting a monthly book club in January – we will be kicking it off with the incredible classic, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
If this is a book you have been wanting to read (or re-read!), I’d love for you to join! Here is some additional info about the MMC Book Coven:
We have most of the month of January to read the book, and will meet sometime at the end of January via zoom to discuss it – you can obviously get started on it now if you like!
If you are not able to obtain a hard copy of the book, there is a free pdf of it here.
This is a very low key book club, no worries if you don’t finish the whole book.
I’ll have some discussion questions but feel free to bring your own too, otherwise it’s just a free form discussion.
There’s a bonus activity (optional) of creating your own Wild Soul Talisman, inspired by the book. This would be an object you craft that serves as a reminder of your own Wild Soul, and may be used for your witchcraft, ritual, altar, etc. Some ideas are a necklace, a sculpture, a painting, a poem, a sigil … the sky is the limit. If you feel comfortable doing so we will share what we made during the meet up!
This is a month to month opt-in, I’ll post the next book 2 weeks prior (so, next one will be announced Jan 15) and you can just let me know if you want to join in again for it.
You do not have to be a Witch to join the book coven, however just know that witchcraft will be a running theme with the book selection and most likely a part of the discussions.
The meet up will be scheduled for 1 hr, although we can continue the discussion further if people want to stick around for that.
That about covers it! If you have any questions, and/or would like to join the January meet-up, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send you the day/time of the meet up once it has been finalized. Looking forward to it!
The Goddess of the North is an in-depth look at the female aspects of the Norse pantheon and cosmology, drawing on primary research, mythology, and personal interpretation. Welch focuses on the divine female as the triple goddess of Mother, Grandmother, and Daughter, and discusses other divine female figures such as the Valkyries, Norns, Giantesses, and Disir. In the introduction, Welch explains that the book was written in part to address the lack of literature on the Norse goddesses, as well as the common (and erroneous) perception of the Norse tradition being male-centered. She ultimately argues the case for a primordial goddess found in the Norse tradition, hidden from the history books but clearly seen within the mythology and cosmology; and the necessity for bringing the primordial goddess back to the forefront of these studies and spiritual practices.
Overall, I found this book incredibly helpful in providing a general overview of the concepts and figures of the Norse tradition, as well as describing the cosmology in a cohesive way. Welch clearly put a lot of research, thought and care into writing it. Yes, she does include her own personal interpretations (Welch is a Norse polytheist), but it is generally presented as anecdotal to the research.
Welch begins with a comprehensive overview of the Norse pantheon – she includes a brief overview of the Norse gods and giants, and then goes into a more in-depth discussion of the giantesses, divine seeresses and guardians, and the Asyniur (goddesses). She touches on their characteristics, associations, mythologies, symbolism, and more, while keeping the information succinct and easy to follow. It’s effective in representing the rich, complex, and multifaceted mythologies and concepts of the Norse pantheon. She also includes a chart displaying the attributes and associations of each goddess, which may be helpful for those who wish to incorporate them into their rituals and magickal workings.
Along with this overview of the Norse pantheon, I would also recommend this book for those wishing to better understand the Norse cosmology, particularly as is it represented by the World Tree, Yggdrasill. This cosmology is so incredibly complex and nuanced, I feel like one could write an entire book on this subject alone, but Welch manages to cover the most important aspects within a chapter, and then weave the concepts and symbols from it throughout the remainder of the book. These include the worlds contained within Yggdrasill, the animals that participate in it, as well the aspects of the tree itself. Welch provides an illustration of the World Tree, but for anyone wanting to further absorb and comprehend it’s complexities, I’d recommend drawing/mapping out your own World Tree, and/or doing some visualization practices with it.
The only part of the book that I take issue with, is where Welch attempts to categorize everything into triads, beginning with the Mother/Daughter/Grandmother, and then applying it to the goddess pantheon in general, as well as symbols and concepts discussed earlier in the book. While it’s an interesting exercise, I simply can’t accept that everything within the Norse tradition could fit into these neat and tidy categories.
To her credit though, Welch does acknowledge the impossibility of drawing any hard lines, when she says, “A wonderful example of this intertwining is the Grandmother’s dark night being replaced by the Daughter’s brightening of dawn, and then by the Mother’s clarity of day, and then again by the Grandmother’s colorful tapering into dusk. These three aspects are constantly enveloping, embracing, and enhancing each other, aptly demonstrating the beauty and magnificence of the Goddess of the North.” (p. 171)
These were my key takeaways from the book – overall I would give it 4/5 Broomsticks.
If you are looking for a succinct yet depthful look at the Norse tradition, with a focus on the divine feminine, this is your book. I have personally read it twice now, and will probably re-read it again at some point. It is a great resource if you are interested in mythology in general.
I hope you find this review and helpful, and if you have read this book, let me know your thoughts!