It’s Alive! (We’ve launched our new web store)

Hello my lovely supporters of the Crooked Treehouse!

Things have been brewing in our tiny little shop lately. You might have noticed that I’ve been writing a lot more consistently for our blog lately. That’s been one step taken lately to help support the Treehouse. If you’ve been by in person, you probably have noticed a couple of things:

  • We’re tiny. We like our little hole-in-the-wall witchy shop, but we’d love to expand! We have not given up on our dream/goal of buying our building so that we could expand the shop to about twice its current size, add class space, etc.
  • While we are serious about supporting the historic Boulevard, it does not have the consistent traffic to help us achieve that dream.

So here is another step towards that goal – today, I launch our brand new web store!

Shop Our Online Store

We still have a lot of products to add, but it’s a step in having a much greater reach. So please, take a moment, shop around, and share our blog and store with your witchy friends! Every bit helps us be a greater part of our community.

But wait, there’s more!

In honor of our launch, a special discount code is active one week only. For the next week – 3/6/2020 through 3/13/2020 – use the code below for 15% off your entire online purchase.

sitelaunch2020

No exceptions, no minimums. Share it around and enjoy! And watch for more items all week as I keep adding online inventory!

Yes! You Are Guilty of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural AppropriationCultural Appropriation and Paganism. Cultural Appropriation and Magical Practice. I honestly don’t know if what I am about to write is going to come across as sensible or insensitive, controversial or common sense. I do know it has been on my mind since I started doing research for my Palo Santo and White Sage article. It seemed too big a can of worms to open at the time.

But what the hell, here goes!

First, a note on my perspective: I am a white American woman. I had a privileged and positive upbringing. Curiosity and learning about other cultures was encouraged in my home. My parents were collectors of American Indian art, and I learned a lot about the meanings and the stories behind pieces in our home. Like a lot of budding witches, I first learned about modern witchcraft during high school. My early practices were eclectic as f**k, with little regard or research into where things came from.

I was absolutely guilty of cultural appropriation. Still am.

So are you.

What is Cultural Appropriation?

Dictionary.com defines cultural appropriation as “the act of adopting elements of an outside, often minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.

I see this all over the place in pagan practices and in magical practices. To use the above example, it came up as a reason besides the “endangered” status for why we shouldn’t use palo santo or white sage.

Both of these are from practices unique to native peoples of the Americas. But for the beginner witch or energy sensitive, they often just hear “Use this to clear negative energies!” without any of the original source it came from.

I have seen it express itself in other ways: adding deities to one’s practice without cultural connection or study, incorporating eastern traditions right alongside Celtic ones, mojo bags used by that specific name with no additional connection to hoodoo… These cultures, practices, and studies all have their own weight and history. By just adding it in under the umbrella of “eclectic” we are doing the cultures and ourselves a disservice.

Appropriation or Appreciation?

Does this mean don’t use anything that does not come from your own culture? Do I hate eclectic witches? Absolutely not on both accounts!

What this means is I want you to take a moment and acknowledge where the traditions you use come from. Study and learn, and then you can both better appreciate the cultures different magical practices come from. Look at what you do and ask, “Why?” Once you have done that, you can better decide whether it can be used in an educated and appreciative way, or if the negatives of appropriation outweigh that.

But how do you know?

One thing I strongly recommend is that if you can find someone actually of the culture in question, talk to them! We are an amazingly global world thanks to the internet, so if you don’t know someone personally, chances are you can still find someone online who either has already given their opinion on the subject, or are willing to give it.

We are all human, so opinions on where the line between appropriation and appreciation is are going to vary. You will also find some people who take offense at use of things from their culture or religion when taken out of context, and you will find some who want people from other cultures to learn about their traditions to keep them alive. Give all these opinions serious weight.

There will also always be culturally tinged words and stereotypes that will be offensive. If you find out you are using one of those… stop it. Stop it now. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t care, I’m doing it anyway,” stop it now.

Should I Care?

Well, think you should. But I can’t make you. It is a choice you need to make for yourself.

Nothing that we do exists in a vacuum. Most magical practices and many pagan paths encourage you to be sensitive to the energies and the world around you. They say that in order to change things, you need to first understand them.

How can you do that if you disconnect yourself from these rich cultural histories?

And frankly, if you are coming from a place of privilege, and then using parts of cultures that have been oppressed, undervalued, enslaved, and claiming what is their’s as your own, aren’t you repeating patterns that we should be breaking?

But on the other hand… like a lot of Americans, my cultural heritage is thoroughly mixed. If you take the time to study traditions that arose in America – after European colonization, that is – you find that much like our language we borrowed bits from all over the place and combined them into new “American” things. Some of these traditions arise from not having a clear idea of our own culture. That very disconnect has drawn more than a few pagans I know to their current paths.

To the outside, to people in other countries and cultures, we do sometimes look absolutely ridiculous trying to claim the heritages of our great-great-grandparents. But does that mean we should not learn those traditions? That we should not study those faiths?

How much do we care before sensitivity overwhelms our desire for connection?

I’m betting if you made it this far through my ramblings, you care a bit.

What Should I Do?

Want to be better about cultural appropriation in your own magical practices? Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Study, study, study! Learn everything you can about why you do what you do.
  2. Evaluate. Are you adding something that is trendy right now, or what someone else recommended to you, without knowing where the practice comes from?
  3. Including something from another culture? Learn its importance within that culture first.
  4. Talk to people. Find out whether others consider the practices you are using are appropriation or not.
  5. Look to your own culture or family history. Start with seeking to appreciate where you came from to give your path a stronger foundation.
  6. Decide. Only you can determine whether to use practices from other cultures or not. Whatever you decide, stand by that decision with knowledge of what you are doing.

Any other suggestions, or thoughts on cultural appropriation? Let me know in the comments!

Interested in learning more about cultural appropriation? Check out these books from Amazon!

Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation

Race, Oppression and the Zombie: Essays on Cross-cultural Appropriations of the Caribbean Tradition (Contributions to Zombie Studies)

Tarot Tuesday: Jac Reviews The Steampunk Tarot

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Our wonderful Jac Smith is on hand in shop to read the tarot cards for you, and she’s sharing insights into the decks she has used. Enjoy!

First up, I have The Steampunk Tarot. The manual is written by Barbra Moore and the deck is illustrated by Aly Fell. Initial impressions are of how much effort was placed into creating the correct atmosphere for the deck. It tries to capture both the inspiration and the darkness of industrialism.  It must find a way to express the aesthetic tone of a diverse alternative history, while at the same time holding true to the Smith deck design. Striking the correct balance of creative originality and upholding a century of tradition proved to be a bit more discordant than I would have liked.

Moore proves she has a great deal of experience with the tarot in her writing. She can clearly articulate between conventional meanings and their variant interpretations as well as understanding the importance of reading cards together collectively instead of taking a meaning in isolation. Her wisdom shines when she acknowledges that cards can represent positive and negative aspects, but that it is essential to recognize these for what they can teach us and never placidly accept fate as immutable.

While she has been inspired by this subculture and has a sincere desire to portray it within her writing, it comes off as being somehow misplaced. Moore’s familiarity with tarot just doesn’t extend into Steampunk as well as she would like. Her passion for the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres are clear, but Steampunk requires a more narrow lens. The analogies feel forced and comparisons cliche. What emphasizes their awkwardness is that such descriptions seem placed so deliberately as though she needed to make the association. Instead of appreciation for a subculture it looks like it has been extraneously attached to the tarot.

The artwork is also clashing between the tones of inspiring and contrived. There is a dramatic flash that illuminates the entire deck with starkly bold light that directs the attitude of every image. The color is vibrantly over saturated like walking through a dream. Symbols have been altered and even gender has taken a delightful flip to accent that we all may hold the traits of Knights and Knaves! Yet these changes only highlight the traditions that were held to in the design process. Many cards look just as they would a 100 years ago, but now that there is a little brass paint and some gears included. There are also a handful that seem as though they have no design inspiration at all, and are instead loose pin-up pieces that were shuffled into the deck.

The cards themselves are thin with a gloss finish. Being thin aided in their maneuverability at first but I’m finding the wear on them concerning. They didn’t require being shuffled countless times to be broken in though. Their glossy coat can make a classic riffle shuffle a bit tricky for some, but if you prefer to “mix the pot” I’m sure that it would benefit. All reverse cards will be noticeable with a back design that is not symmetrical, however this deck places no great significance on card orientation for interpretive purposes.

Overall I’m happy that someone tried with all sincerity to capture the spirit of Steampunk in these cards, but by its very nature it cannot be contained. Every accomplishment is only another step forward in progress to which there can be no terminus. I’m delighted to see that such a strong foundation in the tarot was laid so you can see all that was built upon. With that effort it is easy to see where boundaries were stretched and creativity pushed to its edge. Not every goal was reached, but that too is essential in growing. It is necessary to imagine what we could do to improve upon the past and this deck encapsulates that sentiment perfectly.

We carry the Steampunk Tarot in store, or use the Amazon link below to help support our website!

 The Steampunk Tarot

Steampunk Tarot Deck Review

Book Review: Be More Witch by Alison Davies

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I love to wander old downtowns. The buildings full of history are often revitalized by fun little unique shops – the non-chain, passion shops that are what the Shop Local movement is all about. Heck. the Treehouse is in one of these struggling old downtown areas. Well, while I was wandering another NC downtown, I found a fun and fanciful gift shop packed full of unique things. And in a corner of their basement, I found an entertaining selection of witchy stuff. This little adorable book thus came home with me.

The first time a friend of mine saw me reading Be More Witch by Alison Davies, his response was a playful “You don’t need that!” And that is true – I have happily embraced my inner (and sometimes outer) witch lately. But as I expressed in my first book review, I adore little witchy hardcovers. And this book will occupy a unique niche in my library.

This book is, first of all, cute. That really is the best definition for it. It is colorful, cartoony, and has many full illustration pages. Quotes, affirmations, and bold statements make up most of the book.

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Jac, my awesome partner in crime here over at the Treehouse, described this book as “magical sugar.” And that’s actually a pretty solid description. It does not have substance, but it does make you smile. Think of this as a little inspirational book with a witchcraft bent. This book is pretty much the modern “witch aesthetic” in book form.

I guess it is pretty obvious then that I would not recommend this book to a serious practitioner looking for something new. The concepts, rituals, and occasional spells tucked in between pretty pictures and motivational quotes are honestly basic at best. This book also takes a strong “girl power” slant on witchcraft and stresses the importance of sisterhood… which, while not a concept I have a problem with, does leave out the male witches out there entirely.

So why then do I say this will keep a specific niche on my bookshelf? Because sometimes I don’t need a scholarly study or intense thought. Sometimes I need cotton candy. I have gone in and out of phases of serious magical practice since highschool. I have probably spent more time less focused than more. This book makes me smile and remember why I am drawn to witchcraft in the first place. And sometimes, when things are hard, that is really all I need.

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Do you have any witchcraft or magical books that just make you smile? Let me know in the comments!

And remember – sales through our Amazon link help support this website, so if you need a smile too please click below.

 

Book Review Be More Witch

The Magic of Snow

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This blog is supported by advertising and affiliate links.

I’m watching the snow fall outside and thinking about all the magical feelings that a snowy day invokes for me. From the remembered childish joy of the snow day – that totally persists when it is too snowy to get to work, admit it! – to the feeling of peace and quiet of an untouched snowy field or forest. But how can we harness that feeling in our magical life?

First of all, don’t forget to read our article on the Magic of Water – Snow is, after all, water as well, so a lot of the correspondences still apply.

But what makes the snow special, and how can you use it?

Snow has a greater permanence than water, but it is also transient, melting away as the weather warms again. You can use this energy by writing sigils in the snow. These can be things you are hoping to banish, and thus by writing them in the snow you are letting them melt away peacefully with the weather. Or, much like writing something and then burning it, you can use this to call and release that energy, putting what you are working for out into the world around you. Or just try a protection sigil on your car to protect you during icy driving!

Have someone you need to freeze out of your life? Try working a freezing spell starting with collected snow, for a little extra seasonal oomph! You can collect and keep the snow now, so you’ll have that energy saved for later in the year, whenever you need it.

The melt and flow of water can also be a powerful tool for transformation. Make something out of snow that you want to see change and let the melt help that change along. Or, collect snow and let it melt, then keep that water specifically for spells involving gentle change in the future.

Remember how water connects with emotions? Use the peaceful energy of clean, white snow to ease tempers and calm emotions.

Take a moment to enjoy the peace of snow by talking a walk while it is falling, or in the clean snow just after. There is a special silence to snowy days that can be helpful when meditating, connecting with the seasons and the earth around us, or just letting our troubles drift away for a while.

Or maybe all of this sounds too cold for you, and what you really want to do is curl up with a hot chocolate and a good book? That’s my plan tonight! I’m going to catch up on some witchy reading, but this would also be a wonderful time to research deities connected to snow and winter. There is no better time to connect with them than in in the middle of a beautiful snow fall!

magic of snow

15 Magical Uses of Apples

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This blog is supported by advertising and affiliate links.

Recently, I have undertaken a fun and fascinating creative research project: compiling magical uses behind 30 plants to make informative prints to carry in our store. I have intentionally not been getting into the medicinal uses – I believe that anyone who wants to get into herbal medicine should really take the time to research that themselves. But the uses in folklore and myth are wonderfully rich! And fascinatingly, these magical uses often have links to the medical ones.

So, let’s start this series with the delightful, delicious, easy to find, apple! Without further ado, 15 Magical Uses of Apples

  1. Use apples and apple blossoms in love spells and love sachets.
  2. Split an apple with your love and eat it together to ensure a long and happy relationship.
  3. Throw the peel over your shoulder – the shape it falls in will hint at the name of your future love.
  4. Infuse pink wax with apple blossoms. Strain the wax, then make a candle from it to symbolize eternal love.
  5. Hold an apple in your hand until it gets warm, then give it to one you love. If they eat it your love will be returned.
  6. Here’s a simple women’s love divination using apples: Cut an apple in two and count the number of seeds. An even number means a marriage will soon happen. Odd, and she’ll remain single for now. If one seed is cut, there will be a stormy relationship. Two cuts seeds and widowhood is foretold.
  7. Eat an apple on Samhain night while looking in a mirror to see the face your love revealed.
  8. Peel an apple to divine the length of your life. The longer the continuous peel, the longer your life.
  9. Apples are considered a food of the dead and linked with immortality and the afterlife. Include them on your altar at Samhain or to recognize your ancestors.
  10. Use the wood from the apple tree for longevity charms.
  11. Pour apple cider on the ground before you plant to give life.
  12. If you grow apples, bury thirteen leaves from the apple tree at harvest time to encourage a good crop the following year.
  13. To not contract a fever, eat an apple. (An apple a day keeps the doctor away folks?)
  14. Have an old spell that calls for blood? Use apple cider instead!
  15. Make a wand from apple wood for love and fertility magic.

The first ten of my herb prints, which includes Apple, is now available in my Etsy store for digital download.

Want to do some of your own research in magical herbalism? I highly recommend this book to start!

15 Magical Uses for Apples

Tarot Tuesday: Flowers From the Dead Oracle Deck

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I’m not usually one for oracle decks. Tarot and its imagery are what fascinated me first, and as such remain what I am drawn to. But the lack of expected format to an oracle deck allows the creators to be a lot more creative. They can create as an elaborate or as simple a system as they like – there is nothing of tarot’s format to constrain them.

Flowers From the Dead is one of very few oracle decks in my personal collection,  and the aesthetic is certainly not my usual. But I started off my year attending Hauntcon in New Orleans, and it certainly fit the mood for me that weekend!

Aside from opening it to look at the cards, it sat on my shelf for a few weeks after I got back. The deck consists of 47 cards, each with a unique skull or skeleton. There is a single card with a sample spread for readings, but otherwise the cards speak well for themselves. The weight and size make for easy shuffling.

Then, after a week where I swear no one was getting along and everything became arguments, this deck called to me to try a reading. So I pulled her out the evening of the full moon, and this reading was the result.

Yourself: Turtle – Peace and Tranquility. Also the peace that having a thick shell to retreat into will give you. Maybe it’s time for some personal retreat.

Your Environment: Snake – Transformation and Change. There has been a lot of shifting lately. Also, the people shedding their skin as it were and showing what is underneath, good or bad.

Current Situation: Javelina – Arguments and Power Struggle.  This was kind of one of those “well duh” items. They were all over the place that week.  A lot of them could be traced straight to shifting power dynamics.

What To Change: Rat – Purge and Simplify.  Since we are talking about tempestuous relationships, this is a time to focus on the relationships that matter and what is important within them, and cut away what is unneeded.

Outcome: Bat – Transition and Unknown. With everything being a bit uncertain and mid power shift right now, we just have to see how everything falls.

Overall,  an interesting reading with not much depth, but still a very clear message.

Magic for the Full Moon

Magic for the Full MoonThe sun is setting, and evening will soon set in on a lovely February evening. The sky is clear, and the weather not too cold, so I’m really looking forward to tonight’s full moon. The full moon is a time of incredible energy, so here are some things you can do to embrace that lunar power.

Examine Your Emotions

The moon is connected with our emotions, and a full moon can really bring out those emotional heights. Feeling particularly moody with the full moon? You’re not alone! If you find yourself reacting more emotionally than usual, take a moment to take stock. Those emotions are always there – the moon is just bringing them out stronger where you can really see them.

Reflect on What You Have Accomplished

The moon at its fullest brings a sense of completion. Have you been working any particular magics? Any creative pursuits? Goals you’ve been trying to accomplish? Take a moment to look at where these have gotten in the last month. If it’s an ongoing project, this is an excellent time to renew your commitment to it. Or, if it’s not working…

Think About Letting Go

Soon, the moon will begin to wan. This makes it an excellent time to start the process of letting go. Under the full moon, you can cut ties with what has gone before, cleanse yourself of what does not help your goals, and decide what you really need to focus on.

Embrace Your Intuition

Just like the full moon is a time of heightened emotion, it is also a time of heightened intuition. Do you practice with tarot cards? Read runes? Working in interpreting dreams or developing psychic gifts? The full moon is an excellent time to practice! Embrace the lunar energy and let it clear and open your mind.

Cleanse Your Crystals

…Or your tools, your home, your sacred space, and You! Let the light of the full moon bathe what you need to clean and charge. The full moon is an excellent time to clear the energies of the past month so that you can move forward with a clean slate. And one that is full of lunar energy!

Make Moon Water

Want to carry the energy of the full moon forward into the coming month? Make moon water! Charge water under the full moon, but be sure to move it away from your window or back indoors before sunrise. Use this charged water as part of blessings, cleansings, spell work… or drink it to embrace the full moon whenever you need that boost.

Cast Magic!

What magic workings are particularly suited to the full moon? Love and romance for one – even better right now with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. Emotional healing and promoting harmony are also good energies to bring from the full moon. Embrace the moon energy if you need some help with self confidence. Or how about a bit of luck magic when the moon is bright!

Enjoy the moon tonight my witchy and magical friends!

 

Book Review: The House Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock

There’s a lot of information out there, with wonderful new books being published all the time. I wish I had the time to read more often, so things like this review would come out closer to when a new book is published, but I do try to read as much as I can to keep informed, stay inspired, and keep learning.

That said, I actually picked up The House Witch pretty close to when it came out in 2018, but it sat on my shelf for a while before I completed reading it. No fault of the book – just my busy schedule!

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I was drawn to this book immediately, as it is one of very few I have found that resonates closely with my own witchcraft. I have been drawn to goddesses of hearth and home since I was in college. (Go on, ask me how annoyed I get when people get talking about Greek gods and forget Hestia exists…I dare you.) In the home, so much of what we make is magic – the love we share with our family, the foods we create, the medicines we use to heal. If you don’t have a strong basis in the home, how are you then going to have strong footing when you leave? To me, that would feel like building without a foundation.

This book echoed with my feelings wonderfully.

So, on to some more specifics:

First, the physical book itself. Its a wonderful little hardcover, and if you’re someone like me for whom reading is also a tactile experience, it feels great in the hands. The cover nicely captures the feeling and themes of the book as a whole.

I did like the discussion of what is the spiritual heart of the home and advice on finding where yours is. While historically we would typically be talking about the kitchen, this book also talks nicely about finding and blessing whatever your spiritual hearth may be. Then, the combination of the magical imagery and how they correspond to the every day is nicely done.

I was happy to see a nice chapter on hearth dieties, including some I didn’t know and will read more about later. There were some wonderful points about some of the dieties I do know as well, thoughtfully included and with more depth than these gods and goddesses are usually given.

I have not tried the recipes included in here yet, but having read a lot of books that do include spells and recipes I actually want to try some of these.  Food, herbs, crafts, potpourri, spells and rituals, there are a lot of nice step by step, clear instructions for things you might want to try. Plus, these are in a good ratio to the rest of the book –  a couple mixed in where appropriate with information, then several themed chapters at the end, without overwhelming the content you can learn from this book.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to bring magic into their home, or connect the magical and the mundane better together. Though I still can’t quite bring myself to bless my fridge…

Book Review

(Belated) Tarot Tuesday: 2020 Wheel of The Year with Ostara Tarot

If you remember from last year, I like to do a Wheel of the Year tarot spread for myself on the first, Well hold on tight, folks, because this one is rocky!

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The deck I’ve been working with lately is the Ostara Tarot. It was created with the work of four artists, and I find I connect well with the imagry. Plus, this is the first deck I have ever used where the reverals seem to click! My interpretation isn’t always spot on with the book’s, but that is one of the things about practicing tarot – you learn to trust your intuition.

So, here we go, clockwise from the top:

January – Strength – Trust in your inner strength. Things may be challenging, but you have the strength to overcome and succeed.

February – Two of Coins, reversed – You are overburdened, and if you are not careful the stress will overwhelm you. You can’t keep juggling commitments like this – it may be time to look at exactly what you have committed to and make a choice.

March – The Emperor – Strength, stability, and a strong masculine presence. After the stress of February, there is a source of stability you can lean on. There is safety in this card.

April – Two of Swords, reversed – You are no longer teetering on the knife edge, precarious between two forces. But be careful that this in not just that you are so overwhelmed you are blind to the opposing forces at play.

May – Judgement – This is a time of major decision, something that shakes up your life. I can not say whether it is positive or negative, but what came before and what comes after will be very different.

June – The Lovers, reversed – A commitment turned sour, or a failing relationship. This is time to evaluate, and perhaps remember why you entered that commitment in the first place. Evaluate and make sure your inner voice isn’t leading you astray.

July – The World – A completion, and a unified whole of things. Perhaps its a major project reaching a conclusion and bearing fruit, or a phase reaching its inevitable but satisfactory end. As one thing comes to an end, it also opens you up to new beginnings.

August – The Hermit, reversed – Relying on yourself is one thing, but you can take it too far. Remember to lean on and listen to those closest to you.

September – Nine of Cups, reversed – You have accomplished something, and you feel proud of it, but there may be flaws in this success. Don’t be overproud, and watch for unexpected consequences.

October – Page of Wands – A burst of creative inspiration, this card brings the firey energies of creativity and the joy and experience of youth, You are on the verge of a new phase of your life, when you can express that creativity that is just waiting to come out. Enjoy a new passion for life.

November – The Star – Hope is eternal, and you can feel it now.  Rejoice in your spirit and reach for your dreams. Its been a hard year but you have come through it all the stronger. Rise again and remember that your dreams matter.

December – Eight of Cups – This is a time of isolation. You need some time alone to evaluate your year. This is a good time for meditation and self reflection. Withdrawing, you can decide whether to push forward or move on.

Year in Summary – King of Wands, reversed – The fiery and creative energies of this card are also hasty, rushed, and poorly used. Be careful not to be used yourself or use someone else. Fire is wonderfully creative when used correctly, but without care you can burn our or destroy what is around you.

 

Want your own Wheel of the Year reading? We are happy to do one for you!

Or, want to try your own? Here’s a blank spread for you to save and use!

Wheel of the Year