The Magus Arcane Academy

You might be aware that Magus is more than a place to get your Chamomile (or other herbal medicines). You might even know that we have the largest selection of occult books in the Midwest. Magus is so much more than just a book and herb shop. Magus Healing Center is where we offer a number of services, including Massage, Herbal Consults, Cupping, Reiki, and Flower Essence therapy. We also offer a wide range of classes presented every night of the week, through The Magus Arcane Academy.

Magus’s Arcane Academy is a space where those of us who work at Magus Books and Herbs or in the healing center, are able to teach on any number of esoteric and occult topics. Each teacher has 10 or more years of experience working in their field. Many of us have studied these topics at the university level and I’m more than proud have them on the staff. As the Manager of the Academy, I’d love to tell you a little bit about the different classes we offer.

Liz Johnson teaches all of the herb classes. With over 25 years of experience working in herbal medicine, hosts classes like Herbs for Stress, and Minerals for the Bath, and Herbal Home Remedy Chest and Fun with Fungi. If you even have the slightest interest in herbal medicine  or want to know more about the herbs you see every day (and those you might have seen on our wall) I couldn’t recommend any of Liz’s classes enough.

We also offer a number of classes on more esoteric topics. Adam  teaches classes on western concepts of demons and other such spirits in his Introduction to Demonology and Summing Basics classes. With his Masters in Western Esotericism he is well versed in the historical concepts of what demons are going back thousands of years. Kyle Ford, with her degree in Anthropology, offers classes on Alchemy and Esotericism in Art History. If you’re a history buff or interested in the strange, curious, or darker sides of western mystery traditions, check these classes out and learn for our most esteemed occultists.

Our readers Carol Watson and Cameron Williams teach their respective classes once a month. Carol has a series of classes on the basics of tarot as well as Using Tarot In Ritual. These classes are always full and so I suggest signing up for them as soon as possible to ensure a seat in this month’s class. Cameron  is just now teaching with us at the Academy and has already received high praise from his students . I had a group of young ladies saying how much they enjoyed the Introduction to Chiromancy a.k.a. Palmistry class when they came in for my class Introduction Astrology: Houses, Signs, and Planets.

I can’t express how excited I am at seeing the Academy grow as it has over the past year. Every day there is something new and exciting happening in our little classroom. Even with studying various occult and magical topics for over fifteen years, I’m supposed just how little I know when I sit in on one of my colleges classes.

If you’re looking for something new to do on a weekday night, or want something different to do with your friends or family, I couldn’t suggest a more entertaining , and enlightening, activity than taking any one of the classes Magus Arcane Academy offers. I very much look forward to seeing you in class.

-Markus K. Ironwood, Magus Arcane Academy Manager

Welcome… To Night Vale

Somewhere in the dry western deserts of America there is a town where every conspiracy theory (and then some) is true. Hooded figures roam the streets; agents from a vague yet menacing government agency sneak around; the secret police record everything said with ill-concealed microphones; and the city council growls and chants their press statements in unison, often on the way to yet another vacation. This is Night Vale, the surreal, absurd, and wonderfully strange fictional town narrated by local community radio host Cecil Palmer (Cecil Baldwin) in Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s podcast Welcome to Nightvale.


The podcast is one of my favorites, the first I started listening to regularly. It is silly, funny and at times, heart-wrenching. The writing is spot on, the music is odd but great, and Baldwin’s sonorous voice is rich enough to sink into. I’m not quite caught up with the series yet (and don’t you dare tell me any spoilers!), mostly because I want to sustain the pleasure of listening to it for as long as I can.


Which is why it made me really happy to see that Fink and Cranor had written a Night Vale book. The eponymously named volume does correspond with a particular point in the podcast, but can be read quite easily without once listening at all. It is a beautifully written piece in the usual Night Vale style that follows a few side characters who occasionally get mentioned in the podcast but not enough that you know them beyond their jobs (pawn shop owner and head of the PTA).


The Welcome to Night Vale book, along with Mostly Void, Partially Stars, which collects the first season of episodes in writing and illustration, are great for the established Night Vale fan or the interested but podcast wary reader alike. And I, fangirl that I am, can’t recommend them enough.

-Katta Hules, Magus Minion

Synchronistic Rune, Algiz or Eolh

Sharing what I would consider magical synchronicity is not something I would normally do, but I felt compelled to in this instance as it offers a learning experience for those who may be interested in runic work.  It also provides an example regarding the phenomena of synchronicities when working with any kind of magickal path. I have been interested in and working with the runes and norse magic (more particularly the path of Seid, which to sum up briefly is the shamanic part of Scandinavian indigenous practices) for quite some time now.  I have found in my study and work with the runes that it is best for me to allow the runes to show up in my life as they may, and try not to strictly rely on EXACTLY what the references in runic  books say.  Not that this information is something to disregard, I find that its incredibly useful to look within yourself and use YOU OWN intuition when determining what exactly is calling out to you.  Often I find as a ceremonial magickian, we tend to forget that within us exists a natural magician, one who should be close with the Earth and her mysteries.  I see too many who rely on how to do things “by the book” and for some this may be beneficial, but for me it is very constricting for one who likes to stay on the primal side of witchcraft.

Recently I took a much-needed vacation up to the boundary waters in Minnesota with my spouse, and I found this particular rune greeting me a few times.  There were instances when I was outside and saw the rune within just a few branches laid out in front of me, largely displaying itself within a silhouette of a dead tree reaching up towards the sky at dusk, and within the wood pattern on the bunk bed that was in our cabin.  Now, runes are very “naturally occurring” because this is the way in which they were discovered by Odhin, so I can see where it would be arguable that they are just natural lines appearing in nature.  But this makes them all the more relevant!  

Algiz represents coming to know the “higher consciousness” or being closer with the divine, and it is also indicative of a new positive influence coming in to your life.  It is also a very strong protection rune.  Personally, the rune represents a key for bridging the gap between my two areas of magickal craft that I work with; Seid (Norse shamanism) and a very distinct area of ceremonial magick.  The two lines to the left and right are these specific paradigms and the center line being my own path which brings these two together.

-Kyle Ford, Magus Manager

Essential Oils, Medicinal Herbs, Flower Essences: What’s the difference?

PART 1 – Overview

As I talk to more people about herbal medicine and flower essences, I realize that there’s a lot of confusion around the definitions and usages of the different plant healing modalities. I will go into each modality in more detail during later blogs, but wanted to start off with a basic overview of three options:

Essential Oils

Essential oils are fragrant, highly concentrated natural constituents of plants that are located in tiny secretory structures with the leaves, berries, petals, roots, zests, resins or woods. They are what give the plant its characteristic odor. They are generally used as additions to DIY house cleaners due to their anti-septic and anti-bacterial properties, as therapeutic aromatherapy and mood enhancers, and as healing modalities generally for headaches, nausea and fungal infections.

Medicinal Herbs

These remedies are made from whole plant material such as roots, bark, leaves/stems, berries and flowers. They come in many different formats including tinctures, oils, decoctions, teas, syrups, vinegars and ointments. Herbs can help to support the balance in your system through a variety of health concerns, including: nerve and muscular pain, asthma, allergies, headaches/migraines, PMS, menopause, anxiety, depression, ADHD, digestive issues, fertility and more. They can also work on more generalized issues like stress management, recovery from trauma, fatigue, and poor concentration. 

Flower Essences

Flower essences are infusions of flowers in water preserved with brandy, which uniquely address emotional and mental aspects of wellness. Their focus on rebalancing the mind can support relief from trauma, PTSD, fear, phobias, poor concentration, family issues, grief, anger management, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, depression and more. They can aid in the rebalancing of physical issues, too, as our emotions affect us physically through the body-mind relationship. Overall, they help create awareness about and resolve issues of unhealthy conditioned habits or perceptions. This relearning and rebalancing can lead to greater well-being and harmony in our lives.

Your health is important! If you are looking for help for a particular issue, I highly suggest speaking with a practitioner of your modality of choice in order to get the best outcome. Additionally, alternative medicine is a collaborative experience; you know your body best, we know the modality best. It is very important that you feel comfortable and confident in your choice of practitioner, so that we can work together effectively on your health concerns. 

For Flower Essence Therapy, schedule a session with Clare Gardner Nieto.
For an Herbal Consult, schedule a session with Liz Johnson.

Clare Gardner Nieto, Magus Minion

A Word on Sigil/Affirmation Phrasing.

Let’s go through converting and affirmation to a phrase for a sigil. In doing so, we can touch on how to best tailor a phrase/sentence to be turned into a functional sigil. So, let’s get started.

Original Affirmation: I will be superior to bad thoughts and low actions today.

Hm, okay. The intention is good, but there is a lot I would change about this affirmation before making it into a sigil.

1: Phrase Tense

Sigils work via continued contact or a slow steady discharge. Because of this, it’s usually best to use the present tense in your phrase. Saying I “will be” something is well and good, but it doesn’t define when. Saying “I am” is clear, and demands results now. To be sure, there’s a little fake-it-‘til-you-make-it here, but that’s fine for sigils! We’re defining intent so that we can manifest it, so let’s aim high!

This affirmation works as a spoken affirmation but might lose some punch as a sigil due to the future tense phrasing. Instead of having a hopeful “will be” let’s change the tense to the Present. Also, let’s get rid of the “today.” I want to be this way forever, so let’s not limit the positive effect on this one.

Affirmation: “I am superior to bad thoughts and low actions.”

2: Clear adjectives

This one may depend on your world-view. If you have a good/bad and black/white worldview, saying “bad” and “low” might be enough, and the phrase may not need any more alterations in terms of adjectives. My world-view does not include a set, universal definition of “bad” or “good,” so I need to be a little more specific to get the results I want. Even if you do subscribe to a tidier worldview than mine, it may help to be specific! (I’m not going to get into world-view here, because that’s a whole book in itself)

Rather than say “bad” thoughts, I really want to focus on what kind of thoughts I don’t want. I’m going to go with “self-sabotaging”. This is much more specific, if a little more verbose.  Likewise, instead of saying “low actions” I’m going to go with “hurtful actions.”

Affirmation: I am superior to self-sabotaging thoughts and hurtful actions.

3: Caster’s State of Being

In the affirmation we have, the caster is “superior to” the behaviors that are listed. That’s dandy, but the phrasing still worries me, because humans (or however you define yourself) err, and have bad days. This phrasing is worrisome, because it invites the user to feel shame if a self-sabotaging thought or hurtful action does slip through. Sigils are great, and we should aim for the stars (like I said before), but keep in mind that there are limits to how much energy you can give to it, and therefore limits to a sigil’s power.

So, the quick fix would be something like “I do not engage in self-sabotaging thoughts and hurtful actions,”  right? NOPE!

In a sigil, we are aiming to attract things. Sigils aren’t nearly as effective at banishing things, so lets work with attraction. So, we want to make sure we’re not using a negative phrase. Anything that has the word “not” in it is weaker than a positive “I do” or “I am.”

This affirmation names two negative behaviors, so we have to do some linguistic gymnastics to make this work.  The easiest way is to name behaviors that you want to attract instead of ones that you want to push away. However, that’s not the point of this affirmation, and sometimes we just want to get rid of a behavior, so let’s give this a shot.

Affirmation: “I am detached from self-sabotaging thoughts and seek non-hurtful actions.”

Awesome! This gives us an added bonus of not trying to change our thought patterns completely, but instead work within the framework we are given. This makes the sigil easier to charge and maintain. The “Non-hurtful” isn’t maybe the most ideal, but it will do.  “I am detached” works, because it means that yes, those self-sabotaging thoughts are still going to come through sometimes, but they’ll just roll off. That’s great! In my experience, being able to have a thought but not really buy into it is the first step in meaningful change of a thought process, so we’re off to a good start here for long-term change!

Final note:

It would be possible to take this affirmation and split into it two separate sigils and then mash them together, too. Then the phrases would be “I am detached from self-sabotaging thoughts” and “I seek non-hurtful behaviors.” It may make the creation of the visual aspect of the sigil easier.


-Kitty, Magus Advertising

Fiction Section Groupie

Working in a bookstore, as I’ve said before, is a bookworm’s dream. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by books everyday. However, while I love the endless amounts of non-fiction research materials offered at Magus, I am in my heart, a fiction girl. Which is why I was so excited to see that we had a fiction section.


Though small, the section has a nice selection for all age ranges of supernatural-themed books such as paranormal mysteries, picture books on mythology, young adult urban fantasy, and middle grade fantasy adventure. I had a lot of fun recently reorganizing and redecorating the shelves. There was a certain nostalgic pleasure to going through the books for younger readers and seeing titles I’d enjoyed like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Artemis Fowl, The Runaway Bunny, and Tamora Pierce’s Inheritance Series. Going through the adult section was an exercise in self-restraint as I saw books I’d loved, books on my To-Read list and books I’d never seen before that I longed to add to the ridiculously large unread pile in my living room.


In the end, it was rather fulfilling to add some shine to a section that will hopefully make a fellow fiction reader just as excited as I am.

-Katta Hules

Spiritual Practices: Pandemonium

Last month I gave you, dear reader, a glimpse into my personal spiritual practice. I thought this month I’d do it again but in a roundabout way. Hold on while I take us through 3,000 years of history very quickly.

I’ve been feeling the myth of Pan lately. For those in the know, Pan is the ancient Greek God of the wilderness, shepherds, and pastures. He is described as looking much like a satyr, having the torso and face of a man and the legs of a goat. Of course he also sported a nice pair of horns too. Many ancient Greek depictions show him with a horse’s tail and longer ears. Only later in Roman art is he represented as more of a goat or satyr.

While he was probably known throughout the ancient Greek world, his worship and reverence was central only to the Arcadians. Arcadia was not a very fertile place, so crops like wheat or other cereal grains did not grow well. The land is rocky and full of forests so agriculture wasn’t the focus of their society.  The Athenians called the Arcadian’s “acorn eaters”, for the made their bread from the processed nuts of the Oak tree rather than the wheat of their more advanced society. Arcadians were shepherds, so it was no wonder their main god was half goat, half man, and little on the wild side. Their main goddess was Artemis. There again is a wild and unrestrained personality.

The myths of Pan are peppered throughout the ancient literature. Pan was said to be nursed alongside the infant Zeus. Later, when Zeus was captured by Thypon, it was Pan and Hermes who helped restore his strength. He is responsible for the Astrological Sign Capricorn and the musical instrument: the reed/pan-pipes. He is a highly erotic god and the stories of him chasing after nymphs, young shepherds, and goats are plentiful. Wild, untamed, and sexual are just a few words to describe to this highly charged deity.

Much of western society focused its attention on the gods of culture, even after the polytheists of Europe became “unfashionable.” References to Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and Hades travel through Western art, literature, and government. Gods of the wilderness, of chaos, of revelry and desire, were left in the past for a multitude of reasons: mostly because society valued progress, rationality, war, and monotheism.

It wasn’t until the height of the industrial revolution in Great Britain did the Great God Pan rear his head again. I could go into all the poetry, statuary, literature, and worship that began to flow back to Pan at this time but that would be best left to the professional historians. Professor Ronald Hutton does just this in his talk History of the Pagan Horned God*. You can listen to it on the Druidcast podcast in the link below. It’s a long talk but so worth it.

Spring has come back to Minnesota. The cool winter days are behind us and when the sun is out, I can walk in jeans and short sleeves and feel happy again. I went for a run the other day in shorts and felt the sun on my face. I took off my shirt, grabbed my hoola-hoop out of the garage and swung that around for a while. I have plans on getting out onto the hiking trails on my next day off. Come rain or shine, I’ll be out there. I’m going dancing this Friday night. These are my offerings to Pan.

I’m rather cultured individual so it might be strange to see me as reverent to the goat-footed-god. I work on my computer a lot. I wear button down shirts. I try to comb my hair every day and keep it in a neat braid. I try to keep myself contained, to be well mannered, and to speak clearly. While I honor and respect these aspects of society, I’m creature of nature, of the wilderness, of the swamps and mud. I love the feeling of my heart beating in my chest when I run. I love the ecstatic flow of dance music when I’m in the club. I love wine, and dancing, and bodies, and all the things the wild goat God Pan stands for. Spring fever is real and it’s a pandemic. I say embrace it.

Further reading on Pan, and other horned gods:
Horns of Honor: Regaining the Spirit of the Pagan Horned God by Frederick Thomas Elworthy, Raven Grimassi



-Markus K Ironwood

Retelling The Present

“It’s not necessarily about telling the future. It’s about retelling the present.” That’s from the introduction to Jessa Crispin’s book The Creative Tarot. It’s a nice way to sum up her story-based and pragmatic approach to Tarot reading. Crispin, a writer, literary critic, editor, and tarot reader who has co-designed a deck of her own (the Spolia deck with artist Jen May), wrote the book to fill the gap she saw in readings and spreads specifically geared to creatives.


The Creative Tarot is a funny, modern, down-to-earth text, intended as a starting point in a Tarot education. It contains history of the tradition, Crispin’s own spreads, illustrations from the Spolia deck, and advice for the beginner. However, it’s the card descriptions where it really shines. Based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, each card is given one and half to three pages where the author deconstructs the symbolism and meaning as well as relates stories about famous creatives that reinforce the meanings. In addition, she gives three “recommended materials”: books, movies, paintings, etc. to illustrate her point and encourage cross-pollination across genres and mediums.
Although I have so far only dabbled in Tarot, taking an online course through the Los Angeles Public Library [] (for LAPL cardholders only, unfortunately), and doing my own readings, I’ve found Crispin’s book to be extremely useful and easy to understand. More so even, than the booklets that came with my decks (Rider-Waite-Smith and Salvador Dali). I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for down-to-earth guidance in their creative and spiritual practices. You can get a sense of her style by signing up for her Reading the Tarot newsletter [].

-Katta, Magus Minion

Spiritual Practices: Morning Meditation

I’m often asked what my spiritual practices are here at Magus by guests. While I do have a set of meditations and rituals I do on a daily or monthly basis, I consider service to be a major component of my spiritual practice. Being there for my friends and family in times of need is a core ethic of mine. Working in the shop and helping people get the herbs they need or selecting the right book for them is part of my practice.

This month I’m offering you my daily meditation. It’s evolved over time, but takes elements from Kundalini yoga* and grounding and centering practices from various pagan traditions**. I know this isn’t a traditional form of mediation and isn’t sanctioned by any overarching authority, but it works for me and I find it prepares me for the day ahead.

I begin by turning off my alarm. I really don’t like silence, but in the quiet of the morning, I find it is the most peaceful time to sit and truly enjoy the silence. I sit in front of my altar. I might light a candle, depending on if I have the time to devote to it. Most mornings I don’t light a candle unless I’m going to meditate for more than 5 minutes, or do some other specific work.

After breathing deep for a few moments, I bring my attention to the base of my spine and my legs. I feel myself being grounded and supported by the earth. I’ll visualize roots descending into the ground and soaking up the dark and nurturing energy.  Then, I’ll massage my feet, ankles, and calves and with my breath draw up the energies.

I visualize my root chakra, and see what arises in my mind or body. I take note of thoughts and feelings that come up. I visualize or perceive the color or density the chakra. I do this in ascending order all the way through my body. I keep breathing up earth energy until I’m filled all the way up. Depending on the time I have that morning, I might spend more or less time in one chakra over another.

After going through each chakra and having my body filled with earth energy, I breathe it up and visualize branches going into the heavens. Each branch reaches out to the stars and draws down the cool blue fire of starlight. I continue to breathe in deep, slow, and calm. I let the star energy mix with the earth energy in my core, in the place between my pelvis and my heart. I breathe this combination into a sphere around my body, filling my space, my room, and expanding out into the world around me. I take several moments to breathe in the space connected to earth and heavens and my surrounding community. I see the ways in which I influence the world and how the world influences me. I might sense patterns or specific flows of energy.

Slowly I bring my attention back to my body, open my eyes, and journal a few notes about what I experienced with my chakras, or with my body, or where energy flowed slow or quick. I then go about the rest of my morning routine feeling centered, alive, and move with confidence through the rest of the day. I definitely notice the days when I don’t do this practice, or some variation on it. I recommend trying this, or parts of it, to anyone looking to formulate a daily meditation practice.

*Judith, Anodea. (1999). Wheels of Life. Llewellyn Publications.

**Coyle, T. Thorn. (2009). Kissing the Limitless. Weiser Books.
   Starhawk. (2005). Earth Path. HarperCollins Publishers.


-By Markus K Ironwood


We’ve all heard the word “Abracadabra” used in popular culture in films, TV shows, and maybe even in social interactions where one would use the word to exclaim a satisfactory outcome at some attempt to make something magical happen… “Abracadabra! The dishes are done! Abracadabra!” …but still they sit in the sink and every roommate groans and moans about the chore.  

The word actually has its origins in magical literature dating back from approximately the 2nd Century BCE.  According to Lecourteux in the Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells, the word was found on an amulet that was discovered and dated from the era in Greek letters.  The word was written “a ba ga da” and is said to be in acrostic (poetic, or puzzle-like arrangement) form and derived from the Hebrew version “Ha Brakha dabra”.  “Ha Brakha dabra” means, “the blessing has spoken”.  Other sources indicate that it could also be a derivative of Abraxas, an ancient Greek word attributed to Gnosticism.

Magical benefits of the word Abracadabra are said to be effective when writing the actual word out.  Etymologically the word “spelling” is quite literal, and spelling out a word or speaking words is much like doing a spell, as words have power.  Writing out Abracadabra (pictured below) was supposed to magically decrease a fever as the letters in the words shrunk down, in a form of a triangle.

-By Kyle Ford, Assistant Manager