“This Witch Reads” is a podcast about learning how to be a witch and tend to the soul through books.
In the second episode of “This Witch Reads”, I share the magical journey Cyndi Brannen’s book, “Entering Hekate’s Cave: The Journey Through Darkness to Wholeness” took me on.
Why I Chose This Book
Let’s start with why I chose this book to be the first book of my new podcast. One of the reasons is because I started this podcast in the darkness of a new moon and the title felt like a journey I hope all the books I read for this podcast take me on – understanding the magic of the dark.
As Cyndi explains in her book, the darkness is the unconscious and the mystery. It’s where we greet our spirit allies. It’s where we purge our traumas and make space for new things to grow. It’s where we weave pieces of ourselves back together again and understand the depths of our soul. It’s where creation takes root. It’s what existed before time. It’s the womb of the Great Mother.
Most of all, it’s where magic and healing are found and that’s where I want all the other books I read in this podcast to lead us toward as well so what a fantastic place to start…in Hekate’s Cave.
WHAT I LOVED ABOUT THE BOOK
One of the things that really stood out for me while reading Cyndi’s book was how intimate Cyndi’s relationship with the goddess is. Reading her descriptions of Hekate felt like listening to a friend talk about someone they love and admire – someone who teaches them so much – someone who helped them find themselves.
Cyndi draws from a lot of research, mythology and psychological theories and practices in her book but mostly her relationship to Hekate felt deeply personal and heartfelt to me. It was sweet and powerful and at times, even transcendent but ultimately, it helped me feel more deeply connected to Hekate as a guide to my own darkness.
What I also loved about the book was the poetic writing, the reference to ancient myths and the suggested exercises and practices.
The poems Cyndi shared helped drop me into liminal space and made me feel like I was calling the Dark Mother into my living room. The whole experience reading the book actually felt like an opening or an invitation. I wasn’t just reading. Cyndi’s words weaved magic into my life. I guess that’s what happens when you open a door – that which is on the other side can finally come in. This book is the door and if you pick it up and read it too just know that on the other side is Hekate and you’ll be welcoming in all the magic of the dark goddesses.
I’d like to take a moment here to give you a taste of what I mean.
In the book, Cyndi shares the various titles and descriptive phrases that were used in ancient texts to describe Hekate and other dark goddesses. She also uses her own lyrical descriptions in the poems she peppered throughout her book.
Just reading those names repeatedly was a magic all on its own. I want to share some of them with you here so you can enjoy them with me and notice what the evoke within you.
Spinner of Fate
Our guide into our personal darkness
Ancient stone mother with snakes for hair
Mistress of Life
Bringer of Death
Keeper of the Keys
Soul of the cosmos
She who wards off
The sacred fire that burns deep inside of us
Mistress of Transformation
Round whom the star traversing nature of the universe spins
Mother of all
Benevolent Queen who turns the seasons
She who awakens our inner dragon
Guardian who presides over mysteries
Flower of Fire
Goddess of Bones
Mother of the Cave
Guardian of Souls
Maker of Mountains
See, those names transported you there for a moment, didn’t they? And those are just some of the names and faces of Hekate that Cyndi shares.
HOW THE BOOK DEEPENED MY SPIRITUALITY
One of the things I hope to do with this podcast is deepen my spirituality.
As a solitary witch, I don’t congregate with other worshippers every week. I don’t sit at a pew and learn from someone standing at a pulpit. At this point in my journey, deepening my faith and my practice happens from following witches I love on social media and reading books. There are more ways than that to deepen my spirituality of course but for me, because of the point of recovery I’m on in my health journey, those are the two gentlest ways for me to grow and heal right now.
Cyndi’s book helped me embrace the complexity inherent within myself and the goddess and the deities I pray to. That was so refreshing. It’s actually one of my favorite things about being a witch. There’s such a reverence for the many aspects of life – including death and destruction. My faith doesn’t have to be all rainbows and sugar. It can be bones and sticks and oozing wounds and painful memories too.
We are all things. We are light and dark. We are creativity and we are destruction. We are beautiful and ugly. I don’t have to see myself or anyone else as good. I can see the mess we are and not feel guilty or shameful about it but instead just face it with an honest gaze that is strong enough and mature enough to keep looking.
Even on a subconscious level, just reading all the names Cyndi shares of Hekate and the goddess deepens this truth for me.
WHAT I STRUGGLED WITH WHILE READING THE BOOK
There’s an invitation for transformation and healing that I struggled with while reading Cyndi’s book – not because I disagree with it or anything like that. I struggled with it because I haven’t been able to live like that yet.
On page 52, Cyndi shares Zen Buddhist Roshi Joan Halifax’s quote about having a soft front and a strong back.
The quote explains how instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine.
Reading this was like someone slapping me on the cheek. It jarred something awake. I relate so much to that description.
In some relationships I’m so heavily shielded you’d think I was preparing to fight a dragon. And my spine has been anything but strong in so many of my relationships. My trauma response had me freezing or collapsing whenever conflict showed up. I couldn’t set boundaries or speak up and disagree. Instead, I shrunk and rolled up inside myself like an armadillo. I still have so much inner work to do here.
Cyndi further described how being too shielded prevents us from being open to believing in ourselves. Wow! I hadn’t thought of it that way but I can see how very true that is.
When I shield myself or shrink, on some level I think of myself as weak, small, and meek. I am not in my power, my wisdom or my strength.
Living with a soft front and a strong back feels mature and wise. I feel like I’ll be coming back to that description again and again as I learn how to put down my guards, open my heart and stand strong in relationships.
HOW THE BOOK INFLUENCED MY MAGIC
Cyndi shares a lot of magical practices in her book. As I’m sure will be the case for you if you read the book too, some of them I wanted to take my time to do and others I just read through quickly.
The ones that stuck were pulling two tarot cards in the morning. I’ve had a morning divination practice off and on over the years but I like the simplicity of the one Cyndi shares on page 60. The way I do it is a little different than she suggested but only slightly. I pull one card to see what I need to see about the day ahead and another card to show me what I need to avoid.
I also started painting altars in my art journal because on page 17 Cyndi described how altars of Hekate were often built on a tray and in my mind, I thought hmmm, what’s better than a tray in your magical art practice, Dana? Oh yeah. Your art journal! So yeah, now I’m in love with painting altars in my art journal and I even included my process in my online art class for the Pisces new moon.
On page 19, Cyndi describes the Sacred Fire and the symbolism of candles which inspired me to start painting lighted candles with flickering wicks in my art journal. Now, every time I want to pray for myself or someone I love, I paint a candle.
This reminds me of the way my grandmother lit a candle every time she prayed and the way she and her daughters, which is my mother and her nine sisters, would light candles when someone needed help. My mother also taught me to light a candle every time I sit to talk to with my angels – as if lighting the candle was like letting them know I wanted them near. Reading Cyndi’s description of her candle rituals inspired me to carry on my family’s tradition of candle magic in my own way, which of course involves paint and paper because that’s where my magic tends to live – on the pages of my art journal so yeah, now painting candles while I pray is a thing.
I’m also going to include some new sacred symbols in my moon art rituals that are inspired by Cyndi’s book including:
Painting a cave when I want to represent my Inner Temple or the sacred dark or the place I go to return to the goddess. According to Cyndi, it also represents a mystical place for communing with spirit and the journey we take as we descend into the darkness to find the light of the truth and to reunite with ourselves.
I’ll draw, paint or collage keys in my moon art rituals now as well when I want to represent unlocking the mysteries of the dark goddess and holding the knowledge of all things.
I’m actually excited about painting more crossroads because the symbolism of them as a spiritual portal feels powerful.
You’ll definitely see me painting more serpents as well. The serpent symbolism in Cyndi’s book is rich and multi-layered and it’s worth reading the book just for that. I like the way she described serpents as “the soul opening its eyes” and the way it invites the many false ways of seeing ourselves die.
Another symbol she describes in the book that I feel deeply drawn to is the Ouroboros – I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that correctly but it’s the image of a serpent eating its own tail and it symbolizes the infinite and eternal and it teaches us that all life is circular. Cyndi explains how coins with this image were used as a manifestation tool and I love the idea of drawing those kind of coins during my art rituals.
Finally, I want to draw more geese in my moon art rituals now because Cyndi’s explanation of how it symbolizes the wild soul is enticing and I’m Canadian so I watch geese fly overhead every spring and fall and they’re my favourite bird to watch swimming in the ponds I see in the prairie fields.
MY FAVORITE QUOTES
Personally, I think one of the most enjoyable ways to get a feel for a book is to savor some its more delicious or meaningful phrases so here’s a little collection of my favorite quotes from Cyndi Brannen’s book “Entering Hekate’s Cave”.
WORDS AND PHRASES THAT MADE ME SWOON
As a writer and an artist and a lover of beauty, I just have to share with you the words and phrases in “Entering Hekate’s Cave” that made me swoon. Sometimes, when I’m reading, I just have to stop and celebrate how fantastic or magical a pairing of words the author uses.
My favorite in this book were:
Reside in the Temple of Good Enough
Roses of Fire
Throne of Bones
Cauldron of Rebirth
A Robe of Pure Light
Lunar Quest – Can I sign up for one of those, please?
And my absolute favorite…
Dine on darkness
That was my journey with Cyndi Brannen’s book, “Entering Hekate’s Cave”. If you have a suggestion for a book you think I’ll love,
If you know a witch who would love this episode, please share it with them so they can be inspired by the book too. Witches who read together get free together.
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If you like what you hear, leave a review on your podcast app. It helps me grow and improves accessibility to other listeners. Why have a book club of one or two when you can hang out with a whole gaggle of witchy book lovers? Plus, my heart does a happy loop de loop when I receive a little support and love.
We all need a little more love in our lives.