Saturday, July 30, 2016

Finding Oski at the Thrift Shop

It always seems that certain items find us when we will most benefit from their significance, rather than the reverse being true ("A watched pot never boils"?). I remember once when my husband, Jorge, was going through a rough patch and was questioning his path in life. He stopped by the Salvation Army and the first thing he saw was a Ganesha statue. Ganesha is of course a Hindu deity, but in Santería (at least in our rama) he corresponds to Orula, orisha of wisdom and divination. The synchronicity of that moment had a powerful impact on Jorge, and that statue sits to this day on a high spot on a bookcase alongside our soperitas de Orula. It was the first and last time we've ever seen such a figurine in any local thrift shop.

I had a similar experience yesterday.

Jorge was heading off to the market nearby to pick up a few things, and I decided to ride along with him and our youngest child. As we pulled in to the parking lot, Gabriel became very vocal about wanting to go to Good Will (he loves examining the toy area!). I hadn't planned to do that, but while Jorge went to the market, I took Gabriel to the thrift shop. He walked over to the books and started to pull some out and comment on their positive qualities (very sweet, as he knows that the book section of any store is one of my favorite places). Then we ambled over to the "stuff section" - you know, the shelves of knick-knacks that can be a lot of fun to sort through. The first thing I saw was a model of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, which my oldest daughter loves and has been talking about lately - so that was obviously coming home. And the second thing I saw was a statue of what was clearly, to me, Oski, Gift-Giver.
Now I'm aware that this is surely meant to be a Santa/Father Christmas figure, what with the beard, evergreen tree, and wrapped gift (and I suppose that we could spend some time discussing the various ways in which Odin has influenced the mythology surrounding Santa), but I didn't see Santa - I saw, felt, Oski there, wrapped in white robes, and hooded like Grímnir. I added him to the lighthouse in my arms, and took him on home.

Odin Allfather has many, many names that highlight the various aspects of his being and character. One of those names is Oski, and oftentimes this aspect is depicted as a Father Chistmas-type man, as the essence of Oski is that of gift-giver, wish-fulfiller, desire-satisfier. He asks us to request what we need, to diligently work to invite those things into our lives, and to be willing to open ourselves to the various manifestations of help and support that show up.
Oski on Odin's altar space
What could be inside the box that Oski is holding? There is much mystery there. Whether or not we know or are able to explicitly identify what Oski brings us is less important than the core teaching that connects to our ability to recognize, embrace, and be grateful for the positive developments, people, and opportunities that present themselves to us along our paths. This is a theme that has been in the forefront of my mind and heart quite a lot lately, and so I see Oski's figurine as symbolic (and perfectly timely) affirmation underscoring this experience - that is a beautiful thing!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Memorize That Shit

Or don't.

Card readers often talk about the "best methods" for learning to read Tarot competently. Most recently I've been seeing a lot of internet chatter about how taking an academic approach (often associated with memorization) to learning card meanings is not effective, while using strictly "intuitive hits" from card images as a starting point is best. 

The reality is that everyone is different, thus there is no single best way to approach learning the cards. What works for me may not work as well for you. Fortunately, there's something out there for everyone. 
Wild Unknown Tarot; K. Krans
Some aspiring card readers have a hard time memorizing card meanings, and at times feel that it puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to reading Tarot. In language learning, there is a concept called the "affective filter," which in essence says that the more anxious a student is, the less knowledge they will be able to process and acquire. For people who have anxieties around formal study, or who have convinced themselves that they must memorize all card meanings before attempting to give readings, it may be helpful to understand that beginning the process with an intuitive approach is perfectly appropriate. Rather than focusing on pre-determined meanings, they may pay attention to the images depicted on each card and use those pictures to as intuitive triggers that can help to convey messages.  Over time they may choose to pay increasing attention to numerical meanings, to elemental associations, and eventually may even choose to study the various "traditional" card meanings. 

Others who enjoy academia may find it a pleasurable experience to make lists of all 78 cards, their meanings, perhaps even creating symbol charts for the Major and Minor Arcana. If they enjoy memorization, if they enjoy envisioning the Tarot as a giant archetypal puzzle to be explored, then this may be a powerful method to employ. Perhaps after they feel generally secure in the meanings for each card, suit, numeric series, they will begin to experiment with the intuitive approach. 

In the end, it is a combination of these two basic approaches that will lead to the most balanced and integrated reader (and reading!).

Yes, card meanings can be dynamic: a single card that highlights one energy in one reading, may underscore quite another energy in a different reading. But the Tarot system wasn't developed in a vacuum, and the traditional meanings provide a valuable infrastructure that can help fill out intuitive readings. 

In language learning, we teach rules, but eventually the students learn that just about every rule has one or two exceptions (they hate that part!). Teaching is incremental for a reason. This is why we call learning a "process."

If you are turned off by memorization, don't feel boxed in to that approach - start with listening to what the card images tell you, and work from there. 

But if you are the academic type, don't let anyone tell you that it's not the best way: go ahead a memorize that shit!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Psychometry: Trusting Intuition

Last week I was invited to attend a psychometry and meditation gathering. Being rather hermit-like, I was slightly anxious about meeting a group of new people, coupled with the fact that I'd being engaging in purely intuition-based readings.... but I decided to push myself and do it anyway.

The women in attendance were from all walks of life, ethnicities, and cultures, and their ages spread from the late teens to nearly 90 years old. I was welcomed warmly, and invited into their affirming circle, which was a wonderful way to start things off!

We began with a group exercise to raise the energy of the circle, and then those who wished to do so were invited to speak the names of friends, loved ones, or even strangers who might benefit from healing. After that, a member led us through a meditation that took us up a ladder, each rung representing different aspects of our selves: our hopes and goals, our relationships, our connection to the divine, etc. As I climbed onto one of the highest rungs I felt the urge to fly, and I could even feel a particular sensation in my shoulder blades where wings would connect. When we finally retreated from that meditation I felt very calm and no longer had the nervous tension that I'd been experiencing, which was nice.
Earthbound Oracle
Everyone had placed a personal item in a basket that was covered by a cloth napkin. These items were meant to be "secret" so that no one would be able to obviously connect it with any of the people in the room. The basket was passed from person to person, and each one would reach in and pull out one of the items, such that by the end of its rotation everyone was holding something. Then the task was to sit with the item and see what feelings, thoughts, images, words, or even colors, came to mind. We were given pens and blank sheets of paper for recording.

As the basket had been making its rounds I silently asked that whatever I felt/thought would resonate with the person I was reading for. Relying solely on intuition can be scary. How do you parse out true "hits" from passing thoughts influenced from your own daily activities or personal situations? What if nothing makes any sense?

I chose not to look at my item; I didn't want its appearance to influence me. I felt its shape, oblong and sort of flat; definitely metal. And I just let my mind go. The first impression that came to me was "eagles." Over the course of the next ten minutes I "saw" all sorts of wild birds. I wrote that down, though it seemed a bit strange. I saw fish and frogs, which felt like a pond environment. Later I sensed the ocean, and thought perhaps there was a general water connection, that perhaps that person might benefit from spending time near water, for healing purposes. I even picked up on a dragon! This seemed like it could be metaphorical, so I thought perhaps it represented an inner ferocity of the person's character. I decided to try to pick up on a guide energy, and immediately saw antlers, and sensed the forest, and a goldish/yellow color. It was a male energy. As I reviewed everything that I was writing down, I realized that I had recorded every element: water, fire, earth, and air. The only thing that was "obviously" missing was a "spirit" element.

When it came time for me to show my item and report my reading (which each person did in front of the entire group) I was pretty anxious. I noticed that most everyone had written full narratives, whereas I only had words and phrases jotted down across the paper - kind of like a brainstorm, and certainly not remotely sentence-like. I was nervous, and the first words out of my mouth became a sort of disclaimer. Then I launched into it. I said that "nature" was the overarching theme, and that the first impression I had was "eagles." Everyone burst into laughter and looked knowingly at the woman who owned the item I was holding. I took that as a good sign. I said that birds as a whole figured large in what I picked up on, and listed off some of the names (owl, dove, etc.). They kept laughing. Finally, a friend of the woman told me that they often go bird-watching together, and that this lady had recently returned from a birding trip in Minnesota, where they had been particularly focused on eagles. Whoa! That was amazing. Apparently they even did the bird watching in a marshy area that required them to venture out on boat, so the fish/frog, pond connection made sense. I told her about the guide energy I'd picked up on and I got the sense that she didn't know much about her own guide, but she did say that she loves the forest, and that in general nature is her church (there was that "missing" spirit element!). In regards to the dragon, she said that she used to be a Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master, and though she doesn't play anymore, she continues to love reading sci-fi and fantasy novels.

I was pretty bowled over by the whole thing, and later I spent a lot of time reflecting on intuition and how we honor (or dismiss) its messages. It can be terrifying to place trust in something so intangible, and it can be equally scary to risk talking about it. What I really appreciated about that group of women was how able they were to create a safe and affirming space in which to develop and learn to trust in those skills.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Day of Mystery and Good Friends

Yesterday morning I pulled a rune, as I customarily do as a sort of "daily draw." It was perthro reversed. This is a rune of mystery, of the unknown, of experiencing that which can't be named by the five common senses. It can, thus, symbolize secrets, and the unveiling of those secrets. Reversed it suggests that those hidden elements that come to light may not be entirely pleasing. In order to complement and give additional "body" to the singe rune pull, I decided to draw a card from the Prisma Visions Tarot deck. Lo and behold, it was the High Priestess - another card of mystery and hidden things! Well okay - the tools had spoken. To add a third and final layer, my Tarot app daily draw was the 3 of Cups, a lovely message of community relationship and support. It was bound to be an interesting day.....
Prisma Visions Tarot - James Eads; runes
During the late morning I was driving from one school building to another and decided to stop at a campus fast-food restaurant to pick up a sandwich (not something I normally do). As I was idling in the drive-thru lane I suddenly started to smell a terrible, burning odor, and saw misting smoke outside. I thought - hoped - that perhaps I'd driven over a vent in the lot. But as I drove forward the smoke followed me. I was feeling pretty doom-y when I reached the pick-up window. The clerks opened it to take my payment and immediately closed it again as the noxious fumes started to blow inside. They opened it again and the manager came over and started to coach me about what to do:

"It's probably your coolant! Go park it and let it cool down before you open the hood - otherwise it might explode in your face."

Oh my god. I thanked him and drove the very short distance to my office parking lot. I was afraid it might catch fire. I was incredibly worried as this is a fairly new car and shouldn't be having any major issues. I did in fact open the hood (no explosions) and the smoke was lightly lifting up from the engine block. It was strange because my car is very good about letting me know when even the slightest issue arises - a need for an oil change, a headlamp being out, a need to refill any of the essential fluids. Not a single warning light or sound had gone off when the car was smoking: no "check engine" light - even the temperature gauge was normal. It drove fine - nothing out of the ordinary. So I entered my workplace with my nerves off the chart. As I was explaining what had happened to a few of my team members, someone from the math department peered over the low-wall and started to ask me questions about it. He eventually came over and sat nearby and gave me some very helpful information about car mechanisms and behaviors. Another math teacher showed up and both of them offered to come look at my car for me (3 of Cups). I was grateful. They looked at the engine, checked the lines and fluid levels, made sure that the fans were working correctly. They ran the car and put the air conditioning on full blast to see if it would start to smoke again, or show any signs of overheating. They were both stumped. They said that based on what they were seeing there was no reason that the car should have behaved that way, and try as they might to get it to reproduce the smokiness, it wasn't happening. They finally suggested that it might have been an electrical glitch which would be worth taking to the dealership to review, but they thought that I'd get home okay.

They were right. I've driven my car several times since that terrible moment in the drive-thru, and it has been completely normal. Talk about mystery. Now of course I will be getting it examined, but I decided to look online and found some very intriguing information: there were many accounts of other owners of my same car make/model/year who had not only had experiences of their car suddenly smoking, but it had occurred in a restaurant drive-thru! It was starting to feel like the Twilight Zone. Interestingly, in all of these cases the people said that they brought it to the dealer for assessment, and no matter what the mechanics tried, they couldn't find a thing wrong with the cars. So on one hand I was slightly comforted by that, but on the other hand it was pretty disconcerting.

At one point during all of this I thought: wouldn't hagalaz, or the Tower, have made more sense??? But in the end my car was fine. It didn't break down, I wasn't forced to call a tow truck. And based on what I read about others' accounts, it seems that there is indeed some mystery at play - not particularly pleasant mystery, but not a show-stopper either. Hey, maybe my car was telling me never to consider fast food again ;-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is not a movement only relevant to law enforcement; at its core it forces all people to consider inconsistencies and inequalities in the way black citizens are treated by others, generally due to unfair and deeply ingrained assumptions, biases, and fears (both acknowledged and unconscious). There is added pressure on law enforcement to take special care with this precisely because they are tasked with protecting all citizens, and thus they hold a particularly potent – and potentially deadly - sort of power over others. Black Lives Matter is about shining a bright light on the truth of inequality in our country so that it can be recognized for what it is, which is the first step in the healing process.
In my experience, many of the people who use terms like “playing the race card,” “All Lives Matter,” and “liberal agenda,” fundamentally misunderstand - and at worst diligently refuse to understand - the reality of racism as it manifests in our society.

Racism is one of the greatest banes of our existence. The worst part is that so much of it is subtle, and unless experienced or witnessed first-hand, many instances can be - and often are - easily brushed off (by those fortunate enough not to have to face it every day) as exaggeration, misunderstandings; treated with skepticism; taken with a grain or two of salt. The truth is that racism is real, it is vibrant, it is pervasive, and it is easily fed. Each one of us is charged with a sacred responsibility to acknowledge it, understand it, and do something about it.

If you don’t know, don’t understand, don’t see it or feel it, that’s okay. But rather than criticize or minimize the importance of this movement, challenge yourself to ask questions. If you’re willing to consider other perspectives, you might be quite surprised to realize how deeply the roots of prejudice have entangled themselves within so many contexts and domains of our lives. It will do so much more for the well-being of our country to be willing to compassionately consider other realities, as opposed to insisting that there is no problem at all.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Raven Came Visiting

During the month of July I have been exploring Odin and Loki through the method of posing questions and pulling Tarot or oracle cards. This has been a personal journey so I have not posted much about it, though I did recently share some thoughts about day one on Instagram.

Yesterday evening as I was going to bed I carved out space to draw cards before sleeping. I don't have a list of pre-created questions, rather I've been allowing them to occur to me naturally, and usually in the same moment that I sit down to shuffle. Last night I asked: "Loki, how can we best work together?" I drew the Hermit, inverted (the second time this card has appeared in connection to him, in fact!). When I asked the same question for Odin, I drew the World. Generally I've been using the Giants Tarot for this exercise - sometimes Das Germanische Götterorakel. Last night I was drawn to use the Prisma Visions Tarot*. When I drew the World, I was immediately pulled to the center of the card - an eye gazing outward.

The World has some connections with Odin: it's been correlated to Odin's identity as sky god, sitting on his throne overlooking all of the worlds. The RWS World image shows a woman "dancing" - her legs are in the "number 4" position which mirror that of the Hanged Man, another card very closely aligned with Odin (his sacrifice on Yggdrasil to earn the wisdom of the runes). A few days ago I pulled a card asking about the nature of the prime divine force (some call it God or Goddess, others Great Mystery, Olodumare, Allah). I drew the World. Highlighting concepts of synergy, completion, wholeness, integration, and even travel, it was a fitting and beautiful card to see. So then, to pull it again here for Odin was interesting and thought-provoking, to say the least.
After pondering these cards for a short time I turned out the light and went to sleep, and I had this dream:

I was standing in a mostly empty bedroom on the second floor of my mother's house, and it was daytime. A large black bird came to the windowsill and I couldn't tell whether it was a crow or raven, though its beak shape led me to think it was the latter. As I watched it, it called to me. It didn't speak in a human voice - it was definitely a bird-like utterance - but it clearly said, "Come here." At the same time it nodded its head toward the window, and the combination of its voice and gesture was an unmistakeable beckoning. I walked to the windowsill and saw that he (the bird felt masculine) had brought me an eyeball. I was supposed to eat it, and naturally this was slightly off-putting. I picked up the eye to examine it, and found that it wasn't really human; perhaps animal or some other creature. I carried it with me to a convenience store where I thought it might be easiest to simply swallow it down quickly like a pill. I couldn't find a drinking fountain, but I did eventually find a sink with a short faucet that was partially hidden. When I released some of the liquid into a cup it was orange-colored. I thought it was rusty water, and poured it down the drain. But then I realized that it was hot, and that it was actually tea, not rusty water. So I refilled my cup. I carried it around the store not consuming it because I knew it was too hot to drink down the eyeball with - it would scald me and the eyeball would sit in my mouth longer than I'd like. Eventually the dream ended and I don't recall having consumed the eye, though it was certainly on my agenda. 

When I woke up I felt like the dead center of my head was buzzing and tickling. I felt like the raven was inside of me. For the first time in ages, I immediately pulled out my journal to write it all down. As I was doing so, I remembered that back in February I'd dreamt of a raven or crow, and had mentioned it in one of my blog entries at the time. I had written:

"I was visited by such a bird in my sleep. It was large in size and I only recall being uncertain if it was a crow or raven, but based on its beak shape I'd been fairly certain that it was the latter. Perhaps it was a messenger."

Hm! That sounds awfully familiar! It was almost identical to what I'd written this time about the beak shape and the bird species identification. I remember that dream because nothing really happened in it. I was in a room in a building at night, and the bird flew in through an open window. I recall that it was quite large - larger than what would be considered "normal" in real life. And that was all. No communication, no other actions took place. It was just a fragment in time. But having had this dream last night, there seems to be a correlation, a developing thread. I know something more about this bird now - I can feel its essence, even now as I think of him. He spoke to me, as a guide or messenger would do. He brought me an eye!

Ravens and eyes are two of Odin's symbols and figure large in mythology. I know that there is significant meaning here. Several hours later my crown is still buzzing away.

*Art by James R. Eads