Feeling low and dirty? Looking for a pep talk? Deborah Castellano’s warm and forgiving New Jersey voice tells you what to do first when in crisis mode and then how to move on. She tells enough about herself to understand why she wanted to write a self-help guide for magic for one’s down days but not enough that readers will be overwhelmed as they cope with their own problems. There’s both a practicality and a beauty to her approach. Her outlook is multicultural and eclectic, clearly a result of the elbow rubbing of various cultures on the urban East Coast.

Written during the pandemic lockdown, there’s an acknowledgement of the entire emotional spectrum that we all just experienced. Maybe you want to forget 2021 but there’s something to remembering those moments of panic and fear and boredom that bring perspective to your bad day. Is it pandemic bad or just ordinary bad? It doesn’t matter what exactly happened to you. Magic for Troubled Times offers good advice for those trying times when you feel knocked down. Find your center, ground, remember to groom, find the courage to do something, try this.

I enjoyed this book. Sometimes it’s good to have acknowledgment of pain, suffering, and trouble. It’s even better to see a pathway out of it. Readers get recipes for meals, advice on how to get out of bad relationships, exercises for creating mental altars and sanctuaries in the mind, Hindu myths retold by a self-admitted Real Housewives fanatic, spells and pleasing line drawings by artist Wen Hsu.

Castellano has thought provoking passages. One idea that got my attention was that sacrifice shows the universe you’re stone cold serious in your intent. When you feel like you’ve just lost everything, think about sacrifice from this perspective. What is it that you intend to do? As much as you feel you’ve lost, could you give up one more thing in pursuit of improvement?

Maybe you’re furious and blame others for your troubles. You want to hex the ones that did this to you and then you read this will bind these people to you more. Are you willing to pay this cost? Or should you wait and wait some more before you decide? This book talks you through the I’m gonna do something stupid stage.
The Full Queen of Heaven Venusian rite is a lovely protective magic designed to make the user feel gorgeous. This protective magic has you visualize the stars and fairy lights dangling about your body and sparkling. Compared to high magick, there’s a glorious, earthy, feminine power to this practice. Glamour heals the wounded.

This magic is worldly and it doesn’t draw identity boundaries. Hoodoo spirits rub shoulders with Hindu Gods and Catholic Saints and everybody is there together. There’s an old-fashioned practicality. Never mind where it’s from, does this magic work? Castellano was adopted so she talks about how many popular thoughts on lineage and ancestors in magic don’t cut it for her. She talks about her personal moral compass when it comes to ancestors or doing workings from other cultures. She’s careful to say, this is my take, yours may be different but her thoughts are always considered and worthy of consideration. She makes ethics interesting.

Castellano offers some nuggets of truth, words to mull over, rituals with beautiful imagery. She offers a window into her own world. She tells you the magic she uses and then says go ahead and question every bit of it. Make it your own. Stand up on your own two feet and shine.


~review by Larissa Carlson

Author: Deborah Castellano
Llewellyn Worldwide, 2022
pp. 185, $ 17.99