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Book review: The Heart of Wicca by Ellen Cannon Reed

I intend to start posting more reviews on my platform: reviews of books, decks (a rare post as I am not a deck collector, but I do still buy the decks that really speak to me), podcasts, music, and more. If you have anything that you would like for me to review, comment below! My first review is going to be on a book that I just finished, The Heart of Wicca: Wise Words from a Crone on the Path by Ellen Cannon Reed.

I would first like to start by saying that I am not a Wiccan, and there may be themes or topics in this book that are over my head or beyond my comprehension because I do not subscribe to the path. I would also like to state that if I write something about this book, or about Wicca in general that is negative or a critique, I am not saying that you are wrong if you are Wiccan, love this book, or anything like that. This is simply a post coming from my personal insight and honesty as a new reader to this book, and these topics.

I picked this book up at a local store some time ago. As much as I know that I will ever become a Wiccan, I do want to learn and understand more about different religions and methodologies, Wicca included. That being said, I did not like this book. I found the tone to be off-putting, condescending, and elitist. The following paragraphs describe specifically what I did and did not like about this book, and why I only gave it a 1 out 5 stars on Goodreads.

First, the book is only 127 pages, which alone is not a problem. What irked me was those 127 pages read like a big condescending rant. The book is title The Heart of Wicca: Wise Words from a Crone on the Path, so I thought that this book was going to discuss some things that are paramount to the Wicca pantheon. Some of this was discussed, but not in any satisfying depth, which is not only disappointing, it is contradictory to the first paragraph. Reed states that other books often only skim the surface of Wicca, which is exactly what I thought of this book. (Reed 1)

One of the first things about this book that put me off was the constant contradiction. Reed would constantly state how other covens, or “new” Wiccans are doing things that irritate her, and then give one small sentence how her covens are not the only ones who do things right. I get the book is from her perspective and will obviously include her opinion, but it got a little tiring to read. From what I could find about the author, she walked this path for a long time before her passing, undoubtedly had a lot of wisdom about the path, and had seen how the path has morphed over time. From what I have heard from others who practice Wicca (how in depth, I do not know), the path is much more formulaic than others it seems. There are certain ways to do things, and ways to not do things. I do not have a problem with traditions, or Wiccans who use tradition in their magick or rituals. It simply read to me that those who don’t hold as much to tradition are doing it wrong, which I disagree with completely.

I was also not aware of how cutthroat the initiation process can be to get into a coven. Reed heavily emphasized that students who wished to be initiated into one of her two covens had to participate for a full year in rituals and traditions, and even then their initiation was not guaranteed. The coven goes off of gut feeling if a person will become an initiate into their coven. I am not saying this is right or wrong. I am simply saying that I did not realize that some covens were so selective. I can see the purpose, but all that did was emphasize why I have never been inclined to join a coven. I am a solitary witch anyway, but I feel like showing up should be organic and honest, a true statement of when and where they can be of service (which no human can always be of service 100% of the time). It should not be for mere attendance.

Again, I see the purpose of wanting a coven to be at its strongest. I can see why coven needs to be more than a social gathering. I can see why covens need to have a certain vulnerability to work through difficulties. Group magick won’t be as effective if some members are holding onto to old gripes, either petty or truly valid. However, I simply could not fathom being accepted or rejected from something I had invested my heart and time into based upon someone’s feeling about me. I also feel that accepting or rejecting someone based on gut feelings leaves room for human error and bias. I find it ironic that during much of the text, Reed makes it clearly known that both students and teachers will at times falter or stumble, as they are human. But, when it comes to the intimate process of bringing in a new and willing participant into the coven, that is left solely to gut feelings and bias.

Maybe that is just me…….

I also feel that people who say a coven always and immediately has stronger magic than a solitary practitioner are honestly just trying to recruit. As a solitary witch, I feel I enter a deeply intimate and magickal experience when I stand in my circle, my guides and the universe the only ones to witness me. I feel free and capable and empowered and deeply loved. No coven, no matter how established, can take that away from me. Reed did say that with the rise in popularity, there is no way that every single Wiccan could join a coven because there are not enough teachers to fulfill the needs of each new practitioner. With how cutthroat the initiation process is, I can see why……

The final point I want to make about snobbish and elitist mentalities come in the chapter about initiation, a chapter I find ripe with contradiction and looking down the proverbial nose on those who don’t follow the same path. Reed states there are two types of initiations: the one that comes from the coven, and the one that comes from spirit. The one that comes from spirit cannot come from a human, or from the self. It can only come from the Gods and Goddesses unveiling the mysteries to you in a process. Putting aside the fact that I disagree with that, I want to focus more on what Reed states about coven initiations. She makes the point that college degrees have fallen in strength, no longer holding the same weight as before, and that she does not want that to happen to her initiates. While I understand her wish for nothing but the best from her initiates, what I took from that is her saying that her coven members are more deserving of the magickal path, and stronger in their magickal creeds. This is simply not true. Credentials are great, but they don’t mean that someone is stronger, more pure of heart, or more deserving of the magickal path than a solitary witch, non-Wiccan witch, or anyone who isn’t in her coven. (Reed 58)

Okay, now on to some things that I agreed with Reed on: working with deities, and certain aspects of training and studying. In working with deities, I agree with her that it is important to treat it like any other relationship. It is not polite to call in a deity simply because you heard a friend or colleague say they did it. It isn’t polite to call them in to fulfill a need without doing some basic research or creating some respectful energy. Some deities will be lifelong influences. Other may be some that you work with on specific occasions. I don’t see a problem with any of that, as long as you approach the relationship with respect, and a willingness to engage in the process with this deity. Take time to read about them, visualize them, give an offering to them, or connect with them before simply asking for things.

I also agree that spiritual work does not, and should not, equal easy. Spiritual bypassing and a refusal to confront the shadow self in the end does more damage, and weakens the spiritual path. There is no race towards the other side of the darkness. There is no hierarchy for who has gone farther, confronted more, or overcome more. Please don’t feel like you taking the time you need to confront the difficult means your spiritual is lesser. In fact, you are doing what others refuse to do. I personally feel that we see this way to much with positivity culture. We need to be willing to share our hurt and pain and fear and dread. Those are just as valuable of spiritual teachers as any mentor or positive moment. I also agree with her that spells are a small section of a big umbrella called magick. I also agree that spell casting should be done wisely, and without vengeance in the heart.

Overall, this book did not pass the mustard for me, which I think I have made clear. Even Reed herself acknowledges on page 127 that the views of her and like-minded individuals may be seen as snobbish, old-fashioned, and elitist. Snobbish and elitist, yes. Old-fashioned, no. I actually wished that her book contained more of her “old-fashioned” views and tenets. I wish that she went more into specifics, and spent less time putting down anyone new to the path, or anyone who may stray from her opinion of how things should be done.

Reed, Ellen Cannon. Heart of Wicca: Wise Words from a Crone on the Path. Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, 2000.

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Approaching the end of the year

The end of the year is finally coming to a close. I feel the need to create a little time capsule of my year, and what better place than my blog? For me, this year was a rough one, but also an insanely beautiful one. There were so many things that happened, and many things I really had to confront and face. This was also the year that I really had to admit and confront where I was hurting myself, and my business.

Here were some of the major points of my year:

+My schoolwork consisted mostly of science classes (which is not my strong suit) to finish the requirements for my Associates in the Integrative Health program. Next year, I get to enjoy the Capstone, all about transitioning into the professional world.

+I got to see some whales and experience the beauty of Mexico.

+My cat was on and off sick for months. He was so sick that, at one point, Grizzly and I really thought we were going to lose him. However, my little Zombie survived, and I feel that experience in many ways brought Grizzly and I closer together.

+Some of the other classes that I got to take this year were amazing, including Medicinal Herbs in the Wild, where I met a dear friend, and fell more in love with herbs, and Colorado.

Towards the end of this year, my own health started to take a turn. What first started out as acid reflux, has turned into breathing issues that have persisted for about a month now. The shadow part of me isolated even farther, less willing to do things like see friends, run errands, or get motivation for the things I needed to complete. However, it also brought me closer to spirit, and to myself.

My year card was Strength, and I feel that after this year (I haven’t even mentioned the social injustices and headlines that have impacted and changed me), I have a better appreciation for that card. I also have had to take some time and reconcile with myself the fact that I have had to put myself on ice in regards to my business. I have had bitter moments where I have feel like I’m hitting a wall. I have had moments where it seems like I have been wasting my time. I had had moments where it has felt like no matter what I do for my business, it wasn’t good enough.

(If you would like to know your year card is, add up your birth month and day with the current year. If yours equals something like this (29), you would then add those two together, which equals 11. In the Wild Unknown deck, which is the one I use most often, the 11th card is Strength.)

It was like constantly hitting a wall. It took me a while to realize that I was the wall. My ego was needing certain boxes checked off to feel validated. My spirit just wants to express the tarot, and other modalities, with passion and authenticity. Going forward, I have recognized where I was placing expectations on the outside world, but I really need boundaries with myself. I also needed new projects.

So, come next year I am going to start a podcast. This is something that I am really excited for, and I have been toying with the idea for a while now. I am ready to try something new. I am also going to start putting up physical products, expanding my services, and establishing my platform a little bit more. I was not giving myself was the belief that I deserved a thriving business. I was not allowing myself to feel the confidence needed to thrive. That stops now. It is not welcome in 2020.

If you are feeling overdrawn, overburdened, or anything that does not register with your higher being, I ask to you to see where your beliefs or confidence or compassion for yourself is at. I am not saying that I found the formula for growth. That is a process that I look forward to learning more about as I discover more about myself. I simply ask you to confront and face. You can do it. You are strong. You are worthy. You are gorgeous. If you would like to go deeper into some energy, we can work together, and use the tarot to unleash some needed energy. Next post will be about the deck forecast for 2020.

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My Spread Pricing and Why I Don’t Charge Per Hour

I wanted to do and write something a little bit differently today. More specifically, my intention is to show a little bit of my process behind certain aspects of my business. Many, if not most, tarot readers charge based on time spent for the reading. There is nothing wrong with this, but I personally have never liked to charge that way. A big reason why is because of my first reading as the client, not the reader.

I like to charge based on number of cards pulled as opposed to a set price per hour. Time can be a good factor to set the value, but I don’t personally like to be controlled by a timely starting and stopping point.

I went to see a tarot reader long before I knew how to read tarot. To be fair, I had not done my research into the type or reading, or reader, I wanted. I simply had some cash and showed up at a store in Denver. I also had not taken the time to consider what I wanted, and more importantly needed, from my reading. What was the underlying purpose? What would I do with the information given to me? How could I be vulnerable and hear both the good and bad the cards may bring forth? I asked myself none of these question. (I would like to spend a whole post on the etiquette between reader and client, but I digress….)

So I show up at a store, cash in hand, ready for my reading. I asked if anyone was available to read for me. A woman was, and although I do not expect or want an overly fluffy or lovey-dovey reader (that is not my style), this woman was cold and not very friendly. We went to a section of the store, that was separated by nothing more than a divider. This made my walls go up. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted or needed from my reader, but I knew I didn’t want every customer walking by to overhear what I considered, and still do, a sacred conversation.

I told her a little bit about what was going on with me, and she started to pull the cards. And she kept pulling… and pulling…. and pulling. She must have pulled over thirty cards from her deck. I say this not because I question or despise the way another reader works with her cards. (I also want to make it clear that many, if not most readers do not read this way. They are inviting, informative, and value the shared energetic experience.) I did not feel like this reader valued my presence. I say this because the majority of the reading was spent shuffling and looking and shuffling and looking. I could not tell you a single card that was pulled because she didn’t talk very much. The last five minutes of a fifteen-minute reading was spent with her asking a few more questions, and then giving some small suggestions, and that was it.

Those fifteen minutes cost me $20.00, and although I recognize that is not the most expensive reading ever, it was still a lot for me at that time financially. I left feeling overwhelmed, annoyed, and more confused than before. I would have preferred it if she had pulled one card for me and had deeply gone into the meaning of that card, and how it could relate to me and my situation. As a reader, I don’t not believe more is more when it comes to number of cards. As a client, I know it’s not. A couple of years later, when I started developing my website, writing spreads, and determining my prices, I knew that I didn’t want to make anyone as my blessed client feel like they had been overcharged and under-served.

My pricing starts at $10.00 for one card, and goes up in $5.00 increments for each additional card.

But, I wrestled with the way to price my services and my spreads. What was fair to the clients, but still honored and valued the heart and soul I put into my work? I finally decided that I wanted to charge based on cards that I pulled. This means that my one-card readings (still thorough and written with love) are not charged the same way that my five-card reading does. Here are some of the main reasons I decided to charge this way (I feel the need to preface here that this is what works for me and the way I operate as a tarot reader. I am not saying that others who price or charge differently than me are doing it wrong. Different strokes for different folks):

1.) I don’t like being rushed for / by time and numbers: By removing the constraint of time, I personally feel more free to spend as much time as needed going into the messages that I download from each card. By removing the layer of time from my readings, I feel less confined by time.

2.) Discussing the cards from intuition: I could take one hour to discuss one card if my intuition keeps downloading meaningful content. I could take less time with more cards. With no time limit, I feel able to discuss each download clearly and without rush.

3.) Gives you financial options: Because my spreads are based upon the amount of cards I pull, I have many different spread options available on my website. You can choose the spread that works for you and for your budget. As mentioned, I have been in the place where $20.00 was my grocery limit for the week. I believe tarot is medicine, but I also believe it shouldn’t put you in the red. No matter the spread you choose, you will get my soulful intention to provide the best tarot reading I can.

4.) Telecommute makes time commitment harder: Because I do readings exclusively out of my home right now, time commitment to readings is not so black and white. Often, during a reading I pull the cards, write down initial notes by hand, and then take some time (outside, in meditation, or by journaling) to really let my intuition start downloading. It doesn’t always get channeled so immediately. So, I don’t have to start a timer or take note when I started or stopped. This again makes me feel less pressured by time, and more able to just read the cards and write.

5.) Quality over quantity: More cards does not mean a better reading. More time does not mean a better reading. Say it with me: more does not mean better. As I said in my story above, I would have preferred a $20.00 with only one or two cards, as opposed to a reading that had half the deck, and little to no detailed insight from particular cards. One card can really anchor you into clarification, or speak to your needed questions. Throwing down card after card after card may not always provide the most insight.

No matter as a reader, or a client, the main focus is in the value of each energetic experience. If you do not see what you want or need on my website, reach out to me. My prices are set by the cards I pull, but we can collaborate to create something of utility that honors both energy and budgets.
Photo by Ikhsan Sugiarto from Pexels

Hopefully, this provides some clarity to the way my pricing is set on my website. If you have any questions, or if you have a certain price point but don’t see a spread that fully covers your needs, no worries, shoot me an email at teaandtombstones@gmail.com and we can get a spread that fits your price point and your needs. Thanks for reading. Much love to you!