Book Review: “Sacred Smoke” By Amy Blackthorn

Book Review: “Sacred Smoke” By Amy Blackthorn October 7, 2019

Most Witches know to light up a bundle of sage or a stick of incense before beginning a working, but perhaps few realize that the act of burning is itself a Magickal act. Amy Blackthorn’s Sacred Smoke shows us the multiple layers and uses for smoke in a light-hearted but informative read. Practical and user-friendly, this is a great introductory text for the beginner as well as a helpful reference for the experienced.

The Voice Of Sacred Smoke

The voice of this book makes it stand out in a powerful way. Blackthorn is direct and unapologetic in her tone, but a natural kindness and compassion shines through. Reading it feels as though you are sitting in a class she is teaching, being guided but not coddled. It’s funny and familiar and while you get the sense that Blackthorn doesn’t take herself too seriously, it’s very clear that she does take the work of using sacred smoke quite seriously.

Exploring The Basics

Blackthorn takes the reader through the basics of using smoke as part of a Magickal practice, rooting it specifically to when she herself “came out” as a Witch. One of the first things she addresses is the use of the term “smudging,” quite popular in Pagan and New Age communities, and underscores its origins in numerous Native American religions and traditions, offering sensitivity on this issue as well as clarifying that “every culture has its own practices for sacred smoke, and they deserve their own time and attention. There is room for respect and growth without appropriation.”

Many will likely find this a helpful guideline on a fraught and often confusing issue. I appreciated her notes about ethical consumption, as well as how she highlights the benefit of shopping from smaller, more independent stores.

Packed With Helpful Lists And Tools For Self-Care

The book is full of helpful plant lists, including scientific and Magickal background on a wide variety of different plants that can be used for sacred smoke work, as well as how best to use them ( e.g. stripping flowers for burning on charcoal versus using some drops from an essential oil).

Smoke clearings aren’t just about getting creepy energy out of the house. In the last few years, mainstream Witchcraft has embraced the practice of strengthening the self before doing Magick. Blackthorn offers practices for using smoke as a tool for doing this work, using smoke clearings as a corner-stone for putting the self in a centered, solid place before casting spells or beginning rituals.

Of course, smoke clearings are VERY important to keeping a house energetically balanced, and she doesn’t skip that! Blackthorn also includes a comprehensive chapter on not only how to keep your house clear of energetic static, but also how to use smoke for rites of passage and breaking negative family patterns. The book also offers a comprehensive survey of stones as well, including how to include them in your smoke-clearing practice.

My Favorite Things

My favorite section of the book was a list of plants to consider growing to include in your smoke practice, as well as a number of things you may already have growing on your property, along with instructions on how to harvest and preserve both. In my own attempts to be sustainable in my Witchcraft, learning more about what I could harvest from my overgrown yard is certainly helpful. As a teacher myself, I appreciated the numerous (and vital!) warnings about avoiding ingesting or burning plants unless they’ve been carefully verified from certified professionals, as well as words of caution against collecting endangered or over-harvested plants.

If I Had One Wish…

The only I wish I have for this book is that it were a little longer! I would love to dig more into using more and different plants in this work, but I may just need to check out Blackthorn’s Botanical Magic. But there is an opportunity in slim volumes dense with material. They’re easy to carry around and reference!

Just be careful who you lend this one to as it may be tough to get back…

About
Courtney Weber is a Witch, author, Tarot adviser, and activist. She is the author of "Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess," "Tarot for One: The Art of Reading for Yourself", "The Morrigan: Celtic Goddess of Magick and Might," and the forthcoming "Hekate: Goddess of Witches." She is a co-host of That Witch Life podcast. She has been featured in the New York Times, Maxim, Playboy, Huffington Post, Vice, and the Thom Hartmann Show. Visit her online at www.courtneyaweber.com. You can read more about the author here.

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