I have a confession to make. I'm not, in fact, much of a ritual magic practitioner. Sure, I rattle the cabinet doors and ring bells in my closets every few weeks to chase out the unwanted spiritual hangers on that accumulate. I keep an altar dedicated to my beloved dead and my gods. I've even been known to carve a few sigils into a candle and put together a spell jar or two. But I grew up a solo practitioner before the Internet was in every home, and I employ a "follow my nose" doctrine when it comes to my practice.
Yet, intention and history and theater are powerful tools. The ways in which we manifest our energy into outcomes matter. The symbols we use, the words we say, the thoughts we cultivate, all these elements of ritual magic cast a circle of possibility. Participating in ritual and spell crafting can be a healing act of connection and affirmation, or a radical declaration of identity and power. It's beautiful and utterly bewildering to my beginner's eyes. When I decided to expand my own magical practice, I started looking for a beginner's book on spells and ritual magic.
Participating in ritual and spell crafting can be a healing act of connection and affirmation, or a radical declaration of identity and power.
I am highly choosy when it comes to books on witchcraft. So many of them perpetuate harmful transphobic and sexist stereotypes or appropriate and obscure the indigenous histories of their practices. In the sphere of Norse folk magic, we have to contend with the widespread infiltration of white supremacy and fascist ideologies into much of the commonly available material. Let alone worry the more mundane issues of whether a book's contents are accessible and engaging. I can't remember the number of times I've picked up a book only to close it in disgust when the author made some ridiculous claim about the cosmic gender binary or that the Scandinavians pre-dated the Sami in Norway.
So, imagine my absolute delight when I picked up Light Magic for Dark Times by Lisa Marie Basile. I'm talking love at first sight. The actual physical book is gorgeous; a trade hardback with gorgeous printed cardboard covers and thick, glossy pages. Pen and watercolor illustrations are scattered throughout the volume and the binding lays flat for easy reference and reading. This is the kind of book that makes a lovely, classy gift or desktop reference volume.
I love the illustrations interspersed throughout the text and each page's layout.
Of course, beyond the look of it, the content of Light Magic is perfect for a beginner in spell casting. The first few dozen pages include a helpful Q&A about witchcraft, 101s to grounding and cleansing, lists of useful tools and definitions. Oh, and let me go ahead and mention the killer index at the back of this volume (seriously, is there a more useful component of a spellbook than an extensive index?) Betwixt these reference sections, Basile covers nine aspects of spellcraft from love to grief, from writing to identity. Each section includes an overview of the topic and several spells designed to work with that particular energy, with additional reference lists, tips, and variations throughout.
...this is a get-shit-done grimoire.
OK, now to the good stuff. What I love most about Light Magic for Dark Times is that the spells are thoroughly modern, updated to reflect both the needs of a witch in the 21st Century and their available resources. I've put the "earthing activity to reduce stress from political chaos" to work this year, as well as the "journaling practice for taking risks" (you all can thank Basile for the courage to start this blog!) I wear an amulet that I spelled with the "psychic protection from abuse" charm to work everyday. Basile has put together a powerful workbook of some of the most useful and practical spells and rituals I've ever encountered. This is not some dusty tome that needs to be read cover-to-cover before casting your first circle; this is a get-shit-done grimoire.
Light Magic for Dark Times is a gift of wisdom and power. It's clear from Basile's words that she believes in our magic before we pick up the first crystal. This book is a celebration of the potential of every act to raise our energy and spirits, to empower our stories and strengthen our hearts. Its open-handed accessibility invites the beginner into the circle and asks the master to remember the magic of every day. You will absolutely return to this book again and again for inspiration, guidance, and comfort.
If I've convinced you that Light Magic for Dark Times is worthy of a spot on your bookshelf, you can order a copy through my Bookshop Affiliate page. Your purchase supports independent bookstores across the U.S. and I receive a commission from each sale through my store.
Not ready to buy? Check out Worldcat.org to find out if a copy is available in your local library. If not, consider requesting a copy be added to the catalog! Witches need publicly available references, too.
Alex is the founder and primary tarot reader for Dead Reckoning Tarot. She has been working with tarot cards since she was an anxious and overeager teen, and now as an anxious and overeager adult enjoys finding ways to infuse the every day world with magic. When she isn't slinging cards, you can find her cuddling her small dogs or crocheting in central Kentucky. You can book a tarot reading with Alex here.