Quest for the Crystal Castle by Dan Millman

book coverYou’ve just finished an inspiring book and you think to yourself, wow — what I wouldn’t give to have known these ideas when I was a kid. This sometimes happens if you come to neopaganism or any of the other spiritual paths far from the mainstream later in your adult life. Dan Millman gives the next generation of spiritual seekers the chance to get acquainted with new ways of thinking in Quest for the Crystal Castle, his second children’s book based on the spiritual classic The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

In this sequel to Secret of the Peaceful Warrior, protagonist Danny Morgan begins his Saturday fearful that it’s going to be “one of those days” where nothing goes right and nothing interesting happens. His adventure begins soon enough as he seeks out the grandfather of his good friend Joy, a mysterious man named Socrates, or Soc.  Fans of Way of the Peaceful Warrior will remember that when Socrates is around, adventure comes unexpectedly.

Danny finds himself in a mysterious land where a beautiful glowing castle beckons. He chooses to embark alone on a perilous journey through a forest that seems fraught with puzzles that he finds himself drawn to solve. Along the way he helps new and old friends and learns about his own inner fortitude.

Crystal Castle has intriguing images and descriptions for those as young as 4 years. The bigger picture of appreciating the journey, not the destination, may be lost on those that young, but there are good lessons in kindness and courage appropriate for that age. The language is rich enough to appeal to middle school kids, too. Each page is illustrated lavishly and realistically, enhancing the idea that Danny’s adventure, too, is realistic and believable.

While listening to the lessons that are told are hardly all that is required in order to suddenly achieve the change that can happen in one’s own outlook, the book poses an argument against itself. Before Danny’s journey, Soc points out the endeavors of some ants and how it would irreparably cripple them to assist their work in moving crumbs of food closer to their mound. Would this observation also hold true for introducing spiritual insights to inexperienced young people, depriving them of the “ah-ha” moments that often come well into maturity?

Nevertheless, Quest for the Crystal Castle is a beautifully written and illustrated story that can be enjoyed again and again by every member of the family. Like its predecessor for adults, Crystal Castle has the potential to change young lives.

The Shamanic Witch: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Earth and Other Realms by Gail Wood

cover of Shamanic Witch

It’s easy to get a bit restless as a witch. Sometimes it seems like it’s just one sabbat after another, with the same quarter calls, the same invocations. There can be so many moments of joyful community but there can also be drama or no connection at all. And being a solitary practitioner can feel too isolated without fellowship, input, inspiration from like-minded seekers. It’s easy to lose your way, get caught up in the mundane, lose your connection to the divine within and the mysteries and messages of the unseen world.


Many traditions of Wicca and witchcraft solely emphasize the fertility aspect of practice, the Wheel of the Year, and work with the Lord and Lady. It’s a process of coming to understand the mysteries of life and death, growth and decay, through observation and experience over time. Traditions that work more with ecstatic energy seem to depart from familiar Wiccan ritual structure, and can feel a little too alien or devoid of those rhythms and structures that drew you to the Craft in the first place. Could there be a way to walk among the wise ones from other realms instead of only requesting their presence and supervision? Is there a way to be even closer in tune with the undulating changes of the earth and its creatures and the healing that can come with that relationship? Gail Wood says “yes” in her third book,The Shamanic Witch, an exploration of the places where shamanic journeying can intersect with Wiccan ritual.

According to Wood, the healing possiblities of shamanic work are a natural extension of the skills and practices already cultivated by witches. Witches are naturally open and in tune with the energy of the universe. Shamanic work takes it several steps further by allowing the individual to discover and enhance their interaction with the unseen world through shifting consciousness at will and by inviting in spiritual guides, helpers, and tools. It is a path of personal power where the witch is invited to heal himself, then heal the world.
The Shamanic Witch is a treasure trove of journey narratives, ritual outlines, and exercises to make connections to your own power animal, power song, inner goddess or god. The exercises to explore your drum and rattle are exquisite and inspired — a witch can use these same techniques to develop a closer connection to any of her tools. Wood, a self-described “rowdy goddess,” writes in a very engaging yet comfortingly concise language. She emphasizes that shamanism is a practice, not a belief structure. Wood also takes care to give you a good foundation of information on the historical shaman and how to understand and avoid cultural misappropriation.
Wood does an excellent job of defining her terms and explaining the various practices to which she refers, whether they are traditional Wiccan skills or otherwise. However, the book would probably be best suited to someone with at least a beginning familiarity with Wiccan ritual, tools, and ethics. The final third of the book outlines rituals for a variety of needs, from celebrating the body as divine to protecting one’s property. Wood’s rituals are very strongly Wiccan with occasional nuances that are obviously shamanic in origin, such as calling on quarter totems.
Perhaps the most exciting and inspiring aspect of Wood’s exercises is how truly individual and individually validating they are. There are infinite reasons and no reasons at all needed to journey to other worlds and even more possibilities in what one can learn on his journey. Wood takes care to note that, no matter how one experiences messages received during a journey or meditation, they are valid and useful. All too often it’s easy to feel as though you’re “doing it wrong” because you’re not watching your guided meditation unfold around you in technicolor and surround-sound. Not only is this level of detail not necessarily common among all levels of meditative accomplishment, it doesn’t even have to be a goal. Wood explains that, like the individual ways a person learns best, every person experiences their journey in their own way — as clairvoyants, clairaudients, or clairsentients. Each journey is important and informative in some way, whether it’s frustrating and full of distractions or shockingly profound.
Shamanic witchcraft is an ideal path for diving directly into deep spiritual waters. Where Wicca can give you a way to construct a telephone booth in which you can place a call to the gods, framing your practice within a shamanic healing context can be like setting up your own home phone line, ready to receive messages on a constant basis. Wood sums up best the benefits from this path when she says, “as you develop a regular schedule of journeys and your shamanic trance meditations grow, you will feel the pull of the drum, the heartbeat of the Universe.  You will find that you will move naturally into the harmony of the Universe.  You will feel the interconnectedness of life, and know that you are not alone.”

Down to Earth Rituals: Weeding your Spirit

My parents have a plentiful yard. When they first moved into this house, the back yard was oak trees and grass. Now it’s landscaped with an abundance of flora that seems to change subtlyover the years. There are at least a dozen hibiscus, a camphor tree, azalea bushes, and quite a few other plants that I can’t identify. Pathos, one of the easiest houseplants to grow, has taken over one oak tree and its leaves have reached terrifying proportions. Perhaps your pathos is more than a houseplant gone wild, but self-pity that has taken hold of your confidence and personal power.

Upkeep of our spiritual gardens is something most of us acknowledge as a necessity but put off — ridding the intentional plants of the unintentional weeds and volunteers is daunting. As in Florida where I currently reside, the climate of your life may nurture weeds that grow rapidly and tenaciously. Rake your fingers just under the mulch and you’ll snag a web of thick strands that have enmeshed themselves steathily under the decaying leaves to spring up and braid their vines along the branches of a soul that should blossom like azalea or hibiscus.

I find great great spiritual comfort in the pulling of physical weeds. My son loves to pull weeds with my mom but even he gets a little weary of all the tugging that will often yield a handful of vine and leaves but no roots. One such persistent invader is walking iris. It looks like gigantic tufts of grass blades. Out of these blade-like leaves, one will shoot out and spawn a small new plant at the end of the tendril that will sprout roots before it even works its way into the ground. These tendrils allow the plant to “walk” its way out to grow wherever it likes. It’s not unattractive, as “filler” plants go. But it does tend to walk its way into places you may not intend. My parents planted one or two very small patches of it and it now has taken over several quadrants of the yard.

Occasionally I have felt moved to do work in the yard. Last time I did a major amount of work, I attempted to rake up all the oak leaves that had fallen since the summer. Live oak leaves are pretty small and the grass I’m raking over isn’t actually real grass, so raking can be tedious and somewhat unsatisfying. You never really get all the leaves and sometimes all that’s left is dirt. Nevertheless, I felt like I’d really done something that day. Today was a day for weeding.

I started off weeding while wearing my daughter in her sling, but she’s grown cumbersome for doing actual physicalwork, even when she’s asleep. After a time, I was able to have my mother hang out with her while I got down to doing some serious weeding. I’d found that, while walking iris seemed to be everywhere, they weren’t difficult to pull out. A firm grasp at the base of a fan of leaves and the earth would release the roots with a satisfying series of pops and deep snaps. Mom showed me what she wanted taken out and I got to it. Her main objective was the clear away the iris from the Aztec grass they’d intentionally planted along the stone path. Iris leaves are narrow, but thick and plentiful enough to overshadow more delicate Aztec grass. As I pulled, I realized my son had gone inside, as had my mom with my daughter. At the same time I realized that this work could become more meaningful than just horticultural. I grounded and connected my center and my psyche with the land I was working.

I pulled up iris. This weed was the boys in junior high who tormented me at my locker and in class. I named the weed aloud and said, “this weed will not grow in my garden.” One handful of leaves would often yield one or two shoots and new, smaller tufts of leaves. This weed was all the issues of Elle and Vogue that taught me to be ever disappointed in my body and my lifestyle. This weed will not grow in my garden. Fans of dark green iris came away to reveal forlorn, underdeveloped blades of Aztec grass — hidden and stunted, but surely able to come back. I filled a garbage bag, hauled it to side of the house and started another. This weed was a boyfriend with whom Ialways felt inadequate. This weed will not grow in my garden. I tackled what seemed to be an enormous single clot of iris. But it came easily away as I pulled a little at a time. This weed was the middle school girls who chased me home one afternoon, taunting me. This weed was the cliques ofpopularkidswho distracted me from truer friends. These weeds will not grow in my garden. Handful after handful Inamed them and gently but firmly pulled their roots from where they were no longer welcome.

Most people tend to distinguish between weeds and desirable plants, but theyre all part of the same system really. Everything we experience in life has equal potential to shape us for good or for ill, but weeds are very much like those experiences in our life that can overrun our thoughts and actions rapidly and insidiously and break down our more productive nature. If left unattended, the weeds of our insecurity and pain can creep up and strangle those parts of us that flower beautifully. Like weeds, these experiences are usually deposited by something other than ourselves, are invasive, and often lay hidden to spread farthest. We are the keepers of our own souls garden. With careful tending, identifying and removing on a regular basis those elements that rob us of energy and nourishment, we can enjoy an inner landscape that reflects ourselves at our strongest and healthiest.

Pagan Parenting in a Muggle World

Parenting is hot. Paganism is hot. But to this Pagan mama, it seems that finding a variety of resources to meet the needs of a variety of paths is a bit more difficult than youd think.

Perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow needs to have a come-to-Goddess moment. Maybe Land of Nod should offer My First Cauldron in a variety of peppy colors. But until then, the options for creatively filling your childs world with magick are still being, ahem, crafted.

Ask Phoenix: Love Spells

Q: How do I perform a love spell?
I know the dangers and i still want to try. I honestly feel this person
I want to put it on and I really are meant to be and I believe this
person really does care for me but is afraid to show it.


A: This is probably one of the
toughest and most common questions a witch will encounter. Witches have
the power to change so many
things in their lives — why shouldn’t a witch draw someone special to

Continue reading “Ask Phoenix: Love Spells”

Ask Phoenix: Defining Terms – What is the difference between Old Religion, Eclectic, and Kitchen Wicca?

Q: Could you elaborate on the
difference in Old Religion, Eclectic
and Kitchen Wiccan and the mixes of these? I’m searching through the
web, but I’d like a comparitive opinion or observation, not my
uneducated deductions…Thank you.

— Kimberly

A: As you probably already know,
Wicca is a twentieth century religion. It was created out of human
minds, a mix of ancient practices, turn of the century spiritualism,
and ceremonialism and has evolved to incorporate environmental and
feminist beliefs. The more witches you meet, the more different
traditions you may hear about and they can sound a bit confusing,
especially when the names don’t appear to reveal much about their
particular practice.

Continue reading “Ask Phoenix: Defining Terms – What is the difference between Old Religion, Eclectic, and Kitchen Wicca?”

Ask Phoenix: How to Become a Witch

Q: Since I first learned about wicca and magic and all that about
spiritualism I have been wanted to become a witch. I have made a small
book of shadows and I perform some small time rituals. But I never had
any comunication with any real wicca other than reading stuff on the
net. I only wonder what am I supposed to do to gain power and knowledge
to become a stronger witch.


A: The first thing that any witch
comes to realize is that practicing Wicca involves transformation of
the self. The quest for power and knowledge becomes the quest for power
over one’s actions and knowledge of one’s inner self, both dark and

Continue reading “Ask Phoenix: How to Become a Witch”

Ask Phoenix: Picking Up the Pieces – Surviving after your coven disbands

Q: I started practicing wicca
several years ago with a coven that had many
internal problems. The coven fell apart and I stopped practicing.
However, lately, I’ve been feeling the need to pick it up again. What I
am unsure of is; when (ie: which sabbat, moon phase, etc.) should I
start on… and is it unwise to just try to pick it up again after
neglecting it for so long? I would really appreciate your help.
— Bridgid

A: Working with others is
probably one of the most rewarding parts of being Wiccan. Losing ties
to a coven can be devastating and can rock the foundation of your
beliefs. But it’s possible to bounce back and be a stronger witch for
the experience.

Continue reading “Ask Phoenix: Picking Up the Pieces – Surviving after your coven disbands”

Ask Phoenix: The Magickal Properties of Stones, Rocks & Crystals

Q: I am told that there is a special energy in stones, rocks, crystals,
and other natural earth formations. how does one go about *feeling* the
energy in these objects, how does one meditate on these things, and what
are they used for?

— Marley

A: The energy that is attributed to stones and crystals is usually a
product of an association, emotion, or other sense that someone feels
about the stone. It may not necessarily be the case that a spark like
lightening jumps off that chunk of obsidian, but its smooth surface may
spark images in your mind’s eye that are just as potent.


Continue reading “Ask Phoenix: The Magickal Properties of Stones, Rocks & Crystals”