(Please note that the specifics of The Moon Book review begin a few paragraphs down for those who want to skip ahead).
A couple of years ago, I saw a very arresting image on Instagram: it was a black book with some simply illustrated moons in a silvery grey in different phases on the cover. I remember slowing down from scrolling mindlessly and reading the title of the book, and I thought “huh. Interesting.” But then I kept scrolling.
Somehow over the next few weeks, I couldn’t get that image out of my head. Something about it spoke to me. It seemed geometric, clean, and sparse, all qualities to which I wasn’t drawn ordinarily as I like lavish, beautiful artwork, the Pre-Raphaelites in particular. I remember it felt mysterious, as if I needed very much to seek it out again. So I did. Wracking my brain, I thought, “what was that title again?” I just started putting in “Moon Book” under the search engine, and I found it without much trouble, and there it was, this time in a different IG photo, looking just as enticing. This time, I clicked through to find it online on the Modern Women website (www.modernwomenprojects.com). I followed the writer’s account then (IG: @gottesss) and found that the author of this book was Sarah Faith Gottesdiener. I ordered the book. I felt I was doing something “important,” but I couldn’t say why.
Not long after, I received a package, and inside was the book, wrapped in black paper. “Cool.” I thought. I had never received a book packaged this way. I had no idea what to expect. I opened the book and saw that all of it was in black and white, with many hand drawings inside. I paged through and found a wealth of essays incorporating the work of many writers and thinkers on subjects like tarot, spellwork, journaling with some pretty amazing prompts, astrology, activism, and other subjects. It was a guide for this half of the year, keyed directly to the phases of the moon.
I dove in.
I remember learning so much about myself that year. This was the very same half year after I had just finally gotten to the point where I got the guts to go and see a couple of doctors after years of minor problems that all seemed to affect one another, and I was finally on a couple of different meds that were helping me with things stemming from too much stress in my workplace. So with my physical body more or less under control, now I felt I needed to deal with my emotional/spiritual body’s needs. I was very faithful to the work required in the book. As Gottesdiener taught about the moon phases in depth, she also would include all kinds of tarot pulls (great for me as I had only knowledge of a few) as well as simple and complex spells and journaling prompts that got me in no time into the heart of issues I had been ignoring to deal with things like hypertension or anxiety. I was really good about approaching the use of this journal as a “class” for myself, and it was only around December that I lost track of working on it due to the end of the semester and the holidays, but I went back in late December and early January to backtrack, such was my belief in the power of the work in that book.
I was excited to buy the next one. By then I realized that she put these out every six months. Only I think at that point, she had switched over to doing a full year planner. With money tight, I didn’t buy one. I was afraid it wouldn’t include all the work that the book did, and it would be more like an empty planner, and so I thought no, I’ll skip it this year but still follow her work.
A year went by. She put out the next lunar planner. This time, I realized how much my spiritual practice is something that I can get VERY LAZY about if I don’t have a guide, so I bought one. I never should have worried there wouldn’t be “enough” writing and too much blank space. I constantly ran out of space and had to write all over the place in odd angles (which I rather like the way that looks!) because this planner was nothing like any planner I’d ever seen. It was like the Many Moons books, only even better! It went for the whole year, it was chock full of the same kinds of material, but it never felt repetitive. I felt like everything I was learning was building on what I’d learned from the first book I’d bought. This time, it was harder to keep up, but it had nothing to do with the book: it had to do with the same workplace stress from before becoming oh-so-much-worse, that I lost all track of self-care and spent a ton of time sleeping instead. Or eating my feelings. Or doomscrolling.
I still kept the faith in the meaning of the work even when I didn’t have time or energy for it, though. I knew it was important. I knew I had already done so much soul searching already, and my grasp of shadow work was becoming stronger and I noticed I was far less fearful about that very concept. I ended up finding that when I was asked to guest edit a special topics issue of the peer reviewed journal Humanities, that my mind went straight to a topic I called “Confronting the Real in Fairy Tales”, and my CFP description ended up being informed by my literary critic side as well as my shadow self and her interests in the navigating the darkness and not being afraid of it.
After a time, Gottesdiener began to talk about her new book, called The Moon Book: Lunar Magic to Change Your Life. I knew I needed this book. Her first hardback book? I was THERE. I was STOKED. I PRE-ORDERED. And then as it grew closer to the publication date, things at work began to just keep getting worse (our 148-year college is about to shut down and we will be sold to the local HBCU university, and it is very likely I will lose my tenured associate professor position and this is very likely the end of the road for me as a professor), I did something I rarely do: I cancelled my pre-order. I decided that I needed to circle the wagons around any salary I could in preparation for being unemployed. A lunar magic book, I reasoned, was not a necessity. I could go without.
But when the book came out, and I received an email about it, Modern Women stated that if anyone were willing to write a review of the book, they would mail them a copy. “ME ME ME!!!” I said. Of course I’ll write one. And so a couple of days later, I received another package from them, wrapped in black wrapping paper. And when I opened the book, that’s when I realized: she’s my guide through this horrible, awful workplace situation. She’s my guide through life, right this very minute.
Here’s where the review starts, for those who wanted to skip ahead!
The Moon Book: Lunar Magic to Change Your Life, by Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, is an absolute beacon in the darkness. though it celebrates darkness as much as light. Both are needed for a fully integrated, balanced individual, and Gottesdiener makes that so clear though her entire text. So many of us fear the dark, though, the dark recesses of our psyches, the way we will have to own it if we really go deep, as well as the darkness and toxicity of patriarchy and those who uphold it, the murky waters of life when we are wading through an international pandemic or anything that obscures our ability to feel safe and grounded. Even discovering that sometimes what’s around us, people, jobs, places we live, careers, goals, our even our own selves, are creating a toxic environment that depletes rather than energizes us, is akin to feeling as if we are in a void, from which we cannot escape. Many of us in this place in our lives simply shut down to preserve anything we’ve got left, and when life has gotten *that hard*, we need someone to guide us. Gottesdiener, with her many years of lunar study and countless hours spent teaching others about this necessary work, is that guide, teaching us to be our own guides or to learn ways to guide others. I often felt as if I saw her in my mind as I read this book, garbed in a sort of flowing diaphanous gown, holding a small lantern, beckoning to me, “Come. I will show you the way.”
(I realize that sounds kind of dramatic, but I mean, why not? How do we know this isn’t one of many roles she has been destined to play across time, a part of her ancestral lineage reclaimed?)
This book is spectacular. Just spectacular. It is organized by background material first, which sets up the extensive study in many chapters that cover each phase of the moon in so much depth that I feel there must have been a tremendous amount of work which went into the writing and editing of this text. I’ve got a lot of “witchy” books on my shelves, and I’ve got all kinds of correspondences and guides, each of which give the meanings of different crystals or herbs, goddesses, deities, etc., but this book seems to have solved the problem of sometimes having to pull 10 books down to craft a spell into saying “no, it’s ok, you can use this one alone.” (Not knocking pulling 10 books down, mind you, sometimes that’s fun and/or necessary, but I love that I no longer have to, because, see above, I have a lazy streak). I kept thinking, how is she getting so much in here? And I don’t have to flip around to the end or appendices, and it’s so brilliantly organized, and it flows so beautifully because once you’ve read one chapter, you see her plan which she follows in all of the chapters as far as the organizational pattern. My need for organization was very well-met in the overall plan of the book.
When I got into the book’s substance, I was also really blown away. I’ve read 2 of her other books now, and I’ve got some books on the moon, but again, it felt as if so much was new to me. Even if she was repeating some basic information that she may have stated many times before, it was written differently. I noticed that she would often seamlessly switch between factual objective style diction into beautifully poetic language filled with imagery. Imagery makes people remember facts–because they remember the image that came into their minds when they read those facts. This is a teacher’s technique and a true writerly technique that as an English professor, I can see that she has been working with, either consciously or not, and has improved upon within her own work, over the past few years since I’ve followed her. What I mean by that is I saw her leaning towards that imagery a few years back, but now there is this extra boost of it in her work and a sense of confidence in her sentences that to me speaks of someone who has been working to hone even more her creative writing skill. I love seeing that. The visionary end to the book will bring tears to your eyes. It’s that good.
And the tarot pulls, spells, and journal prompts? Oh goodness I could go on and on. Just as I couldn’t get the cover of her book out of my head after I first saw it online, I couldn’t stop thinking about her New Moon tarot pull until I sat down and made space for it. I was rewarded with one of the most coherent, inspiring readings I’ve ever done for myself, which confirmed a lot of buzz going through my mind about my life’s direction in regards to my career. I’ve got spells in mind I absolutely want to try, and I need a whole new notebook for all those journal prompts. I love that in regards to all three of these activities, Gottesdiener creates such a variety. You want something simple where all you need is a quiet space? She’s got you. You want something that will take you an hour or more and lots of notes? She’s got you there, too. You have a well-stocked herb cabinet and bowl of crystals but not everything under the sun? I promise you, she’s got you covered, and if you want to go make a shopping list and hit up your local metaphysical shop, go for it, but if you’re trying to save money, you have what you need right in front of you.
I think what really resonated for me most is this book, though, was that Gottesdiener somehow manages to be this sort of no-nonsense fairy godmother type of guide. She’s tough but kind. These seem like they don’t go together, but they do! She is not about to take your crap. She says that we are often the biggest obstacle in our way and she means it. She gives you a ton of options for doing the work but Witch, you are DOING THE WORK. She talks about the way you must make time to self-care and the myriad ways you must make the time, but she also tells you that if your body is crying out to spend a whole weekend sleeping, you have got to do it and not be ashamed about it. In listening to this book (I had my free copy in exchange for reviewing, but I also ended up using an audible credit to purchase a copy so I could listen as well), I would sometimes find myself saying “but I don’t have time to do…” and before I could finish my thought, I would hear an alternative way to practice that might take less time or energy when I’m already depleted, but which would be just as fine nonetheless. So this is not a book by someone who will give you a pass because (see above) you are lazy or unmotivated or just plain tired. She has an answer for that. Every time. But it is delivered with love and care. I hesitate to call it “tough love” because that’s a cliche, and what I felt in reading/listening went deeper than that. I guess I would call it a sense of knowing. She knows what her readers/listeners need, because she once needed these things as she was learning about the way that working with the moon can bring about great changes in your life. But she also knows that this work never ends, and many of us are always on that path of self-improvement. The work gets really tiring, and we get run down so much that we stop, but she’s got a plan for that to help pick us back up. Even if all we can do right now is chart our moods and our thoughts for one lunation, it’s a start, she says. It’s important to get started; it’s important to keep going.
Ultimately, I sense that she would not like to call herself a spiritual guide. We think of our spirit guides as actual spirits, or the energies of those we have lost, our ancestors, other figures with meaning to us, our animal companions who have crossed into liminal spaces. But I do think that from time to time someone comes along in this world who is living flesh and blood who has something that others do not, and on top of that, they choose to work with those abilities and channel them into teaching and writing and podcasting and other ways to help others along life’s path to realize the deeper parts of themselves. I think Sarah Faith Gottesdiener is one of those people. It had to take so much of her time and energy to write this book–a life of lived experiences and research, all in one place. Please honor her by reading it and referring back to it as you continue the most important work you will ever do: the work to understand and honor yourself, so that you may also become a guide to others, a being in balance, and a light shining in the darkness, who is striving to make friends with the darkness.
Please find signed copies of The Moon Book here for purchase: https://modernwomenprojects.com/products/signed-the-moon-book