The heart of Llewellyn's most popular annual calendars, almancas, and datebooks has been astrological forecasting that readers can apply to their business, farm, social life, and personal affairs, including gardening by the moon cycles, planning a career change, or choosing a wedding date. Llewellyn's Moon Sign Book, published every year since 1905, remains the most instructive and comprehensive forecasting guide available. It includes comprehensive sections analyzing the weather and the economy for the year from an astrological perspective, as well as detailed tables indicating the best dates for travel, romance, and recreation so readers can proactively plan for their own specific needs.
Helping people explore ways to live more naturally and magically has been Llewellyn's stock and trade for more than one hundred years, and annuals have been a key to this longevity. While the astrological guides penned by Llewellyn George were the only product in the early years, the annual line has evolved over the years to become a place to showcase popular writers, introduce new authors, develop new ideas, and take a fresh look at old ideas.
Today, Llewellyn publishes more than a dozen annuals every year—spin-offs, of sorts, of the Moon Sign Book. These include four wall calendars, three datebooks, and eight article-driven, content-rich almanacs. These publications expand upon topics contained in the original Moon Sign Book, which had more emphasis on strictly practical material, as indicated by this early advertisement for the Moon Sign Book and this cover.
All the while, annuals have helped Llewellyn stay on the leading edge of trends in astrology, earth-based religion, magical practices, and other related subjects, including paranormal activity, a topic solidified with the purchase of FATE magazine in the 1980s. Early editions raised issues such as the possibility that President Abe Lincoln was a psychic and explored other unexplained historical phenomena such as the Sphinx. The magazine also included True Mystic Experiences, in which readers sent in submissions of firsthand experiences with ghosts, haunted houses, and other events that defy earthly explanations. FATE was an extension of Llewellyn's foray into periodicals—in the 1960s, magazine productions included Minute Scope and New Dimensions.
The frequency of these publications provided an opportunity for commentary on current events that affected the occult community—a significant added benefit in the pre-Internet (and cable television news) era. The move to magazines were natural part of the evolution of a company that had previously produced numerous pamphlets in an effort to keep up with a growing demand for timely, accurate information that could not be found in mainstream publications.
But now the evolution of the annuals has come full circle. With today's 24/7 news cycle, we cannot compete with the Internet, but have continued to produce relevant publications with useful information readers enjoy having on hand all year (and sometimes even longer) just like the inaugural Moon Sign Book in 1905. Here are some quick hits regarding how this plays out in 2009.
Practical Every Day
Of course, all Llewellyn annuals are practical, but from a data-intensive perspective, our Astrological Calendar, Astrological Pocket Planner, and Daily Planetary Guide go a step beyond. Each is loaded with ephemeris tables and aspect data and track the movement of the Moon and other planets on a daily grid while the Pocket Planner and Daily Planetary Guide provide enough room to take notes and pull double-duty as an organizer. The Daily Planetary Guide also includes weekly horoscopes and opportunity periods. The Astrological Calendar provides monthly horoscopes for each sign and a beautiful illustration of each zodiac sign.
Like the Moon Sign Book (which has now plumped up to about 384 pages thanks to the inclusion of general-interest articles from various authors), the Sun Sign Book is all about utilizing planetary energy to enhance romance, health, financial dealings, and most every other facet of life. With year-ahead synopses and the monthly breakdown of critical astrological activity for each sign, the Sun Sign Book matches the Moon Sign Book in detailed analyses.
As the name suggests, there is a spell for every day in Llewellyn's Spell-A-Day Almanac. The task of writing a spell, especially geared for one particular day, can be daunting, and can sometimes take our writers out of their comfort zones to come up with ideas. With 15 writers each conjuring up two dozen spells apiece throughout the year, there are plenty of new ways to approach a seemingly ordinary day.
Enchanting original illustrations, moon rituals, recipes, and articles focusing on the Wiccan holidays as well as everyday tips for witches and pagans give the Witches' Datebook and Witches' Calendar that rare blend of striking artwork and practical content. While the shelf life (or refrigerator life) of a calendar is technically only one year, some readers save ours for the articles while others transform the artwork into their own collages.
More than anything else, the Herbal Almanac and Magical Almanac are topical yearly anthologies. The essays found here are often a precursor to something larger or on the leading edge of a trend. For example, in 2007, the Herbal Almanac featured an article about stevia as a natural sweetener—today large corporations are conducting tests to take stevia to the market as a force to be reckoned with.
More commonly, authors often share the latest insights from their communities—be it a standard coven, a health-food co-op, or the online community in the blogosphere—to give readers a heads-up (or confirmation) of a new or modified practice they've been working on.
Compared to our other longstanding annuals, these almanacs are not as prescriptive or definitive in terms of instruction or direction (though many articles include recipes or spells). These essays are more in the teach-by-example mode of instruction, with each author illuminating their neck of the woods and/or areas of expertise. The articles found in these almanacs are written by both experts and new practitioners. As such, they are personal, passionate, and a pleasure to read.
The New Titles for 2009
Llewellyn's new-for-2009 wall calendars are a step in a more artistic direction. The Dragon Calendar and Mystic Faerie Calendar pair exciting and detailed illustrations with an insightful classic quote. Writers such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Keats were fascinated by these creatures, and the artwork by Anne Stokes (dragons) and Linda Ravenscroft (faeries) makes it clear why. Fans of Ravenscroft's Mystic Faerie Tarot will delight in displaying her illustrations in a large-scale format. These calendars include plenty of space to mark all your dates and reminders in each month.
The new almanac this year is the Green Living Guide, which follows the template of practitioners as contributing writers. These are the people who know firsthand the trials and tribulations of commuting by bicycle in a big city, planning a green wedding, and generating all the power for a bed and breakfast. A fashion model and designer writes about sustainable, yet fashionable, clothing. One writer introduces a relatively obscure action known as an "energy fast."
Readers of our other almanacs have said that, because of the new content every year, their collections grew from a couple of interesting books into a comprehensive encyclopedia. That's what we could ask for from any new annual, except to hope that these encyclopedias never stop growing.