It’s been a loooooong time since I did one of these (like seven years!). Partly that’s because a lot of our social media now fills the purpose that these cartulary posts used to, and partly it’s because I usually wind up trying to write more in-depth examinations of folk magic for the website that are finished and complete, so these peek-behind-the-curtain posts slip my mind. Oops, my bad, and sorry in that order!
For those who haven’t run into these before, a cartulary is essentially a scroll of information where new material gets added by attaching it to the bottom of existing scrolls, functioning as a sort of hodgepodge of ideas that get rolled up together because they don’t belong anywhere else. Given that the dominant reading mode for the internet is scrolling, I use these posts as a sort glimpse into my working notes on current witchcraft research, as well as showing you some things that may be of interest to you as well (since you’re here, you probably like at least some of the same witchy things I do, right?).
A lot of what’s here is piecemeal and incomplete, or at least a bit rough and unfinished, and some of it may not have to deal with witchery directly but will give you a sense of what’s going on behind the scenes between episodes/posts/books/etc. And you may discover something new that you love, too!
Let’s start with what I’m reading, which is always “everything,” I suppose. More specifically, though, I’ve got a slew of witchy books in my “just-read,” “now-reading,” and “soon-my-preciouses” piles. I was gifted a book from the Ackerly Green publishing house called The Book of Briars by my friend Heather, and I’ve been exploring the tangled world created by author C.J. Bernstein (essentially the engine behind the press) through the book The Monarch Papers: Flora & Fauna as well. This whole press and the world it’s creating are INSANE and delightful. It’s a fusion of fairy tales, lost magic, Mandela effect, murder mystery, and more. There are elements of Neil Gaiman, John Bellairs, Margaret Atwood, Charles de Lindt, and Diana Wynne Jones in these pages, and what’s even more wild is that you, the reader, can directly interact with the world as it is being written, helping to shape the story that already exists and the books yet to come.
I’ve also been working through some folklore collections that I’ve loved a lot lately. I picked up a really interesting collection called Myths of Magical Native American Women by Teresa Pijoan, who worked with tribes like the Lakota, Hopi, Cheyenne, and Creek to retain some of the tales that were potentially about to be lost with the passing of elders. Most notable are the “Salt Woman” stories, which can be very hard to find and which tell of the tragic-but-generous figure of the Salt Woman in several tribal mythologies who brought the gift of salt to the people. I also received a wonderful signed copy of the Tel que Dit stories done by podcast guest Erik Lacharity, which recounts a number of magical tales and legends from French Canadian history and lore. Many read like fairy tales, and there’s a wonderful series of stories about the folk hero/clever trickster Ti-Jean as well. For my birthday in June, I was incredibly happy to finally receive a copy of the Greenwood Handbook on The Pied Piper, which is one of my all-time favorite fairy tales/legends (it has some very strange elements of historical fact within it). It was edited by my folklore colleague Wolfgang Mieder, and goes through dozens of variants, sequels, artistic representations, and the historical context of the story as well. Finally, my kids turned me onto a whole series of graphic novels that are collections of world folklore, called the Cautionary Fables & Fairy Tales books. They feature collections like The Night Marchers (Oceanian lore), The Nixie of the Mill-pond (European lore), The Girl Who Married a Skull (African lore), and The Tamamo Fox Maiden (Asian lore). They are SO GOOD, and each volume features a variety of storytellers and artists to keep things varied and interesting. Great for both adults and kids ages 8+ (some stories are a little spicy or scary).
I also should mention that I’ve been on a bit of a mushroom kick lately, too. I’m enthusiastically listening to the audiobook for Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life, which explores in depth how fungi are inextricably interwoven with every aspect of life on earth. It’s a science book, but it reads like a travelogue, a meditation, and an adventure tale at times, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I…I think I might be bordering on obsessed with mushrooms and fungi, and actively looking to join a lichen cult if possible. In that same vein, I recently watched the Netflix documentary called Fantastic Fungi, which does a nice job giving a mile-high overview of some of the same things Sheldrake explores in much more depth.
On to the world of witchy books, of which there are so many in my life right now, I have to say I’m delighted at how many people I consider friends or colleagues are putting out good work at the moment. I’ve read and recommended Fire Lyte’s forthcoming book, The Dabbler’s Guide to Witchcraft, which essentially takes his skeptical, critical eye and looks at witchcraft in a way that can help a newcomer to separate the useful bits from the bunkum claims and absolute dreck that sometimes winds up in intro-to-the-craft type books. In a similarly scientific vein, I am absolutely in love with J.D. Walker’s book A Witch’s Guide to Wildcraft, which walks the reader through exploring their local flora both as a witch and a gardener (she’s a Master Gardener and spent thirty years running her own landscaping business, so she knows what she’s talking about).
On the more esoteric side of things, I also really loved Star Child, by Bri Saussy, which demystifies some of the complicated elements of astrology by also looking at what a parent might be able to glean from looking at the astrological placements of their child. There’s also Anatomy of a Witch, by Laura Tempest Zakroff, which dives into the sort of visceral experience of witchcraft by looking at it through the lens of a person’s body, breath, and movement (Zakroff is also a long-time professional dancer, so those elements are very important to her and it shows!).
I have to say that I wish I’d discovered Moon Dust Press long ago when my own kids were little. They didn’t exist then, but if they had my kids would have been getting lots of witchy, magical kids’ books like Sunday the Sea Witch and Brina: A Pagan Picture Book.
In terms of books in my “I shall devour you soon” pile, I’m really excited about a couple of new releases I hope to get my hands on in the next month or so. Thorn Mooney has just released her latest book, The Witch’s Path, and it aims for an audience that is a little different than most witchy books: advanced practitioners. Mooney looks at everything from group leadership to burnout, and apparently provides guidance based on individual learning styles, which I’m very excited about! I’m also hungrily eyeing Lisa Marie Basile’s latest book, City Witchery. I loved her Light Magic for Dark Times so much, and this one is tackling urban witchcraft, which I don’t see done nearly enough. I’ve got them both on pre-order so….soooooooon.
I’ll close up with a couple of other witchy bobbins that I think are worth spinning. Firstly, for those who haven’t been watching our live cartomancy sessions, you’re missing out! They’re a load of fun! And we’ve discovered the wickedly honest power of the Mildred Payne’s Oracle of Black Enchantment from Deviant Moon. These cards are designed to look like woodcuts taken from a nightmarish and gleeful history of witchcraft, and they do NOT play around (well, they DO play around, but in the same way a cat plays with a bird it’s just caught)! We’ve gotten some of our most honest readings from them!
I also have been falling back in love with witchy podcasts, because there have been a whole spate of amazing new ones to come out this year. I can’t get enough of Invoking Witchcraft, featuring Britton and J. Allen, who remind me a lot of Laine and me because they are exploring folk magic through ongoing conversations and interviews. I was a guest on there a while back, but I’ve been totally hooked on them for months as they cover things like shoe magic, magical bathing, and whether or not to join a coven. I also ADORE the Southern Bramble podcast, which brings traditional folk witchcraft out through a queer perspective while also digging deep into its southern roots (and getting dirty and dangerous in the process). Austin and Marshall are just so engaging, funny, and also wicked that I can’t help but be drawn in! And finally, I’ve fallen for the Jewitches podcast, exploring Jewish folk magic and witchcraft with host Zo. This is a podcast that is built upon research and cultural investigation, and it deals with topics both delightful and very, very heart-breaking. Zo explores the overlap between Jewish persecutions and the early witch trials in Europe, the myth of the dybbuk box, and the horrific Blood Libel legend (which is still in circulation today). It’s really thought-provoking and also highly informative!
So those are the things that are currently getting free rent in my brain, and that are likely to influence some of the research and show-planning I do over the next few months. You’ll probably see some of these authors show up as guests on the show, or hear me talk about topics involving new veins of folk magic or curiosity that these little rabbit trails open up (who knows, maybe I’ll even have something to tell you about fungi and folk magic someday!).
Until next time, thanks for reading!