Book Review: The Witch’s Book of Self-Care by Arin Murphy-Hiscock – 5/5

The Witch’s Book of Self-Care by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

5/5 – The Preciousssssss. [Crown’s Book Review Guide]

TL;DR: It’s more than just “take a bubble bath and meditate”. It covers real self-care and includes a ton of spells too! No errors or issues that I could see.

I love this book. I’ve heard great things about it and it had been on my wishlist for a long time. My library network scored a copy, so I borrowed it Halloween week… and didn’t read it until mid-Novemeber the night before it was due back. (Which is kind of ironic, given the book’s content and reading is one of my self-care methods.)

This book covers true self care. Not the bubble baths and binging chocolate cake, but actual self-care. What it is and what it’s purpose is. Respecting yourself. It’s quite great. It doesn’t linger or drag out details, but it covers what self-care is and isn’t and moves on. It differs itself from the self-care media presents and breaks down why the image of binge eating and marathon watching TV while the chores go undone is a BAD and harmful image of self-care.

The book introduces a bit of advice or a self-care goal, such as accepting failure, then offer a spell or ritual to do just that. It’s kind of an amazing design and you end up with a book PACKED with gentle advice and spells.

It’s not just about mental health. There’s also advice and spells for physical self-care, such as enchanting a reusable bottle of water to encourage you to drink more water (and be happier). Recipes are also included in the physical health section. Soups, breads, and main dishes. There’s not a ton of recipes, but there’s a handful for you to try out. Tea’s covered a bit too.

If you’re into making body care products, like sugar scrubs or body butter, there’s recipes for this too. Quite a lot of recipes, actually. I was really impressed with the amount. Many of them are also magical recipes for courage, serenity, and more. So if you’re a potions class fan, you’ll like that section.

The book up until now, by the way, has been completely secular. All the spells and ritual, all the advice, totally secular.

There is a section of the book covered the spiritual and it starts by giving some brief intro of gods (including some deities to check out that would be helpful in self-care). The extra nice part is the book empahsises that you should develop a relationship with your deity. I’m a secular witch, but I’m also an animist pagan. (Secular isn’t atheist, they’re just separate parts of my life.) I really appreciate books that cover spiritual or divine subjects and don’t say “summon up this deity to do X, Y, or Z”. Animal energies are also covered by this, without ever saying the super controversial words “spirit animal” (in fact, that’s never published in this book), with the same advice as the gods. So refreshing to run into and I am HERE FOR IT.

The advice covered here is all good. Community, reconnecting with yourself, and more. The spells and rituals are similar. Spells to review your spiritual beliefs, for example, might be something long-time practitioners would enjoy. It also gives some ideas for daily rituals.

I’ll be honest, I don’t do daily rituals. Magic is a daily thing for me, but beyond meditation (which is more about mental organization than magical practice for me), some cleaning, and exercise, I do NOTHING daily. Some mornings I’ll get up, make my bed, have tea, and crawl right back onto my bed to write for the day. Other days, I’m out the door to run errands as soon as the shops open. Or I’m at my desk with a pile of work and a huge cup of coffee. My days aren’t standard, so I don’t bother with daily rituals beyond what I know is 1000% practical. Hell, even my workouts and meditations aren’t the same. I just don’t like routine, so I don’t do daily rituals or daily draws (for tarot cards). It’s simply not something I’m interested in.

That being said, the daily tips and spells would be really useful for pretty much anyone but those like me. They are a bit more elaborate daily rituals than I’d be willing to do, even when I had a set schedule. Lighting candles and so on is right up this book’s alley. Because it’s about self-care, these rituals are designed to take a moment out of your daily routine to focus on your spiritual health.

The section on meditation is nice because, meditation is so commonly prescribed for all that ails you and while, sure, it probably can help with issues, it’s not the be all that ends all. Some days, it’s a struggle just to stay in the meditation. Sometimes you’ll fall asleep. Sometimes, it’s not working for you. Sometimes, you just do not have the time. All of that it A-OK and this book is totally real about that. There’s also some meditations offere there for you to follow. This includes meditation teas and even meditation incense recipes. And info on how to make your own set of meditation/prayer breads. (As an aside, if you do decide to make some prayer breads, perhaps do a bit of research on different types. Malas are not rosaries after all and their structures are different for different reasons. Maybe after the research you’ll have an idea of how you want to construct your own beads for your own magical or spiritual reasons.)

A lot of the spiritual self-care is practical. Sit in nature. Do something creative. Sounds simple, but it’s often something we don’t do. This book gives you inspiration to get out there and try stuff. Or crafts and spells to encourage and inspire you to do creative things.

There’s also chapter on household self-care and this is my particular jam. When I advise cleansing, I always advise cleaning too. Nobody likes it, but I find it to be as useful as cleansing and the combination can be extremely powerful. Household self-care is the next step beyond cleansing and cleaning. It’s making your home good for you. Create comfort, elemental balancing, and so on. And yes, even a mention of cluttered space and cluttered energy makes an appearance.

Cleansing is covered, along with protecting your home’s energy. Creating altars and shrines, including a gratitude altar and an altar to yourself. The chapter ends with recipes for aromatherapy blends (make sure those blends are diluted and safe for both yourself, others, childrens, pets, and personal belongings before use!) and incense blends.

And that ends the book! It doesn’t have a final or closing statement, which is kind of weird. One page is incense recipes and the next is the bibliography. The book is also so jammed packed with that it will be hard to find the exact spell or recipe you want without heavily using the index (which I always support) or bookmarking different pages. Still, the book is truly great and I recommend it to anyone who wants to look into self-care on a magical level. Just check the book out the spells alone is worth it. This book is officially on my to-buy list.


Review: The Witch’s Mirror by Mickie Mueller – 4.5/5

The Witch’s Mirror: the craft, lore, & magick of the looking glass by Mickie Mueller – 4.5/5

This book is a neat, approachable little technical book written in a conversational tone about magic mirrors. It gives you the basics, runs through different types, gives you DIYs and spells.

The only “eh” thing about the whole book is calling non-pagan religious folks pagan, like Hindu practitioners, who usually prefer to not be called pagan. The inclusion of their mirrors is definitely borderline, if not straight up cultural appropriation. This might be due to the age of the book or it could just be misinformation on the writer’s part. It also doesn’t specifically say “use this mirror for X reasons even though it belongs to this culture”. Instead, the book covers mirrors from all over. So it’s actually inclusive, even if the wording is dated. Because of this potential inclusive/cultural appropriation line, I feel I’m not the person to judge the issue and put this firmly in the hands of the people who are. It’s because of this potential issue that I knocked off half a star.

Anyway, onwards.

I’m a huge fan of scrying. It’s the first type of divination I really enjoyed doing and understood. It’s one of the few that I was able to do with results right off the bat. It’s also one of the most accessible yet flexible types of divination. Many people apparently find scrying difficult. I think this is due to how open minded and fluid of mind you need to be during the scrying session to really get results. Once you practice and practice, you’ll probably get good results too.

Magic mirrors is merely an extension of that. I have a lot of magic mirrors, some for divination purposes and some for other things. Like… a dozen or more of them. (Which is weird to think of because I don’t like mirrors when used on me, just as a magic tool). 

Anyway, I’ve been staring at this book on my book wish list for a while and finally found a copy through my library. And it was worth the wait because it is gold.

The author does a good job at presenting mirror lore in an interesting and even humorous way. Not like laugh out loud funny, but honest and in a casual talking manner. I appreciate that because this is actually a technical book, in my opinion, and so often technical books can be so dry

The book has an honest, open conversational tone to it. It was like listening to a friend who has all this knowledge that they just want to share. So you nod over your brunch while they rambled but you’re genuinely interested in their words.

The book also features little bits of text written by popular new age authors on mirrors. This serves as adding new insight and perspective, but also offering new bits of lore you might not otherwise get.

The first chapter is an introduction and history. All interesting and, to my great pleasure, none of it spewing incorrect lore or history (to my knowledge, at least). Yay! 

What I really appreciated is that the author jumps right in. There’s a brief section of what magic mirrors are and the history of them, but it’s all just quick facts laid out to move onto the more interesting stuff. I’m so bored with books that spend countless pages on things most of us (A) already know (B) have, can, and will google (C) is misinformed or spreading misinformation. I totally get WHY those sections in most witchy books exist, but because this book assumes you already know what you’re doing, it doesn’t even pretend to bother with it. That’s… so refreshing. To run into an intermediate book that actually, you know, feels like an intermediate book. Plus, there’s a lot of “this is what these people do, this is what these people do” instead of “hey, this is what these people do, so let’s do that”. IE, there’s cultural folklore covered, but not in an appropriative way.

As someone who studies history and folklore, I actually consider myself reasonably well-versed in mirror based lore. As said, there’s bits of lore displayed and discussed in a way that doesn’t make you read paragraph on paragraph until your eyes want to bleed (so unlike, you know, my reviews. Ha!). I didn’t uncover any new lore in the text, but I can imagine that unless you read a lot of superstition and folklore texts for fun like I do, you probably would find some interesting folklore to enjoy. The conversational wording of it is nice for a change of pace for these sorts of things so sometimes I started to get new ideas that started like this “hm, well, if that’s true then I wonder if it’s related to this bit of lore because of the so-and-so cultural tradition I read about in that super rare academic paper or out-of-print book from the sixties.” Because apparently that’s how I roll.

The second chapter covers mirror magic in pop culture. I’m a fan of pop culture magic so I’m always pleased to see practitioners and writers consider or compare what fiction and pop culture does with magical tools. I almost wish the chapter was longer but some main pop culture is mentioned from Supernatural to Heroes from Harry Potter to Bloody Mary.

I wouldn’t consider this a dialogue on how to use mirrors in pop culture magic, but rather how magic mirrors have been used in the past through media and how that reflects on our crafts.

The third chapter gets into the basics of magic mirrors. While many practitioners like to have symbolism for every aspect of their tools, I don’t. I pick mirrors for magic based on one of two things: does it feel like a mirror or magical object I want to work with or is it the right tool for the project I’m about to do? Shape doesn’t matter to me. I care more about the energy of an object than the shape of it, you know? That being said, it’s actually quite nice to have different shaped mirrors for various purposes, if only to remember the difference between this magic mirror and that magic mirror. 

However, if you do like to have symbolism in everything or you have a favorite shape, then definitely consider a mirror in that shape. It’s good to remember that light reflects off mirror shapes differently. So consider what you plan to do with that mirror. It’s a lot easier to avoid reflections while scrying in a smaller mirror than a larger one.

There is, of course, merit to the convex vs concave mirrors. I’ve owned both types and they have a very different feel to them for me as a magic mirror. They’re just different and I think that’s due to their less passive existence. They reflect things differently than a normal mirror does.

The author gives a very neat break down of mirror washes which is nice because it’s sometimes a confusing topic to read about. The chapter goes on to cover frames and finishes up with an article from a guest writer.

The next chapter has wonderful spells using mirrors or reflective surfaces. There aren’t many spells but they’re definitely useful for modern life. One to chill out, another to put negative thoughts behind you, and a neat little shield spell using reflective sunglasses. They’re the kind of spells I really enjoy – well thought out and useful for the modern witch with modern concerns.

These are spells that make no attempts at being high or mighty or too on trend. You want a spell to give yourself time to adjust to a party’s atmosphere because you’ve anxiety or you’re an introvert? Done. There’s a spell for that. And it’s such a nice, neat, simple little spell that is so helpful and useful. It shows complete understanding that not everyone’s into witchcraft for the serious business and academic pursuits. 

There’s a discussion about where to get mirrors and Hexenspiegel come up. These types of mirrors are enchanted to automatically send back negative energy and so on. I’ve always used my spell based mirrors in a Hexenspiegel style and I see others do too but rarely is the name Hexenspiegel brought up. The same chapter also covers mirrored boxes, mercury glass, oeil de sorcière, Indian torans, and bagua.

I have problems with calling some of these items “witch’s mirrors”. Some of these mirrors come out of cultures that are not pagan. Most Hindu practitioners do not consider themselves pagan. Their ritual or cultural items shouldn’t be considered pagan either.

Chapter six covers how to make your own scrying mirrors. The standard “paint glass black” method is given but with lots of tips and details that are really useful if you’re trying to make a mirror. Like a polymer clay frame or adding felt to the back for protection. There’s also basic instructions on how to use the mirror. Later, there’s instructions for making a Hexenspiegel with mirror-based jewelry. Next the book covers making a mirrored box, DIY faux mercury glass, and even crafting your own oeil de sorcière.

This chapter also covers common purposes like spirit communication and dedicating a mirror to the moon or sun. Creating a negative energy trap too is described. Chapter seven (the next chapter) is referenced a lot so I question whether that chapter should have come first when creating the book.

Chapter seven offers recipes for mirror washes, cleansing liquids, and so on. I have my own recipes for these kinds of washes and they matched up fairly well. The recipes are actually quite good and can be really useful if you’re not very handy when it comes to herbal magic.

The next chapter has more mirror based spells. Return to sender spells, spirit contact and communication, garden orb prosperity spell and more. I’m quite fond of the spells in here. As said above, they’re well thought out and useful to modern people.

A discussion involving the backs of mirrors begins. Handheld mirrors usually have decorative backs but other mirrors don’t. You can change that by add blessings and spell work to the back of the mirror. The author offers some original designs as sigil for magic mirrors.

Chapter nine has meditations using mirrors. It’s actually quite thought provoking, if you’re not used to thinking of self awareness or astral travel. Those are, weirdly, topics I do think about, so this was old news, but definitely good for anyone who wants to use mirrors in these aspects of their practice.

Finally, the book closes with useful appendixes for divination purposes, a glossary, and recommended readings.

Is this the most mind-blowing technical book I’ve read? No. It’s not something you’re going to need to break out the dictionary for and set aside time to study appropriately. You can read it curled up with your favorite warm beverage and fuzzy socks. That’s not a bad thing, just don’t go in expecting to break out the graph paper to sketch out the exact measurements of historical magic mirrors or whatever. It’s not that kind of book. But that’s OK. It’s not claiming to be that kind of book and that’s actually great because that means this book is SUPER approachable.

I don’t normally add technical books to my library unless they’re spell, recipe, or reference books, but this is one that I’ve happily added to my library. 

Review: Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena & Jess Zimmerman – 4.5/5

Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena & Jess Zimmerman – 4.5/5 – You should be reading this.

Heads up: One section covers black/white magic, somewhat out of nowhere. Another talks about familiars but it’s uncertain what is meant by familiars, and could possible refer to spirit animals? It’s unclear. Lots of talk about sex and adult themes so it might not  be a wise choice for younger readers.

It’s not quite a witchcraft 101 book, it’s not quite not a witchcraft 101 book. It’s somewhere firmly in the realm of “witchlings will enjoy this but most any magical practitioner that this looks interesting to will probably enjoy it.” It’s centered in modern witchcraft, to be sure, so close to non-witchcraft that the lines merge. I’m OK with that. Bring on the ordinary magic. It’s good fun.

I’ll be honest, I would have given it a solid 5/5 if not for the strange introduction of black/white magic suddenly within the text. More on that below, but it’s a great book outside of that bit of oddness.

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Review: The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin – 4/5

The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin – 4/5 – You should be reading this.  [Crown’s review guide here.]

I didn’t see any flaws in this book. I sometimes felt the book was missing something. I think that’s because this is more of a creative lifestyle book using tarot as a medium of understanding than a tarot book that’s about creative life. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good read and gets you thinking about the tarot cards in a different light.

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Review: Tarot Spells by Janina Renee – 3.5/5

Tarot Spells by Janina Renee. 1994. Llwellyn. 3.5/5 – Meh

Warnings: None except very slight “negative energy will come back to you” mentioned once.

A good book and accessible for everyone. Reads as light ceremonial or ritualistic but can be easily adapted. However, poor formatting, uninspired card choices, and cookie cutter (and sometimes boring) spells leaves me wanting more. Excellent for inspiration however and worth adding to a collection of spell books. The 2001 version might rectify many of these problems.

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Book Review: The Soul Searcher’s Handbook by Emma Mildon – 4.5/5

The Soul Searcher’s Handbook by Emma Mildon – 4.5/5

This book gets a four and a half star review merely because the book is gold – but there are some things that could have been mentioned, like cultural appropriation. THat being said, the book’s like a tour guide. It’s not meant to be a 101 book. It’s suppose to give you a peek into various new age practices. So I forgive it. A few paragraphs of ethical responsibility concerning cultural appropriation would have nailed it for me. But even without that paragraph or two, this book is pretty neat.

Your average practitioner won’t find any use in this book. Instead, this book is excellent for those newbies who say, “I want to get started in this field but I have absolutely no idea of what I want to do or where to start”. This book is written for them.


So I requested this book from my library and waited nearly a month for it. I requested it on a whim – it was on my amazon book list but only because it sounded potentially interesting. The wait had me a little unenthusiastic for it because I picked up half a dozen other books at the same time – three of which I intended to review. So, since this was a mostly a personal read, I stuck it off to the side and waited.

One night, scattered-minded, I picked up the book to get the first chapter read. I figured the book would be super encouraging and deeply personal. The kind of thing you can’t read in bits and bursts but rather in a few long sessions. Boy was I wrong.

Immediately, I liked the book. It’s actually great for short reading sessions because of the nature of the book. It’s half handbook, where you look up things and read about them and half encouragement. It’s the writer’s tone of voice that sells it to me though. She’s funny. She’s all of us. She googled ‘how to be spiritual’. She doesn’t really have a label for what she is but she’s given a good chunk of the new age world a whirl. Fascinated, and hoping the author didn’t fail by cultural appropriation) I moved the book to my current reads pile and dug in.

Let me first say this. This book assumes that you’re female gendered. Flat-out. It refers to training bras and other female exclusive things. The subtitle of the book is ‘A Modern Girl’s Guide to the New Age World’. What it doesn’t do, as far as I’ve understood at least, is define woman or female. So it’s inclusive in that sense. All women are included.

That being said, I do think the book’s worth reading through if you’re of any other gender. It doesn’t shame or degrade other genders but instead focuses on promoting women.

That being said, it’s a really good and honest guide to various new age-y practices. Some of them are things like chiropractors which I don’t even consider new age and others are things like past lives and crystal healing.

This woman has clearly done her research so she knows what she’s talking about from what I can tell. I don’t practice everything in this book so some subjects I’m not as familiar with.

Here’s my concern. While she’s perfectly educated on the history and religious backgrounds of things like chakra, mundras, dream catchers, and yoga, she doesn’t mention cultural appropriation at all. Which, of course, makes me frown. I was extremely surprised to see, halfway through the book, her recommend native or DIY sources for your dream catchers. Hey! That’s a good start. Less pleased when it came to the term “spirit animal” which is a contender for needing a new term so it doesn’t clash with native beliefs. I kind of wish she dug into the reasons why you shouldn’t do various things or the differences in how chakras is in religious context versus western context but… that’s really outside of the scope of this book.

This reads as a primer and gives good, basic, honest info that you’ll want to know if you’re looking into certain practices. You might be able to google several types of yoga but those Wikipedia and google pages aren’t going to tell you what the experience is like. This book does.

So, while I do believe this book could stand to be improved from a standpoint of cultural appropriation, this book doesn’t market itself as a stand-alone guide. It’s a starting point. Something to give someone who’s interested in a topic a little push to start researching. Like a tour book, it’s not going to give full details. For that, I forgive it.

This book has a bonus of a glossary and notes. Specifically, end notes with citations and stuff. Be still by heart. I love that stuff so I can track down whatever source I’d like to and research more about it – and debunk information by looking at that source too.

Book Review: Bewitchments by Edain McCoy – 4/5

Bewitchments by Edain McCoy

4/5 – You should be reading this [TCC review guide]

Warnings: Chakras, some stuff stated as fact rather than preferred methodology. Some spells need more research as they could be dangerous using as is. Some spells may come from another culture so tread carefully to avoid cultural appropriation.

Overall, this book is a good spell resource.

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Book Review: Yule: A Celebration of Light & Warmth by Dorothy Morrison – 4/5

Yule: A Celebration of Light & Warmth by Dorothy Morrison

4/5 – You should be reading this [TCC review guide]

Warnings: Glossing over history, slight Christian passive-aggression, lots of world traditions shared without a mention of cultural appropriation but no cultural appropriation within the book itself.

This book was an extreme surprise for me. Save for the prettied up history and the rest of the warnings, it was actually a solid book. Full of DIYs, recipes, and spells, it’s a good addition to a magical household.

I picked this up in the holiday section of my public library (call # 394.268 Mor) along with another  pagan holiday book. The book was published in 2000 by Llewellyn. You can probably find this in any large bookstore, new age shop, Llewellyn themselves, or online such as Amazon.

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Book Review: The Magick of Aromatherapy by Gwydion O’Hara 4/5

The Magick of Aromatherapy by Gwydion O’Hara – 4/5 You should be reading this

Warnings: Binary discussion, weird printing choices, possible cultural appropriation?

This is a great little tome to pick up if you’re into aromatherapy and have a magical or spiritual practice. I can’t vouch for every single aromatherapy usage but I was impressed with the book and the few flaws I found probably won’t bother most people. But the flaws are there.

The recipes are useful and plentiful and the discussions are worth reading. Basics of aromatherapy are also covered so you don’t need to be an expert to read the book. Worth checking out and worth buying if you’re interested in the subject.

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Book Review: Magical Fashionista by Tess Whitehurst – 4/5

You should be reading this:4/5 – There’s binary discussion, some questionable and unintentional cultural appropriation and fetishing. Learn more about how I rate books here.

The book read much more like a lifestyle book for most of it rather than a magic or metaphysical book but that’s OK because the metaphysical stuff is there in later chapters. It’s going to be very much a topic book. If you’re interested in this topic, then you’ll likely enjoy the book. If you aren’t, then skip it. You won’t gain much from the book if this isn’t a topic that you’re interested in.

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