I first discovered witchcraft as a practical thing when I was a teenager, at a time when I felt particularly out of control. Puberty, intense body shaming (especially from classmates and “friends”), and a burning desire to kiss girls made me feel disconnected from myself in big, terrifying ways. When a friend invited me over to cast a ritual circle, read tarot, and perform aura cleansing magic, I jumped at the chance. Having grown up in the ’90s, watching witches on movies and TV and reading about them in high fantasy, YA novels, and even history books, I was eager to learn more about the craft.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, witchcraft would quickly become something that I practice every day, even in small moments. For over a decade, I’ve worked diligently at honing my craft to work for me, both as an individual and as part of a small coven. I especially love learning about new interpretations, rituals, and ways of practicing witchcraft or reading tarot through books—which is why I was extremely excited to get an email from the senior publicist at Running Press Books, offering me the chance to review two of the titles in their extremely magical catalogue.
I’ve teamed up with Running Press to giveaway two magical book bundles to US-based readers of The Verbal Thing. To read my thoughts on the featured books and learn how to enter, keep reading!
Everyday Tarot: Unlock Your Inner Wisdom and Manifest Your Future
Everyday Tarot by Brigit Esselmont, the founder of Biddy Tarot, is an incredibly useful tool for reading tarot intuitively. When I bought my first tarot deck with a friend in college, I was determined to learn the meanings of the cards and to be able to memorize spreads and read the cards with the same ease as the psychic who once told me everything about my life without even knowing my name, because my friend had made the appointment. However, I quickly learned that, although I find comfort in using books and guides to read the cards and understand their meanings, oftentimes the best way of reading tarot is by looking at the cards, understanding their imagery, and putting together a narrative for what they are trying to tell me.
Tarot is not a tool for predicting the future, nor is it a decision-maker that can define your life for you. Tarot is a practice that can provide answers and help you connect to your intuition so that you can move through the world with a deeper understanding of yourself, your goals, your desires, and your relationship to the world. Esselmont understands this and explains it right off the bat in Everyday Tarot. In addition to providing interesting anecdotes about her years learning the tarot and building Biddy Tarot into a booming business that helps thousands learn to read tarot each year (including me—though I didn’t realize I’d bookmarked tons of Biddy Tarot pages over the years until I sat down to write this review!), Esselmont also breaks down various ways of using the tarot and provides practical applications for it.
Everyday Tarot features sections on getting started with tarot, using it as a means of self-discovery, using it to help manifest your goals, turning to tarot for help with decision-making, and asking questions of the tarot about work, love, relationships, and more. The book also dives into ritual work using tarot and reminds readers that ultimately, the most important part of any magical or intuitive practice is you. No matter how many fancy decks you buy or how many useful books you read—yes, even Everyday Tarot—you’re only as powerful as you allow yourself to be.
Although I’ve been practicing tarot for many years, Esselmont’s book introduced me to several new spreads and new ways of looking at the cards. I won’t say that I’m an intuitive reader, because when I do readings for others I do rely heavily on traditional card interpretations and deck books to make things as clear as possible for the querent. However, when I read for myself, I do find a lot of value in just sitting with the cards and seeking to understand what they are trying to tell me. The great thing about Esselmont’s book is that it encourages intuitive reading but also tells readers that it’s totally cool to read card definitions for a clearer, broader understanding, which I love. Esselmont encourages note-taking and journaling, and revisiting unclear readings after some time has passed to reflect on their messages. She also reminds us that there is a difference between intuition (gut feelings) and ego (head stuff) and that sometimes, tarot is going to tell us what we don’t want to hear.
It’s important to head the good, the bad, and the ugly when we read tarot, because if we give into the temptation to keep asking the same question hoping for the answer we want to hear, we’ll only get in our own way.
Everyday Tarot is easy to read and structured so that you can jump around according to what you want to know. It’s a book that can easily be incorporated into a regular practice, even for seasoned tarot readers, and it provides a lot of really wonderful insights to the practice and how it can be used as a tool rather than a big, scary, life-altering thing (the way it’s often mythologized in pop culture). Plus, Eleanor Grosch’s illustrations are stunning. Holding and reading this book feels good in myriad ways.
If you want to go beyond the scope of the book, you can also access free tools and paid classes on the Biddy Tarot website.
Overall rating: ★★★★★
Recommended for: Tarot readers of all skill levels and experience, or people looking to learn more about the practice
Everyday Tarot is available September 18, 2018 through Running Press Books. I received an advanced copy through Running Press Books for review purposes. You can order the book now, or enter the giveaway below! Entries are open through Wednesday, September 19, at 11:59 p.m. EST.
The Practical Witch’s Spell Book for Love, Happiness, and Success
The Practical Witch’s Spell Book by Cerridwen Greenleaf is a magical guideline for a very particular kind of witch: one who is as invested in candles, crystals and broomsticks as they are in the spiritual practice of performing witchcraft. That might sound bitter, but it’s not; despite having some reservations during the first section of the book, which outlines tools for building an altar space, I found that Greenleaf’s spells offer a number of variations for the witch who doesn’t want to go out and buy a bunch of ritualistic objects or who can’t, for whatever reason.
In my experience, witchcraft works best when an individual is able to cater it to their needs, which includes adapting spells to fit their budget and schedule. While I’m not a huge fan of any book that has a section on love spells (please just — don’t), I did mark several pages in the chapters on “Money Magic and Lucky Charms” and “House Magic for a Happy Home” because they seemed quite useful. I’ve seen variations on them used to great success both in my own practice and in the practice of those close to me. I think there’s value in interpreting the spells in this book for yourself and using them as a guideline for what will work best in your own magical practice. I also appreciate that, although Greenleaf seems to be of the school of thought that magic is a certain thing that should (mostly) look a certain way, there’s space for experimentation.
Greenleaf encourages journaling (preferably in a “Book of Shadows” or grimoire) to figure out which spells work best for you, which colors help you manifest the most magic for your best life, etc. This book is, like its title states, designed for a practical witch. It is designed to give you results and to help you figure out your own book of spells along the way.
I have just two complaints with this spell book. First, it seems extremely busy at times—almost as if Greenleaf is trying to include too many types of spells. And I also found that, despite Greenleaf’s spells borrowing from a number of cultures and religions, there’s little time to reflect on those histories beyond an acknowledgment of modern-day witches descending from “a long line of wise women healers.” Cultural appropriation is and has always been an issue in contemporary witchcraft, which is why, when books like this are released, there needs to be awareness of that. If you want more context, I highly recommend this piece by Dr. Adrienne Keene on Sephora’s “Starter Witch Kit” and spiritual theft. (The Sephora product has been canceled since Dr. Keene’s post was published).
Overall, The Practical Witch’s Spell Book is a handy guide to have around, especially for getting your space and your practice in order.
Overall rating: ★★★½
Recommended for: Witches looking for simple, useful spells that they can adapt to suit their individual practice
The Practical Witch’s Spell Book is available now through Running Press Books. I received a copy through Running Press Books for review purposes. You can order the book now, or enter the giveaway below! Entries are open through Wednesday, September 19, at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Now for the part you probably scrolled to reach: the giveaway! I’ve partnered with Running Press Books to giveaway two (2) magical book bundles that will help you hone your craft and trust your intuition. To win copies of Everyday Tarot and The Practical Witch’s Spell Book, as well as an Everyday Tarot mini tarot deck and a Practical Magic Mini Kit curated by Nikki Van De Car, follow the prompts below! Two (2) US-based winners will be chosen after the entry deadline on Wednesday, September 19 at 11:59 p.m. EST.*
Good luck! ✨
*Prizes will be sent to winners 3-4 weeks after giveaway ends.