Thoughts, lessons, and theology from an eclectic witch from a varied background.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I recommend this: Items edition.

I apologize for this post being a day late. The last few days have been busy and complicated with all the fun things that go into being a parent. Anyone who has done the last minute costume shuffle for a small child will know exactly what I am talking about.

For many Samhain/Tamala/Halloween marks the beginning of the new liturgical year. It is good to start things out with fresh supplies and materials. I do most of my record keeping longhand in bound books. I started out with the inexpensive notebooks and discovered that they didn't last very long. A notebook is not designed for years of use, sadly. Over the years, I have tried different systems for keeping track of my volumes of materials.

I keep coming back to a hand written journal format. I like to use books from Paperblanks and from Markings. Both brands have sturdy cloth bindings and archival quality paper. I have gotten years of use from my books with very little apparent wear. I have used both the lined and unlined versions of these books. I prefer the lined because then I write larger than I do with the unlined.

My pens are also archival quality. I prefer calligraphy pens. It is something that appeals to me on an artistic sense. The times where I am not using a calligraphy pen, I am using a fountain pen. The calligraphy pen is from Sheaffer. It is their classic model. The fountain pen I use is from Parker and it is the Premier pen. On occasion, I will use a Speedball dip pen and India ink. This usually is for a written spell on parchment because I don't have the patience to wait for my pages to dry if I'm writing in my book of shadows. If I am looking to use a pen that is just for quick work and I don't need high quality from it, I will get the Elegant Writer calligraphy pens and use them. At the very bottom end of the spectrum, I will use a Pilot G2 pen for fast work on the go.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Interlude: Regarding the commotion of Atheist Pagan stuff.

I am taking a moment to step away from my preferred presentation of the functional knowledge of witchcraft and the basics of devotional relationships with the Divine. I suspect that many of my new readers are here because of a certain big name atheist pagan blogger's upset with myself and my previous post. I knew that weighing in on atheist pagans was going to net me some attention but I did not anticipate this. It was not my intention, as much as it was an effort draw attention to the hostility that has been directed towards just about everyone who doesn't agree.

Because I am sure many of you are curious as to my feelings on the push back that is happening in my direction. I am sure that there is a great deal of interest as to how I am going to respond and what I may add to the 'fight' going on via the blogosphere. I do have something to say on this and it is very simple.

I am a devotional polytheist. I am a mystic and a seer. The fact that other people may claim that I am not these things or declare that I am deluded is just something that is going to happen. Their opinions are not made true with how loudly or viciously they declare them. I wasn't aware of the kerfluffle until some associates of mine mentioned that I had managed to ruffle some feathers. I didn't think much of it until I saw Ms. Krasskrova's post in defense of myself.

I had two responses to this knowledge. First, I admit it, I was amused and surprised. In the grand scheme of things, I am not a major player of any fashion. I am simply an opinionated person who is working to establish themselves in their chosen profession, writing. So, I must take a moment to thank Mr. Halstead for his unintentional promotion of my work. If he wishes to continue to take up criticism and spiteful comments regarding myself, so be it. I will sit back and let him make people curious about what I really have to say. In the end, he is doing a significant amount of promotional work for me.

So, thank you Mr. Halstead. I am sure this is not what you intended. Nor do I think you intended to amuse me with your antics, but you have immensely. You have claimed that the gods are 'sad and small' but your very loud protestations do not speak well of your position. I am mildly concerned that you may have some insecurities on these matters because of how hostile your responses are. I would advise you to pray and meditate upon what troubles you so much about this, but I know that you believe such actions are useless or masturbatory. Do what you must to soothe your troubled breast. I sincerely hope that this gives you the catharsis you seek and restores some degree of peace.

My second response to this matter is to draw attention to the 'loudness' of these cries. Something that I learned years ago is that when someone feels they can not win an argument, they attempt to intimidate their opponent into silence with the volume and viciousness of their attacks. I encourage everyone to note this and question it. Why would someone who is supposedly so secure in their position become nigh hysterical at the first sign of opposition? Especially when this opposition comes from a relatively unknown source with very little weight in the social set that you move in. It is curious and questionable.

I invite Mr. Halstead to have an open and reasoned discussion upon the matter. It is possible that I have misunderstood what Atheist Pagan means. I invite him to explain how his position is different from Secular Humanism. I invite him to inform me as to how I misinterpreted the information he has presented. Please, Mr. Halstead, explain to me how calling my gods 'sad and small' is part of a respectful debate or discussion? From my vantage point, I see only insults given and opinion being bandied about.

Opinion is not the same as fact. Conjecture is not the same as fact. I would have thought that those who were engaged in serious philosophical discussion of these matters would have recognized this. I would have assumed that someone who has even a passing acquaintance with the rudimentary concepts of theology would have preferred to keep the discussion upon established topics, such as the existence of the gods, rather than devolving their argument into mere accusations.

My assertions that the power players within the Atheist Pagan community's public arena have taken virulent and hostile positions against polytheists (and theists at large) within the pagan community are only given additional weight by the aggressive response. If you wish to prove me wrong, conduct your discussion in such a manner where you can do so.

Until that time, I continue to stand by my positions from earlier.*


* I would like it noted that I do not believe that all Atheist Pagans are like Mr. Halstead. I am sure that there is a sizeable population who are far more reasonable in their bearing and demeanor. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that they may disagree with Mr. Halstead's chosen methodology of expressing his positions. I ask those Atheist Pagans who are of a more reasonable demeanor to speak up. Please, do not allow a minority who are clearly not a representative of your collective body present as your public face. Show us who you are. We are our deeds.

Spellcraft: Psychic Tides

There is an image that is firmly fixed in the imagination of the Western society. It envisions witches gathered in some lonely place or elsewhere in secret under the light of the full moon to engage in their craft. A related, much more modern addition to this folkloric image, is that of a cult of occultists gathered during the new moon engaged in some sort of 'dark' ritual. Usually both images are something that is supposed to be shocking and lurid. While these images are false, they do touch upon something that is true.

Through out a given month, there are times where the psychic energy of the world is more accessible than others. The energies of increase are tied to the waxing of the moon, reaching their apex with the full moon. The energies of decrease are tied to the waning of the moon, reaching their greatest strength with the night of the new moon. Spells that are aligned with concepts of increase are most effective when the tide of increasing energy is rising. The spells aligned with concepts of decrease are most effective when the tide of decreasing energy is rising.

It is possible to do a spell focused upon increasing or decreasing during the time where the psychic tides are focused elsewhere. The spell may need to be reworded and redesigned to accommodate how the world's energy flows. Astrological orientation has an influence upon how the world's energy flows as well, but it is complementary to the major psychic tides influenced by the moon.

The full moon is a unique position that is especially well suited for general purpose magic. It is the apex of the energies of increase but it is also the final stage of it, thus lending an emphasis upon the aspects of decrease. The new moon is similar but it has less of a tie to the energies of increase than the full moon does to the energies of decrease. The first few degrees of the moon illuminated following the new moon are more strongly tied to the energies of increase than the new moon itself. As such, many treat the new moon as the 'dark' moon and the time where the energies of decrease are greatest and the energies of increase are functionally not at play.

Some argue that the shift from increase to decrease is the ebbing of psychic tides and the shift from decrease to increase are the rising of the psychic tide. This is actually among the most common perspectives on this matter. Thus when a general practitioner of modern, Western pagan magic states that the psychic tide is high, they're referring to the energies of increase. I have moved away from this position because it does not accurately reflect that the opposing energies are present at all times.

The psychic energies of increase and decrease can not be completely divorced from each other. They are tied together in a symbiotic relationship where one can not exist with out the other. It partly for this reason that magic can be conducted using any sort of psychic energy because fundamentally, the psychic energy of the world is neutral.

Video Post - Two for One day!

I encourage everyone to be safe and smart with their magical workings this time of year. The waning moon throws a lot more energy into 'dark' workings than usual because of its proximity to Samhain/Tamala/Halloween. The psychic tides are still fairly high because of the recent full moon. If you are going to be doing magic over the next several days, make sure that your personal protections are firmly in place and you are following your procedures closely.

Remember, every action produces a chain of effects. Somewhere along the line, some of those effects are going to include you.What ever magical working you do over the next little while, make sure that you are prepared to handle those consequences. Also, all of the safety measures you take with dealing with invoking the dead should be taken in dealing with spiritual beings. More about this in the next video below.

This is the time of year that many people will try out evocation for the first time. Generally, the first attempt at evocation is necromancy because they're trying to summon the dead. Evocation is not as hard as some people would describe it. The truly challenging part is discerning if the being answering the call is whom you summoned. This is one of the reasons why necromancers prefer to use something that had a connection with the dead. It can be anything from a lock of hair to a gift they had given the client or a prayer card. The item works as a beacon and strengthens the call to that specific spirit.

Be advised, there is a change that what answers the call is not necessarily who you intended to summon. Most of the time, the imposters are there to play some sort of a joke or other wise present something false but relatively harmless. There are times, however, that a truly malevolent entity will seek to cause distress and harm to the unwary practitioners. This is why it is vitally important that you keep your personal safety protections in place and keeping your ritual space well protected as well. This is the reason why so many occult practitioners use a magic circle. It acts as a sphere of protection for all who are within it.

There are three rules to evocation.

1. Don't call up what you can not lay to rest.
2. Be precise in your summoning. The more detailed and specific your evocation, the better.
3. Don't jump to do whatever the one you summoned tells you to do. Use your critical reasoning skills. Think before you act.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Divination: Tarot Spreads (post II)

Bob and Wheel is the name of this tarot spread. The name comes from an ancient English poetry structure. I've inverted the structure a little here. The wheel comes before the bob, but it doesn't change how useful this spread is. An 18 card spread, the Bob and Wheel is a very detailed spread. It was an expansion off of the basic Wheel spread that I came upon trying to clarify information in the midst of a reading for a client years ago.

position 1: querent at present - This card indicates the state of the querent at the time the query is made. It could address the querent's personal state or major details about the present moment.

position 2: root of the situation - This card presents what was the prime factor that lead to the development of the situation. It can range from some external factor to something that was internal to the principle actors, often with an indication as to who those actors are.

position 3: deep past influences - Like all deep past cards, this position reaches back to draw forward details about the events and influences at play at the beginning of all things.

position 4: developing past influence - This card shows the evolution of the scenario coming up to the immediate past.

position 5: major player in past developments - The individual(s) indicated in this card are the persons who were crucial in how things reached the point they are presently at. At times, this card will not indicate a person, per se, but rather a crucial element to the situation. Thus it may happen that an item or an event will be portrayed.

position 6: present situation - This position indicates the present situation in its full scope. It may at times indicate persons who are major players in the situation at this time.

position 7: immediate future w/o change - The trends and immediate events coming to the querent are presented in this card. This future image is based strictly on the conditions as the are at the time of the query with out any changes or input into the situation.

position 8: what querent is seeking in situation - This card clarifies what the querent is looking to find or resolve in the situation. This at times reveals hidden details about the querent's desires with respect to the situation.

position 9: influence of people around querent - The people surrounding the querent will have an influence on how events unfold. This card summarizes that influence.

position 10: influence of querent's environment - The querent's environment also has a role on how the situation will resolve itself and what will unfold. This card summarizes those influences.

position 11: fate's influence - The unknown (could be described as fate, the hand of god, etc.) always plays a role in how things develop. This card gives some indication as to what that will be.

position 12: long term outcome w/o change - This presents the long term outcome of the situation with out any changes in the present. It is a bit more of a far reaching version of position 7.

position 13: marker of querent on the right direction - The first marker indicating that they are moving in the direction that they wish to is presented in this card. It can be anything from an item to a person, to a situation.

position 14: first challenge encountered - The querent will encounter challenges along their path to resolving the situation. This card illustrates the first major challenge.

position 15: 2nd marker of querent on the right direction - This card indicates the second major marker that the querent is moving in the correct direction. The same considerations from reading position 13 comes into play here.

position 16: second challenge encountered - Like position 14, this card illuminates the next major challenge that the querent will face in their efforts to reach their goal.

position 17: major pit fall to avoid - Unlike positions 14 and 16, this card indicates the major trap that could completely derail the querent's successful completion of their goal. It may be foreshadowed in cards 14 or 16 but sometimes it is entirely separate. It is, most of the time, a negative card position that indicates problems and difficulties.

position 18: outcome if querent successfully navigates challenges and 'trap' - The final position of the spread indicates the outcome of the situation if the querent successfully navigates the challenges and avoids the major pit fall. It will have elements from the cards at position 7 and 12, in most cases. Sometimes, however, it reflects something entirely different. This, however, does not diminish the accuracy of this position. It simply illustrates that there are additional factors in motion with this card than were present in the other two.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Break in Posting.

Hi there, everyone!

Life has gotten complicated around my house. As a result, I will have to take the week off from posting new material. Look for new stuff next Sunday. I will be cogitating on what to post as I run in circles doing Mom-stuff. Please, if you have any questions or any topics you wish to see me address, let me know in the comments or via email.

I hope you all have a wonderful week. Thanks again for reading and I apologize for the disruption.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Your UPG is wrong! Or is it?

I have noticed a trend that is present in the pagan community. This general push that says someone's UPG is wrong because it doesn't fit the speaker's idea of what it should be. This tends to lead to the person with the 'wrong' UPG getting mocked, harassed, or shunned. I am not amused. I have a very simple position on this.

We can never know the full complexity of the universe. We can never know the fullness of another person's experience. And we can never communicate the fullness of our own experiences. These three things are simple facts about existence. Pretty much everyone from any walk of life can agree on this, if they're being reasonable.

These three facts means we must make allowances for other people having experiences that are completely different from our own possibly being valid. If someone insists that they are other-souled, then we need to accept the possibility that they are. To a very large extent, we don't know what precisely is going on when it comes to spiritual aspects of existence. There is a reason why there is a plethora of religions out there. There is a reason why there are as many theories about the nature of the soul and its existence as there are. This reason is because we all have limited knowledge and differing perspectives.

There is no need to mock others for their statements with respect to themselves. These are beliefs they hold about the nature of their being. Some are going to be strange. Some are going to make sense. And there is going to be a percentage that is symptomatic of some kind of problematic thinking. We don't need to attack each other over disagreements.

As someone who struggles with the problematic thinking part in several areas, I can tell you right now that attacking someone who has an inaccurate worldview and distorted beliefs is not going to help. It will have one of two effects. It will either ensure that the person is not going to listen to you or it is going to cause greater harm. If you sincerely believe that someone's beliefs are distorted and unhealthy, you try to present a case as to how it is wrong and get them to see reason. Failing that, you may attempt to get them help to see it. Or you stop discussing the distorted beliefs, giving this person no platform to further entrench the system or draw you into somehow supporting it.

Be reasonable, people. Think about it with some empathy. Because someone out there is going to say that your UPG is wrong and believe it a sign of problematic thinking.

Pagans behaving badly

So, I am a little bit late to the party on this one. Honestly, I had hoped that it would all pass me by and I could watch from the sidelines. Then, I discovered that one of the searches that has brought people to my blog was "Nonoriel Lokison, abuse" and I realized I had to say something. Now, I personally have something of a professional acquaintance with Sebastian Lokison (because he chose to go by his actual name rather than Nonoriel not long ago and I recognize and honor that). What I'm going to say today, however, has zero to do with Sebastian Lokison. If you wanted me to gossip about someone I know, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you wanted my thoughts on the services and products that Mr. Lokison provides, it is something for an entirely different post so you'll have to wait for that.

No, my post today is addressing the behavior of these folks who are running the rumor mill. Look, I understand that there are people who are upset with Mr. Lokison's past behavior regarding themselves. I fully understand that they might be feeling the need for vindication, validation, or something else that makes them feel better about themselves or their role in the situation. Feelings like that are very strong and can lead to rash actions. There is, however, something to be said about something said in the height of frustration and something to be said about creating an active smear campaign to somehow punish the person you're upset with.

The petty behavior of generating spiteful rumors is something that should have been left behind when we outgrew childhood. The practice of perpetuating said rumors is also something that we should have outgrown. I can appreciate someone saying something about bad service they've received or how they disagree with someone's UPG. Engaging in slander, however, is terrible behavior, has legal repercussions, and makes you look like a childish fool. We are not only making ourselves look bad with this rumor mongering.

This kind of behavior is exactly why the pagan faiths are not taken seriously. This childish mistreatment of others who don't fit into the cliques that form or don't have the 'right' position on matters makes the whole community look bad. If you have a personal disagreement with someone, you deal with them personally. You keep that business private. If you must seek someone to mediate the disagreement, then the matter still remains private. The mediator should have the professionalism and discretion not to talk about other people's business. The persons involved in mediation should have the self respect not to engage in childish, backbiting behavior. If you don't respect the other person, that's fine. You don't have to. But acting like a petulant child who wants to make someone else miserable because you're not happy with them makes you look bad.

We don't see this kind of behavior in the 'respected' faith communities of the over-culture. Perhaps this is because they recognize that acting in such an immature fashion makes them look like they have no maturity themselves and calls into question their system of beliefs. Because if the people representative of a faith system act like petulant children, they become the laughing stock and object of scorn by others around them. Don't believe me, look at how people view Westborough Baptist Church. They are an embarrassment to the entire Christian community and are generally scorned by the rest of the community.

If you want your faith to be taken seriously, act with some maturity and decorum. Don't air dirty laundry, get into public screaming matches, or otherwise act like you're a person lacking in self discipline and the social skills expected of an adult in our society. Don't like what someone is saying? Don't listen to them. If you believe their behavior or espoused beliefs are dangerous to the welfare of the community, disagree respectfully. Don't resort to ad hominem attacks.

It is possible to despise someone and conduct yourself in a manner that is respectful, mature, and professional. Having disagreements devolve into proverbial scat flinging matches is not going to resolve any problems. And insisting that someone who disagrees with you is somehow subhuman and unworthy of the basic dignity that should be extended to other people within our society is reprehensible.

TL:DR - Pagan community, straighten up and stop acting like children. The world is watching and you're making all of us look bad. You're hurting your own cause with this nonsense.

Friday, October 16, 2015

I Recommend This: Items edition.

I don't have a lot of ritual tools. What I have, however, has been collected over the years with an emphasis upon making sure they are multipurpose. My ritual tools are well suited to both kitchen witchery and stealth witchery. Because, at various points in my life, I had to hide my practice. It wasn't fun, but I found ways to work around the problems that came up.

I have a wooden spoon (it is actually my favorite one) that I use as a wand when I'm practicing magic in the kitchen. I also have used my favorite wooden crochet hook as a wand as well. (Yes, I include a little magic into the things I make.) I have also used my favorite pen as a wand in the past. (Super effective for a college student, actually.)

I have an herb cutting knife that I also use as my ritual knife. It gets used to help me harvest herbs off of my plants, trim stuff that needs trimmed, and, at one point, as a kitchen knife. (Obviously, I was the thing and I keep it very sharp.) I have used it in ritual for pretty much everything you'd use a ritual knife for. I have also used a letter opener for a ritual knife. Not as effective as my herb knife, but it works. And, I have used a pocket knife for a ritual knife. It worked out really well until the knife began to have age related problems. (It was a folding knife that didn't stay open after a while.) And, lastly, I have used an arrowhead as a ritual knife. It may not look as pretty or impressive as the others, but it is still really effective. (Depending on the stone and the magic you're doing, it can be more effective, i.e. using an obsidion arrowhead for fire magic works REALLY well.)

Any sort of open container can be used for a ritual chalice. (Yes, that means a beer can, if you're going to redneck it up.) I have used shells, stones with a small dip in them, drinking glasses, clay bowls, goblets, and (once) a bottle cap. Super small ritual chalices are a bit hard to work with, but they can be effective. I'm sure with a little ingenuity and effort, some one could find away to make a Barbie doll glass work for this. (If you do, I want to hear about it because it sounds really interesting.)

Any container that you use for a ritual chalice can double for a cauldron in many cases. You can also use your cook pots for this purpose. (Which is what a cauldron was used for back in the old days.) Be careful that you clean out the stuff that isn't safe for consumption if you are using your cooking pots or dedicate just one for the purpose. I have a soup pot that I use, just make sure that pot has a heavy base to it. Something like heavy weight steel or cast iron are good options because they can stand up better to open flame than something like copper clad steel (Revereware) or aluminum. (99.9% of the spells I do using a cauldron are all involving food safe elements.)

A paten is a ritual plate. Pretty much any small flat surface can be used as one. I've used everything from a small flat stone (it was a fairy focused ritual) to one of my kitchen plates to a pot holder for this purpose. Yes, paper plates can be an effective tool. So can a dish that you set plants in. A piece of paper really doesn't work well (though it is an option in theory) because it generally isn't sturdy enough to hold stuff up. But you could use a bit of cardboard.

You can find ritual tools anywhere. Just look around and be creative. And the creativity is a good thing because it lends a bit more of your energy to your magic. Also, be practical when ever you are doing something that would involve food and the consumption there of. You don't want to use a pewter bowl for something you're going to eat because of the lead content, for example.

Have a beautiful day, folks!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Video Message: Carpe Diem.

Hi everybody.

Today was a bit hard for me. This morning, I was helping out some with going through the belongings of my late grandparents. It really was coincidence that I wound up dressed as though I was in mourning, but it feels right. The message today is not the pleasantry I want to post every week. I apologize for that.

But I came away from going through my deceased grandmother's knitting needles (and finding an unfinished project) with the feeling that I should remind you to seize the moment. Take hold of your loved ones and let them know how much they mean to you. Don't let the good things in life pass you by unappreciated. And even in a boring 'normal' day there is a lot of good things. Sometimes that cup of coffee in the morning is just what you need or the pile of dirty dishes in the sink remind you that you're fortunate to have them, food to eat, and a means to prepare it.

Take some time today and fill your heart with gratitude and the joy of being alive. Tomorrow is not promised to us and there may not be time to put off your heart's desires any longer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

30 Days for Freyr: Day IX

I had a whole post. Then it vanished off the screen. I'm a bit upset. But, I'm going to give this another shot.

Freyr has been doing something that confuses me. He's been acting as this cross between cheerleader, therapist, and spiritual adviser. I tried to argue with him that it wasn't necessary and it turns into a discussion about why it is necessary and a dissection of why I resist it. When I find myself powerfully tempted to fall back into the verbally self-abusive pattern of behavior, some sign of Freyr shows up. It can be a faint whiff of the smell of ripe grain or a deer suddenly making its presence known where there previously wasn't one.

A part of me wants to flee this kindness. It is the same part that insists that no matter what I've done, I have not earned it. Freyr, Loki, and my Beloved have all said that this part is filled with lies. It tells me that I don't deserve to live and that I'm doomed to failure. It tells me that any success I have is the result of capricious good luck or other people lowering the standards so that I could get it done.

One of the few times I have actually seen Freyr angry was when this had a grip on me. He took my by the shoulders and shook me pretty hard one time. I flinched and looked up at him. He told me that I was not this thing that I was describing. He said that I was going to see it but until then, this thing will be imprisoned. Then he took hold of something in the region of the back of my head and pulled.

It felt like something was literally being pulled out of my innards. He held this thing that looked like pulsing red and blue light. He dropped it into a box, locked it, and put it on his ship. "Every time it gets a hold of you, put it in a box and on my ship," he said.

So, when I have the clarity of mental thought to do that, I do. Between all my anxieties (which I've been told to box and put on his ship as well) and the repeated times that this thing pop up, I have been putting a lot of boxes on that ship. A small piece of me feels guilty for it. Freyr's said, however, that it makes good ballast and that he is going to take care of it. I want to give him the best of me but all these boxes hold what feels to be the worst of me.

But, this is what he said I should do and he will take care of it. So, I am going to trust him and keep doing this.

Rubus Occidentalis (Black Caps)

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Today's post is going to contain a lot of folk lore that I was handed down by my family. Some of it may sound a little weird, but from my experience 99% of it worked.

Rubus Occidentalis (also known as wild black raspberry, black caps, thimbleberry, and scotch caps) is a very common plant in western New York state (where I live). The official range where black caps can be found in the wild is through out North America. They very closely resemble raspberries. Like the raspberry, they share the white underside of the leaves, a fruit that is made up of druplets, similar flowers, and the thorny stems. It is argued that black caps have more thorns on their stems than raspberries. I personally don't know if this is true.

Black caps are ripe around midsummer in my region. As a child, I would go out with my brothers and pick them for our Mom to use in jam. We regularly at about half of what we picked. I was taught that the leaves picked around midsummer had the proper medicinal quality to treat premenstrual cramps and help lift the depression that women in my family experienced due to their menses. I was told that if you drank black raspberry leaf tea not at these times, it acted as a mild sedative.

We were taught that the fruit, consumed in large quantities, had a laxative effect. And, honestly, that one is absolutely true. It didn't stop my brother and I from eating what seemed like half our weight in black caps when they were ripe. At one point, one of us (I don't remember now if it was myself or one of my brothers.) was struggling with constipation. Our grandmother gave three teaspoonfuls of her black raspberry jam. It was no longer a problem after that. It was, however, not as effective as the plum jelly.

We were also taught that by looking through the canes of the plant around sunset, we could see nature spirits moving about the land. We were also taught that picking unripe berries off the plant discourages it producing more on that cane next year. The one bit of folk lore that made the biggest impression on me was one that came from one of my aunts. She told me that the Queen of the Fairies had her summer chariot made from a whole black cap berry, (The winter one being made from half of an empty hazelnut.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lesson: Psychic Self Defense 101

Here is the complete list of posts addressing this topic. Questions regarding a given post should be posted in the comments for that post.

Psychic Self Defense 101: Intro

Psychic Self Defense 101: Shields pt 1

Psychic Self Defense 101: Shields pt 2

Psychic Self Defense 101: Shields pt 3

Psychic Self Defense 101: Active Defense Techniques I

Psychic Self Defense 101: Active Defense Techniques II

Psychic Self Defense 101: Active Defense Techniques III

Psychic Self Defense 101: Active Defense Techniques IV

Psychic Self Defense 101: Counter-Curses

Psychic Self Defense 101: Avoiding Conflict

Psychic Self Defense 101: Avoiding Conflict

This is perhaps the most important lesson of the series. While conflict is going to happen at some point in time, it is possible to avoid it. It is best to maintain a scenario where psychic attack is not likely to occur because it is, honestly, easier than remaining constantly on guard for attack. Some of the things that can be done to maintain a reduced possibility of psychic attack is rooted to some extent in the defensive measures that can be taken when an attack is underway.

The use of a protective talisman can serve to prevent an attack when created to do so. This function is similar to the apotropaic charms painted upon buildings or included in their construction. It serves to create a space where psychic and magical assaults can not happen. They are turned aside and nullified by the talisman. This is similar to putting on a kevlar vest before going out into the world. Yes, it is a little awkward to wear at times and may not be used all that often. But it will work to stop an attack cold in its tracks before it can hit you, much like the kevlar stops the bullet from hitting the person wearing it.

Maintaining discretion as to when you interact with the world via your psychic and magical abilities is also very good for preventing a psychic attack. This is akin to a person who knows martial arts not showing off what they know to every passerby. It makes you blend in with the general crowd and it also keeps the knowledge of your abilities to yourself. This makes you a less interesting target. It also prevents some one from deciding to challenge you because you have a measurable level of skill. Additionally, it has the benefit of keeping the potential attacker unaware of your skills, which makes them consider if you have greater skill than they do.

Avoiding places with significant amounts of miasma is good for you in more ways than just your spiritual health. Sites where there is a great deal of miasma lower your psychic defensive capabilities, as the miasma will draw off your spiritual energy. This serves to leave you with reduced psychic reserves to draw upon in the event of an attack or to maintain your spiritual welfare in the midst of one.

Also, avoiding people who are known for psychically attacking others is a good idea. This one is a bit trickier because not everyone will talk about psychic attacks for fear that they will be considered 'crazy' and in many cases the psychic attack isn't recognized. Persons of a hostile demeanor who are generally malevolent in their interactions with the world are frequently perpetrators of psychic attacks. Also, it is a good idea to avoid people who are known for their energetic vampirism. (I'll cover psychic vampirism in a post in the near future. Classic signs of it are people coming away from the experience feeling drained, mildly depressed, and lethargic.)

With a little preparation and careful awareness of the situation, it is possible to avoid most psychic attacks entirely. When the inevitable attack does come, remain calm and address it using the defensive techniques you are most familiar with.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cartomancy: Tarot Spreads (Part I)

As I mentioned last week, I have devised a few spreads of my own to use with Tarot cards. I am sure that somewhere out there, someone has spreads similar and that these are extremely generic. I want to preface the rest of this post with the statement that I have no intention of infringing on someone's copyright or anything similar. Disclaimer mentioned, let's get to the cards.

Above is my love spread. Yes, it is cheezy and in the shape of a heart. All dorkiness aside, this is a really easy spread to use and I generally get fairly detailed results. It is most effective used for established relationships. Start throwing unknowns as to who the players are in the relationship and things get a bit muddied.

Position 1: Querent at this time

Position 2: Querent's significant other at this time

Position 3: How the querent views their significant other

Position 4: What the state of the relationship is

Position 5: How the querent's significant other views them

Position 6: Major detail that the querent must consider with respect to their role in the relationship

Position 7: Major detail that the querent must consider with respect to their significant other's role in the relationship

Position 8: Summary of all cards and/or future outlook of the relationship

Above is my hidden truth spread. In some ways it is an expansion of the basic 3 card spread. The top row is the details about the situation from an outside perspective. The middle row is what is immediately apparent about the situation. And the bottom row is what is not clearly visible about the situation. The leftmost trio of cards handle the past. The central trio handle the present. And the rightmost trio of cards address the future.

Next week, I'll post two more spreads. Have a lovely day, everyone!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pagan Atheism, is this a thing?

There has been some noise through the pagan blogosphere about pagan atheism versus polytheism versus paganism at large. I became first aware of the conflict between the three groups through Galina Krasskrova's blog. It is a long standing issue that is creating some strife. I usually wouldn't wade into muddied waters such as these because of how heated the positions are. I can not, however, stand by and watch as the polytheists and theists of the pagan community are derided.

Pagan atheism is described by author Stifyn Emrys as a pagan belief by way of its reverence for nature. He then continues to describe what differentiates pagan atheism from pagan beliefs. He fails, however, to clearly delineate the difference between pagan atheism and secular humanism. The predominant qualities of pagan atheism, as can be determined from Emrys's article are the following:

  • Reverence for nature
  • Atheistic positions regarding deities
  • Science based positions regarding philosophy
  • A rejection of dogma and related organized religious traits
If you take a moment to consider this description and that of secular humanism, you will find the two groups indistinguishable. This should indicate how pagan atheism is a misnomer. Those who uphold the idea of pagan atheism should be viewed in askance. Paganism is defined as the belief in deities that are outside of the Abrahamic model and not part of other major established faith practices such as Buddhism or Hinduism. 

The term pagan is derived from 'country dweller' in the Roman empire era of history. This was a term that was scornful and used to describe the 'unsophisticated' and 'backward' people who did not convert to Christianity with its adoption by Emperor as the state religion. These people continued in their polytheistic belief systems, in many cases at a political and social disadvantage as Christianity gained in strength. Modern day pagans practice their faith within belief systems that worships deities separate from the Christian faith (which is frequently the dominant faith where paganism is present in the Western world).

Paganism can not be divorced from theism in any of its many manifestations. Belief in deities is a defining characteristic of paganism. It is nonsensical to argue that one can be pagan and an atheist at the same time. The cognitive dissonance that comes from combining the two systems of thought renders application of this supposed belief system null. At best, you have someone who is an agnostic with heavy leanings towards humanistic belief systems. At worst, you have someone who is hostile to paganism in any of its manifestations.

The aggressive positioning of prominent figures within this group such as John Halstead is not based in a desire for discourse. Indeed, when these people are confronted with their frequently derisive treatment of theist positions, they argue that they are personally being attacked when it is the ideas they ascribe to being called into question. I would like to give these people the charitable consideration that perhaps they are confusing an aggressive rebuttal with an ad hominem attack. I can't not help, however, questioning their motivations in attacking theists.

The argument that all challenges to their assertions are ad hominem attacks is an attempt to obsfucate the real problem here. The pagan atheist cultus are almost as aggressive in their proselytizing and attack of belief systems they do not agree with as the evangelical christian believers are. This appears not to be the action of a few lone wolves out to make a name for themselves. It appears to be an integral part of their belief system. It appears that they have an unspoken mission to deride and decry any and all theistic beliefs as willful ignorance and primitive.

In the course of my doing research for this post, I looked at quite a few pagan atheist blogs. This is a consistent pattern of behavior. This is something that we should not tolerate. I recognize there will be ideological spats between different faith systems within the pagan community. The hard polytheists regularly have it out with the soft polytheists. You can almost set a watch by how frequently those conflicts happen. Neither group, however, presumes to tell the other that their beliefs are backwards or primitive. They both agree that deities exist. The argument is how to approach said deities and what the nature of these deities are.

The aggressive posturing of the atheist pagans is something that should give the rest of the pagan community pause. Within the community, there is a voice that is belittling the whole of the community and working to spread strife. It is something that we should not tolerate. Because the whole of the community should not be subjected to such scorn in return for the tolerance of differing belief systems. The pagan atheist community is actively working to undermine the defining traits of the pagan community whilst attempting to seek shelter in that larger community.

This must not be tolerated because it will lead to an erosion of the cohesion of the pagan community. Granted, the pagan community is about as organized as herd of cats. (Actually a herd of cats would be more organized.) But there is the ability for the different pagan belief systems to work together and advocate for greater recognition by the dominant faith systems within the larger group. Pagan atheism is actively seeking to splinter paganism and restore the 'order' wherein said belief systems are decried and scorned in favor of more 'tolerable' and 'modern' ones. This is no different from when the evangelical christian community pushes for laws to be made against our faith practices.

Let pagan atheism be what it actually is. Pagan atheism is secular humanism. Let us know them by their true name and deal with them on our own terms. Allowing them to define the discussion (which they have been doing thus far in many cases) is leading to a denigration of all pagan belief systems. We must stand up and calmly refute their positions and reassert that we're an equally valid belief system, regardless of what pagan belief system we practice.

Partial List of Blogs Consulted:

Identity Break from Stifyn Emrys
Allergic Pagan from John Halstead
Atheist, Polyamorus Skeptics from shaunphilly et al.
Musings of a Lapsed Pagan from Timmy!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Spirits, spirits everywhere. And not enough to drink.

My home has been referred to by my psychic friends as the spectral airport or the psychic UN. To say that there is a lot of paranormal activity is a little bit of an understatement. I know part of this is due to the fact that the building we live in is haunted. The ghost that haunts the building seems to favor our apartment. He (because I think it is a masculine spirit) generally just hangs around. He doesn't talk much or make himself visible to me. But he makes his presence known by moving stuff around or casting a shadow where there is no one standing there.

I know that he has a sense of humor, though. He pranked my husband. The ghost stood in the doorway to our bedroom. Beloved woke up from his nap and saw a shadowy male figure standing in the doorway. He jumped out of bed as the figure moved away. I was out with the kids grocery shopping when this happened. When I got home and was unlocking the door, Beloved whipped the door open, hoping to surprise the interloper. I was startled and then confused why he was skulking around the apartment with a knife in hand.

And he's pranked me as well. I was in the middle of cooking dinner and heard the front door close. I didn't look up from what I was doing, but I asked Beloved to hand me something that was sitting on the counter behind me. When nothing happened, I looked over and saw that no one was standing there. I asked my kids (who were watching a video at the time) if they had opened and shut the door. They looked at me as though I had lost my mind. It was about a half hour later that Beloved got home from work.

This sort of sets the tone for the dead around me. They're generally easy going and have a sense of humor. When I forget my offerings, they sometimes prank me to remind me that I forgot them. It is usually something along the lines of a small item vanishing from where it was supposed to be to somewhere else rather strange but obvious. Like when my car keys disappeared from their hook and ended up on the top shelf of the bookcase, which the kids can't reach.

Sometimes they're helpful too. Like the time when I found money on at their shrine when no one had put any there. Or when a previously empty container of coffee creamer is magically half full when I go to make coffee for everyone. Because my dead, Loki, Beloved, and myself are all powered by coffee. It is little things, but those little things are what helps make life interesting around my house.

And the dead here is not just my dead. I have had many just passing through on their way somewhere else but stopping to ask me to pass on a message. Or stopping because they heard good things about my house. Some days, to me, the house is full of noise and activity. Someone else looks about and the place is pretty quiet. But on that psychic level, I have a full house with friends greeting friends and ancestors popping in to check on their descendants.

I do my best to enforce frith in my home between all that would be here. It makes me happy that my dead, the housewights (because there is more than one here), and the landwights help me keep it. There have been times where my guests start getting snippy towards each other or get close to a fight. They are always asked to be more civil in their disagreement and escorted out when they can't do it. I think it is part of the reason why I get so many visitors. Because it is a place of neutral ground that pretty much anyone is welcome as long as they abide by my rules.

But some days, it is noisy and very active. Those days, I make my cup of coffee and I have no less than four beings asking for some of it. And when I start cooking, I will get a laundry list of tips and commentary on how I'm doing it. On those days, I sometimes wish I could just turn off my psychic gifts. Because it is hard to concentrate with a whole chorus of people talking.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Public Notice RE: Comments

Hi everybody,

I just wanted to make something crystal clear. You are welcome to comment on my posts. I moderate them to make sure that everything is respectful and above board. I would appreciate if people kept their comments on topic with what the post covers. That said, I recognize that sometimes it is hard to tell if a comment matches the topic. So, I try to keep that in mind with respect to what comments get posted up here.

That said, I do not take kindly to people using this platform to harass, belittle, or otherwise be a dick to people. It is one thing if you have something funny to say. Sometimes, vulgar humor is pretty funny. But, if it strikes me as offensive regardless of how well intentioned something is, I'm not giving you air time on my blog.

Additionally, if any sort of products, services, or other related material goes up on here, it is because I am posting it. If you want to recommend something to me or request a review of something, email me. I have an account that is set up to take messages just from my blogs. I check it every few days. (I'm actually going to do that right after I hit publish on this post.) I am not going to permit people to use the comments on my blog to bandy about some product or service. You don't get free advertising.

If you want to advertise, contact me. We can work out an arrangement. I'll even make sure that there is a Twitter post to the blog entry, provided you compensate me for it. You have any questions or comments about this, email me.

This is MY blog. My blog is a benevolent dictatorship. My word here is law. If you don't like it, don't post in the comments. In fact, I invite you to take my blog off of your reading list. Because if you can't respect me and my rules, I'm pretty sure you're not going to like what I post.

I recommend this: Items edition.

One of the things that frequently do is burn candles in offering to the gods and my ancestors. I have tried out many different types of candles. The ones that have been the most richly scented for a low price have been the store brand scented candles from Walmart. They are inexpensive and good for someone with a limited budget. Even the small tea light variety of the scented candles have a rich scent.

Right now, the popular fragrance is pumpkin pie. I'm not personally one for the pumpkin pie scented candles but a certain deity (*cough*Loki*cough) has been absolutely emphatic that I need it right now. I've tried out a few different varieties of pumpkin pie scented candles. I honestly was surprised that the Walmart store brand candles had the best scent. I was thinking that Tuscany candles was going to be better.

Tuscany candles is my next choice for scented candles to give as an offering. They're a little more expensive than the Walmart store brand candles. I've found them at my local Wegmans. Their summer seasonal Lemon bar scent was magnificent. My whole apartment smelled like fresh baked goodies. The scent on these candles is pungent but doesn't last as long once the candle has been burned compared to the Walmart ones.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Video: You are important too!

Everybody has a rough day. For me, today is a low energy day. I think all that work over the last few days is catching up with me, to be honest. I just wanted to remind you that you too are important. All to often, people don't express their appreciation for what others do. It leads us to feeling like we're a cog in a machine (at best) or completely unimportant (at worst). Either of those feelings are pretty soul crushing.

I just wanted to remind you that everything you do is important. People like you are part of what keeps the world going around. Everyone plays a valuable role in this world, even when we don't feel like we are. Try to keep that in mind, folks!

Today's wrap is a simple square scarf folded into a triangle and tied about my head in the fashion made famous by the Westinghouse 'We can do it!' poster that is popularly known as Rosie the Riveter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

30 Days for Freyr: Day IIX

I was having a moment of self doubt yesterday. As I was struggling with the coffee maker (because I need my coffee), I found myself getting caught up in a parade of self doubt. Freyr leaned against the counter and said to me, "It is good to have high expectations. You set admirable goals. But you also set unreasonable ones." A part of me said I should argue that my goals were not unreasonable. It was a defensive habit that I am trying to break.

While my coffee was brewing, he walked over and put his arms around me. He said, "You need to learn to filter out which ones are the good goals and which ones are the insane ones. Right now, you're not telling the difference. That's what is stopping you. Not a lack of talent or anything else like that." I wasn't sure how to respond to that. I guess I was expecting to be told more about how unreasonable I had been being with myself, which had been the pattern these discussions have taken over the last two months.

I have been thinking about what he said and I am stunned by both the simplicity and accuracy of it. He always seems to manage to do that. If I'm having a problem, he summarizes it up with a few words that hit the mark every time. I got upset with that at first. I got defensive and felt like I was being belittled. I had a really hard time seeing that he was just trying to help. It lead to a few arguments.

Then, something clicked. Looking back over it all, Freyr's never put me in a position where I am being belittled or criticized. He has had stern things to say about what I've been doing and how I have been treating myself. But, even then, he has been kind. I think he gets a little exasperated with how I tend to get defensive when someone starts to point out how I'm taking the wrong approach on my goals. Even when he is exasperated, though, Freyr has never pushed for conflict between us.

In fact, he tends to shut down arguments before they happen most of the time. But, the few times where we have argued, he has always been calm and sympathetic. For some reason, that made me angrier before. But now that I have figured out that he really isn't attacking me over things, I am not getting angry with him. I feel badly about the times where I've gotten down right hostile over a mild suggestion for how I can take a better approach on a problem.

When ever I bring it up, though, he just gives me a fond smile and tells me not to worry about it. That it is over and in the past and I should focus on the present. That is answer to when I get caught up in past fears too. And when I get anxious about the future, he holds me. Then he tells me not to worry about things before they happen. Or, as he has said, "Don't prejudge the future. It could, and most likely, be entirely different from what you think it is right now."

He's been the voice of sanity. He's been the one who points out the rational approach to things. And Freyr helps me to ground myself in the present. I feel foolish for all the times where I didn't recognize that was what he was doing. And I know he's right when he says the only person with a problem with it all is myself and that I should forgive myself for it.

Daucus Carota (Bird's Nest, Carrot)

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
Daucus Carota1 is one of the most widely domesticated plants in the world. Most people are familiar with it by its most common name, Carrot. It is in the same family of plants as Queen Anne's Lace, as is evidenced by their similar flowers, leaves, and root structures. It is also known as Bird's Nest because when the flowers finish blooming, the umbel curls inward and resembles a cupped bird's nest.

Carrot is well known to the world since antiquity. It has been mentioned in the writings of the ancient Romans and Greeks under different names. This leads to some confusion for modern translators of these texts because in several cases, it is unclear if the Carrot is what was mentioned or if they were referring to Parsnip or Skirret. (Both Parsnip and Skirret are related to Carrots.) Specific breeding of Carrot varieties over the course of history has given rise to what is served commonly at the table.

The domestic Carrot is larger, sweeter, and less woody textured than wild Carrot. There are cultivars of domestic Carrot that are orange, yellow, purple, and white. Wild Carrot is predominantly found to have a white root, though the other color varieties do occur. The whole plant is suitable for consumption. The leafy tops are edible when they are young. As the plant ages, the upper portion of the Carrot becomes bitter and contain toxic alkaloids. The roots are used as a food staple around the world. The blossoms and the seeds have a folk medicine application as a contraceptive.

The medicinal applications of Bird's Nest have varied over the course of history. It has been used a laxative, vermifuge, and poultices to treat a wide range of disorders. It was especially known as a good treatment for liver disorders. This plant has strong antiseptic properties and discourage putrescent changes in the body when consumed.

When it was introduced to England, it was received with great enthusiasm due to the difficulties in that region with growing produce, as compared to continental Europe. Interestingly, however, its uses moved beyond that as a food stuff or medicinal product. During the reign of James I, it enjoyed a period as a fashionable accessory in the elaborate hairstyles of the era. In these instances, the top of the plant with its delicate leaves was used.

In folk magic, Bird's Nest is often used to impart infertility but it also, paradoxically, can be used to assist fertility magic as well. Due to its resemblance to an erect penis, it has been considered a male aphrodisiac. Some have also used forked Carrot roots in place of Mandrake as poppets for their magical workings. They also have acquired a reputation as something that encourages healthy eyesight. Part of this reputation is based upon the presence of lutein and partly upon the sympathetic magical association with the eye based upon a cross section of the taproot.

1. I've been informed that the Daucus Carota is not the same as domesticated Carrot. The name of that plant is Daucus Carota (Sativus). It is a unique subspecies of Daucus Carota. Do not consume the upper portions of Daucus Carota because it is toxic. The young roots of Daucus Carota are edible but become woody and unpalatable as they age. Thank you to M. Robinson for pointing this out.

My sources are M. Grieve's A Modern Herbal (Volume I for today's posting) and what I have found at sites such as Wikipedia and fact pages about plants hosted by educational sites such as Cornell Univ.

I apologize for my error in today's post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Psychic Self Defense 101: Counter-curses

In my previous post, I introduced the topic of counter-curses. A counter-curse is not something to be taken lightly. Using one for minor psychic attacks is the magical equivalent of using a howitzer to kill a fly. It is gratuitous and wasteful. It is also not guaranteed the precision necessary to eliminate that fly. It will, however, hit everything around it and cause significant damage.

Counter-curses requires a significant investment of energy, resources, and time. While they can be developed on the fly, it takes some experience to craft an effective one. In the past twenty years, the number of times I had to use a counter-curse I can count on one hand and have fingers left over. It is rare to need one but a valuable skill to have when it is necessary. The magical ability to 'return fire' is useful not only in instances of psychic or magical attack by another person. It is also something that builds the practitioner's defensive skill set that can be employed on the astral plane[1].

When casting a counter-curse, it is helpful to have props. While a person can do magic with out any physical tools, it is easier to employ ritual tools because it assists the practitioner in focusing their spiritual energy upon the goal of their spell casting with less need to focus upon the incidental matters of establishing ritual space, entering the correct mental state for magical work, or wrangling elemental energy. It is also helpful to use materials that can be disposed of easily and in an ecologically sound fashion. Disposing of the used materials from casting a curse helps to limit how much of the energy pushed back hits you.

There are two ways to cast a curse. One is to infuse it with one's anger, hatred, and other negative emotions. The high energies that come with these emotions serves to power the spell and give it a little extra kick. There is a reason why curses have been traditionally associated with these emotions, because this is what is most frequently used. It is an easy way to access spiritual energy and to take steps to resolve the emotions[2]. The other method of casting a curse is to do it 'cold' with out much emotion involved in it. Casting spells that draw upon the magical reserves that can be accessed at all times results in a longer lasting spell and one that builds gradually over time, where as the emotion based spell has its greatest effect at the time of initial contact.

Curses are one of the times where I recommend the use of a poppet or similar focus. This helps the caster to focus their spell on the target. Precision in casting curses is important. An improperly cast curse has the potential to rebound and hit the caster with the full force of it. Because it is the caster's own personal energy behind the spell, it penetrates the caster's shields very well. Also, an imprecise curse can hit someone other than the target if it does not rebound. The backwards push of magical energy along the thread connecting the caster and the target will be difficult to predict because of the unknown nature of the person receiving the curse[3].

The simplest counter-curse is to give the attacker ill luck and general misfortune. Assembling a counter-curse is much the same as assembling any other curse. A magical focus is required. Tools to establish magical space are necessary. Invoking spiritual allies and deities is a very good idea in this case. I personally use candle magic for these sorts of spells because when your candle burns completely, there will be a substantial reduction of material.

It is possible to tie the spell's action to the burning of the candle. If a fast burning candle, such as a birthday cake candle, is used, it can make the spell have effects rapidly when the manifestation of the spell is tied to it. It is also possible to use a small candle that will burn completely to carry the curse to completion. It is most effective when the curse involves the removal of something from the target's life. As the candle 'disappears' the spell will receive additional strength in removing things.

Counter-curses are curses. They are martial magical that is being used for defensive purposes. All curses carry the risk of negative effects upon the caster. Thus, they should be undertaken only when absolutely necessary.


1. The astral plane is also known as the spirit world. It is the aspect of reality wherein magic unfolds and spiritual beings exist, primarily. It is also the aspect of reality that one can enter into via dreamwalking.

2. A curse must not substitute for the caster's work to resolve emotional problems. If there is difficulty with integrating and resolving unpleasant/negative emotions, seek out professional assistance.

3. All spells cast create an energetic tie between the caster and the target. Energy can flow in both directions along this tie. Also, all energy sent in a given direction will have some return along the path it has gone. It is much the same as basic kinetic motion. If ball A strikes wall B, some of the energy of ball A's energy will be absorbed by wall B and some of it will be returned to ball A in the form of motion that makes ball A bounce off the wall. Precision spell casting ensures the greatest amount of ball A's energy is absorbed by wall B.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cartomancy: Tarot Decks

As I said last Thursday, I have a love for Tarot. I have been reading Tarot cards for a little over twenty years now. They have a really interesting history. Also, there is a fairly substantial body of folklore surrounding Tarot that I, personally, have enjoyed reading about over the years. Lets begin with the history of the Tarot deck.

Tarot is named for the game,Tarot. The deck that we call a Tarot deck has been in use since the 15th Century. Tarot was played predominantly in Continental Europe. From what I have been able to gather in my research over the years, this started in the area of northern Italy and spread north and west. The decks from this era vary significantly from region to region.

They can have as many as 108 cards, though the common number is closer to 76. Modern Tarot decks have been to a large degree standardized since the Rider-Waite deck came into popularity in the early 20th Century. There are decks, however, that have 56 or fewer cards. The 56 card Tarot decks are of German origin. They retain the 22 trumps (also known as the Major Arcana) and have a reduced number of pip cards (also known as the Minor Arcana). Decks used for divination purposes in the modern world generally tend to fall under the category of the French suited Tarot decks and are frequently patterned after the Rider-Waite deck.

Tarot as a tool for divination came into the picture during the 18th Century. Popular folklore states that it was used by the Roma1 people to provide readings. There is inconclusive evidence that the use of Tarot as a divination tool began with these people but I have no doubts that it was utilized by them along side their preexisting divination practices as Tarot decks became inexpensive and popular. It became fashionable to use Tarot for divination within the occult community approximately around this time.

It has been used as a tool for studying the Hermetic mysteries and the Kabbalistic2 tree of life, both of which figure prominently in the works of the Order of the Golden Dawn3. In the Spiritualist society, the Tarot deck became a tool for mediums to contact the spirits of the dead. These two groups were highly influential during the 19th Century, thus the popularity of Tarot grew substantially. In fact, due to the popularity of those movements and their use of Tarot as a divination tool, people within the United States are often only aware of Tarot being used in this fashion. In Europe, however, Tarot is still played regularly and this, from what I can conclude in my study, is the predominant use of these decks.

Using a Tarot deck for divination, one has two major divisions of cards to consider. There are the Major Arcana which describe information in broad terms and were equated by C.G. Jung to be associated with archetypes present in the collective unconscious. The Minor Arcana give more specialized information and serve to flesh out what is presented by the Major Arcana. Frequently, the appearance of a Major Arcana card in a reading is placing emphasis upon the element presented, even when it is presented by other cards as well.

The basic practice of using a Tarot deck is to have the querent focus upon their question while the cards are shuffled. Some readers will have the querent shuffle the deck. Other readers will shuffle the deck themselves after the querent has held them. Yet other readers will shuffle the deck and have the querent touch the cards prior to when the cards are placed. It is not necessary, however, for the querent to have physical contact with the deck for a reading to be effective.

The cards are then placed out in a special order and pattern known as a spread. There are many different kinds of spreads that can be used. The most popular is the Celtic Cross which I mentioned last week. The purpose of a spread is to organize the information presented by the cards. While it is possible to read the cards as you pull them off of the deck, it is easier to do so with a spread that helps you ascertain what is relevant to the question.

It is my personal practice to use a spread that is focused upon the topic. I have different spreads that I use for different matters. It is possible to have information that is useful presented when a spread that is not focused upon the topic is used. I find it easier, however, to draw out the information needed with a spread that is focused on the topic.Thus if I am doing a reading that is focused upon someone's love life, I will use my love spread rather than the Celtic Cross, which narrows the scope of what is presented by the cards to focus strictly upon this topic, where as the Celtic Cross is a general purpose spread and will not be as detailed upon this matter. I can get good information from the Celtic Cross, but there will be a great deal of unrelated information to be sifted through to get to the heart of the matter.

It is also my practice that after I have concluded the reading, I will pull three cards to confirm what the reading has presented. These cards are pulled from the deck after I read the spread but before I would reshuffle the deck to read upon another matter. I do so because the deck is still attuned to the original matter and will remain focused upon it until I clear out the energies and reshuffle the cards. There are many theories as to why Tarot and other divination tools work. It is my belief that our personal energy gets imparted to a degree into the cards even as our unconscious mind organizes them. I do agree to an extent with C.G. Jung's argument that Tarot taps into the deeper collective unconscious of society and that this is why a separate person would be able to read upon the matter.

The first card relates to the past elements of the query. The second card relates to the present conditions surrounding the query. And the third card shows the future developments surrounding the matter. This simple three card spread can be used alone for a quick view into a situation. Clarifer cards can be placed upon each position. A clarifer card focuses the information from the card beneath it and reveals additional details regarding it. It is my rule that if a card requires more than three clarifier cards, I should reshuffle the deck and lay the cards out again.

There is a great deal of folklore surrounding Tarot. Some cards are regarded with suspicion. The Death card and the Ace of Swords are both popularly considered to be omens of death and disaster. (This, however, is an exceptionally rare meaning for these cards. More typically, they indicate abrupt change.) The Nine of Cups is considered a card of good luck and people will frequently make a wish when seeing it because it is reputed to grand them. I've yet to see evidence of this one being true. And there is the story that if you use a Tarot deck for any purpose aside from divination, something disastrous will occur. This is another false belief. I have played poker using a Tarot deck (lost the game, but I'm bad at poker) and nothing untoward happened.

Some people have special things they do with respect to the care of their decks. There is a good deal of folklore on this element of Tarot as a divination tool as well. The one that made the least sense to me was the assertion that a Tarot deck needed to be stored in a high place so that it did not acquire miasmic energies. The only conditions I can see this being accurate is if you are storing your deck up high so that others will not handle it. Beyond this, I have found no evidence supporting this bit of folklore. I have stored tarot decks on a high shelf and in a footlocker on the ground. There was no change in their effectiveness as a tool or their energetic status.

Another one that I have heard of is that a Tarot deck must be stored wrapped in silk and where it can not have light on it. The argument is that this will prevent the deck from losing your energetic signature. While wrapping your deck with cloth and storing it away from light will prolong the lifespan of your deck and prevent the fading of the artwork, there is no risk of your energetic signature fading as long as you handle it regularly. And, in some cases, the energetic signature wouldn't fade at all because of the strength of the impression.

There is also some folklore surrounding the reading of cards. Some people argue that one can not read for themselves. This is only applicable in the case that the reader is too close to the matter to be objective in their reading. This will interfere with your ability to read the information in the card because you are seeking a specific set of information. Aside from this, barring difficulty interpreting the cards, anyone can perform a reading for themselves. It takes a little practice, but sometimes reading your own cards can provide you with a very helpful set of information.

There is also the argument that cards should always be read upright because inverted cards invite malevolent entities. I have never had a malevolent entity show up when I have cards coming up as inverted in a reading. I suspect that this little myth is a carry over from the Protestant Christian fear that inverted religious symbols invite malevolent entities. Inverted cards can be difficult to read if the reader is only familiar with the upright meanings of the cards. It is possible, however, to draw out information from inverted cards with great success. All it takes is familiarity with your deck and practice.


1. The Roma people are more popularly known as Gypsies. I do not use this term because it is a pejorative and demeaning to this people.

2. I honestly have seen so many different spellings of this term, I have no idea which is correct. It references a Jewish magical system that was adopted by the Gnostics and then through European occultists.

3. The Order of the Golden Dawn is perhaps one of the largest and most influential occultist organizations since its founding. The only real rival to it, from what I can find, are the Free Masons. Both organizations, however, have been declining in their influence as new mystery cults arise. Much of modern paganism owes a great deal to these organizations which acted to preserve much of European occultism.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

30 Days for Freyr, Day VII

When I don't feel well, I tend to be cranky and will bicker with people in my life. I try not to do it, but the words just pop out of my mouth before I can stop them. For a while, I argued with Freyr. He steadfastly had told me from the time of the summer solstice on that we were married. I argued that there had been no formal rite and that it couldn't be the case. It was a peevish argument, with Freyr generally sighing in exasperation when it happened. Other deities supported Freyr's argument, but I was bullheaded and insisted I was right. (Yes, I tend to have a habit of getting like this. I try not to but it happens from time to time.)

Then about a week ago, in the dreamscape, Freyr told me to come with him. He said that he had wanted to show me something. So, I followed him into a room that was cozy and just had all the perfect things that made it somewhere I would love to go and just relax away from the world. Standing in the center of that room, there was a dress form. On it was the gown that I had dreamed of wearing for my wedding to Beloved. A blood red gown in a medieval style with gold bands of embroidery at the neckline and on the sleeves, it really was a striking sight. There was a girdle of gold with garnets on it. The entire thing just about glowed in the light of the room. I felt a pang of regret for not having a gown like that for my wedding to Beloved and that was when Freyr said, "You need to get dressed."

I was a bit confused. He motioned towards the gown and I just stood there running my hand over the fabric. It was so, so soft. And the embroidery, it was so detailed that I just kept getting lost in the pattern of the vines and leaves. He smiled and removed the girdle. As he set it aside, I realized that I was supposed to actually wear the gown. I looked down at myself and discovered that my jeans and t-shirt turned into a leine that reached my ankles and stockings that were also that vivid red. As he helped me into the gown, I wanted to ask him what was going on but he looked so solemn that I didn't dare to. He handed me the girdle and I fastened it about my waist.

When I looked up, I saw that he was no longer in the jeans and flannel shirt of earlier. Instead, he was dressed in clothes of the same period as my gown, but of the Nordic styles rather than that of the English. He held out his hand. I took it and we walked out a set of french doors and into a garden. The whole garden was in bloom. Things that bloomed in different seasons were blooming alongside each other. The air was fragrant and everything was dazzlingly beautiful. I wanted to say something about how nice it was when he placed a finger over my lips.

We came to a little bridge over a stream. As we crossed it, I saw a gathering of people ahead of us. I thought it was some sort of party. When we were close enough to see what was going on, I found myself looking at the assembled body of the Aesir and the Vanir. I saw my ancestors with them and my spirit allies. Stargazer was there and beaming with delight. I turned to ask Freyr was was going on when Frigga and Freyja came forward, Frigga standing on the left with the Aesir and Freyja standing on the right with the Vanir.

When they both raised their hands high, I realized that they were each holding a spindle and the other was holding the end of the thread wound on it. Everything made sense in that moment. Freyr turned to me and asked me to walk with him over the threshold. I started to tear up but I nodded yes. I was about to step forward when he told me to wait a moment. Then he set a garland of flowers on my head. We  walked beneath the threads holding hands and in pace with each other. The whole company assembled cheered and applauded. Freyr embraced me and whispered, "Three times wedded. Third time's the charm. You'll remember this time."

I just held him and stared around myself with amazement. There was a feast afterwards but I only remember that it happened, nothing more. I know some people would say that dreams are wishes but this was something more. When I can think of that dress I yearned to wear and not feel heartbreak over it, I know it was true.

Pagan monastics, a few thoughts.

Anyone who has encountered me off line is aware of my love for medieval European history. It is a time period that fascinates me and I frequently do a great deal of reading focused on that time period. Some of my reading is secular, but a good deal of it focuses on the spiritual lives of people during this era. It may seem curious that I draw a great deal of inspiration from the spiritual women of this era of history, especially given that their faith rejects the legitimacy of my own and these people, had they encountered me, would have had severe issues with my practices.

This, however, is incidental to what I find in their works, buried beneath the adoration and veneration of their deity. Yes, these are key elements to their work, but there are other points that cry out to us through the ages regardless of the faith they originate in. Many of the women whose writing exist from this era were monastics or practicing something close to that. (I highly recommend everyone to look up the history of the Beguines and the Beghards. They are fascinating.) When we consider the works of Theresa of Avila, Dame Julian of Norwich, or Hadewijch, we discover they had luminous, intimate, and visceral experiences of their deity. We discover that there is a set of techniques that they employ in their devotional life that facilitates these experiences. And we discover that there is a very clear precedent for deity having a direct influence over a person's life that is pervasive and can be seen in virtually all areas.

These women are, in many ways, the foremothers of modern monasticism. Through their writings, we find a road map that leads us from the mundane, often profane1, life to a place where we can directly interact with deity and be aware of deity's response to us. It is at times difficult to express this path to others. In our highly secular society, people who have intimate relationships with the divine are viewed as suspect. Doubly so if their faith is not some flavor of Christianity. Some have declared that there are no pagan monastics because there is no organized body to recognize them. This idea is based in the false assumption that monasticism must happen within the context of organized religion with official recognition from the superiors of that faith. It narrows the concept of monasticism to a very small idea that fails to accurately reflect the full scope of these practices.

I contend that monasticism is flourishing and doing quite well within the pagan community. With organizations like the Maetreum of Cybele becoming more visible within the community, monastic paganism moves from a vague idea to a concrete reality. There are individuals who live as monastics within the secular, non-pagan community. Their practices are no different from those of the anchorites who lived within the medieval communities, not when you consider what their relationship to deity is. They live lives of prayer and devotion to their deity. They observe their taboos and restrictions with all the seriousness that a Christian monk observes his.

Something unique about pagan monastics is that they are immersed into the community at large. They straddle a line between the secular world and the spiritual, forced to balance the necessities of living within the secular society against those of their relationship with their deity. It is a thing that makes them keenly sensitive to how their deity moves through the world and how the world relates to that deity. While there are pagan monastics who are clergy, there are many who are not. In either case, the person who is upon the monastic path are actively engaged in their relationship with deity and serve said deity in devotion that goes beyond what many others do.

It is my opinion that godspousery is a form of a monastic relationship with deity. While each godspouse relationship is different, we should consider that there is a great deal of precedent for the godspouse to be a person who is dedicated to their deity. This is a crucial part of the monastic relationship. When you look at the history of godspousery across the world's religions, you find that the godspouse is formally dedicated to their deity, oathed to them, and maintains a set relationship that is defined by the deity they are wedded to. While the godspouse has their own needs and unique qualities that make their relationship unique, the major defining factor of the godspouse's relationship is the deity they are wedded to.

The major defining factors of a monastic relationship are their taboos, their devotional activities, and their relationship with deity. This can be found in every monastic system in the world. The life of a Christian nun is defined by her devotional activities towards her deity, observing the taboos set down in her relationship with her deity, and the special relationship she has that sets her apart from all other worshipers. While there are elements of her life that are parallel to those of about her and the culture she is situated in, they are not the elements that provide especial focus to her life.

If you look carefully, you will find people within the pagan subcultures of the world that have their lives defined by similar focuses. Simple logic would have one then extend the term monastic to them on the basis of the fact that their practices meet the general provisions of a monastic life.
1. I use profane in the sense of that which is not relating to the sacred, also known as secular.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Witchy Life - The dead of the Great Lakes, remember them.

I thought about it last week, and I realized that I really should start telling you about what it is like in my life. More specifically, I should let you know about some of the weird, wonderful, and witchy things that happen around here on a daily basis. I don't know how my experiences will compare with someone else's but that will be shown eventually, I suppose.

As I may have mentioned earlier, I am a necromancer. Some people get alarmed when I say that. They assume that I am playing around in graveyards, desecrating the resting places of the dead, and generally doing gruesome things. That isn't exactly what happens. Have I done magic involving death? Yes. I have even performed a ritual wherein something was killed for the purpose of the spell. (It was a mosquito, by the way. When I need to do some sort of spell where death is involved, I opt for lifeforms that are generally pests. Most often, it is some insect, like the mosquito. And, no, I don't do those rituals often.)

Have I done magic in a graveyard? Yes. It was an evocation of a dead man's spirit for the sake of getting information. Offerings were given and he was paid for his time. (Payment being the cleaning up of his grave site and encouraging others to tend the graveyard.) Most of my time, I am involved with evocation on a case by case basis. Usually, the dead come to me with out much coaxing. I think it is because they get lonely and yearn for contact with the living. If you can hear them, then they'll show up and talk your ear off, unless you set some boundaries.

I think the most memorable example of an evocation was one that happened on the shores of lake Ontario a little over ten years back. I had gone to the lake with some friends around the time of Samhain. While they were busy marveling at the waves coming up from the brisk breeze, I decided that I was going to call out to the dead who were beneath the waters. I silently asked for one of them to come and tell me what might be done to honor them where they lay.

Honoring the dead is a big thing for me. I have an ancestor shrine where I interact with my ancestors every day. I give them offerings, talk to them about what is going on in life, and generally treat them as members of my family, because they are. This will play into my story, trust me. I had wandered off away from the group a little bit after my call to the dead.

I found myself standing at a spot where there was dead fish, seaweed, and a dead gull. It smelled appropriately awful. I was about to go back to the group when I heard him. He was an older man. His manner of dress put him somewhere in the 19th century as a laborer of some sort. I think he worked on one of the ships that crossed the lake back then. He was dressed for the weather with a heavy sweater and a knitted cap, both dark blue. His pants were a tan color and he was wearing boots. He had grey eyes and a full, bushy black beard.

As he stepped out from behind the outcropping of rock I was near, I was a little surprised. I honestly didn't expect anything to come from my call. But, as I was making ready to go back to the group I was with, I heard him say, "Wait a minute." Then he stepped out from behind the rocks and stood in the one clear spot in the middle of all the dead things. "You wanted to see me?" he said, sounding mildly surprised.

I asked him if his rest was peaceful. He shrugged and responded, "Peaceful as it can be. The waters are never still. Old bones lie deep but they get disturbed." I then asked him what I could do to make his repose and that of his fellows in the lake better, more comforting. I asked him what the living could do to make sure that the dead got their due. He looked genuinely surprised and touched by my question.

He said something about how he had been there for a hundred years (this was in the late 90s) and no one ever spoke to them. He insisted that there was nothing that they needed, that they were as well as they would be. I pressed the issue and after a sigh, he said, very simply, "Remember us. No one remembers us anymore. Lake Erie, they remember the Edmund Fitzgerald, but no one else." I was going to ask him how he wanted to be remembered but I got distracted by my friends calling to me. When I looked back, he was gone.

Every year in October, I remember him and all the dead of the Great Lakes. I want to do something more for them, but life always gets complicated and I can't find the time to get up to the lake. Or I run out of candles. Or something else goes sideways and I just don't have the means to do more than remember them. I think he is the reason why that happens.

He was a very quiet, humble man who died just doing his job. All he really wanted to do was to do his job and live a quiet life. I think the idea of my giving offerings or doing more than simply remembering them strikes him as too frivolous. But, when the autumn storms start to roll across the lakes, I remember them. One of these days, I will get up there again. And I will pour out a bottle of beer for them. Because I'm stubborn and I think he may be willing to share a drink for another conversation.