Health and Wellness

Herbal and natural remedies and wellness.

Monsters and Magical Sticks, by Steven Heller & Terry Steele

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Monsters and Magical Sticks, by Steven Heller & Terry SteeleMonsters and Magical Sticks: Or, There’s No Such Thing As Hypnosis, by Steven Heller, Ph. D. & Terry Steele, introduction by Robert Anton Wilson
New Falcon Publication, 1561840262, 191 (Incl. bibliography), 1987, 2001

Prior to reading Monsters and Magical Sticks, I didn’t know much about hypnosis, it wasn’t a subject that was really ‘on my radar’. Sure, I’d seen it used as a tool for entertainment at a few shows, where a hypnotist stood up in front of a crowd, selected a few individuals and ‘made’ them do silly things. Beyond hearing about it in reference to quitting smoking on the radio, I never really considered that it may have real, practical applications. I simply did not understand the potential therapeutic aspects, nor did I realize that I’d experienced a version of it nearly every day. Continue reading

Review: Yin Yoga, by Paul Grilley

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Yin Yoga, by Paul Grilley
White Cloud Press, 1883391439, 118 pp. (incl. bibliography.), 2002

Admittedly, my study of yoga has been mostly superficial: I’ve read a few books, but never studied with a professional teacher. However, I do enjoy the few asanas (poses/postures) that I do practice regularly, and was glad to receive an opportunity to expand on them.

Grilley combines Chinese mysticism with Indian philosophy to create yin yoga, incorporating the Modern Meridian Theory of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama and Dr. James Oschman. This theory postulates that the meridians run through the connective tissue of the body, representing the yin energy, whereas the muscle tissue represents the yang. Included are several colour diagrams of the body and connective tissue to illustrate this point. The main difference between what Grilley calls ‘yang yoga’ and ‘yin yoga’ is that the postures in the latter are held longer, with the muscles relaxed, rather than the straining of ‘yang yoga’.

A large variety of poses are illustrated with photographs and detailed explanations on the benefit and suggestions for the novice and more advanced student, giving a range in the degree of difficulty. Three sample routines are included with various emphasis on spine, hips and legs and then a combination. The sample routines are arranged in such a way that the transition between them feels smooth and natural

Several sitting postures are detailed as well, with brief descriptions of the chakras, and a variety of pranayama and meditation techniques, including Sushumna Purification, chakra and kundalini meditation, Bija or “seed” mantras, etc.

Regarding chakras, Grilley brings up an excellent point often overlooked:

‘When trying to describe where a chakra “is” one is in a dilemma. Common language suggests that they are physically located in the spine but the reader should bear in mind that this is both true and false. A “broken heart” is a real experience that indeed seems cantered in the heart but that is not where the feelings “are”. The chakras have a physical correspondence but they are more than physical. Bear this in mind when reading about “where” a chakra “is”. Don’t be limited by only physical conceptions.’

I found the practical section to be effective and the theory is as sound as any. This is definitely a book I value, and suggest it to anyone looking for a different perspective on yoga.

Review: Cooking by the Seasons, Kerri Ann Allrich

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Cooking by the Seasons: Simple Vegetarian Feasts, by Kerri Ann Allrich
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738703230, 2003, 208 (+2) pp. (Including appendices, and indexes)

I was thrilled to receive Cooking by the Seasons as I’d enjoyed her previous cookbook Cooking By Moonlight. This aimed more specifically at vegetarians and vegans, a large and growing market. Delicious food non-vegetarians will enjoy as well. As with Allrich’s previous work, she writes from a Goddess-centric point of view, while briefly incorporating hints of the God and masculine energies, this work is mostly aimed at women in general.

Divided into four main sections by season, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, each contains a short description of associated colours, elements, brief bits of Goddess lore and so on, as well as menu suggestions for the festivals or sabbats.

Allrich sensibly recommends eating in tune with the seasons to align oneself closer to nature and the Goddess, eating fruits and vegetables as they’re harvested. Many recipes for light fresh greens in the summer, warm simmering soups for the winter. Too often you hear about neo-pagan festivals and such with no actual connection to the changing of the seasons and alignment with Nature; for example, harvest festivals sans the harvesting, etc. This becomes symbolic at best, and at worst supremely naive. Allrich reminds us to “eat in season” to maintain that connection to the Earth and Her bounty.

She includes recipes for flavoured wines, appetizers, soups, main course, salads and desserts for each season with appropriate produce, with a section for notes and additions. Also contains three appendices: resources list to search out ingredients and natural products, as well as a detailed list of cooking terms from US to UK, additionally there is also a measurements conversion chart. Category index, and alphabetical recipe index.

As mentioned in a previous review, I’m no gourmet chef, however, when reviewing a cookbook, it makes sense to give the recipes a go. So I had a go at making the Baked Eggplant with Goat Cheese (page 74), as I love eggplant though rarely know what to do with it. It turned out fantastic, absolutely divine. I even managed to find something my notoriously picky husband (a non-vegetarian) loved, the Bread Crumb Pasta For Two (page 121). The recipes were easy to follow, making me almost feel like a chef on surveying and enjoying the finished product.

I’m gradually learning that food can be much more than stuff you eat to stay alive – it can also be a delicious life affirming experience to be sensually induced and indulge in. Kerri Ann Allrich’s cookbooks have contributed to a large part of that. If you’re looking for something deliciously flavourful to add to your cooking repertoire, pick this up.

Review: Cooking by Moonlight, Kerri Ann Allrich

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Cooking by Moonlight: A Witch’s Guide to Culinary Magic, by Kerri Ann Allrich
Llewellyn Worldwide, 1567180159, 2003, 224 (including appendix and index)

Advice on what to keep stocked in your kitchen, as well as attributes of various ‘love foods’, which foods are best to eat under which moon and season, and why. Excellent recipies, most of the ones with meat ingredients have vegetarian alternatives, which, being a vegetarian, I consider very thoughtful.

I do own a few cookbooks, but they’re quite dusty, as I don’t generally cook. I’ve got a few recipies and things I know how to assemble, but that number doesn’t top a dozen. And half of them simply require adding milk to a package of dried flaky bits. If it can’t be made in 10 minutes or less I dunno how. But a cookbook was sent with a neo-pagan spin, and how could I resist giving it a go?

I made the Cinnamon Zucchini Bread (pg. 117), the ingredients were simple enough, but I had no idea what it meant to ‘fold in the zucchini’, I called my sister who is a baker, and she told me, thinking I was an idiot for not immediately understanding. This easily could have been idiocy on my part, but an appendix of ‘Baking Terms for Dummies’ would have been helpful. At any rate, the bread turned out to be absolutely delicious.

Very Gooddess-centric (there is little mention of the God throughout this book) it contains many references to ‘Wise Woman’ (though none to Cunning Man), this is a cookbook clearly meant for women. Though I’m sure both sexes will appreciate the tastey recipies found within, however it would have been nice to see a bit more of a nod to the fellas. That, and a gloassary would be my only complaints, otherwise it’s a delightful book, an excellent addition to the library of any kitchen witch.

Review: Herbal Magick, by Gerina Dunwich

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Herbal Magick: A Witch’s Guide to Herbal Folklore and Enchantments, by Gerina Dunwich
New Page Books, 1564145751, 2002

Herbal magick is not an area I had paid a lot of attention to until about a year ago. Being friends with a well-trained herbalist, I had come to rely on her when I needed guidance (I still do to a large degree). When my health and the health of my wife began to deteriorate, however, I became more aware of the subject. I still called upon my fiend for the mundane use of herbs, but I began to look into the magickal aspects of herbs.

This book is not an herbal. It is designed primarily as a reference work, so don’t go into it expecting to be entertained and regaled with anecdotes. The entire second half of the book serves as a reference work. This alone would be worth the price of the book.

Ms. Dunwich is coming from the standpoint of a traditional Witch, with none of the vacillation of many who claim only to be Wiccan, and hence incapable of knowing (or using) the darker knowledge which has been part of the Craft for so long.

Just to make sure you don’t miss the occasional warnings about toxicity and other potential problems, Ms. Dunwich uses boldface. She is very aware of, and makes the reader aware of, the potential “nasty” uses of some of the herbs she includes in this book. While not advocating their use, she does not deny their potential for mischief, thus placing the burden of their use squarely where it belongs – on the shoulders of her readers. By placing the warnings prominently in the text, as opposed to buried in footnotes or appendices, she assures herself that no one can later claim, “Oh, I didn’t see the warning. I didn’t know that herb was potentially dangerous.”

Ms. Dunwich is clear in his distinction between religions (which she, properly, capitalizes) and magickal practices (which she does not). While not a major point, and totally unrelated to the subject of the book, it is one that marks, in my opinion, a decently educated writer.

She lists basic dream interpretations, elemental correspondences, and correspondences to deities and planetary rulership. She tells you where you can purchase herbs for your own work. She also has a basic list of deities from many traditions and pantheons.

Her Appendix lists herbal references for many of the days of the year.

This book should, in my opinion, find a place in every aspiring herbalist’s bookshelf. It would also fit into most other Pagan’s reading list and bookshelves. The writing is crisp, the style is entertaining, and the overall impression I carried away from the book was one of having spent a pleasant time talking with an old friend, and learning more than I had expected to when I started out.

Review: Healing with Crystals, by Pamela Louise Chase and Jonathan Pawlik

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Healing With Crystals, by Pamela Louise Chase and Jonathan Pawlik
Page Books, 2001

My major problem, and indeed my only problem, dealt with the authors’ assertions relating to the function of crystals in the ancient land of Atlantis. Personally, I lean towards agreeing with them, but I feel that their assertions should have been a little less dogmatic. We don’t KNOW for sure that crystals were used in the manner they assert (just as we don’t KNOW much about any prehistoric or early historic events). A simple “Some people believe…” would have made me feel better about this section.

This book is what a lot of folks would call “white light and fluff bunny,” and that is all right. It is intended as a beginning introduction to working with quartz crystal. The affirmations and techniques described should not offend anyone, and they will encourage people to experiment on their own.

The authors are careful to point out (which many authors today do not) that the assumptions used in working with crystal, and which they describe, are ones which have worked FOR THEM. The reader is encouraged to find what works for them.

Throughout this book, the reader is reminded that it is only a starting point, and is not intended to be a definitive work. Over and over, the authors encourage their reader to try things; to experiment; to refine that which has worked for others.

Do I do a lot of crystal work? No, not particularly. Did I learn from this book? Certainly. Would I recommend it? Without hesitation. Most people probably won’t even notice that minor hitch about Atlantis while reading this book. I probably wouldn’t have if Atlantis wasn’t a personal area of interest for me.

Read it and enjoy it.

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