Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black (Audiobook)

Down a path worn into the woods, past a stream and a hollowed-out log full of pill bugs and termites, was a glass of coffin. It rested right on the ground and in it slept a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives.

The fair folk live in and around the town of Fairfold, where their existence is part of every day life. They can bring curses or blessings to the human inhabitants; a simple touch can change one’s life.

Sixteen year old Hazel and her older brother Ben have always loved the fairy boy in the coffin, who has been there for generations… until one day, he is not. Drawing on their talents developed as adventuring children — Hazel a sword-wielding knight, Ben with the gift of music — they set out to find him, unaware of the scope of dangers they face.

This book, though fantastical, is grounded in a modern reality: the teens have cell phones, cars, and a daily coffee requirement. But this juxtaposition only served to make this tale more truthful, as if the magic found in Fairfold could be found anywhere.

Though some of the content squarely places this book as teen fiction, some of it also reads a little young, making it straddle a weird, liminal place. This book is about fairies, after all.

This book is part of the Witchy Fiction Challenge.

Book of Shadows (Sweep #1)

sweep-1Book of Shadows (Sweep #1), Cate Tiernan

Somehow I missed this series in my teens, even though the first book was published only one year before I declared myself a pagan in a very awkward first ritual. I thought it would be a good book to kick off the Witchy Fiction Challenge, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Book of Shadows is a light and fast read, following teenager Morgan Rowlands as she discovers Wicca through newcomer Cal. As she becomes more invested in what he is teaching, she awakens to new powers that she must learn to navigate – as well as navigate her relationship with her best friend as they both crush on the same boy.

I could take or leave the teenage love triangle, and the fantasy element about Morgan’s history was predictable and not well fleshed out; the book is a little short. What really made this book fun for me was Morgan’s exploring paganism — learning the names of the sabbats, meeting new friends who are also interested, visiting a new age store for the first time, having a conflict with her parents about her religion. It was like watching sixteen year old me and my friends, so this story brought back some cringey memories.

I may continue with the series, if I’m looking for something light, or hurting for another Witchy Fiction Challenge book. It’s a little cheesy, but enjoyable nonetheless. Four broomsticks out of five.

Preparing for Imbolc

I’m already in an Imbolc kind of mood, ready for the warmth of the hearthfire, cups of tea, and buttered scones. It’s one of my favourite holidays (they’re all my favourite holidays), but I have time off work specifically for celebrating, so I plan on immersing myself in the light of Brighid’s flames.

Erin Lund Johnson, of Her Eternal Flame, is leading us through an Imbolc Advent, honouring Brighid in four aspects on the Sundays leading up to the high day. Today is the second Sunday, but you can also read last week’s meditation on her blog.

I also like to prepare for holidays by listening to playlists on 8tracks, because I like to hear what speaks to others as their expressions of these events. Also, as someone whose not that adventurous, it’s a great way to be exposed to new things. If you haven’t tried it out, you really should. There’s a playlist for almost every feeling or aesthetic.

Here are a few lovely playlists that will be in my Imbolc music rotation:

Brighid Songs
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Brighid’s Cross and Cloak: An Irish Myth Mix
quickening8tracks-1919
Quickening: Songs for Imbolc

 

 

 

2017 Reading Challenges

I love to read. I have too many books and not enough shelf space, and I’m a library technician so I always bring home neat things I find at work. Sometimes, though, I can fall into a rut of revisiting the same books over again (which reminds me, I’m due to reread Harry Potter). So to combat this, I’ve signed up for four reading challenges, because you can’t have too much of a good thing. Before you remind me of the virtue of moderation, don’t worry, because my reading challenges stack.

I’ve joined Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge — 24 books over the course of the year in categories designed to force you out of your comfort zone. I’ve also joined The Domestic Witch‘s Well-Read Pagan Reading Challenge and Witchy Fiction Challenge, and I will aim to read one book each month for both of those categories. Add on the two books recommended to me that don’t meet any of the above criteria, and there’s my Goodreads challenge of 50 books this year.

That’s only one per week, and with the magic of audiobooks that can be listened to at the gym and on the bus, it should be within reach. O gods, grant me discipline. 

If you’d like to join me, here are a few booklists to get you started on Witchy Fiction. The first three are quite a few years old now, but you may find something you like nestled among their recommendations.

Compiled by the subscribers of the Fiction_L mailing list, this pagan fiction list is brought to you by library professionals.

Using the magic of the internet wayback machine, you can also visit Pagan-Friendly Fiction from the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans

Beth’s Recommended Fiction for Pagans contains short reviews of each title.

Of course, you can always check Goodreads lists and shelves for

Pagan Fiction
Wicca and other Pagan-based Fiction

You can follow my Well-Read Pagan and Witchy Fiction progress right here.

#prayeraday, continued

Part of #prayeraday, these are the prayers I wish I had when I was last depressed and didn’t have any words to say. Maybe they’ll be useful for someone else, too.

O shining gods, to you I pray,
hear my voice as I cry out.
I am lost in this cloud of darkness,
trapped underneath this weight.
Shine your light on me,
do not leave me in despair.

Can you help me, Ancestors,
as I am burdened by my thoughts?
Can you lift me, ancient mothers,
and hold my head above the current?
Can you hear me, mighty dead,
does my voice echo loud enough?
With your love, loosen my bounds.
Help me to step, and step again.

In the midst of these troubles,
I seek you out, Earth Mother,
for you are solid beneath my feet.
Support me now, as you do each day,
with your body, with steadfast love.

You are my still place, Brighid,
Amid these rolling thoughts.
I focus on your light,
strong and steady,
as you are,
and pray that I reflect it.

As I emerge from this darkness, O gods,
I give thanks to you,
for I know
that even though I could not feel you,
you are with me always.

#prayeraday

Rev. Jan Avende suggested that for the month of November, as a National Novel Writing Month variant, we write a prayer a day, sharing it on social media. Quite a number of ADF members are participating, including Priests. While I haven’t posted everything I’ve written on social media, here are some of my early contributions:

Amid the falling drops of rain,
Under the greying sky,
I pause in the presence of the spirits.
It is your season, Mighty Dead,
We feel you stirring in the Earth.
Let us hear your whispers in the leaves,
Emerge from this timeless autumn.
Come to us now, on the breeze,
And we will carry forth your memories.

Brighid of the holy hearth,
Help me find the centre in all things,
And move forward from here with grace.

Dark is the sky that stretches over this time.
Earth Mother, hold us to your bosom,
Allow us respite there.
Dark is the time of the dead,
Between the end of one year and the start of the next,
The gap in the torc.
Dark is the time of warding,
With smoke and iron and woven red threads,
Against the spirits who wish us ill.
Dark is this time in our minds,
A time of contemplation and trance,
A recentering of spirit.

Bright, though, is the light of the hearthfire,
A point of constant returning.
I offer to you, O goddess of flame,
Be my beacon in the dark.

You are my guide, Manannan Mac Lir,
Over the moving ways of life.
You have steered me over the rough waves,
Now, let us celebrate in this time of joy,
Where droplets of water dance!
Dance with me, Manannan,
At the edge of the shoreline,
Between the sea and the land,
Between this day and the next.

I am in awe at the power of water.
Not just the wide seas and thundering storms,
But the way it cascades down my skin in the shower,
And how it fills up my glass,
And its secret presence in this meal I prepare.
From the beginning of time,
Water has created us, we are born of its movement.
Now, let us create a new world,
For water, for ourselves,
Shaping our world in the ways that water has shaped us.

O Pole Star, share with me your light
Beneath the starry skies at night.
Eternal, high above the world,
Your vision wide, your wisdom pure.
Far-seeing beauty, witches’ Queen,
Lead me to the lands of dream.

Touch the sky with your delicate fingers, O Dawn,
Paint it pink and gold.
Wherever your light touches,
May there be beauty, peace, and truth.