The sense of smell, writes Amy Blackthorn in Sacred Smoke, connects you both to your past and to our oldest understanding of the world. The things we smell can be a time machine and the act of burning a magickal gesture.

Right at the outset, let me calm a fear you might have: despite the cover image (which looks a lot like a typical bundle of dried sage) Ms. Blackthorn does not call the practices she describes "smudging" (or "saining, a term I hadn't heard yet) and promises to help the reader create their own smoke-based practices. Moreover, she uses her platform to call out cultural appropriation, "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." YES! Even better, she points out the need for ethical consumption. Given the dire situation with over-harvesting of such 'hot' combustibles as palo santo and frankincense (among too many others) it was great to see awareness brought to the topic.

I love this book! It is a fantastic introductory text for anyone interested in working with combustibles as part of their magickal practice. There are lots of lists of plants with their scientific names and magickal energies; what makes this book stand out is the information on how to best use the plant. One example: be very careful burning lavender buds because they 'pop' when heated, jumping off the charcoal and burning holes in your rug. Instead, use the stems and leaves.

Pretty much everything 'smoke' is covered here: cleansing the self and your space, shifting energy patterns, breathwork, grounding, even how to grow your own (and what plants you want to leave up to others!). Everything is presented in a clear and detailed manner.

Super Highly Recommended.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Amy Blackthorn
Weiser Books, 2019
pp. 176, $14.95