To travel means to go from one place to another.
You might be traveling as a tourist, on a pilgrimage to a sacred site, on a road trip or on business – or you might be traveling within on an inner adventure of the spirit.
Lisa McSherry is an inveterate traveler, in the multiple meanings of going from one place to another. She has traveled widely. She and her husband recently relocated with her husband to a new home in a new country. And she’s a seasoned teacher of witchcraft – as well as our editor and publisher of facingnorth.net.
Now with her new book, she’s also a traveler’s guide. Travel Magic is about how to stay spiritually grounded while on the road or aloft in the sky, how to feel at home while away. Travel Magic is not just for people who can afford the time and money to take big trips. Travel Magic is as much about how to maintain a spiritual practice as it is about taking it with you, wherever you go. “Regardless of whether you take a simple visit to a local park or embark on a grand world tour,” she writes, “the practice of magic can be seamlessly integrated into every aspect of your journey.”
Early in the book –and one of the things I most appreciate about it – Lisa addresses the “complex ethical and environmental problems” posed by traveling, especially at any distance. Her chapter on ethical travel is a must -read because, as she writes, it’s not so easy as just offsetting one’s carbon footprint with financial contributions or not having one’s hotel towels washed daily. It’s a much bigger subject, how the tourism industry can and does perpetuate global economic inequality. One can minimize one’s impact by going through conscientious tourism businesses, and in Travel Magic, Lisa’s got lists of organizations that care about ecologies, cultures, and wildlife. She encourages people to avoid flying as much as possible, to walk and use local metro services, to reduce trash by carrying reusable utensils and ordering realistic portions at restaurants, to think and act locally, to understand that where you’re visiting is someone else’s home.
Carrying too much stuff is the bane of any traveler. Lisa’s got tips on what and how to pack, how to make a tiny first aid kit and a travel altar. She reminds travelers that no one cares if you wash and wear your same handful of clothes over and over. One of her magical tips is to “create a common bond with your home” by cleaning your own house before you leave it so that you’ll feel extra welcomed when you get back.
Travel is an adventure, she emphasizes. It’s also “discombobulating,” and “fraught with insecurity, the unfamiliar, and potential impediments, producing a certain amount of anxiety.” That’s why “people everywhere have always petitioned the Powers that Be for protection and smooth passages.”
Travel Magic explains the basics of an eclectic pagan practice. Lisa’s model of magic is based on: intent, creation, raising and sending energy. The bulk of the book is Lisa’s generous offerings of material about working with sigils, images and affirmations; how to use jewelry, stone allies, and “enchanting clothing;” how to inconspicuously perform spells in public, how to observe the sacred at sacred sites and – truly – more than I can do justice to here. There’s a synopsis of twenty-three multi-cultural deities whom people in various parts of the world attune to when traveling. There’s information on what to do if you’re robbed or scammed while away from home. There’s a spell for how to smooth out communication snafus with travel personnel and others along the way.
Travel Magic is both fun and serious. It’s a 21st century grimoire, imminently practical, following on the heels of Lisa’s 2022 book A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Your Own Practice. These books are good companions and would make excellent travel reading. If you’re packing light for a trip, maybe take just one!
~review by: Sara R. Diamond
Author: Lisa McSherry
Pagan World, 2023
pp. 324, $14.99