Once upon a time, I found myself subscribed to an online magazine newsletter called The Numinous. How this happened is lost to the sands of time, and eventually, I switched away from my old middle school email address, leaving many a subscription behind.
Nevertheless, when I saw that The Numinous founder, Ruby Warrington, had written a book about the “mystical world” I decided to give it a go. After all, in a year when I’ve dedicated myself to reading about self-care and spiritually, it’s a perfect fit.
Perhaps it’s due to my 7th grade failed attempts to fit in with the cool crowd, but I tend to feel a bit averse to language I associate with trying to be a certain kind of fashionable, trendy human. The title Material Girl, Mystical World: The Now Age Guide to a High-Vibe Life strikes a bit of that chord with me. Even though our house is full of material trappings of my efforts to be more spiritual, I don’t identify as a “material girl.” Nor would I ever be able to use the phrase “high-vibe” unironically.
In spite of this, I felt drawn to this book. The notion of balancing the physial realities of our modern world with having a spiritual life appeals to me, since some of the books I’ve read about witchy topics seem to require that I move to a hut in the woods to get the full vibes. Introverted hermit though I am, I’m not yet ready to give up the conveniences of city life (mainly easy access to iced caramel oatmilk lattes). But I digress.
Material Girl, Mystical World is part spiritual memoir, part introduction to various spiritual topics. The book is broken into five parts: The New Age, But Now; Health & Well-Being; Love, Sex & Relationships; Fashion & Beauty; People and Parties. Each section contains a handful of chapters that address various aspects of a “mystical” life, such as astrology, tarot, yoga, meditation, mensturation, fashion, and plant medicine.
Like any overview of spiritual topics, some chapters aligned more to my interests than others, and my ability to handle the book’s tone shifted depending on the topic at hand. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
What I Liked
The early chapters on astrology and tarot somehow managed to take these topics I’ve read a good bit about and make them feel fresh again. In particular, the chapter on astrology broke down the concepts of reading to the extent that it finally “clicked” with me in a new way.
I also enjoyed the chapter on finding your dharma, or spiritual calling in life, even if I think your mileage may vary in these pursuits depending on your level of privilege. In other words, no matter how many times the tarot suggests I quit my full time job and pursue writing-as-career, there’s still the whole matter of student loans and bills to pay.
I also liked the section on self-love for its multifaceted approach to self-care that reminds us taking care of ourselves isn’t just about bath bombs and candles (though, those things can play a part, too, if you enjoy them.)
Througout the book, Ruby’s willingness to delve into her own experiences helps ground the spiritual topics in our modern reality in a way that I (usually) appreciated. This is a book where our author feels human and real, not like a spiritually advanced mystery on a mountaintop someplace. As someone who likes a little personal in her informative texts, this aspect of the book really worked for me.
What I Didn’t Like
The downside of putting so much self into a book is that your reader may bump up against the ways in which she finds said self unrelatable. In the later chapters, the privileged life that Warrington led while working for prestigious magazines shows through in a way that made it hard to feel the book was a realistic guide to a spiritual life for the majority of us.
Though she is often transparent about experiences which came about due to her status, that doesn’t really make it easier to imagine such elements being a regular part of life for everyone. Free botox and skin products are not, after all, part of most average people’s experience. I will own that some of this is just my lack of interest in the lives of the rich and famous, but I do think the tone veers off of into “I’m no longer aware of my privilege” now and again.
Speaking of not being aware, there are times when Warrington approaches topics without fully acknowledging the traditions and cultures from which those practices stem. In particular, the chapter about “plant medicine” felt problematic to me for its lack of interrogation of whether white people should be engaging in “spiritual tourism” to utilize a sacred plant and ritual, ayahuasca. This is a shortcoming in a lot of white spirituality/witchcraft texts, so it isn’t surprising, but that doesn’t mean we should stop asking folks to do better.
I will also note that while I appreciate the breadth of topics Warrington covers and her willingness to try all the weird that wellness has to offer, some of the events she attends are just a bit too “out there” for me personally. Interesting to learn about, definitely. But something I would personally try? Nope.
Overall, there were some good nuggets in this book, and I’m glad that I read it, if for no other reason than my new understanding of how to read my birth chart.
That said, this book felt part spiritual text and part memoir of a life in the world of fashion, which at times didn’t quite reconcile for me. I like a book that says a girl can covet perfectly manicured nails and still engage with her spiritual path, but sometimes this felt a bit too out of touch with what the average income and lifestyle can accomodate.
I recommend Material Girl, Mystical World if you’re interested in learning more about the various ways people try to connect to their higher selves in our modern world, with the caveat that the tone is sometimes a bit out of touch with how the average person lives. Extra recommend if you, unlike me, enjoy the world of fashion magazines and Sex and the City vibes.