In You Are Magical, Tess Whitehurst offers an introduction to “the fundamentals of living a magical life.”1 This is a beginners’ guide for those of us who have an inkling that there might be something extraordinary at work in the universe, and in ourselves. Whitehurst is a friendly and welcoming guide, who takes our hand and leads us into a strange new world, speaking to us directly, reassuring us that we are on the right path.
That’s why I wrote this book for you, you who can no longer ignore the ancient, insistent, mesmerizing siren song of your intrinsic spiritual power. I wrote it for you who can sense that living magically is not a novelty ace, a fashion, or a trend, it’s who you really are. Indeed, it’s your legacy and birthright as a beloved child of the universe. Welcome home.2
Whitehurst’s tone is consistently enthusiastic and inspiring. It’s very easy to get swept up in her passion, and her clear delight in sharing her knowledge is beautiful to see. She aims to cover a lot of ground, especially in the first half of the book, which is a whistle-stop tour of the basics. Topics range from a brief history of the Salem witch trials to an introduction to self-initiation, via the elements, sabbats, phases of the moon, divination methods, astrology, spellcraft, and much more.
You Are Magical is a slim book and Whitehurst must be brief, yet she manages to pack in a lot in a very readable, accessible way. She gives simple information that would be helpful for someone just setting out. For example, she describes the kinds of magick that are best worked when the sun is in various zodiac signs and how the energy of those signs could behave if blocked. She also suggests that each day you make a note of the moon phase, sun sign, moon sign, and day of the week. Keeping the energies she describes in mind, she recommends at the end of the day reflecting on how those energies might have been at work in your day.3 This is a very good tip for people starting magical journals.
I also enjoyed her descriptions of the God and Goddess from her brief introduction to the divine masculine and feminine. Whitehurst describes the Goddess appearing as a priestess of creativity and magick; a dark matron of rage and death; a great mother of compassion and nourishment; the quintessence of beauty, luxury and love; a paragon or fierceness and strength; and a being of great wisdom and adaptability. God appears as a paragon of untamable wildness; a magician of great wisdom and power; a proactive, obstacle-demolishing force; a contemplative and meditative prophet; a radiant warrior; a majestic ruler and king.4 While Whitehurst may be brief, she provides many fascinating springboards to further study.
The second part offers a selection of practical spells for the reader to try. They are grouped under themes: Manifesting Abundance, Blessing and Protecting, Binding and Banishing, and Enhancing Your Magical Power. Each spell includes a list of ingredients and brief instructions. For example, the spell Harmonize Your Thoughts requires a lepidolite pendant, which you are instructed to bathe in a moving body of water on the day of a new moon, while visualizing the purification of your mental landscape.5
This second half feels a bit less welcoming than the first, as almost all of the spells require objects that a beginner would have to purchase, thereby linking their success to the size of their bank account. If I were to perform all the spells described here, I would have to buy over three dozen roses, not to mention a trove of crystals, and “a brand new doormat that you love and that you imagine a rich(er) person would own.”6 The ingredients are often unexplained — why lepidolite? Why specifically violet votive candles? No alternatives are given.
This is a rather jarring shift from the idea that “there is an infinite number of types of magic, and now there is even one more: your magic” to a more prescriptive, shopping-list-based style of spellcraft.7 It seems strange, as Whitehurst has said she is talking directly to people who feel that “mainstream spirituality — organized or prescribed religion of any variety — has always let you down.”8 I would have liked to see fewer spells and more space given to the first part of the book, so that the very brief descriptions of, for example, the tarot, could be expanded and enriched.
On the whole, You Are Magical is a nice introduction to the world of magick, a beckoning in and an invitation to explore. There’s inspiration and motivation aplenty in these pages. Whitehurst makes the reader feel they are capable of great things, and she provides the tools for them to try.