Natural Magick by Sally Dubats – Book Review

Yes, another book on “magick”. Yes, this was sent to me for free. So I read it. Now, here’s a review. (See my other book review – Exploring Candle Magick by Patricia Telesco.)

Sally Dubats is a solitary. She is likely not trained in traditional Wicca. Therefore, her practice is strictly her own, with nothing to base it on but her own feelings and whims. That’s all fine and good, but you still need to have good explanations for the way you do things, especially if your book is an attempt to teach others. I found that although her book appears comprehensive (only because of her herbal guide and stones guide, which take up nearly half of the book) and indepth, it is lacking any real (theoretical and practical) understanding of the subjects presented.

The writing is at a higher level than Patricia Telesco’s book on Advanced Candle Magick (not necessarily a hard thing to do), but this doesn’t mean the writing here is necesarily better. The writing is poor in some places. For example, on page 54 Dubats writes, “Because Sagittarius rules the thighs and liver, doing magick for these purposes is also fruitful.” Huh? For what purposes? The thighs and liver are not “purposes”. Strangely, she corrects this for some of the other astrological signs she writes about. For example, on page 57 “Because Taurus rules the throat and neck, doing magick for the purpose of healing these is also fruitful.” Unfortunately, she only uses the corrected sentence in five out of the twelve descriptions of the astrological signs. Another thing to note is the difference in meaning of “effect” and “affect”. “What affect does Air have on Fire?” (page 60) “Affect” is used in this sentence is a noun; however, the meaning of the word as a noun is “the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes; also : a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion” (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/affect). The example given by Merriam-Webster shows the proper use of the word as a noun in a quote by Oliver Sacks “patients…showed perfectly normal reactions and affects.” Contrasted with “effect”, “effect” is a noun which means “something that inevitably follows an antecedent (as a cause or agent)” (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/effect). You can use “affect” as a verb such as “This movie affected me strongly”, but contrast that with “What effect did this movie have on me?” The proper question Dubats is asking is “What effect does Air have on Fire?”

There were more than a few things I would like to comment on in this book.

The name of the sabbat that falls on autumn equinox has been debated. According to Gardner’s books, the autumn equinox wasn’t even a sabbat. Later on perhaps after Gardner had his own coven, the name “Harvestide” was brought to North America. “Harvestide” is notably used in the Odyssean tradition and at the WCC. The name Mabon for this seasonal festival is common in the United States (see Wikipedia article on Mabon (the festival)) although the god Mabon does not have any connection to the autumn equinox (as far as Celtic scholars know).

The author mentions “astral tools” on page 10. I have to ask why would you waste time visualizing a tool to use for magic when you can just concentrate on visualizing the magic that needs to be done? For example, Dubats says that if you don’t have a wand, you can then just visualize a wand to use for casting your circle. This is just silly. You don’t need tools to cast a circle. Period. End of discussion. The tools help you focus, that’s it. They aren’t required for you to do magic or direct energy. You are doing it. Yes, you. So don’t worry if you don’t have the “right” tools to do magic, just do it. It’s all visualization. So don’t waste time trying to visualize a wand in your hand and then cast your circle. Visualize casting a circle with your hand.

On page 11, the author says the cauldron is an earth tool??? Because it relates to Mother Earth? Generally, the cauldron relates to the womb, which is associated with water. The cauldron represents the vessel that gives birth. It is a vessel that contains water. Birth is associated with water (as in, “My water broke!”) Thus, the cauldron is associated more appropriately to water than to earth.

On page 13, the author writes “The athame is a double-edged knife or sword…” An athame is not a sword. Swords are longer. As for naming your athame? I don’t know anyone who does. I suppose maybe some people do and I just don’t know about it. I think the idea of naming your athame simply comes from the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur. I did say that the athame is not a sword right? Face it, we’re not heroic royalty in a story where we can spend time naming our tools. But hey! If I name my athame, I guess I should name my chalice as well. Then I’ll have “Dick” and “Kitty” present for their blessed union, The Great Rite.

Furthermore, why conflate the athame and the sword while at the same time viewing the cauldron and chalice as separate tools? The athame is paired with the chalice during the wine blessing (or the symbolic Great Rite). The sword and the cauldron can be substitutes for the athame and the chalice in the symbolic Great Rite when the chalice is not a large enough receptacle (for practical reasons). If a sword is also an athame, the author implies that the sword may be used with the chalice during the symbolic Great Rite. She does not mention using the cauldron for the symbolic Great Rite; thus, you would have a huge sword being dipped into a small vessel (proportionally). (Not that this hasn’t been done before, It’s been known to happen when there has been no choice, such as the athame being broken, but it is still preferable to have proportional tools.)

Imagine the following:

Goddess to God, “Where do you think you’re putting THAT?!”

or alternately, can you imagine using an athame with the cauldron?

Goddess to God, “Um, honey, I can’t feel a thing…”

Oh, and if you are a solitary like this author is, who are you doing the Great Rite with?? You kind of need a partner for it. Otherwise, you’re just blessing the wine and not performing the Great Rite.

Pink for a robe colour? “Pink-robed fluff bunny” comes to mind. I guess you can wear the bunny costume Anya wore in Buffy, but aw… pink connects with the heart. I have not seen anyone wear a pink robe. I suppose as long as it’s not “hot pink” or overly bright (unless it’s Beltane – for that sabbat, wear whatever makes you feel sexual); otherwise, it might be too distracting if you are in a group or public ritual.

By the way, a ritual broom is called a besom (beh-ZEM).

In regards to the necessity of a candle snuffer (page 19), blowing out a candle with your breath does not offend the fire element. It is said to offend fairies, so if you have a fairy shrine have a candle snuffer if you believe this. Otherwise, it’s fine to blow out a candle with your breath. Traditional Wiccans (stemming from British Traditional Witchcraft (BTW)) have been doing this for a long time now. Using a candle snuffer is handy for any candles that get a little out of hand because you don’t want to accidentally blow any embers onto something that may catch fire, but having a candle snuffer isn’t strictly necessary.

I found the candle colour associations in this book peculiar (pages 23 to 26). The author writes that “the colours of the rainbow are also the colours of the seven major chakras.” Yet, the colours she lists for the seven chakras are not all rainbow colours. She lists white as the colour for the seventh chakra, but white is not a rainbow colour. Later on in the book when discussing stones, the author returns to discusssing chakras and their associated colours. I’ll explain then why white is not a colour.

The elemental colour associations seem like an incomplete system with no real explanation. The author associates red with earth, which may be fine if you live in places where the earth is reddish. However, red is traditionally associated with fire. If you associate blue with water and the astrological water signs and green with earth and the astrological earth signs, why isn’t red associated with fire and the astrological fire signs and yellow associated with air and the astrological air signs? If you are giving colour associations with a system, please complete the system. Otherwise, it just looks like you didn’t give much thought to your colour associations but rather cut, copied, and pasted associations together for each colour. For reference here are colours and astrological signs for the elements:

Air: yellow (physical), grey (mental), violet (spiritual); Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Fire: red (physical), orange (mental), white (spiritual); Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Water: blue (physical), aqua (mental), indigo (spiritual); Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Earth: green (physical), brown (mental), black (spiritual); Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Following are explanations for the elemental colours:

Air has the colours yellow, grey, and violet as these are the colours you see in the eastern sky at sunrise.
Fire has the colours red, orange, and white as these are the varying colours you see in a fire.
Water has the colours blue, aqua, and indigo as these are the colours of the ocean from different distances.
Earth has the colours green, brown, and black as these are the colours of a field, soil, and cold earth in the winter.

I did learn one thing! Oh my! An awl (mentioned on page 26) is normally used to punch leather but can be used to scribe onto candles. Usually I just call these “candle scribes” or simply “scribe” for one.

Here comes the fun stuff – chapter 3, “Magick and Candles”. On page 20, the author writes that “Candle magick consists of projecting the essence of an individual into a candle… ” and later reiterates on page 27, “The candle must contain the essence of the person for whom you are working magick…” Not all candle magic requires this. You may use this technique, but it is not required. Based on this, every time I do candle magic for myself, I have to project myself into the candle. (Why would I want to be in such a confined space?) Then I burn the candle down. What happens then? Am I released? Where does my essence go? And while my essence is projected into the candle, what happens to my body? Then on page 30, the author states that the person’s essence must be projected into the candle along with the essence of the magical intention, allowing both essences “to mingle together, perhaps for the first time”. She states that this is important because if the person’s essence does not contain the essence of the magical intention, then they will never experience it (the intention or goal). She then gives an example stating “if an individual has never truly experienced prosperity, there is no prosperity intention within their essence.” This is a negative perspective to explain why someone has not become prosperous. On top of things, this statement is made after her section on writing positive magical phrases to use in ritual. A little hypocritical in my opinion. If you are going to use positivity in ritual, you should try to use it outside as well. Just because a person isn’t properous doesn’t mean it has anything to do with their intention. It could be bad luck, or maybe the gods don’t think it’s time for them to be prosperous, or maybe it just isn’t meant to be. To summarize, I really don’t think putting a person’s essence into a candle is a great idea. The author does state in her book that you should ask permission before doing magic for someone, but if someone wants to put my essence into a candle to do magic for me, I’d say, “No, thank you, I like my essence where it is, and please don’t do this to me.”

Generally, candle magic involves imbuing the candle with a specially focused energy (such as energy to bring you success in your endeavours). Then when the candle is burned down, the energy is released to spirit (or deity, if you call on deities) carrying with it your desired outcome. That is at least one explanation for how candle magic works. One often recommened book is Spells and How They Work by Janet and Stewart Farrar.

On page 34 under the section “Finishing the ritual”, the author writes “Do not extinguish the candle. Allow the candle to burn and extinguish naturally.” I think she means to let the candle burn continuously until it is completely finished. This is a nice idea, and if you are a solitary, something that can be done. However, if you are part of a coven or a magical working group, this is not practical. For one thing, you are more than likely taking your candle home with you to burn down. Sometimes the candles will be lit during the ritual and each person takes his/her candle home to burn down later. There is nothing wrong with blowing out a candle and then re-lighting it later. The magic has not left or gone anywhere. Consider that the magical energy is imbued into the candle. Thus, if the candle has not burned down completely, there is still magical energy to be released from re-lighting it and burning it again. There really is no reason why candles need to burn down continuously for magic to work. Also, some candles are timed candles which means that you burn it down in sections. For example, a candle can be divided into seven sections for each day of the week. You would burn down one section for each day. At the end of the week when the candle is completely burned down, the magical energy is released and your work is done.

Chapter 3 overall is badly conceived. On page 20, the author writes “The steps to take during simple candle magick… are as follows” and then follows a complicated list of what to do – decide on magic, when to perform magic, select candle colours, gather items, have a… wait… no… luxuriate in a ritual bath, prepare the candle, create a magical phrase, perform the ritual, imprint the candle, release energy, and finish the ritual. This is simple?? Then, following this is a section called “Simple Candle Magick”. Okay… um, I thought the previous list was supposed to be simple candle magic. Did this author read her book before having it published? Make up your mind, what’s the simple method?? Page 20 should really say, “steps to take during candle magick” (remove the word “simple”) or even better yet “steps to take to do candle magic during ritual…”

Moving into chapter 4, “Divination”, the author mentions the infamous blank rune. The blank rune is, in fact, a creation of Ralph Blum, who overlays Christian ideas on the Norse runes. The blank rune is not used in traditional Norse runes, and is considered to be redundant as the meaning Blum ascribes to the blank rune is encompassed throughout the set of Norse runes. For those interested in learning more about the Norse runes, I recommend reading about runes at www.tarahill.coom. You can also buy a set of runes and a book expanding on what is written on the website. Another good author on runes is Nigel Pennick. Dubats further associates the three aettir of the runes to the trinity of maiden, mother, crone. Sorry, this doesn’t work for me, especially since some of the runes are associated with Norse gods.

Next, the author makes a serious error. She states that “the moon travels through each of the signs approximately twice per month…” Ah, no! The moon is in one sign for about 2.45 days. The moon cycle is properly 29.5 days. There are 12 astrological signs. Do the math. 29.5 days divided by 12 signs equals 2.4583 days (where the 3 repeats). The moon travels through each sign once in a month. The only sign that the moon would travel through twice in a month is the sign at the beginning and near the end of the moon cycle. For example, the new moon and waning moon before the next new moon would be the same sign. In a solar month, the moon will travel through the signs at the beginning of the month again near the end of the month. However, this is far from saying the the moon will travel through each of the signs twice per month. (Seriously wondering if the author has ever looked at a lunar calendar or an astrology book, and not to mention an astronomy book!)

In this book, the author has personified each astrological sign as a way for people to understand each sign. I don’t think this is necessary for understanding each sign. I suppose it’s cute, but whatever… to each her own, I suppose. Either way, it isn’t necessary to personify the astrological signs.

I love numerology. Unfortunately, there’s no consistency to it as there are various methods and forms of numerology. The method of calculation in this book is more difficult, although your final reduced number will always be the same. For the system I like to use, each individual number should be written as separate digits. (The reason for this is because there is a form of numerology that also interprets the final two-digit number before it is reduced to one digit.) The example in the book is January 1, 1960, which is reduced as 1+1+1960=1962, then 1+9+6+2=18, and finally 1+8=9. It is actually much easier to reduce it this way: 1+1+1+9+6+0=18, then 1+8=9. This makes a difference for dates such December 31, 1989, which is easier to calculate and reduce using the second method versus the one shown in this book. Written as 12.31.1989, reduce it by starting with 1+2+3+1+1+9+8+9=34, then 3+4=7. This is much simpler than 12+31+1989=2032, 2+3+2=7 (which by the way doesn’t give you a two-digit number before arriving at the one-digit number). Surprisingly, the author does suggest that people continue to study numerology.

I disagree with some of the meanings for numbers. For example, “Threes are excellent at manifesting through patience. In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, the three would be the Hare.” (Yes, she didn’t put quotes around the title of the story.) Um, if I recall the Hare is not patient. The Hare didn’t finish the race because it was easily distracted. The Tortoise was the patient one, plodding along slowly until it finished the race. According to this author’s meaning for the number three, three would be exemplified by the Tortoise. However, three is not about manifestation, but about expansion and diversity, although sometimes this can become distraction as displayed by the Hare. (So, yes, the Hare exemplifies three but not because of the meaning this author gives for the number three.)

Here is a quick keyword list of meanings for numerology:
1 – beginnings
2 – partnerships
3 – expansion
4 – foundation
5 – change
6 – harmony
7 – spirituality
8 – power
9 – completion

The meanings of numbers change somewhat for the tarot as the numbers one to ten are used, not just up to nine.

This author claims the tarot deck used to have two fool cards. I have been studying tarot for almost twenty years now, and I’ve never heard or seen of two fool cards in the deck. Perhaps she means the two Joker cards in the playing card decks, but that’s not what she claims – on page 71, “At one time, some Tarot decks had two Fool cards, one at the beginning and one at the end.” (By the way, tarot is not capitalized unless you are referring to a specific tarot deck. Note also that she quotes someone near the bottom of page 71, but she does not specify who or what book she is quoting from. I guess I’m supposed to assume she’s quoting from the Robin Wood Tarot, which is the deck she seems to be endorsing.)

Chapter 5 is “Visualization and Ritual” where there are many things I simply must (MUST, I tell you) comment on.

On page 78, she writes “Even a four-hour fast is helpful.” I’ve gone without food or drink for more than four hours, believe me it’s not a fast (not unless you are used to eating all the time, like every hour or two hours). It’s actually normal to wait about four hours before eating again. Consider, we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We have breakfast in the morning around 8 to 10 a.m. Then around 12 to 2 p.m., we have lunch. Then later, maybe around 6 or 8 p.m., we have dinner. There’s at least a four-hour gap before eating again. There are occasions where you may eat at 10 a.m., then at 12 p.m. depending on how much you ate the night before. Perhaps it would have been better to state that you don’t need to fast before doing a ritual, but it’s best not be full when doing ritual. Let’s not kid anyone, four hours without food or drink just isn’t a fast.

The author also suggests having a ritual bath before doing the ritual. This is fine, but I suggest you select your ritual location before you cleanse yourself. Actually, it’s best to decide before anything else whether you are having your ritual at home or elsewhere, indoors or outdoors. If you are having your ritual elsewhere, you can have a ritual bath before you leave, then bless (cleanse) yourself later. It doesn’t make sense to bless yourself, get yourself so relaxed, fight your way through traffic to get to your ritual location, and then have to bless yourself again because the traffic got you all frazzled. (Clearly, this author has never had to fight her way through a city’s rush hour traffic.) When indoors it also doesn’t make sense to have a relaxing bath, then have to set up the altar. When indoors, I recommend you clean up the area and set up the altar first. Then, have the bath, come out, and do the ritual – you’ll find the ritual runs smoother and you’re nice and relaxed right from the start of it. A suggestion… when indoors, consider the ritual bath as part of the ritual, not separate.

A common question for people new to the craft is “What hand do I use for magic?” The author of this book is incorrect to say on page 81, “As your right hand is the hand which sends energy, your right hand is the preferred hand to use” (regarding cleaning the area of negativity). This is fine, if you’re right-handed. If you’re left-handed, use the left hand. The choice of which hand to use for magical purposes and to send energy depends on hand dominance. The assumption that the right hand sends energy is only valid if you assume everyone is right-handed. (Obviously, not everyone is.) Since I myself am left-handed and I know another person in the craft who is left-handed, I can attest that using the left hand (if that is your dominant hand) for sending energy and performing magic is perfectly fine.

Where to place your altar? On page 81, the author writes “…due north marks the direction your altar should face” without giving a reason for this. Like with many things in Wicca, the direction your altar faces depends on many things. It depends on your tradition and most of all your perspective. Some people have altars facing the east. The Wiccan tradition I studied for the past eight years places the altar facing north-east. The reasoning is that the north is a place of endings, such as death, while the east is a place of beginnings, such as birth. As you look at the path of the sun during the day, the sun rises in the east, sets in the west and is hidden in the north. Thus, the north-east is considered the point where the transition from endings to beginnings occur, the point of conception. One reason to place the altar facing north is because it is facing the magnetic north pole. You may feel there is a connection to the earth’s energy this way. One reason to place the altar facing east is because the sun rises in the east. Perhaps if you lived in the southern hemisphere you may consider placing your altar facing south. Whatever you decide, make sure you have a reason for it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “proven” reason, it can simply be that you feel you work better when your altar is facing one way over another. See what works for you and see if you can come up with a coherent system for how your do your rituals and perform magic.

We’re back to candle colours again on page 81. This time we’re discussing candle colours for the directions. The author doesn’t explain why she specified the colours for each direction. I suppose she assumes people know why, but if you’re a beginner to the craft, here’s the associations for the directions:

North – earth, green (as the earth is green in the spring)
East – air, yellow (a colour you see in the sky during a sunrise)
South – fire, red (as the fire is red)
West – water, blue (as the sea is blue)

There are reasons for why north is earth, east is air, and so on. The major reason is geographical location. These associations likely come to us from British witchcraft where travelling north you would see more land, more green. Thus, north is associated with earth. Travelling south there is more warmth; therefore, south is fire. Travelling west you would see the ocean (Atlantic); therefore, west is water. Finally, travelling east would bring you closer to the time of dawn where you would notice the colour of the sky (the air) being yellow during the sunrise. Perhaps you might consider how your location might change your elemental and directional associations.

On page 82 is described the circle purifications (although the author doesn’t call it purifications, but this is indeed what she is doing in this section of the ritual) with earth in the north. Again depending on your perspective, you can start your purifications in the north. In the tradition I studied, east is beginnings represented by air; therefore, the purifications start with air in the east and not with earth in the north.

On page 82 to 83, consecrating the circle and leaving a sacred space after it has been consecrated (“sealed” is the term in the book) is discussed. You do not need to “cut a doorway with your athame” in order to leave the circle and then re-enter. There really is no real purpose for doing this, and I have found that those who like to do this are drawn to theatrics and over-drama. You can safely leave the circle and re-enter as long as you do so in a quiet and smooth enough manner. It is all about intention. If you leave the circle with peaceful intentions, the circle will remain peaceful. Along this note, pets can move in and out of a circle with no repercussions. Since you created your own circle, you should be perfectly fine entering and leaving it at will. If you attend a group ritual and are concerned about the protocol for this, you should ask the group leader (usually the High Priestess of the coven or group, but it may be a student of that tradition). For public rituals at the WCC, people can leave and enter ritual space if they need to without needing to cut a doorway. The Priestess leading the ritual is quite adept at handling any energy fluctuations resulting from someone leaving the circle. Generally, it is preferred that people stay throughout the ritual instead of leaving in the middle of it, but there is never any need to cut a doorway. (I should also point out that no one but the WCC Priesthood, the Handmaiden, and the Summoner is allowed to carry an athame into public ritual. There is generally too many people enclosed in a small space.)

Regarding the visualization when “sealing” the circle (on page 83), it does not need to be a bubble going into the ground. If you live in an apartment and are doing a ritual there, you don’t want to include the people in the floor below you in your sacred space. Additionally, you do not want to include the people living above you. Thus, it is sufficient to intend that the outer boundaries (such as the walls, ground and ceiling) of your area be the limits of the sacred space if you live in an apartment and are performing ritual there. If you are outdoors, a circle with a high enough ceiling surrounding your area is fine. I note here that the sealing of the circle as done by this author is also the method normally called “casting the circle”. It seems that she has combined casting the circle with the consecration of the circle.

On page 83 to 85 we are told the “next step is to call the watchtowers.” This is technically not correct. You should be calling the “Guardians of the watchtowers”. There is a slight difference. The watchtowers are inanimate objects; however, the Guardians are entities you can call upon. It doesn’t make sense to call an inanimate object into your circle. I don’t know why the “Guardians of the watchtowers” have been shortened to “watchtowers” or changed as this author writes in her calls “Guardians and watchtowers…” You don’t have to call the Guardians for your ritual. Alternatively, you can simply call on the elements. There are creatures associated with each element. These are sylphs for air, salamanders for fire, undines for water, and gnomes for earth. You also do not need to use astrology in calling on the elements or Guardians of the watchtowers (whichever one you like), but there is nothing overtly wrong with using astrology. You may use it if you like and if it suits your purpose. If it doesn’t suit your purpose, then don’t use it. As an example, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that using (Western) astrology in the elemental calls for an Egyptian-based ritual won’t work. To keep things simple, get to know the elements well (this is Plato’s system of elements), then try writing calls to the elements. There are different systems of elements and you need to use what is appropriate to your ritual purpose. Returning to my example, the Egyptian ritual would require Egyptain elements, not the ones discussed above. Otherwise there isn’t anything terribly wrong with the elemental calls in this book (aside from the “Guardians and watchtowers…”).

I suppose at this point I should discuss a little bit about ritual and writing rituals. It’s not always easy. Sorry, that’s the truth of it. It can be made easy if you know what you’re are doing to begin with, but it isn’t easy as this book and many others make it seem. First off, you need to know your ritual purpose and make sure that the purpose of the ritual is clear. You may even write your elemental calls specific to the purpose. Secondly, if you are working with deities, get to know them and the culture where they come from. In keeping with the above example of an Egyptian-based ritual, if you are doing a ritual to… hm… let’s say Ra and Hathor, you need to get to know Ra and Hathor and what they like. You can’t just do what you like. You might just do something that will feel “wonky” because you have inadvertently offended Ra or Hathor or both. Additionally, as stated earlier, Egyptian rituals use different elemental associations. You will need to adapt to that idea. You should never mix and match your pantheons (some just don’t get along, so you’re better off being safe than sorry), the exceptions being where a deity is known by a different name in another pantheon (e.g. Cernunnos, who is a Celtic god, but “Cernunnos” is actually a Roman name for the Celtic horned god; thus, it is okay to use Cernunnos in a Roman-based ritual). You should also be aware of which deities within pantheons don’t get along. For example, Hades and Demeter might not be such complementary deities since Hades kidnapped Demeter’s daughter Persephone. Though you might get away with calling Demeter, Persephone, and Hades since Persephone is there to mitigate any conflict between Hades and Demeter. Basically, if you’re going to work with deities by name you need to get to know their myths well. If you need a starting point, Larousse’s Encyclopedia of Mythology is a great starting place. One last tip about doing rituals, you close down the ritual in reverse order of what you did to open it. In the tradition I studied, to open you cast the circle, sweep the circle, purify, call the elements, consecrate the circle, and call the deities. Then to close down, you say goodbye to the deities, say goodbye to the elementals, and de-cast the circle. The main part of the ritual is in the middle between the opening and the closing of the circle. There are various ways to handle the wine blessing and the blessing of any food in ritual. Some think the energy is different if you bless and libate the wine (offer some to deity) right after the deity calls. It is probably a good idea and good manners to do so. Think of it as something akin to inviting someone over and not offering a drink right away! (No, you don’t need to have “cakes” in ritual every time, but it’s ideal to have at least a beverage. You do not need to have wine – juice works well too and a variety of other natural beverages. No soda/pop, whatever you call soda pop. Regarding the “libation”, the offering of drink and food to the deities, if you are outdoors, you can simply leave some behind on the ground. If you are indoors, you simply use a libation plate or bowl. After the ritual, you can find a place outside to leave the libation. Finding a nice tree is a good idea.)

Returning back to this book, some comments regarding pages 86 to 88. You don’t have to introduce yourself each time you do a ritual. I don’t recall ever really introducing myself to the deities. The deities will know who you are. You do not have to raise energy every time either. (See “Raising Power in Group Rituals” on my website, which I think applies also to solitary work.) You can simply sit and enjoy the time in sacred space. The author says to bid farewell and then extinguish the goddess candle. You can if you like. I think it’s nicer just to wait until after the ritual to blow out any candles you lit to deities. Farewells to the elements should be done in reverse order as you opened. In this book, the elemental calls started in the north, the farewells then should start in the west and end in the north. In the tradition I studied, the elemental calls are east, south, west, and north. The farewells are then north, west, south, and east. (Remember to do a full circle when doing your calls and farewells. If you started in the north, you should complete a circle in the north.) Essentially, you open the circle travelling in one direction, then you close the circle travelling in the opposite direction. The reason is simply that to reverse something you would do the opposite. In this case, it’s walk the opposite direction around the circle. In general, the tradition I studied opens the circle clockwise and movement within the circle after opening remains clockwise until the circle is closed down by moving counter-clockwise. In the middle of a ritual, always walk a full circle clockwise to return to your spot. Doing otherwise disrupts the flow of the energy that is contained in the circle. (Trust me, it is noticeable when someone moves around the wrong way.) There are occasions where the circle is opened counter-clockwise, this means that movement during ritual should be counter-clockwise until closing where it would then be clockwise.

Regarding “astral circles” on page 88, see my comments about “astral tools” above. This just seems silly to me.

Okay, there are many allowances I will give to a solitary who just wants to do her own thing and what she does works for her. However, on page 94, I read “And ye harm none, do what ye will.” First of all, this is misquoted. (See the Wikipedia article on the Wiccan Rede.) Although there are two versions of the “Wiccan Rede” or “Rede of the Wiccae”, both versions do not use “And ye…” Doreen Valiente wrote “An it harm none do what ye will.” Lady Gwen Thompson’s “Rede of the Wiccae” attributed to Adriana Porter is “An’ it harm none, do what ye will.” Both versions use the word “an”, which is an archaic word meaning “in the event…” or “if”. This then translates in modern English as, “If it harms none, do what you will”, which conveys a different meaning entirely from “And ye harm none, do what ye will” as Dubats writes. Phrasing the Wiccan Rede as Dubats does, it says that you can only do something if it does not harm anyone and also prohibits you from doing something that may potentially cause harm. However, the meaning and intent of the Wiccan Rede proper, “An it harm none, do what ye will”, simply guides and advises on what to do in the case that your actions do not cause harm. It does not dictate that you should never cause harm nor does it tell you what to do in the case where your actions will cause harm regardless of which choice you make. You are left to decide perhaps which course of action causes the least harm or which course of action provides the most benefit (to you and others). The word “an” meaning “if” makes the statement conditional and provides for options. Incorrectly using the word “and” joins the two phrases in the statement and turns the Wiccan Rede into a command. In Wicca, there is no dogma (at least there shouldn’t be, there’s always someone out there wanting to be dogmatic about things). Stating the Wiccan Rede incorrectly as “And ye harm none, do what ye will” is dogmatic. “Do not do…”, “thou shalt not…” – sound familiar??

Some years ago, the Wiccan Rede came up in on a message board discussion about “harm” from a philosophical perspective. There I also had to clarify the meaning of the Wiccan Rede. I wrote:

It was not intended to be something that MUST be followed but ADVICE. The words “an’ it harm none, do what ye will” simply refer to what one should do if one’s actions do not result in harm. However, if one’s actions result in harm, the Rede does not say what one should do in that situation. It is unfortunate that human nature has lead to reversing the final phrase of the Rede of the Wiccae into “do as you will and harm none”, which in effect turns the phrase into a command. In interpretation, “an’ it harm none, do what ye will” means if one’s actions results in no harm, then you are free to do what you are intending to do, but if your actions result in harm, you are left on your own to decide what to do. Hopefully, for the most part, people would choose the path of “least harm”.

In case you might be wondering, there have been debates as to what should be considered “harm”. I shall not get into that discussion here, but shall leave it for another time.

Returning to Dubats’ book, chapter 6 is “Herbs” and provides a “Guide to Plants and Herbs”. Here she discusses the use of herbs for magic. Notably, I would like to comment on the subsection on oils and whether or not to use essential oils or synthetic oils for magical purposes. Essential oils are condensed essences of a plant. Some are irritating to the skin or may have other negative side effects when using. When this is the case, for magical purposes, it is better to use the synthetic oil. For example, cinnamon is irritating to the skin, if you are planning on anointing you should use the synthetic oil. There are also essential oils that should not be used by any woman who is pregnant as it could cause pre-mature labour. These are just some examples of how careful you need to be when it comes to essential oils. If you don’t have the time to learn about the various health warnings for each essential oil, I would recommend starting out with synthetic oils if you’re only using them for magical purposes. Additionally, some essential oils are just too expensive and the synthetic is easier to obtain costwise (athough some synthetics are more expensive because of the complicated process involved – cinnamon unfortunately is one synthetic that may be more expensive). While I agree that using essential oils for magic may have a better effect overall, it is not necessary to use essential oils. I disagree with the author’s statement on page 100, “Many synthetic oils are on the market which smell great but have no magickal value.” The magical intent is not just in the oil, but in the person. For that matter, the magical intent comes from the person. You can charge a synthetic oil just as well as an essential oil. Synthetic oils work just fine, and I have done magic using synthetic oils with good results. The reason they are called synthetic oils is simply that the scent of the oil is made up from a variety of other scents, not because the oil isn’t produced from natural sources. Synthetics are just made up in a lab rather than being found naturally in one plant. (See Wikipedia article on “aroma compounds”, the ingredients making up a synthetic oil.) However, if you are doing healing work, I would recommend using essential oils assuming of course you know enough of healing with essential oils. There are many good books on using essential oils. One good book is Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy by Chrissie Wildwood.

Regarding the “Guide to Plants and Herbs”, double check the information as you would with any guide. Do so especially for any herbs which you may want to ingest as it may not be edible! For example, I looked up mistletoe. Mistletoe is toxic and poisonous if ingested. (I happen to know this.) This author does not indicate this potential risk of ingesting mistletoe. Instead she states that “At one time, mistletoe was used as an antidote against poison.” This may possibly be true, but we now know ingesting mistletoe isn’t a good idea. Wikipedia states, “In Celtic mythology and in Druid rituals, it was considered an antidote to poison, but it is now known that the fruits of many mistletoes are poisonous if ingested, as they contain viscotoxins.” (See Wikipedia article on mistletoe.) A good book on herbs is John Lust’s book and it comes highly recommended from a Wiccan lady I know who’s been doing herbology for probably over 20 years. It’s a small paperback book, but filled with lots of information. Get it if you see it.

Chapter 7 is “Stones and Crystals” where we are told on page 136, “In order to know more about healing with stones, you must first learn the chakra system.” It isn’t necessary to learn the chakra system to use stones with healing. The system of chakras comes from East Indian spiritual practices and has been adopted into Western New Age thinking and practices. Many people use stones without any knowledge of chakras. The system of chakras is one system that you may wish to add to your practice of healing with stones if you like, but it isn’t required as this author seems to think. I might just bet ancient witchcraft used stones for healing without any knowledge of the chakras (though it may have encompassed its own ideas about the spiritual body).

The author also reiterates on page 136 (she previously mentioned this on page 23) that the chakras are “made up of colors, which correspond to the colors of the rainbow, which are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and white.” White? First of all, white is not a colour, it is light. All colours come from a beam of white light. If you shot a beam of white light through a prism, you would see the rainbow colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet reflected off a wall. The author is correct in saying that the chakras are associated with the rainbow colours, but the colour white isn’t one of them. I will almost bet that she read a few books on the chakras with some saying that the colours are rainbow colours and some listing the colours with white instead of violet (for the crown or seventh chakra). If the author had actually known anything about the science of colours, she would have realized that some people arbitrarily list white as a colour of the crown chakra and it has nothing to do with the rainbow. The author has listed some peculiar colours for the chakras (pages 136 to 139). This book is the only book in which I have read that black is associated with the root (base, first) chakra. I must point out here that black, like white, is not a colour at all. Black is, in fact, the absence of light. For simplicity’s sake, we just categorize black and white as colours. Dubats, like some other authors, lists pink as the colour of the heart (fourth) chakra. My feeling is in East Indian practices, the heart chakra is properly green. (No, I don’t have a source for that claim which is why I said, “My feeling is…”) I believe that the association of pink with the heart chakra comes from North American societal conditioning where anything associated with love is also associated with pink although other colours can represent love too. The author rationalizes the choice of pink because the base chakra is red and the crown chakra is white (I have already explained that the crown chakra is violet) and since the heart chakra is in the middle and white and red mixed together makes pink so the heart chakra is pink. Nice, but that’s not necessarily how the chakras work. There are, in fact, more than just the seven chakras and the heart chakra isn’t the central chakra if there even is a central chakra (there are some very important points that connect to the chakras that I shall not discuss here). I’ve actually worked with my heart chakra quite a bit (I’ve found doing reiki on it helps me sleep, and in fact, every time I try to do a full reiki session before going to sleep I fall asleep when I get to the heart chakra), and I’ve always seen green for that chakra. It’s the colour that comes to mind without even thinking about it. In addition to listing white as the colour for the crown chakra, the author lists gold and amethyst as one of its colours. Okay, amethyst is violet. Good enough. Gold? Not so sure about that. It is possible some people associate gold with the crown chakra as energy is seen entering that chakra and some people may see a gold thread. Who knows? In any case, when I’ve worked with the crown chakra, violet comes to mind. Sometimes it’s a deeper violet, sometimes it’s lighter. The author’s healing associations with each chakra seem to be accurate enough. You can read about chakras on my website, which lists the rainbow colours for each chakra as well as the sanskrit names. I would recommend reading about chakras more if you are interested in it. Just remember you don’t need to learn them if you want to heal with stones, but you can use them if you like.

On pages 141 and 142, the author tells us to charge stones in our right hands. I’ve already discussed the issue of using the right hand for magic above (see discussion for quote on page 81). You should use your dominant hand, which may or may not be your right hand. If you are left-handed, use your left hand. On page 142, she writes “Charge the stone using the visualization technique of holding the stone in your right hand…” Whatever, the right hand again. This time I’m a little unclear as to what she means by “the visualization technique of holding the stone…” This is just badly written. I think she means “the visualization technique taught above while holding the stone…”

Finally, the last chapter is a “Guide to Spells”, which lists corresondences for different magical purposes. I don’t use these generally. There are quite a lot of books with correspondence tables in them. Most of them should be used with “a grain of salt”, that is, caution. You can take the suggested correspondences if you like, but I would suggest researching it further. Rather than simply using a table of correspondences (which in some cases may not work for you), I recommend researching the associations of herbs, stones, and colours – all three have specific healing properties. I also suggest you consider what associations they have for you. For example, is red associated with love or anger? You decide. The days of the week and planet associations are standardized. They are as follows with the explanations for the correspondence:

Monday – day named for the moon; planet: Moon
Tuesday – day named for the Norse god Tyr, who is equated to Roman Mars; planet: Mars
Wednesday – day named for the Norse god Woden (Odin), who is equated to Roman Mercury; planet Mercury
Thursday – day named for the Norse god Thor, who is equated to Roman Jupiter; planet: Jupiter
Friday – day named for the Norse goddess Freya, who is equated to Roman Venus; planet: Venus
Saturday – day named for the Roman god Saturn; planet: Saturn
Sunday – day named for the sun; planet: Sun

To determine what day to do a specific spell, you would decide which Roman deity it falls under. For example, spells to do with love fall under the domain of Venus; thus, Friday is a good day to do love spells. Spells for success and happiness are associated with the sun, so Sunday is ideal. Spells for fertility are associated with the moon, so Monday is ideal.

To use spells with astrological signs, I recommend studying some astrology. Get a handle on the basics of astrology. There is a good book on using astrology for magic specifically called Astrologickal Magick by Estelle Daniels. It’s quite good.

Regarding elemental and directional associations for spells, I would recommend you study the elements and get to know them well. You may do spells pertaining to one element or you may use all the elements. Once you determine the elements to use, it should be easy to determine the directional correspondences.

The bottom line regarding correspondences – determine your own! As long as you have a good reason for what you’re doing and can develop a coherent system, you should be fine.

To summarize this review, I found this book particularly annoying because I could not read it for more than twenty minutes at a time. I would eventually come across something I had to note and make comments on. The biggest issue I have with this book is the slight dogmatic vibe, especially with this author’s interpretation of the Wiccan Rede. I truly think this interpretation of the Wiccan Rede is counter to the spirit and nature of the craft.

The lack of concern about the accuracy of the information in the herb guide is… well… a concern. If you are writing about something that deals with a person’s physical health, you are in some ways taking on a similar responsibility as a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional. Ensure that you are not recommending something that may be harmful to someone. It would have been better had the author put a disclaimer for the herb guide stating something such as, “Use at your own risk. The author makes no assertions as to the accuracy of the information presented in this guide.” Without the disclaimer, she assumes a certain degree of authority regarding the use of herbs and people will assume that what is written is accurate information. I have already shown that the information on mistletoe is slightly inaccurate and that it lacked the necessary warning.

Regardless of any other issues I have with the book, the issue of the Wiccan Rede and that of accuracy regarding herbal information are significant. They are significant enough, in my opinion, that I would not recommend this book to anyone without myself giving a warning “Read at your own risk.”

My rating from 0 of 10 (5 is average): 0 (Note: Save yourself the trouble and money, do some prosperity magic and don’t buy this book. I was lucky I got this book for free. Since it was free, I thought I’d review it.)

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

One Response to “Natural Magick by Sally Dubats – Book Review”

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