Review: Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul

Book cover of Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul.Inspired by the Chicken Soup series, Patricia Telesco brings us Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul: Spells, Recipes, and Reflections from Neopagan Elders and Teachers. Familiar names like Margot Adler, Starhawk, Dorothy Morrison, and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart share their personal stories along with recipes and rituals.

The stories, rituals, and recipes are organised into six sections: The Path of Beauty, Wisdom of the World, Nature’s Advisers, Community, Rituals for Life, and Healing, Spells, and Other Sundries. Among my favourites:

  • “Tears” by Bev Richardson, a heartbreaking story of loss and strength
  • “The River” by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, in which he compares life and consciousness with a river
  • “Using Pagan Ritual in the Real World” by Margot Adler, in which she recounts how a simple ritual can change the lives of people, Pagan and not
  • “Burden Basket” by Jesse Wolf Hardin about the load we carry on our backs.

Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul is Pagan, but leans Wiccan and Witch. The writing varies in quality and, as with any collection, some stories will touch you more than others. Most of them didn’t quite reach me. The biggest problem with this book is that it’s for the head, not the soul. Some stories actually make declarations such as, “The lesson of this is…”. The recipes and spells sound fine (Morrison’s strawberry mousse sounds fantastic), but I don’t find anything particularly soul-inspiring about roasted carrots or combining frankincense and myrrh to make incense. Soul is exactly what I was expecting from a book that borrows its name from a series of books known for featuring inspirational stories and motivational essays. As a collection, it isn’t as tight as it could be. After reading some stories, I wondered why they were categorised the way they were. With such a wide range, it’s hard to say who this book is really for or who would benefit the most from its stories.

Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul is alright, but a better option is Celebrating the Pagan Soul, a similar type of anthology edited by Laura Wildman.



  • jett

    Thanks for the review. Always nice to get a hint of which books you should be bumping up to the top of your reading list and which ones can wait. I was sorry this one didn't live up the billing. I read one of Telesco's books on Candle Rituals and not only found it helpful but liked her writing style. At least you got one good receipe out of this one.