Blog, divination, Environment, life, Neodruidry

Friday: Black. Hike: Taken. Hams: Strung.

I don’t like Black Friday. Part of it comes from several years of retail work, part of it comes from reading way too many stories of people getting shanked over Elmo dolls and discount TVs. It sucks for workers, it sucks for shoppers, it just sucks all around.

So, when a Meetup group I’m in posted a late afternoon hike this past Friday, I was more than happy to do that. The weather didn’t look promising, but there’s no such thing as bad weather — just the wrong clothes. As long as it kept me from being bombarded with reminders of Black Friday, I would’ve hiked in a storm.

This came right after a Zoom session about the role of walking as a spiritual practice. It was a really enjoyable discussion, and I was intrigued by the number of different roles it seems to occupy for people. I never really gave walking much thought — it’s part of my spiritual practice, but not one I really had to devote brainspace to, if that makes sense. Some talked about entering a kind of flow state, where the walk itself was a way to disconnect from the body. For others, walking was the opposite — a chance to focus on mindful movement, and quiet the mind. It all depends on what you need from it. Will walking be an external practice, or an internal one?

For me, it’s always been a weird form of augury. I don’t want to use the phrase “connect with nature,” because I feel like the wellness movement has worn it pretty thin. Really, it’s a way to make friends, as long as your definition of “friends” is flexible enough to include fungi and holes in the ground. If I meet a lot of new friends, it’s a pleasant walk and a good omen. If I don’t, it isn’t.

It can be a more specific divinatory practice, too. I know it’s not uncommon for people experiencing a lot of synchronicities (angel numbers, and the like) to ask for a sign or some kind of answer. Asking for one, then going out for a walk to see what you get is a useful form of divination. It’s definitely easier than trying to find a haruspex in this day and age.

It’s also a gratitude practice for me. I’m not about to get all gratitude journal on you, but, after spending several years too sick and deconditioned to do much of anything, I feel like the best way to express thanks for still having a mostly-functioning body is to use it for stuff.

We started out by meeting up in a parking area near one of the picnic groves. (There are trails all over this area, so you can pretty much start walking in any direction and end up on one.) It was really good to finally meet some of the people I’d only be able to speak to on Zoom calls, and the hike itself wasn’t too tough — three miles start to finish, through trees that helped cut some of the blustery wind and whose leaves lit up like lanterns once the sun sank below the lead-colored clouds. The air was scented with the vaguely spicy smell of gently decaying leaves, and so cold that I could feel it like a razor every time I reached the top of a hill.

Which is exactly how I ended up having to stop and catch my breath a bunch of times, wrestling with my jacket to pull out the carton of warmish coconut water I’d kept snuggled against my chest like a newborn. Fortunately, I brought a bandana-style mask with me. It helped warm the air before I breathed it in, which made things a bit easier, and also allowed me to pretend to be normal while actually gasping like a malfunctioning Billy Bass.

The entire forest is slowed down for the cold seasons, so it wasn’t like hiking earlier in the year. While the moss was still green, it was confined to neat, short little mats without their long, almost eerie-looking spore capsules. There were no eyelash cups or jack-o-lantern mushrooms. I did spot some neat-looking shelf fungi, and scrambled down into a space under a fallen tree for a picture. Another branch held some tiny specimens that were so fine and woody, they almost looked like ruffled feathers.

We all made it to the end, just before sunset. The light had that “golden hour” magic going on, which turned the treetops and patches of sky into a stained-glass canopy and the fallen leaves into a blanket of gold and copper. There was a peaceful moment where we paused before leaving, to make offerings of water and close out the experience. My partner and I picked up tea and dinner, then headed home.

It was the longest uninterrupted hike I’d been able to do in years. It gave me a chance to push my limits a bit more, and feel the edge of where my endurance is now. I get winded and dizzy easier than I did before IH, but I did it, and I’m intensely happy and grateful.

A good walk, and a good sign.

divination, life

Reading Lenormand and Tarot — Together.

The end of October marks the beginning of a new year for me, and that means taking stock. I like to do this with something I jokingly call “the whole hog,” a single reading that uses tarot, Lenormand cards, Ogham, and oracle cards to give me as complete a picture as possible. It’s fun, interesting, accurate, and, once you’re used to it, surprisingly easy.

There’s really no reason not to combine whatever forms of cartomancy or sortilege you like best. I’m not suggesting you shuffle all of your cards together, of course (I mean, the differences in size and texture would turn that into a nightmare). There’s only one thing you have to keep in mind:

Each type of card is best suited to a certain type of question.

For example, you wouldn’t want to ask a Lenormand deck what energies you need to focus on for the coming year. (Coffin + Birds + Woman + Lilies + Bear will tell you a lot, but not that.) Similarly, you don’t want to ask an oracle deck what will happen if you make a specific decision, because drawing a card that tells you, “Remember, you are enough” isn’t going to be… well, enough. Combining decks is more of a holistic approach to a question or problem, allowing you to explore it across multiple dimensions.

What’s the difference between tarot reading and reading Lenormand cards?

Lenormand is very specific and concrete. A basic reading might entail asking something like, “What will happen if I accept this job offer?” You then shuffle the deck, then fan it out and look for the signifier relating either to yourself, or the question at hand. (Personally, I usually choose a signifier related to my question.) The two cards in front of it, the card itself, and the two cards behind it are the reply. They’re able to give you very detailed information, like, “A woman will deliver you a message related to your career, which will result in a social engagement and creative opportunity.”

Tarot, I’ve found, is better suited for describing the energies around a situation. If you ask your tarot deck the same question, you may draw cards indicating celebration, growth, female energies, and even communication. It won’t necessarily indicate a specific situation that you may anticipate, but it will tell you how you’ll feel about it.

Tarot also has a lot of psychological and spiritual overtones, where Lenormand is all practical. Many tarot readers would bristle at the idea of tarot reading as fortune telling, but that’s pretty much exactly what Lenormand cards purport to be — a tool for telling fortunes.

This is a mixed blessing. Reading Lenormand is simple, though not necessarily easy. There are only a few spreads, and cards are always read the same way: in pairs, with their own set of grammar, the way one might read a sentence. For people used to the fluidity of tarot, where there are millions of different spreads, multiple interpretations of the same card, reversals, and a heavy emphasis on intuition, Lenormand can feel rigid. On the other hand, for people used to reading Lenormand cards, tarot can feel too vague and subjective.

So how do you put them together?

The trick is to choose your subject matter carefully. Remember, Lenormand is best suited for concrete answers to questions. (Think “What-ifs,” and things of that sort.) Tarot is best for exploring the energies, archetypes, and other less concrete aspects of a situation.

Combining the two goes something like this:

  1. Consider the situation you want answers about. What ways are there to approach it? Do you have a certain approach you favor? What specific steps are you planning to take in order to address it? Keep this in mind, or write it down.
  2. Next, consider how this situation extends beyond the physical world. Imagine that you have questions about a romantic relationship. Outside of this relationship’s impact on your daily life, what kind of effect will it have on your highest good and spiritual growth? What’s do you need to know about what’s happening beneath the surface?
  3. Formulate a set of questions based on this information. One should be a straightforward “What-if” based on the approach you plan to take. Another should be related to how this situation will impact you spiritually and mentally.
  4. Choose a signifier in your Lenormand deck. If you identify as a man or woman, this can be the Man or Lady cards. If you don’t identify as either, feel that another card is more appropriate, or are reading for someone else, choose a signifier that relates to the situation. (For example, the Tree card is often used as a signifier in health-related readings.)
  5. Shuffle the deck. Keep your “What-if” question in mind.
  6. Fan the deck out, face up. Look for the signifier you chose.
  7. Read the two cards in front of it, the card itself, and the two cards behind it. This will describe a chain of events. (Remember: No future is set in stone. This tells you the outcome if all of the people, energies, and other factors remain the same as they are right now.)
  8. Write your interpretation down.
  9. Next, shuffle your tarot deck. Keep your second question in mind.
  10. Read your tarot cards using a spread of your choice (or draw the top card, top three cards, and so on).
  11. Write this interpretation down.

You now have answers that cover two different aspects of your question. One tells you what will happen purely in the physical realm, the other tells you the mental, emotional, and spiritual impact it will have. Put together, you can develop a pretty accurate (and very helpful) picture.

This isn’t limited to Lenormand and tarot cards, either. As I mentioned, I’ve done something similar with Ogham staves, oracle cards, and more. The only thing to keep in mind is that each type of divination has its strengths and weaknesses. None are inherently superior or inferior, they’re just different. Think of them like cardiologists and plumbers — both are professionals in their fields, but you don’t necessarily want them to have to do each other’s jobs!

art, divination, life, Witchcraft

Bustin’ (Disappointment) Makes Me Feel Good

Yesterday, literally the same day that I posted that tarot reading, I got a bit of disappointing news. I don’t want to get into the details, but it turns out that an artistic opportunity that I’d been pretty excited about isn’t going to happen for me. C’est la guerre. Even amid fulfillment and happiness, it’s a bit much to expect everything to be a slice of fried gold.

Still, understanding that fact doesn’t really banish the bad feelings. Here’s what did, though:

I set a timer.

I gave myself ten minutes to be completely self-indulgent in my complaining. After that, the grumpling grace period was over and I had to keep quiet about it. This serves two purposes:

  1. It keeps me from dwelling on whatever’s bothering me.
  2. It keeps me from becoming insufferable to absolutely everyone around me.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I use this time. I flop dramatically on furniture. I go full Howl’s-Moving-Castle-goopy-wizard. I get to feel my feelings, I can be cartoonishly whiny until I laugh at myself, and other people won’t secretly wish they could lock me in a dumpster.

I did some agitation pedaling.

My partner calls it “having the zoomies.” I call it having more energy than I know what to do with. Sometimes it’s from anger or annoyance. Sometimes it’s boredom. Sometimes, it’s because I ate four bowls of cereal for dinner.

All that corn syrup and riboflavin

Either way, ten minutes of furious living room biking usually sorts it out decently well. I work myself up to my top speed, and hold it as long as I can — all while mentally focused on a goal I have. When I get to the point where I can’t sustain it anymore, I release the energy toward that goal.

Sweat is also cleansing. Sweating can be a sacred act. There are reasons why so many cultures have traditions built around inducing a good sweat.

Singing along to Turisas is entirely optional, but it helps.

RA-RA-RASPUTIN, RUSSIA’S GREATEST LOVE MACHINE

I took a bath (with friends).

(No, not human ones. I don’t think any of them would talk to me afterward.)

When it comes to spells to fix a disappointment, I think they should be spontaneous. It’s not really the time to go worrying about moon phases or astrological timing — if you have needs, fulfill them. Emergency magic performed from the heart can be just as effective as a meticulously planned ritual.

Water is the element of emotions. It’s cleansing. It’s healing. It’s a great way to kill some time doing something that’s objectively good for you. It was late at night, so I didn’t have the energy to make myself a full-on brew, but I do pretty much own my weight in various teas. I boiled some water, added two bags of peppermint and one of chamomile, and asked for their help.

“Peppermint,” I said, said I, “I feel like complete ass and would like that to not be a thing anymore. Peppermint, clear my energy from all that’s dragging me down, and, with chamomile, fill that space with luck and prosperity.”

If you’re putting it in a bath, the garnish is probably kind of excessive

I held my projective (dominant) hand over the vessel, and did the energy thing. When I felt that it was good enough, I asked the brew if it was ready.

“If this be done, and done well, push my hand away from the vessel.”

(Fortunately, I felt the familiar little energetic “push” against my palm. I don’t think I had it in me to sit on my bathroom floor and troubleshoot this spell.)

I poured the brew in a bath full of warm, fresh water, dumped in an unmeasured buttload of Trader Joe’s $1.99 sea salt, stirred it with my projective hand, and called it good. As soon as I stepped in, feeling the silkiness of the water, smelling the fragrant peppermint-and-chamomile steam curling up from the surface of the water, I began to feel better.

I also had a bright, unmistakable vision of a wolf’s face when I closed my eyes, but that’s probably going to take some further research.

I followed the advice I’d been given in the first place.

There’s a lot to be said for the idea of conceptualizing things as happening “for” you instead of “to” you, though that can be tough to remember in the moment. Personally, every setback I’ve ever experienced — every call I never received after a job interview, every breakup — has always led to something better within the space of a few weeks, like clockwork. I don’t force positivity on myself, and you shouldn’t either if you’re really not feeling it, but I try to keep this track record in mind.

Anyway, all of this is to say that, when the sun is shining and everything’s going great, sometimes a minor bump in the road can seem bigger than it is. Tarot readings function as more than a prediction and an energetic snapshot of your life. They’re also advice. Yesterday’s advice was to celebrate, spread joy, and not let my emotions overrule my discernment. I have a lot to celebrate (I sold a painting recently! I can hike longer trails! I did a bunch of paid writing!), I’m hoping this post might be helpful to someone else who’s feeling the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and, logically, I know this disappointment will pass and be forgotten before long.

I turned it around.

Creativity is deeply personal. When you put yourself into what you make, it’s hard not to take rejection pretty hard. Most of the time, though, that rejection has nothing to do with you — because creativity is so personal, there’s no accounting for what people want. What I consider my best work is almost never as popular as the things I’m not nearly as attached to.

Similarly, this situation in no way impugns me as a person or a creative force. So, worn out from pedaling, freshly minty, and completely called out by my own tarot deck, I went to varnish some paintings.

I don’t want to suggest that vigorous cycling and a bath are the way to deal with, say, a house fire, the loss of a loved one, someone stealing your car, or a loved one burning down your house and stealing your car, but these techniques can help shift the energy around the things that occasionally show up to heck your day apart.

divination

The Sun, some fruit, and a guy with a sword.

Okay, so “fruit” is a bit of a misnomer. I felt like using the gorgeous Tarot de Maria-Celia deck this week, and it’s not so much about the fruit imagery. Still!

I gave myself a little three-card spread. I’ve been working on fine-tuning a spread of my own devising, but I didn’t feel like I needed quite that level of detail for a simple weekly reading, you know? For getting a general feel of things, three cards is usually plenty for me.

I drew Le Soleil, Neuf de Deniers, and Roy d’Epée. For the most part, these have the same meanings that they do in RWS-style decks. For the most part.

Le Soleil, believe it or not, has some surprising parallels with Le Diable. It, too, has two minions — both with red sashes like shackles around their necks. While the Devil is deception, manipulation, and control, the Sun is its opposite — the light banishes shadows, and brings everything into clarity. The Devil is entrapment, the Sun is freedom. The Devil is the addiction that saps your energy and your money, the Sun is vitality, growth, and prosperity.

It’s a great sign for new beginnings. Like the return of the sun heralds the new growth of spring, It’s regeneration.

The Neuf de Deniers follows this. Unlike other decks, Marseilles-style decks don’t really have a lot of imagery for the pips cards — just a graphic representation of their suit and numeric value. Deniers (Coins or Pentacles) is the suit of material wealth. Nine is the last number before ten, the ultimate culmination of the suit’s cycle.

It’s a sign of achievement. Material comfort and freedom are at hand, hard work is rewarded. It’s a sign to celebrate!

More than that, though, it points to a time of balance. You’ve achieved this success through hard work and staying in harmony with your surroundings. Prosperity doesn’t always come in the form of a paycheck — sometimes it’s the abundance of the land.

Lastly, there’s the Roy (Roi) d’Epée. He can be a significant person, or merely the qualities of the ruler of the suit of Swords. His power is of the intellect, he is logical and incisive. He can also be a bit of a prick — he’s cunning, but also scheming. He’s intelligent, but may be cold. He is an authority, but may be too detached. As advice, he says to turn away from the emotions for now, and trust in logic and reason.

Taken together, this is a good sign! Le Soleil indicates success, growth, vitality, and fulfillment. Le Neuf de Deniers indicates comfort, abundance, and autonomy. Le Roy d’Epée says that obtaining, enjoying, and maintaining this requires intelligence and discernment. As advice, they say to spread joy and celebrate, but keep a cool head and let intellect lead the way.

Personally, I’m excited. Even as the days become shorter and the nights lengthen, I can feel that solar energy. I feel relaxed, happy, and fruitful. I’m hydrated, moisturized, and well-rested. My vibes are high, my mind is clear, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

I hope your omens are just as positive. We could all use a little good news.

P.S.: If you’d like a tarot reading, all of the readings in my shop are still 30% off! Place an order, and you’ll have your reading, my interpretation, and a pic of the cards I pulled for you within 48 hours.

divination, life

The Page of Wands Squawks Again (Again)

I feel like I draw the Page of Wands more than any other card. Honestly.

I’m not surprised that he’s appeared again, though. He’s all creativity, adventure, and youthful enthusiasm. He’s good news and fast messages. In career readings, he might mean a work trip. In love readings, he’s playfulness and vacations.

So, considering this past weekend’s adventures, I kind of figured he’d turn up soon.

My partner and I want to go kayaking one of these days, by which I mean “he wants to go kayaking, and I am figuring out ways to cover every tragedy that can possibly happen while kayaking.” I don’t do super well with the sun beating down on me, so summer isn’t my ideal time for outdoor sports. The couple of weeks between the beginning of September and the end of October are perfect for me. There’s only one problem: htf do you kayak?

I mean, I get it. Sit in the boaty part, do the paddles, motion happens. I have had to row things before. Still, there’s something about the thought of taking a kayak out on a river that makes my throat tense up.
(That thing is anxiety disorder. Even with medication and a great therapist, some of it sticks around.)

I feel like kayaking would be fun, on a conceptual level. Neither of us have ever done it before, so I have automatically adopted the position of Learning Everything That Can Go Wrong and Preemptively Thwarting It.

(Incidentally, while this is doubtless one of my more annoying traits, it also makes me fantastic on road trips. Need Benadryl? A tampon? A snake venom extraction kit? A small fire extinguisher? Emergency backup water? A convenient source of potassium? I’ve got you. I prepare for everything like it’s the first ten minutes of an action movie where we end up on an island infested with crocodiles.)

My partner says, “Let’s go price kayaks this w-,” and before he can even say “-eekend,” my brain’s off to the races. We’ll need life vests, for one. That’s obvious. Swimsuits — no, wetsuits, since the water won’t be as warm as it would be in July. Water shoes. A waterproof bag to hold stuff. Lessons. What if I lose my ID? I’ll write my identifying information on myself in case I drown. What if we accidentally go over a dam and one of us breaks something? I’ll have to bring a bandana I can use to make a sling. Do I remember how to give first aid for a spine or neck injury? What if I fall in the water and the cold knocks the wind out of me? It happened at summer camp once, and I wasn’t allowed to swim after that. (Fortunately, what I lacked in ability-to-breathe-in-cold-water, I made up for in ability-to-spot-and-subsequently-escape-from-bears-that-got-to-the-blueberry-patch-before-I-did.)

When I was five, my grandparents took me to the beach. I splashed and played happily, but, when my grandma noticed that I’d gone a little too far out and called me back, I couldn’t return. Caught in the undertow, I floundered and sputtered until someone had to come drag me out and do whatever they do to kids they’re afraid will dry drown. As clearly as I remember the helpless feeling of being caught in the current, everything after that is like someone smeared my memories with Vaseline.

Years later, my grandpa was careful to keep me out of the waves. He always fished a lot, and I used to love sitting by the buckets of fish he brought home, seeing what kind of hitchhikers had snuck into the water. Sometimes I’d find a tiny crab, or a snail, or even a sea urchin.

Finally, one day, he decided he’d teach my siblings and me to fish and set crab traps. The other kids were too young to sit and wait for a bite, so they mostly spent the day running around and dropping bait down each other’s shirts. While they did that, I felt a bite on one of the bamboo poles. My tiny heart pounding with excitement, I reeled in my catch. Was it a flounder? A salmon? A tuna? Maybe it was a shark.

It was not a shark.

To this day, I’m not sure. Nobody was able to definitively identify what I pulled up from the depths.

I’m reminded of Eddie Izzard’s bit about the Biblical flood. If it was supposed to cleanse the Earth of evil, there must have been a lot of evil fish and ducks left over.

This fish was silvery. It had spiny fins that flared out like claws, and a long, undershot jaw full of pointed, mean-looking teeth. It thrashed with the strength of something several times its size and, when we put it in the bucket with the rest of our catch, the results were… bad. It didn’t seem like it had much meat on it, either — whatever biological real estate it possessed seemed to be taken up entirely by teeth, spines, and hate.

While it churned the water in the bucket and snapped at the air in fury, Grandpa suggested throwing it back. My tiny child eyes immediately welled up with tears.

“But… I caught it. It’s my fishy.”

I was formulating plans for filling my kiddie pool with table salt and hose water so I could keep it, maybe befriend it through some kind of piscine Stockholm Syndrome. Unfortunately, it died on the way home (as fish in plastic Home Depot buckets are wont to do). I kept it in the freezer for several months afterward, like some kind of incredibly creepy trophy. Sometimes, I’d chase my brother around the house with it. Every so often, I’d take it out to look at it and feel a tiny, bone-deep, neanderthal thrill of survival, as if this dead fish was an assurance that I’d be able to live on a deserted island for a really long time if I needed to.

I have not been fishing again.

It would probably surprise you to find out that I’m a devotee of Manannán mac Lir. It surprised the shit out of me when I finally came to that realization, I’ll tell you that much.

The Page of Wands means news and adventures. And now we’re going kayaking. Hopefully the devotee thing counts for something, because, after surviving almost drowning and whatever the hell I put in that fish bucket, I would not want to explain to my seafaring ancestors that I died in three feet of water because I kayaked wrong.

“Sure,” I reply, “This weekend.”

divination

The Five of Cups, the Whiny Card

It’s hard not to feel disproportionately let down by a minor disappointment sometimes. I mean, it’s in the word — a disappointment is a thing that disappoints. Even if it’s something small, that can suck.

I didn’t have a specific question in mind this week, I just wanted to draw a card to give me some clarity and something to think about. Go figure, I drew the Five of Cups… Or, as I like to think of it, “the whiny punkass card.”

Maybe I’m not being fair, though. This is also a card of bereavement, loss, and heartbreak. The thing is, those things can all be represented by other cards in the deck. The Five of Cups carries its own particular connotations here that they don’t.

Observe:

This guy is clearly upset about the three upended cups in front of him, and understandably so. What’re those things, gold? They’re probably pretty expensive cups full of some bomb-ass wine, or extremely fancy water. Here’s the thing, though: There isn’t even anyone else in the image. He’s probably the one who knocked them over in the first place. Even if he wasn’t, what did he do, leave his expensive cups alone on the ground where raccoons could get at them? Do not put your cups on the ground, guy, that idea is bad.

That’s not all. While he’s weeping into his cloak about his three dumped over cups, there are still two perfectly good cups behind him. Not only that, there’s a river like ten feet away. Just pick up your cups and go refill them, my dude. It would not even be difficult.

Anyway, I am sorry to say that this is pretty apt. I’ve experienced an extremely trivial disappointment (a payment processing company deemed my business against their TOS, and I don’t even have the energy to argue the point right now), and let it more or less ruin my night. This will not do. As much as it sucks to be made to feel like I’m not good enough for a credit card processing company (of all things), I have so much else I could be focusing on that isn’t that. I mean, they’re not even the only payment processing company I work with. This situation is literally less important than finding out that Mr. Yogato’s froyo place is out of bananas and Teddy Grahams.

That’s not the only disappointment I’ve had, but trust me, the other ones are even more laughable.

And yet… It stings and I complain.

I have more than two cups still full behind me. There are rivers around me. The loss is closer to a shot glass than it is to three chalices. It’s going to be okay.

divination, life

I apologize for my tardiness.

I ate most of my bodyweight in melon and pasta and, like the mighty African rock python consuming the equally mighty springbok, I needed to sleep on a warm rock and not move for an extended period of time.

Anyway. I’ve been doing a lot of considering re: the Jungian concept of the “shadow self.” It’s a topic I’d like to delve into further, but really deserves a post (or three, or four) of its own. Suffice it to say that I think it’s what’s making the pandemic especially difficult for a lot of people — when it’s hard to be in the same room as yourself, you’re not likely to enjoy having a lot of free time on your hands.

This led on a short free-association jaunt through various meditations, trance work, and sound healing, and I landed on a specific need: a guide to what I’m trying to fix in the first place. I know my faults, and I like to think I’m relatively self-aware, but there’s more to integration than that. There’s really no road map for how this kind of thing is supposed to go, though.

In my search, I came across the Cleansing the Soul tarot spread by Emerald Lotus Divination. “Sure,” I thought, “Why not?”

It’s not a super complicated spread, but it yields a lot of information — from the needs of the physical body, to the soul, to the inner child, to how to stay connected to your higher self. I’m not really under any illusion that the general public is super into my own inner journey here, but, if you’re curious about how a theoretical spread might look and how the cards relate to each other, this might be helpful.

I used the Animalis Os Fortuna deck, and my own spread shook out like this:

What my physical body needs: Nine of Wands, depicting the iguana. In this place, this appears to mean the need to push forward. I’ve been engaging in more physical activity, so the message here seems to be to keep at it, and keep increasing my reps. I even bought a sledgehammer to make a shovelglove!

What my soul needs: Five of Wands, depicting the axolotl. Struggles, obstacles, and rivalry. I’m competitive by nature. I’m at my best when I have an opponent, even if they don’t know they’re my opponent and I make no attempt to take the competition out of my own mind. It’s practically what the concept of Instagram hate following was made for, if you substitute “hate” with “rivalry.” I’m not too enlightened to enjoy opposition. Comparison isn’t always the thief of joy — a little healthy competition keeps life interesting, and helps spur me to be a better version of myself.

What my inner child needs: Two of Wands, depicting the salamander. A pause, and to bide my time. Considering a lot of what I’ve been struggling with lately are childhood memories, it sounds like my inner whelp needs a break. I don’t blame them.

How my shadow self is impacting my life: Knight of Swords, depicting the magpie. Impulsiveness, aggression, and overenthusiasm. Consequences, schmonsequences, he has things to do. He goes for what he wants, and everything else be damned. His intentions are pure, but he’s kind of a dick about them. That’s… Yeah, that sounds about right.

This magpie’s probably choosing a new victim to swoop on.

A way that I can begin to accept my shadow aspect: Five of Swords, depicting the peacock. Defeat, and suffering from egotism. There’s an interesting pathology that impacts people in relationships with others who show signs of narcissistic personality disorder, no matter whether those relationships are romantic or familial. Laconically, it’s usually called “fleas.” They’re behaviors that seem to “jump” from a narcissist to a victim, and, if they aren’t resolved, from that victim to their victims. Essentially, they’re protective mechanisms — tiny things you do to protect yourself from narcissistic rage and other forms of abuse at the hands of someone with a fragile, wounded ego.

I can see a flea here. My shadow self impacts my life by making me impulsive and aggressive. I jump from one thing to the next if I’m not immediately good at it, because my upbringing showed me that failure meant mockery and pain. Aggression was rewarded, while softer feelings were mocked and rooted out.

How to better process my emotions: Ace of Cups, depicting an overflowing vessel. Interestingly, this card stands for optimism and new opportunities. It also shows a cup overflowing, and the suit of Cups specifically relates to the emotional self. This cup runneth over, sharing its bounty. The advice here is to process feelings by sharing them.

Something I need to be more aware of: Ten of Swords, depicting the vulture. Oof. Vulture and I go way back, and he usually seems to show up when some kind of purging needs to or is about to happen. (Did you know that vultures sometimes eat so much that they can’t fly, and need to vomit before taking off? Fascinating! Also super gross!) The Ten of Swords is despair and ruin. It’s the end of a cycle, and the ending ain’t a happy one. In this context, it means to let go and be reborn. This cycle is over, and it sucked, so get ready to start a better one.

They also poop on their own legs to cool off.

How to stay more connected with my higher self: The Queen of Wands, depicting the cobra. I love the Queen of Wands. She stands for generosity, creativity, and drama. She has power and self-possession, she’s courageous and hot-tempered. She’s beauty, she’s grace, she can probably wreck your face. The lesson is to temper that power with kindness, and invest energy into creative work.

The pandemic has done everyone’s nerves up wretched, and I think the shadow self has a lot to do with that. It’s not easy to have a lot of time on your hands if you don’t enjoy your own company, and it’s also not a simple problem to solve. This tarot spread doesn’t offer a quick fix, but it does answer some important questions.

divination, Plants and Herbs

Gorse, and Ogham-led Healing

I’ve been doing A Thing.

Every day, I meditate. The form that takes may differ from one day to the next, but I’m still as consistent as possible. Lately, I’ve been using my little bag of driftwood Ogham staves to guide the process — I draw one, I interpret it, and I seek out a guided meditation that focuses on that meaning.

It’s a small thing, but it keeps every day from feeling the same. That’s something that I’ve really struggled with during social distancing, more than anything else. I like structure, but I chafe under sameness. I thrive when I have a schedule of some sort to stick to, but I need variety. Consistency is a blessing. Monotony is a curse.

My intuition is pretty good at guiding me to what I need.

Yesterday, it was Onn — the gorse.

It’s a bit hard to believe, looking at these thorny plants with their needlelike leaves, but gorse is a sign of hope. Even in Bach flower essences, gorse is indicated “when all hope is lost.” Gorse has also been used as protection, particularly against spiteful fairies and witches.

Their bright yellow flowers are associated with the Sun, but the plants themselves have a prickly, forbidding look. (So much so that it was said that gorse needed to be “subdued” — the old growth burned so new, tender shoots could take its place!) These spines serve two functions: they keep grazing animals from eating the plant, and they minimize water loss, allowing it to flourish in some of the most inhospitable areas. Despite its spines, gorse is excellent, nutritious fodder for animals, provided it is properly prepared.

All of these things mesh with gorse’s meaning as a symbol of hope. It grows in poor, thin soil in salty breezes, where other plants wouldn’t stand a chance. Its flowers arrive in spring, when the chill of winter is fading. It’s thorny, but those thorns hide sweet-smelling flowers, a source of food for large animals, and protection for small ones.

My therapist advised me to try to do one thing each day that is a source of joy. As time goes on and each day stretches into tedium, finding those things has become more difficult. (Familiarity breeds contempt, after all, and the things that brightened April’s days have lost some of their luster in July.) Gorse is a reminder of resilience, of hope, and of the cycle of the seasons. Things kind of suck right now, but this, too, will pass. It might require burning a lot of things down to the ground and starting over, like the new, tender gorse shoots, but it will pass.

A set of driftwood Ogham staves spilling from a turquoise and grey pouch.
divination, life

Tinne

It doesn’t really feel like holly season. I mean, it objectively isn’t the time when people start decorating their houses with spiky green foliage and bright red berries. Midsummer is when the Oak King is at the height of his power — though the Holly King begins to grow in strength as the days shorten, he won’t get the upper hand until the autumnal equinox.

Still, gauging by this week’s Ogham divination, it’s holly time for me.

(Interestingly, the holly of the Ogham is very likely not the tree we think of when we hear the word “holly.” Holly didn’t come to the British Isles until the 16th century, so this holly is most likely actually the holly oak.)

Holly, Tinne, is the art of war. It’s the energy that avoids becoming too impassioned in conflict — it waits for the right time to strike. It brings justice that is restoration, not revenge. It’s the knowledge obtained from a bird’s eye view.

Weapons and chariot wheels were made from holly’s hard, dense wood. Planted near a home, it protected it from lightning strikes and fire. Inside, it defended against hexes and malignant magic. Holly is a warrior.

In this case, tinne points to the need for a good defense. Someone — or something — has you ready to go to war, or forcing you to swim against the tide. Tinne underlines the importance of facing our fear of confrontation and loss, of reining in our emotions so we can make a wise decision.

This is something that’s at the forefront for me. In my personal life, the fear of confrontation is something I’ve been fighting for awhile. Externally, the U.S. continues to fight a battle against every kind of -ism, as well as against those who place the economy ahead of human lives. Every day feels like a fight against bigotry, ignorance, and dogma.

Holly is a tree of the dark half of the year. It’s a tree of war and protection. It’s also a tree of knowledge and divine retribution, though, and I think we could use that right now.

divination

A Tarot Reading from Mintcoven

Note: This post contains affiliate links to the tarot reader I chose. These allow me to earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting tarot readers and this site!

This week, I decided to have someone else pull some cards for me. I didn’t really have a question in mind — to be honest, it feels like a lot of my life has stalled lately. Even my therapist recently suggested making appointments “as needed” instead of regularly, since there’s not much going on. So, I asked Mintcoven for a general three card reading, just to see what messages I should be receiving.

Mint responded shortly afterward with a very thorough analysis and a picture of the reading itself.

And would you look at those reversals!
(Also how cool is this deck?)

The Emperor reversed represents a loss of power — not surprising to me, considering the entire country right now. We’ve more or less surrendered to COVID-19, the ruling class is profiteering with impunity, progress toward justice seems painfully slow at times, and “U.S. Soldier Admits Plotting With Neo-Nazi Cult to Kill Fellow Troops” is a real headline. Point being, it gets hard not to feel a loss of power sometimes. So, Emperor reversed. I get it.

Next is The Chariot reversed. Mint said that this card, paired with The Emperor, represents a spiritual unrest. I feel this pretty hard, too. Isolation makes me feel disconnected — not necessarily from people (as I said yesterday, there are advantages to solitary ritual), but from nature. The cycle of life. The world. I feel like a weed that’s been uprooted from the edge of the sidewalk and put in a pot on the windowsill. Safe, yes. Cared for, yes. But potting soil and glass aren’t the same as dirt and sun. In some senses, I’m spiritually at peace. In others, I’m chafing.

Mint went on to explain that this probably isn’t a super prominent spiritual unrest, but a loss of intuitive guidance and path making. It’s true — every day is more or less the same. There isn’t much to orient myself by, and I have noticed myself doing more trancework, seeking more dream symbolism, doing everything short of reading gallons worth of tea leaves to get some message to hold onto.

Because this is happening on an intuitive and spiritual level, the suggestion here was to get ready for an info dump from my guides, particularly those traditionally considered “feminine.” This is part of a balance that is shifting and recalibrating itself.

The last card is The Priest reversed. This points to letting go of values that were put on me by tradition or other external forces, and a challenge to how I used to live. For the next few weeks, I’m to keep my eyes peeled for messages, and signs of things that are no longer working getting themselves out of my way.

Mint wrapped up the reading with the suggestion to journal my dreams and write down everything that seems significant. This is a big shift, and there probably isn’t one little sign or symbol that will let me make sense of it — this is big picture stuff.

The good news is, I’m probably not going it alone. Others are going through this reawakening too, so I won’t have to travel this road by myself. Are you one of them?