Saturday, January 7, 2017

Resolutions 2017

I have been thinking long and hard about my resolutions this year. Unlike last year, I made a much smaller list, focusing mostly on improving myself and various aspects of my life. I did not focus on doing things to my home nor did I take on a bunch of tasks for 2017. While I love having a nice list of things I want to accomplish, we aren't in a financial place right now to take such things on.

Unlike last year, I would like to put all my resolutions into a single post. I really liked Witchy Words' idea of using the pentacle to plan out her goals, so I modified it a bit to suit my needs. I don't agree with her layout, nor her decision to make health goals associated with Earth and home and hearth goals with Water. Earth is associated with abundance, wealth, strength, and wisdom. While strength and wisdom go along with some of my health goals, Earth is better suited for my home and hearth goals which focus on money. To me, my home and hearth are deeply rooted in the Earth element, as is my craft, making it better suited for these goals. Water, however, corresponds with healing, expression, peace, and compassion, all things I am trying to do to and show myself through my health goals.


My central goal or theme this year is self improvement. I am focusing on myself and attempting to improve my well-being and situation. I have found that I often neglect my well-being in an attempt to put on a face to impress others. I am tired of doing this. It is physically and mentally draining. I just want to go back to being me.

Element Water: Health Goals

My health goals are much as they have always been, except this year I took things a step further and created a blog to document my journey. Maybe with being held accountable via blog posts, I can meet my goals this year.

There are 4 goals in my health category:
     1. Maintain a health BMI
     2. Drop to 15% body fat
     3. Take care of my mental health
     4. Read 24 books

Most people pick to lose weight, exercise more, and eat better as New Years resolutions. These are great goals to have, but usually aren't measurable making them extremely difficult to track. Furthermore, losing weight isn't always a great goal to have because your weight fluctuates constantly, and while you may begin to lose a bunch of fat, you can gain weight due to the accumulation of muscle. I, instead, focused on maintaining a healthy BMI and reducing the amount of fat I have. I am currently between 20 and 25% body fat, maybe a little higher. I really want to lose the excess fat around my thighs and midsection. In order to help me with this goal I created another blog, The Fit Witch, to track my progress, meals, and fitness routines in an attempt to help me stay on track. I tend to do pretty well throughout the year, but the moment something comes up, an injury, sickness, etc, I fall off and end up in a spiral of depression which makes things worse.

Apart from my physical health, I want to take care of my mental health this year as well. I've watched it get worse, and I am tired of feeling this way. I know the quality of my life can improve significantly if I seek help. I plan to do that this year.

Finally, I want to read more this year. Last year my goal was originally 12 books. Halfway through the year I increased it to 24 because I had already reached my goal. 20 minutes to midnight I completed my goal of 24 books! I would like to do that again this year. That is roughly 2 books a month and with having some time off this summer, I am sure I can smash 24 easily!

Element Fire: Relationship Goals

My husband and I have had a couple rough patches over the years and while things are getting better, we still have some things to overcome. While I can't make goals for him, I can make personal goals to help better our marriage.

I only have 2 goals in this category:
     1. Open communication
     2. At least 1 date per month

I want to be completely open and honest about my feelings this year and hope my openness will encourage him to be open. Both of us tend to bottle more than we should, him more so than me, and it is important in ALL aspects of our marriage that we keep communication open and civil.

As for the date night, we are often so busy, we forget to spend quality time together. Let's be honest, sitting on a couch watching an episode of whatever for an hour isn't quality time. I want to put away the phones and spend time doing something other than sitting on the couch once a month.

Element Earth: Home and Hearth Goals

Apart from health goals, this is my favorite goal category. I had to stop myself from adding a bunch of home improvement projects this year, knowing we needed to focus on our financial goals instead. A couple of days ago we got a glimpse at what my student loan payments will look like when I am out of school and let's just say, it's bad. With our current situation, we could not afford the payments, even with an income driven plan.

To prepare for this onslaught of payments that will begin at the end of 2017, there are 3 major financial goals:
     1. Budget, budget, budget!
     2. Pay off both credit cards and my car.
     3. Build our emergency fund.

On January 1st, I finally got my husband to sit down and write a long-form budget. He was shocked at how much we had going out and how little was really left over at the end of the month. This is something I have been trying to get him to see for a while now; I hope I got through to him. Furthermore, with a glimpse at the future loan payments, he has come to realize we need to stick to that budget and pinch and save every possible penny we can and throw it at our current debt so we will be able to make the student loan payments in the future. We also need to build up a small emergency fund to cover excess costs like car repairs, dental emergencies (I have these fairly often even with insurance), and house repairs. If we push really hard and buckle down, we can easily pay off both the credit cards and my car payment by October, at least that is my hope. If I have to get a second job this summer, so be it.

If we are able to, I would also like to put in a front garden this year. I do not have my hopes up, but I going to try to put $20 away here and there to do this. I really hate our front yard and having a beautiful garden will improve my mental well-being. As a hedgewitch, being outside in a garden or with nature is extremely important, and as it is, I don't like to spend much time in our yard. I am hoping our budget will allow us to make some changes this year. If not, I can at least begin tearing things out and repairing the soil!

Element Air: Career Goals

These goals are pretty darn simple and are things I have to complete this year. As many of you know, I am in school getting a Master's degree in education. Last year I did find a job as a teacher, and began teaching high school biology in August. It's fun (most days), but incredibly difficult. Teaching is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I have 3 goals in this category:
     1. Finish my Master's
     2. Complete edTPA
     3. Rewrite my curriculum

I will graduate with my Master's in May if all goes well. I have no doubt that it will. Second, I want to complete edTPA and make mostly 4's on it. edTPA is a portfolio exam required to become a certified teacher. It is extremely time consuming and difficult. Making mostly 4's would be awesome (highest is 5).

The third goal is probably the most time consuming goal of them all. Georgia is introducing new standards in biology next year, standards I will have modify my curriculum in order to meet. Furthermore, after a year of teaching under my belt, there are several things I want to change about how I handle things in my classroom. It has been a learning process for sure, and I would like to rework my lesson plans to better educate and support my students in the 17-18 school year.

If time permits, I would like to take my Etsy ideas and turn them into an actual store. Last year my goal was to research ideas, prices, etc. I think I know exactly what I want my store to be, but I am not sure if this is the year I will have time to start it or not. I know I do not want to be a teacher for the next 30 years, at least not if I can help it. Do I like teaching? Hell yes I do! It's a fun yet trying job. The benefits are great, but the pay could be better; we all know teachers aren't paid enough for their work. If possible, it would be great to make decent money blogging and crafting. I enjoy these things and generally don't think of them as work.

Element Spirit: Spiritual Goals

This is an area of my life that often gets neglected. Between my job, family, and other general responsibilities, my spiritual path is usually pushed onto the back burner. I don't want to do that any more. While 2016 was an overall good year spiritually, I know I can do better. I read several great books, posted regularly here, and even started compiling my new grimoire, a project I am really enjoying. However, there were many goals I did not attain last year, such as finding an altar; I would like to remedy this fairly quickly this year.

There are 3 goals in this category:
     1. Find an altar
     2. Write 4 posts/per month
     3. Complete 12+ grimoire pages.

These are all fairly simple. The biggest one is finding the altar. I did figure out exactly where I want to set up my spiritual space last year. Since this house is rather small and we are currently using every room, I decided my bedroom would be the best place for my altar. It is my personal space to begin with, and I know I can shut my door and be left alone. Yes, my husband and I have separate rooms. We do not often sleep together. Second, I know I want to move my dresser into my closet and place my altar where my dresser currently is. In fact, I even know what I want to use as an altar, it is just finding one at the right price. I would like to use an old antique wooden desk, one you can sometimes find for $25 at Goodwill. I am going to paint the base and stain the wood on top dark. I decided I wanted a place where I could sit and work on spells, rituals, and my grimoire, as well as a place that had storage for my craft items. A desk is perfect for this.

Last year I did really well posting 4 times per month on the blog. While some months I posted fewer or not at all  (cough cough November cough cough), I am pretty content with how this goal went last year so I would like to keep it going. Also posting regularly has grown my audience significantly, and I am proud to say I will soon be able to cash out my first check for $20 from Adsense!

And finally, completing 12+ grimoire pages. Having a private place to work on this will help me complete this goal. As it stands, I have semi-completed 3 title pages and began rough drafting some content pages. Those 3 semi-complete pages are not quite finished because I have decided to go over them with some paint and make them perfect. I think, from here on out, I will use mostly paint to decorate the pages. I believe the book is heavy enough to flatten out the pages so they will be nice and crisp. While the markers are nice, I am a much better painter. I will be starting a series this year on creating and completing your own grimoire or book of shadows, so keep an eye out for those posts!

***

2017 is going to be a good year, at least I am going to try and make it a good year for me. I am not going to lie, I am scared in regards to the political state of this country. I am worried for millions of Americans who are going to lose health insurance (like my parents); I am worried about how this new leadership is going to treat people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community; I am worried about the recession that is likely to come and the wars that may begin. I cannot control these things, but what I can control is how I handle things in my own life. I can at least take care of my well being for once in my life, and I am going to. A healthy me is more equip to help others.

So, have you sat down and thought about your goals for 2017?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Box of Shadows Review: December


Oh dearest me. This post is, of course, late again. I seriously need to get a grip on this whole blogging once a week again. Haha! Anyway, without further ado, let me review December's Box Of Shadows.


Honestly, I love opening these boxes. It is a little present each month. I am going to miss them as I canceled the subscription and am on the lookout for another monthly pagan box to review. I think I found one, but I likely won't be purchasing it until February. The first thing I noticed when I opened this box, however, was the heavenly smell. It smells AMAZING!


Of course I had to figure out what was causing the heavenly scent. I quickly realized it was the wishing spell ritual bath salts. I cannot wait to try these out. In fact, even after storing the box away, since I still don't have a damn altar space in this house, the smell lingered in the office. Mmmmm....


Next up I noticed a candle similar to the one I received in October for Samhain. This one, however, it for Yule. It too smells nice, and I look forward to using it next year in my Yule ritual. Hopefully next year I will have a damn altar!

Next up was a box of frankincense incense WITH a holder, which also smell pretty awesome. Frankincense is the most Yule incense you could possibly own. Heck, even the Christians recognize its significance at Christmas. Frankincense, however, is not just for Yule. It is also used for healing, relaxation, increasing your connection with the Spirit, and aiding in the elevation of the mind during meditation and visualizations. It is also a great incense to use during hedge riding. I'll be using these soon!

I then noticed I had received both the monthly crystal and monthly herb, a very pleasant surprise indeed because normally you receive one or the other. This month's herb was rosemary, used for protection, purification, healing, and love, and the gemstone was bloodstone, used for health, protection, good luck, success, and courage. This is a must have stone coming into the new year!

Of course I also received some sage and some candles in red, green, white, black, and gray.


Overall I was very pleased with this box! I cannot wait to sign up for a new subscription service, but I have a feeling I will likely be returning to this one one day.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: Garden Witchery, Magic from the Ground Up by Ellen Dugan

 Book Review: Garden Witchery, Magic from the Ground Up by Ellen Dugan

Another book review! I've been home so I've been reading quite a bit lately. Just one book away from twenty-four this year. Maybe next year I can read more? The latest book I finished is Garden Witchery: Magic from the Ground Up by Ellen Dugan. Any hedgewitch or witch interested in herbs and herb magic MUST read this book!

Book Review: Garden Witchery, Magic from the Ground Up by Ellen DuganAs always I will begin with what I didn't like. Honestly, I don't have any complaints. While the book is fairly simple and based on Wicca, it still provides excellent information and even options for more advanced practitioners. The only section I felt was out of place was the chapter on the sabbats. While I enjoyed reading what her family does for the holidays, it seemed a wee bit out of place with the general theme of the book.

This book, however, was fantastic all the same! Dugan is an experienced witch and gardener, making her an expert in garden witchery. I am in the process of planning our front yard for next year and this book was incredibly helpful. The floral language, plant correspondences, general gardening tips, and how the moon cycles affect gardening were wonderful! I cannot wait to add them to my grimoire and start my own gardening journal this year. There are wonderful plans to create themed gardens, including a faerie and Gothic gardens, and notes on how each plant will do in your area making this book an excellent resource.

While I have many books on gardening and herbs already, Dugan's book is by far the best thus far in regards to magical planting. Her stories and writing kept me engaged throughout and encouraged me to think through what I want from my garden. All the ideas running through my head cannot wait to take shape! However, Dugan reminds her readers to keep realistic expectations; start small. It takes years to grow a large garden and it is an ever changing process.

Furthermore, Dugan offers a host of spells, rituals, and crafts you can employ to grow a magnificent garden, attract faeries, and bring peace and healing to your family. She also provides a basic guide to spell crafting using your herbs and flowers, reminding her readers that the magic comes from within us; all the extra stuff just helps the spell along. She encourages her readers to memorize correspondences, a suggestion I strongly endorse. Memorizing and utilizing the correspondences separates the novice from the experienced witch.

Overall, I give this book 5 starts, making it a must own for any hedgewitch or witch interested in herbal magic, lore, and remedies. It is an outstanding book, one I will be returning to again and again throughout my magical life.

As the year nears its end, have you managed to squeeze in any magical reading? If so, let me know! I always love expanding my library!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

DIY Wildlife Ornaments


Yule is a time of giving, honoring life, and celebrating the birth of the Sun. I believe many people get so caught up in giving and receiving presents that they often forget to honor the Earth and all her creatures as well. I'm not trying to down play giving to other humans. Charitable gifts, volunteering, and loving our families is wonderful and in the spirit of the holiday. However, Mother Earth gives to us year around and her and her creatures deserve a thank you as well.

There is a gorgeous evergreen in our backyard. I'm not sure if it was planted as a live Yule tree by the previous owners or if birds brought the tree with them, but it is perfect for honoring Mother Earth and her creatures during Yule. I decided this year I would decorate it with edible ornaments and garland for the wildlife to enjoy. After all, they bring me and mine tremendous joy year around. This is also a great way to let Mother Earth know I appreciate her and all she is provided me with this year.

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Birdseed Ornaments


This is actually a very simple recipe that can be used year around to create all sorts of bird feeders. Make ornaments, suet feeder blocks, toilet roll feeders, and more!

Ingredients/Materials

4 cups Mixed Bird Seed
1/2 cup Water
3 tablespoons Corn Syrup
3/4 cup Flour
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
Yule-themed Cookie Cutters
Straw
Scissors
Mixing Bowl
Spoon
Waxed Paper
Twine or Ribbon

Directions

First combine the flour, water, gelatin, and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.

Add the birdseed slowly to the mixture and stir until it is well coated.

Place the Yule-themed cookie cutters on the waxed paper and spoon the birdseed mixture into them. Pack it down tightly. You can use a measuring cup or a cup (anything with a flat bottom) to pack the birdseed mixture down and make the surface flat.


Using the straw, poke a hole through the top of each birdseed ornament. Make sure it goes all the way through as this is where you will feed your twine or ribbon through to hang them.

Allow the molds to sit for 2-3 hours. Once they are dried and set,  gently remove the straws and cookie cutters. Allow them to dry for at least 2-3 more hours, preferably overnight.

Once they have dried, cut your ribbon (roughly 4 inches) and carefully feed it through the hole. Hang them up outdoors and enjoy watching the wildlife!



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Wildlife Garland


This has to be one of my favorite things to make and I am not entirely sure why. For some reason I love stringing things together. You can use a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts to please a wide array of wildlife and add color to your outdoor Yule tree.

Ingredients/Materials

Cranberries
Popcorn
Peanuts
Needle
Fishing line

Directions

If you haven't already done so, pop the popcorn. I had use the stove because I don't own a microwave. Yeah...scandalous I know.

Thread the needle with the string or twine and begin stringing cranberries, oranges, popcorn, and peanuts in the shell. I decided to do roughly 6 feet of garland for my tree since I was adding other decorations for the wildlife as well.

If you want, layout a pattern before hand. Be careful with the popcorn; it has a habit of falling apart rather quickly.

If you are using popcorn, don't place outside if rain is expected over the next couple of days. The popcorn will disintegrate before the wildlife is even able to enjoy it!

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Apple Birdseed Ornaments


These ornaments are much simpler to make and only require three ingredients. Birds and other wildlife LOVE apples and peanut butter! Be sure to hang these low enough for the deer to enjoy. Apples are one of their favorite treats!

Ingredients/Materials

Peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
Birdseed
1 Apple, sliced and cored.
Twine
Scissors
Waxed Paper
Spoon or Knife

Directions

Spread you a sheet of waxed paper. Smear one side of the apple with peanut butter and dip in some birdseed. You want to make sure the peanut butter is completely coated with birdseed. Place on the waxed paper. Continue this process until all of slices are complete.


Cut some lengths of twine and tie through the cored apple slices. Hang on your tree and enjoy watching the wildlife! Be sure to hang these low enough for the deer to enjoy as well!

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And there you have it! Three wonderfully simple projects to bring some joy and cheer to our animal friends and honor Mother Earth for all she provides for us. I also added some orange slices to brighten up the tree and be another little snack for all the animals that visit my yard. I think it turned out rather nicely!

 



Merry Yule everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

DIY Ribbon Yule Trees


A couple of years ago I saw some beautiful felt trees in the holiday section at Target. I decided I could make my own for significantly less and set off to the store to buy some paper mache cones, green felt, and red pompoms. Guess what! They have been sitting in my storage closet since. I sat down 2 weeks ago and began cutting out the felt and realized it wasn't work it. I didn't even want dark green trees anymore! Plus, it was starting to hurt my hand. No one wants that. So I ventured off to Pinterest to gather some new ideas. That is when my ribbon Yule trees were born!

My library is green, pink, and white with splashes of brown. I wanted my ribbon trees to watch my living room so I set off to find pink, green, and white ribbons! My husband calls the library the Neapolitan room. Not gonna lie, it does make me want ice cream whenever I am in there...or tea. Same thing right?!

Materials

Colored Ribbons (any color you desire)
Paper Mache Cones (1-2 of various sizes)
Cardboard
Candle Sticks (from the Dollar Tree. 1 for each tree)
White paint (or another color to match your ribbon)
Hot Glue and Hot Glue Gun
Scissors
Optional: Glitter, small colored pompoms, small doll sized ornaments or tree toppers, fairy lights


Directions

Begin by using the cone to draw a circle the size of the base on the cardboard. Cut out the circle just slightly smaller than the base. You want this circle to fit up inside the cone slightly. Hot glue the cardboard circles into place.


Next, paint the paper mache cones. If you'd like, you can also spray paint your candle sticks. I liked the glass look so I kept them in their original finish. Allow to completely dry.


While the paint is drying, begin cutting strips of ribbon 2- 2.5 inches in length. I cut about 20 strips and worked with them until I ran out. If you want, feel free to cut an entire roll. It takes just over 1 rolls of each color to complete the larger cone if you are only doing it in two colors as I did.


Twist the ribbon to form a loop, and begin hot gluing the loops to your cones starting at the base and working upwards. Make sure to stagger and overlap the loops to cover up the bulk of the cone. You want your trees to look full.





Finally hot glue the candlestick to the cardboard base and viola! beautiful ribbon Yule trees! If you would like, you can add glitter, colored pompoms, doll-sized ornaments or tree toppers, or even fairy lights to add some dimension to your trees. I used glittered gold ribbon which was enough for my tastes. Very magical indeed!






Have you done any Yule inspired crafts this year? Did you try this one? I'd love to see pictures of your work in the comments!

Have a Blessed Yule!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Box of Shadows Review: November


Boy oh boy is this post LATE. November's Box of Shadows was actually really nice and developed around the beautiful full moon we had last month. Unfortunately, I didn't check my mail until AFTER the full moon so I didn't get to use any of the box to celebrate last month. And because I have been so busy, I didn't have time to review the box either. Honestly, I opened it, rummaged through it, and tucked it away in my closet with my other witchcraft stuff. I'm still looking for an altar so everything is still boxed up which makes my spiritual life a wee bit difficult. Hopefully that'll change soon. I think I finally figured out what I want to use as an altar and where to put it, but I have to find the piece first! Story of my life.

Anyway, December will be the last month I receive a Box of Shadows. I decided to review it for 3 months then test another company. There are several out there that cater to the pagan community and I would like to give them all a try as well. So let's review November's box and when December's comes in next week, I'll review it as well. I know, I know...I am playing some serious catch up on the blog.



November's Box of Shadows was constructed around the full moon last month. As with every box is came with some candles, sage, an herb, and a couple of ritual trinkets.

Let's start with the candles. Since this box is centered around the full moon, all of the candles were colors associated with the moon. They are various shadows of blues and silver/grey. I was really excited to get such an array of candles. To be honest, I was out of blue candles after using them for a healing spell in October after my go karting accident. I'm glad I was able to restock without making a trip across town to the metaphysical store.

Next up was a beautiful moon candle holder. This is PERFECT for esbat rituals and spells or any magic honoring or requiring the moon. It is gorgeously made in a silver finish and will look beautiful on my altar...if I ever find one. Ha!


The box also came with some Moon Ritual soap that can be used prior to any esbat ritual to cleanse you and prepare you for the ritual or spell work ahead and some The Moon incense. Another great item for an esbat ritual!
My favorite piece is, however, is the moonstone bracelet. Moonstone is often a pearly white color, as in this bracelet. The silvery, grey color is associated heavily with the moon, hence its name, and invokes reflective, intuitive powers and increases harmony. It brings calmness and tranquility, and is believed to absorb wishes and sent them on their way to the moon. This is something I probably need to charge and wear everyday. Like I said, I tucked everything away without pulling anything out. I could really use some peacefulness and hope right now.

Finally, there was of course the white sage and a new herb, willow! Kind of obvious what my favorite tree is and what plant I feel the greatest connection with. I was super excited to receive some willow last month. Willow is associated with the moon (duh!), females rights of passage, fertility, creativity, inspiration, emotion, love, protection, and healing. It is often referred to as the tree of immortality due to its ability to regrow from fallen branches. As a pretty artistic Feminist, this tree speaks loudly to me. It brings me great joy to look upon the beautiful weeping willow in my yard. Standing beneath its branches I feel a sense of calm no other tree brings. I shall be using the dried willow often while I work on my grimoire to boost my creativity and poor loving, healing energies into it.


I have to say I really enjoyed November's box. It couldn't have come to me at a better time, but I guess that is the way the Universe works sometimes. We often send out spells and messages with our basic thoughts, dreams, and emotions without even realizing we've done so. She is always listening and bringing us what we need, not necessarily what we want.

I look forward to seeing what December's box has in store for me!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Review: Your Book of Shadows: How to Write Your Own Magical Spells by Patricia J. Telesco

Book Review: Your Book of Shadows: How to Write Your Own Magical Spells by Patricia J. Telesco 

It is not an understatement to say I have been busy. Thankfully this is the last week of school until 2017, although it is finals week.; stressful for everyone involved. Despite all this, I managed to find time to sit down and read for the first time in months There is nothing quite like reading, and I need to find more time to do what I love. I just finished up Patricia J. Telesco's book Your Book of Shadows: How to Write Your Own Magical Spells. I liked this book and I didn't. As always, let's start with what I DIDN'T like.

First of all, this book is very basic. Most of the information covered is basic Wiccan practices, which is fine if you are new to the craft and/or Wiccan. I was also hoping for something...more. While this book definitely explains how to make a BOS, I was hoping to work through more tasks with the author; a workbook if you will. Furthermore, some sections and details were out-of-date. This book was written in the late 90's and has obviously not been revised since. With some updating, the book would be more appropriate for today.

So what did I like? Well, the first chapter has some really wonderful ideas on how to set up a BOS, suggested mediums, how to make and scent paper, and how to align creating your BOS with the moon phases. I really enjoyed this section, and it provided me with the inspiration I needed to start work on my own miniseries on creating your BOS/grimoire. Furthermore, I enjoyed her discussion of different section ideas. This helped me organize my own grimoire and, again, gave me some fresh ideas. The correspondences were a great refresher and her constant reminder to add, research, and cross reference material were well worth rereading.

Overall I gave this book three stars, because 1) it is Wicca and I am not Wiccan, 2) it is very elementary/basic, but 3) contains some information that is worth reading. The first chapter is really the best part of the book and the only part I found useful. However, if you are looking at creating a BOS/grimoire and introducing yourself to Wicca/Witchcraft, then this book would be perfect for you. If you are an experienced witch like myself, you will find the bulk of the book is not worth it unless you need a refresher.

So, have you read anything great lately? I would love to hear about it and add to my ever expanding library!