Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2017: Challenges and Hidden Treasures

The instructions given by Mr. Lionharts were rather simple: intentionally select three cards to represent your central challenges of 2017. Then, let the cards suggest advice for each one.

The first part was, unfortunately, a quick task for me; this past year has been one of the hardest in the last decade or so. All three of these cards have come up for me on so many occasions throughout the year that I’ve entirely lost count.
Ancient Italian Tarot - Lo Scarabeo
Temperance was my “card of the year,” drawn last December as the theme for 2017. Finding balance, healing, losing equilibrium, tearing open wounds, throwing a stick in the alchemical spokes, regaining balance, learning how to live with disharmony, learning that disharmony is a powerful tool, learning how to seek balance once again. The 8 of Swords has had me identifying and attempting to destroy extremely outdated paradigms that were restricting my growth. The Tower - ah the Tower - has made a deep and potent friend out of fire and destruction. Watch it all burn, and see what is left when the ashes are carried away by the wind. Catharsis. It’s not over yet, but I do think that I’ve crested the summit and am heading down the other side of the mountain.

On to part two: advice for each challenge.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot - Uusi.us
The Queen of Fire speaks to Temperance. She has been a regular feature of my 2017, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see her here. She matches the heat of Temperance’s alchemy, hot and cold, a conflagration, a waning intensity. When I am her, reversed, it’s not much use talking to me; I am a ball of fire ready to reduce my interlocutor to ashes. But it is part of the birthing of her dynamic and deeply powerful essence within me. When I am her, upright, I enjoy engaging new people like never before - the hermit out of the cave - I hunger for connection, I laugh, I consume the beauty around me like a starving animal. This isn’t so much advice as a recognition that provides helpful perspective. I know this about myself, now. Some days balance is easier to achieve than others. I am learning to integrate this Queen into my soul, and that’s a process.

The Knight of Pentacles speaks to the 8 of Swords. Releasing those old and restrictive paradigms requires steady progress, one foot ahead of the other. I can measure it in small but tangible differences in my everyday life. It feels like I’ve been walking forever and the landscape has changed little. But one day I look up and can see the plains stretching out below me; little changes make all the difference in how I perceive the world around me, and remind me that I am indeed moving.

The 6 of Cups speaks to the Tower. I call this my “re-membering” card; through it I pull back the parts of myself that I’ve lost along the way. The Tower built of concessions, limitations, “buts,” “oughts,” “can’ts,” hard histories, and the stories I tell myself.... it falls. And in its destruction I find myself again.

Here's to closing out a thoroughly transformative year and inviting in 2018!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Binding of Fenrir

It is a gorgeous November morning. I am sitting next to an open window, a cool breeze wrapping itself around me as I type, hot mug of coffee keeping me company. It's been a long six months. I've not tended to my blog as often as I would like to largely because of the busy-ness of my professional life, and the turbulence of my personal life. But today I am making space.

I suspect that Instagram has been both a help and a hindrance to writing longer blog posts: on one hand it's a wonderful medium for expression when I can't (or don't want to) be exhaustive with my language. I can post every day, as much or as little as I like, which means that consistency isn't a challenge. However that very thing also diverts my energies away from focused posts in this platform. It's always therapeutic, in a way, to put thoughts to "paper," and I am working on ways to integrate blogging back into my more regular practice again. That said, if you don't already follow me on Instagram, you can find me at @firstearthtarot :)

So back to the moment. In many ways the texture of my life seems to be finding a calmer and more predicable pattern after a 2017 spent largely on destruction, release, reorganization, new connections, purging, dis-integration, chaos, discomfort - you know, fire and brimstone, basically. The Tower was a pretty common daily draw. And yet while life is ebbing away from the deep, frequent (and exhausting) rise-and-fall of energetic currents, there are artifacts left in the wake; items that cannot simply be strolled over, but that rather urgently demand the attentions of my consciousness. It is the next phase in some new and unfolding chapter. An IG challenge prompt for today asked:

What is really holding me back? (And how can I work with that energy?)

Surt 🔥 and Fenrir 🐺 from the Giants Tarot:
A powerful duo, that speaks in layers and very clearly. Fenrir's is an interesting tale. Son of Loki and Angrboda, it was prophesied that he would be Odin’s end, and so the Aesir bound him on an isolated isle until Ragnarok. The funny thing about prophecies is that we can never be entirely sure that the actions we take to avoid them aren’t precisely the actions that cause them to manifest. Perhaps it was the very binding of Fenrir that produced the deep, ferocious, all-consuming fury that ensured Odin’s ultimate demise.

It is interesting to speak of binding when the prompt today is itself about restraint.

What am I holding back? 
What lurking shadows act like chains to my limbs? 
What simmering power must be released from its pot in order not to boil over? 
Will restraint lead to resentment, a wave of potent sentiment that only ever turns back on itself eventually?

If the Aesir had not bound Fenrir, but developed relationship with him (as had Tyr prior to betrayal), how might the story have been different?

So, perhaps the key lies in the (continued) deepening of my relationship to my own shadow self; it lies in making space to understand and recognize those emotions, to let them breathe, so that they do not consume me. 🔥🐺⛓🔥

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Triumph of Life Tarot: Cancer Sucks!

The Triumph of Life Tarot has been a few years in the making. Over 70 artists came together to create a deck to help fund cancer research. All of the artists who participated have been touched in some way or another by cancer. I created the art for the 6 of Disks, dedicated to my brother-in-law, José Manuel, who died of lung cancer. The card backs feature the initials of those the artwork honors.
Andrew McGregor of Toronto's The Hermit's Lamp spearheaded and coordinated this large and time-consuming project. He writes this about it:

First, get a bunch of people to contribute art to a tarot deck whose focus is the celebration of life. Make it as inspirational and life affirming as possible without denying the hardships we might face along the way.

Each artist would strive to create a card that answers the question ‘How does this image help us get from a place of loss and suffering to a place of joy and remembering?’

Second, print up the deck and sell them.

Third, take the profits and donate them to cancer research.

So 72 artists came together and made it happen!
Here is a selection of card images:
For information on the deck and how to acquire one when they become available on November 1st check out thehermitslamp.com 🙏🏼

Monday, October 2, 2017

What Are Your Names?

I am participating in the research project of a Heathen acquaintance, and while working on a questionnaire that in part discussed "labels," I was inspired to create my own version of stanzas 46-54 of the Grimnismal (a poem in the Poetic Edda where Odin lists his many names).
What would you say about yourself? What are your names? How have people known you? This is just a draft of my own, but it was quite thought-provoking to consider:

I have been called Peace-Maker, and Ungrateful, 
Kind-Heart, Leader, 
Gentle One, and Tall-Girl.
I have been called Diviner, and Image-Maker,
Furious, and Schemer.
I have called myself Scholar and Loner,
Herb-Harvester, and Shy.
Joyful-Spirit, Heart-Breaker, 
Weak-One, and Strong-One,
Dancer and Fearful and Brave.
They called me Strange-One in Bergvik’s hall, 
But Quiet at Titus’s place.
I was called Odd-Duck, and Mystery
Observer, and Terrible,
Rude, and Filthy, and Fearsome.
Olivia is my name, but before that I was 
Battle-Avoider and Laughter-Wise.
I think all these names were used for me alone.

I may add to this over time, but it was a great exercise. If you decide to write your own, please feel free to share it with me!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ghost Dance: Thoughts About the Sacred Vision Oracle

Today is the first day of October, and hence the first day of the multitude of shadow work challenges on Instagram (I'll be participating in two - I love me some shadow work!). So it feels appropriate to post about something I've been mulling over - and to an extent avoiding - over the past week: my struggle with certain aspects of the newly released Sacred Vision Oracle cards. (To be honest, I didn't even want to talk about this - ever. But my sister urged me to, and I decided to listen.)

I was browsing online a couple of weeks back when I happened across this deck. Whenever I see indigenous-related work the first inclination I have is to verify that the artist is of that same cultural background, and so I was pleased to learn that the images in Sacred Visions were painted by Robert Taylor, an Oklahoma artist with ancestral roots in four indigenous nations. Lynn Andrews created the concept for the deck, and I'm superficially aware that she has written several books on shamanism (I can't speak to her abilities or legitimacy, so I won't). As I understand it, the images for these oracle cards were derived from pre-existing artwork as opposed to having been created specifically for it, and I think that's important: when artwork is matched to a concept after its creation there are often at least some wrinkles in the final product (it's possible that I'm wrong about the way in which the deck was conceived, though if so, I am even more confused by what feels to me like forced congruities).

I want to say that I love the quality and intensity of Robert Taylor's paintings. As often happens with important artwork, the images and symbolism can be provocative and moving. That is good. However I am not always comfortable with the way in which certain "oracular messages" are juxtaposed with some of the more sobering and loaded images, and I'll use just one as an example. I drew this card one morning several days ago and it stopped me completely in my tracks insofar as open work with the deck is concerned (I still haven't resumed regular card draws with it):
In this painting, an indigenous man floats above the earth with hands upraised, showing the Christian symbol of stigmata on his palms. This carries so much historical weight. Robert Taylor himself suggests that this figure is meant to represent a Ghost dancer. Ghost dancing was a movement among many indigenous communities in the 19th Century, said to have been sparked by a vision received by the Paiute holy man, Wovoka, who dreamed that Jesus was reborn as an indigenous man with the purpose of protecting indigenous communities. The dance was meant to call back the spirits of the dead to help put an end to the ravages of Euro-American colonialism and to establish peace in the land. Black Elk, the famous Lakota spiritual leader, had received a related vision about the creation of special Ghost dance shirts that would repel bullets. The Wounded Knee massacre is said to in part have been triggered by resistance of a Lakota man, Yellow Bird, to the demand by U.S. soldiers to surrender weapons. He began to Ghost dance, asking others to join him, reminding them that their shirts protected them from the soldiers' bullets. There is so much more to the story of this horrific massacre, and I encourage everyone to learn about what happened there. Needless to say (perhaps) the soldiers' fear ultimately led them to kill more than 150 men, women, and children that had been herded into the Wounded Knee encampment.

I have been to Wounded Knee on several occasions as part of work with the Oglala Lakota nation on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and it's hard to describe the pain that is still palpable there. I would break down quite unexpectedly each time I visited the cemetery. The subjugation of the First Nations though murder and the spread of communicable diseases is one of the most egregious stains on the history of this country, and the effects are still evident today.

When I see images like this, I feel grief. I see powerful and charged symbolism in the correlation of the destruction and dismantling of indigenous culture, language, and communities to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I am disgusted by it, too. The painting itself is extraordinarily powerful. To elicit these feelings and thoughts in and of itself is a journey through shadow.

But then it is coupled with this description:
I've read this a multitude of times, and I'm still not sure what Lynn Andrews is trying to say. Is she suggesting that the literal interpretation of visions by two important indigenous leaders was an unfortunate mistake that led to more deaths than might have been necessary? Is she saying that colonialism sucks, but it's more important to buck up and move forward? Is she equating the desperation of indigenous peoples to being "unaware of true reality"? Why is the card called "Vision" when some aspects of the card narrative seem to encourage a focus on the mundane? Why is the subtitle "Heaven Is Where You Find It?" What does this last line, "Heaven is before you; your dreams are coming true," have to do with an image of a Ghost dancer (whose visions certainly did not manifest)? The guidebook provides a small reflection on the "spirit of the card" which is easier to get my head around: For what do you hunger? What makes you float in a state of grace? If I divorce the message from the card image, I can grab hold of some interesting food for thought and reflection (an essential purpose of oracle decks). I can't, however, manage it when the card narrative is on the flip side of the card image.

So what do I do with this? If I continue to work with this deck, do I take the card descriptions with a grain of salt (or else not read them at all), and focus mainly - or solely - on symbolism in the images? (To be fair, not all image-description combinations are as jarring as this one). Do I scrap this as an oracle altogether and frame the pictures as a mini art gallery of Robert Taylor's stunning work? I'm undecided. For the time being I may continue tentative work with these cards, though I'm not sure that I will talk much about the experience in any public forum. I'll follow my heart where it leads me in relation to this matter, but I at the very least agree that my sister was right when she suggested that it was worth putting my perspective out into the ether.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Njördr and Re-Membering Myself

I asked Njördr for a message; something to help change my perspective on this *thing*.... Soon I will meet a colleague to share our artwork with each other. It was a suggestion on his part to help encourage me as I get back into drawing and painting, and I am grateful for that intention. And yet I keep finding myself anxious or unprepared, worrying that my pieces aren't good enough. It's really annoying, and I don't want to feel this way, but it is nevertheless how I feel.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
I don't think I could imagine more appropriate cards for this matter. The Page is my creative self - the one that doesn't judge or compare - only expresses. The 8 of Swords represents my mental cage, my self-imposed limitations. Strength shows me that I am so much bigger than those needling thoughts and fears, tells me to show myself compassion, and embrace the fullness of my own being. I love how the Page and Strength look in at the 8 of Swords, perfectly equal to the task of releasing these blockages.

Mannaz reinforces the fact that this is all tied up in how I see myself, and myself in relation to others - and it's time for a narrative shift.

I spoke to Njördr at the ocean the other day, and asked him to help me remember who I am. I have indeed felt myself re-membering over the past week, calling back parts of myself. This is one of them.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Kitchen Witchery: Making an Arnica Salve

My husband has been suffering from a pinched nerve that has made his entire arm and shoulder feel as if lit on fire. For nearly two weeks he's been wrought with constant pain from the nerve and associated muscle soreness and tightness. Prescriptions and over-the-counter muscle creams couldn't touch it. A few days ago he reminded me of an arnica salve that I'd made a couple of years ago - I had totally forgotten! (The helenalin in arnica montana serves as a powerful topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic*) So I set out to make another, and was pleased to find that I had everything I needed on hand:

A cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of beeswax
Dried arnica montana flowers (about a half cup)
Rosemary essential oil 

There are a couple of ways to create herb oils, and due to time I chose the short method: letting the dried flowers steep in hot oil for 30 minutes (being very careful to keep the stovetop heat low so as not to cook the herbs).
While the oil was doing its thing, I set about chopping up the beeswax (you can use beeswax beads which work perfectly well, but raw beeswax is something special!)
I paused halfway through and lit a green candle for the healing goddess Eir. May this salve effectively help ease Jorge's pain. Since my arnica wasn't extra fresh, I also asked for a little boost in the potency of the herb itself. I thanked the plant, and its source. I opened my heart to Eir in invitation.
I traced the runes Uruz and Kenaz over the heating oil, and chanted their names quietly. After 30 minutes I strained the oil into a saucepan.

Then, at very low heat, I added in the beeswax and about five drops of essential oil. As the beeswax melted, I used a wooden chopstick to stir.
As I was preparing this salve rather out of the blue, I didn't have a jar or other receptacle ready to receive it. I decided to use a small glass storage bowl that has a fitted lid. As soon as the beeswax was fully integrated, I poured the salve into the bowl to cool.
Cooling is a surprisingly fast process, almost as if the wax desperately wants to be solid and is trying to return to that state as quickly as possible. Within an hour (probably less) I was spreading it over Jorge's back and shoulder and arm.
There is something truly magical-feeling about creating medicines out of such simple and natural ingredients. When it works, it almost seems like an accident, or something too good to be true. It's silly to feel that way, but we are so trained to rely on pharmaceuticals (most of which are based on plants anyway!). And so I found myself entirely warmed over and thoroughly pleased when Jorge reported to me a couple of days later that this arnica salve has been the only medicine to make a substantial difference in his pain level (his exact words were: "You should label this stuff 'miracle salve'"). It is this rather humble blend of plants and oils and wax that has managed to provide true relief.

*Arnica is toxic to consume orally unless specially prepared by a certified homeopathic practitioner. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Wild Within

Yesterday morning I felt compelled to draw a card from the Animal Spirits Knowledge deck that features the beautiful art of Susan Seddon Boulet.

What wild energy is walking with me now? 

The deer was my first experience in animal communion when I was 12 years old. I would walk across the street into the Woods, where I would hunt for berries, build lean-tos, and look for animal tracks by the riverside. On the luckiest of days I would see a fox or other shy, wild creature. One day as I was sitting on a footpath at the top of a forested hill, and the wind moved the maple and oak limbs back and forth above, a group of deer walked slowly through the trees below. Not long after that I began to dream of deer. I remember one in which a deer stood on the back porch of my home, waiting for me. I went outside and touched it as it stood there in silence.

Reading the text on the backside of the card, I felt an immediate connection to the New Moon reading I'd done the day before:
Stone Tarot
What gifts are unfolding, and how to nurture them? Here amidst the purples and blues and greens are themes of exploring personal happiness and contentment, of embracing my nature, of journeying through my own wilderness.

Even some of the language is the same: journey, wilderness, nature.

Artemis was the first goddess that I felt connected to as a young teenager, exploring the Greek deities in ninth grade. Wild, strong, an archer, a forest walker, a companion and protector of inhabitants of the deep woods. I have thought of her lately, and the connection here underscores that energetic presence. The wild within, the untamed, the breathtaking potency of divine feminine power.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Be Good to Yourself

My morning ritual for the past handful of months has involved putting coffee on to brew, and sitting down to pull a card or two for various Instagram challenges. I enjoy these Tarot/oracle challenges because they give a focal point for the day (one I don't have to think up myself). But this morning I looked at the prompts for both of those I'm participating in and shrugged. Neither appealed to me. I sat there staring for a while - should I look up a spread? Do a Celtic Cross (those are informative and familiar, but maybe too many cards for now)? No... as I sat there a three-card spread materialized in my mind, something simple and "just right" for my mood:

How do I feel?
What do I need?
How can I get it?

I felt moody yesterday, that old and familiar impulse to be alone, to not have to talk with anyone, to not have to be around other people. The hermit and the cave. I don't feel much different today. But having just come out of a hurricane that shut the city down for a week, I have so much to tend to at work, and a lot of people who rely on my support. My weekly reading "warned" me of these feelings. Sitting on the couch this morning I started to daydream about taking a day off, and how amazing it would feel to be able to take a day to decompress. Then I remembered the 7 of Cups from that weekly reading: "if you can imagine it, you can make it happen." Making my own needs a priority, if not the only one. Perhaps I could make it work? I decided to draw my cards:
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot - Uusi 
How do I feel? 5 of Wands rx
What do I need? Queen of Pentacles rx
How can I get it? 8 of Cups rx

All reversals certainly reflect the choppy energy moving through me at present. The 5 of Wands speaks to a sense of inner conflict - my internal and external worlds not combining well. That is very much the case. I sit here reviewing my schedule for the day, and I don't want any of it. And yet I'm not sure I can relinquish those responsibilities.

The Queen of Pentacles tells me that I should focus on taking care of myself, on addressing the needs that aren't being met; she asks me to be good to myself. This Queen gazes over at the 5 of Wands, perhaps aware that it is the source (at least in part) of her discontent. She gives me permission to honor my personal, intimate priorities, rather than brushing them off in the face of the busy-ness surrounding me.

The 8 of Cups reflects a desire to abandon it all - to walk away. And yet inverted it shows that I'm not convinced that I can, or should. But this is about getting what I need, so what about finding a balance? I started to reflect on my day today, on what I ought to be present for (a morning meeting), and what I may be able to release in order to make space for myself (perhaps completing some work from home in the afternoon). As I thought, I realized that I do have some wiggle room. I do have options. And suddenly my day started to take on a different hue.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Weathering the Storm: Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma swept up over the peninsula of Florida last weekend, knocked over a lot of trees, peeled off some roofs, flooded bodies of water (and homes), and floated off to the north, taking our electricity with it. One week to the hour that we lost our power, we got it back (around 9:30pm last night). A week without electricity is great when you're backpacking, but in an urban setting post-storm it's a whole other thing. We have done well, though, I believe. We are fortunate in so many ways. Experiences like this cause you to think in new ways, and that is always welcome and good.

As I've been trying to keep up with two Instagram challenges, I thought I'd share two recent posts that capture the essence of this experience...

The following is something I posted a couple of days ago for the September Tarot challenge hosted by @lionharts:

Energy to work with this week: 4 of Swords (rx) from the Ostara Tarot
As I was shuffling, my mind wandered to the feeling I have been having lately that - despite having had a hurricane-related week off work - I am going to need a vacation. The problem is, I am not going to get it! Most people I know have their power back, but we are on day 6 of no electricity, in the hot, humid, subtropical late summer. I'm starting to get cranky. We have been operating in semi-survival mode for days, each moment considering our food options, what we have and don't have, if what we have is enough, how not to break the bank on takeout, how not to melt when the internal temperature of the house sits around 88 degrees. Dirty clothes rack up. In the evening we take walks and notice that the whole neighborhood has lights on now except for our block and the neighboring apartments. There is a tree that split nearly in two during the storm, one half leaning against a utility pole. A week later and there has been no movement to tend to it. I suspect this is why we are still in the dark.

I have been grateful, in many ways, for this time. Grateful for the shift in mindset it provokes. Grateful to see how people come together to support each other during times of distress. The kids spend long hours playing together rather than watching videos. I am profoundly aware of how good we have it compared to others who lost lives or whole roofs during the storm. We (humans in general) are deeply capable of thriving out of the bounds of the technological world. But give me a tent and a forest; the urban environment isn't friendly to this. We receive notifications not to interact with water bodies due to possible contamination and displaced wildlife (aka gators). Nightly strolls are complicated by brush from fallen trees that block the sidewalks, and yet the street has its own hazards (cars and crazy drivers). I won't have the downtime I would like, a liminal space to recover from the sap on my energy, and so I will have to take the time I need wherever I can.

This morning I wrote the following for the La Vie en Tarot challenge:

Do a three card spread
Visconti Sforza Tarot
Theme of the week: 10 of Swords ~ exhaustion, I am sure. The last week hasn't been particularly easy and I have a lot to do this week. The power came back on late last night, which was amazing. But there is no time to recover before jumping back in to the grind. It's also the last week of September classes for our students, and the schedule (due to the hurricane) is going to be chaotic. It is just a week, though, and we'll be fine. 

Challenges: 5 of Coins ~ I may feel like I don't have enough resources. We spent so much money on hurricane supplies and food while we were without power that I definitely do feel a bit financially cautious. But to a large extent that's a mindset, and the Queen of Pentacles I pulled earlier this morning speaks to that. 

Boon: 7 of Cups ~ If you can imagine it, you can make it happen. And also, encouragement (permission) to focus on my individual needs which may be different from the group I interact with. 

We are well. The kids are back in school today after a week of canceled classes. The markets are still low (at best) on cold foods, and some gas stations are still out of commission. Parks are still flooded, and debris still clutters the right-of-way down most streets. But these things will ease with time. I'm grateful for the experience, challenges and all.

Here are some pictures from my neighborhood:

Monday, August 28, 2017

Embracing the Shadow: An Eclipse Reading

This summer has proven to be a whirlwind of activity, movement, joys, and intense challenges. My blog has certainly landed toward the bottom of any priority list I might have had, and even this post has taken a week to finish writing (but I did it!). This grand solar eclipse a week ago was a special moment that has felt so profoundly relevant to all of the energies flowing in, around, and through my world since summer began. I saw an eclipse spread developed by Sharron Basanti from the School of Gypsy Arts  and made space to draw some cards.
I used my (fairly new) Visconti Sforza deck - the Golden Tarot by Mary Packard, which is sumptuous and rich and fun to read with....
What area of my life is the most influenced by the Solar Eclipse? Strength

I love the Strength card, though to be honest, this particular version was what prevented me from acquiring the Visconti-Sforza for so long! A man beating an animal is not at all how I experience Strength, but with historical decks it's critical to understand the context in which the deck art was created. In this case, it's meant to be a man keeping his pride and baser impulses in check. Still, I much prefer to see the friendship between a woman and a lion, bear, boar, or any other similar wild and fierce creature. To live in harmony with the wild within us is far healthier than to beat it into submission!

All of that said, this card makes so much sense for me (and I love the Leo connection between the eclipse and the card itself!). For months now I feel I've been getting to know more intimately than ever before my own wild nature; learning about how to stretch my wild limbs. I feel like a wolf on the inside, and sometimes even see one in my mind's eye when closing my eyes to fall asleep. How do I embrace this birth and still try to hold onto balance? The answer is: I can't always. Birth is messy. And that has largely been my focus for some time now. It's not always pleasant, but then sometimes it is, and I am filled with this glorious and wonderful power of my own feral self.

What illusions are being brought into the light? 8 of Swords rx

Patterns and paradigms have a way of turning in on themselves. Over this past summer I've come to startling and moving realizations about my own mental cages, the constructs that have kept me locked into a particular way of being that no longer fit me anymore. I was too big, and the surroundings too uncomfortable. I was ambling along, quite unaware of what was happening to me, and then one day, I woke up.

How can I embrace my shadow medicine? Knight of Swords rx

The Knight of Swords has long been my shadow warrior. He is upside down because he is my flip side. The Knight of Swords sees so clearly, and is not blinded nor deterred by the ebb and flow of sentimental tides. Once you see, you cannot (and should not) unsee, and there is great strength and conviction available there, in staying in that awareness. This Knight has kept me focused, has encouraged me to speak my truth, even when that truth is sharp and piercing. The determination and forward orientation of the Knight has kept me moving, even when I am uncertain of the destination.

What paradigm shifts will emerge after the eclipse? 2 of Wands

Themes of personal power and the willingness - readiness - to explore new landscapes (both outer and inner) have formed the backdrop of all of "this." If the 8 of Swords directly symbolizes the paradigm shift, the 2 of Wands is the door to new ways of understanding and engaging with myself and my space.

How can I harness potent medicine of the Solar Eclipse for my spiritual practice? 4 of Wands rx

In addition to some pertinent elements including "freedom" and "transition," this card is associated (via the Golden Dawn) with Venus in Aries. Learning how to honor my heart has been another fundamental theme this summer. The other day I pulled a card from the Raven Oracle (by Gabi Bücker) to serve as "food for thought" over the next handful of months - a sort of mantra or reminder when I need to refocus. The card message I received said: "Your heart is a treasure trove - not some smelly sewer." I laughed at that last bit, but the essence is true and relevant for me now. Love is everything; our hearts can handle limitless amounts of it, in all of its many forms. I want to explore all of the love that my heart has to offer, and that is certainly a spiritual practice.

Message from the Sun: 8 of Cups rx

In order to walk a new path, is it necessary to leave behind the old? Can I search my soul, honor myself, live authentically by transforming "what was" instead of discarding it? I think so. And at any rate, I believe that is the "question of the moment" that the Sun is presenting for my consideration.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rune Post #25: Othala

Here is the (slightly delayed) final rune post featuring Othala, the twenty-fourth rune of the Elder Futhark, and eighth rune in the third aett.

Othala translates to "homeland," and connects to themes of property/land, ancestral legacy, ancestral streams, inheritance, and home.*
An Anglo Saxon rune poem reads:

An estate is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Othala?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Othala has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

*It has sadly been misappropriated by some neo-Nazi groups that seek to align heathenry with racist ideology; it's critical to understand that the runes (and heathenry as a whole) have absolutely nothing to do with such ignorance, small-mindedness, and hatred.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rune Post #24: Dagaz

Happy Wednesday! Today's focus will be on Dagaz, the twenty-third rune of the Elder Futhark, and seventh rune in the third aett.

Dagaz translates to "day," and connects to themes of daylight, breaking dawn, awareness, enlightenment, sudden and powerful realizations, cognition, enjoyment, breakthroughs, clarity, and hope.
Power of the Runes by Voenix; Ostara Tarot
This morning I happened to pull Dagaz (along with a Tarot card - the Page of Swords). Later I realized that Dagaz was today's rune post as well, and so I thought I would share what I wrote about that pairing:

This Page frequently comes up in connection to my relationship with Odin, so I wondered which rune would then appear...sure enough it is Dagaz, the Odinic Paradox, the great awareness, the meeting of right and left brains, the light bearer. There he sits, nursing a vibrant fire as the sun just starts to make its way over the edge of the horizon.

The Page is a seeker, asks questions, pursues knowledge and information and truth. The Page is a student of the universe, curiosity not constrained by age or social norms. We all see the world through different eyes, and yet as different as our experiences may be, there is something true in them all. I value the pursuit of understanding as a precious resource, cradling the reality that two opposites may indeed be part of the same whole.

An Old English rune poem reads:

Day, the glorious light of the Creator, 
is sent by the Lord;
it is beloved of men, 
a source of hope and 
happiness to rich and poor,
and of service to all.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Dagaz?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Dagaz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I Am

Alaina from Exploringly Yours invited me to compose an "I Am" poem. After sitting on the idea for a  few days, one night this poem simply exploded forth from my soul:
I am
the hunger
I am
the wild
I am
the fertile
the ravenous
the craving
and the sin.
I am
a yawning
I am
a tidal flow
in and out
the thirst
the life
the primal shout
I am
a woman
I am
the untamed
the fury
the passion
and the grace.

I encourage you to write your own, and if you do, please let me know so that I can read them!

Rune Post #23: Ingwaz/Inguz

Today's second rune post concerns Ingwaz, the twenty-second rune of the Elder Futhark, and sixth rune in the third aett.

Ingwaz translates to "seed," and corresponds to Yngvi-Frey. This rune connects to themes of agriculture, energy, completion of a cycle, internal development, male fertility, and natural order.
Power of the Runes deck - Voenix
The seed is a powerful metaphor for the energy of this rune... the idea of the potency of climax, the internal machinations that precede a young plant's emergence from the soil; deep potential waiting for the right moment to burst forth.

An Old English rune poem reads:

Ing was first, among the East-Danes,
seen by men
until he again eastward
went over the wave;
the wain followed on;
this is what the warriors
called the hero.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Ingwaz?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Ingwaz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

Rune Post #22: Laguz

Today's focus will be on Laguz, the twenty-first rune of the Elder Futhark, and fifth rune in the third aett.

Laguz translates to "water," and connects to themes of life, the unconscious, memory, dreamtime, the emotional body, psychic experiences, ebb and flow.
Power of the Runes deck - Voenix
An Anglo Saxon rune poem reads:

The ocean seems interminable to men,
if they venture on the rolling bark
and the waves of the sea terrify them
and the stallion of the deep heed not its bridle.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Laguz?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Laguz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rune Post #21: Mannaz

Happy Wednesday! Today's focus will be on Mannaz, the twentieth rune of the Elder Futhark, and fourth rune in the third aett.

Mannaz translates to "mankind," and connects to themes of broad community, the experience of humanity, contemplation, the soul, the self in the context of the "many."

An Icelandic rune poem reads:

Man is delight of man
and augmentation of the earth
and adorner of ships.
Power of the Runes deck - Voenix
This rune poem reminds me of stanza 47 of the Havamal:

I was young once,
I walked alone,
and I became lost on my way.
I felt like I was rich when I met another traveler - 
people's joy is in other people.*

I have found Mannaz to be a bit elusive, though it has come up most often for me during times of my own contemplation of the human condition (racism/prejudice, the political climate, my own values and how they relate to others, etc.).


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Mannaz?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Mannaz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

*Jackson Crawford translation

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rune Post #20: Ehwaz

Happy Wednesday! Today's focus will be on Ehwaz, the nineteenth rune of the Elder Futhark, and third rune in the third aett.

Ehwaz translates to "horse," and connects to themes of partnership, trust, friendship, connection between two entities, and forward movement. It can also connect to topics involving animals, and is often correlated with Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged steed.

An Anglo Saxon rune poem reads:

The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.
A steed in the pride of its hoofs,
when rich men on horseback bandy words about it;
and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.
I have so many funny stories with Ehwaz..... every time I draw it in the morning, I automatically think: "Two cars." In my personal experience this rune always means that I will be traveling with someone in tandem.

For example, I pulled this rune on a day my family was planning to go to a barbecue. I couldn't imagine why we would go in two cars, but sure enough in the afternoon my husband told me that our friend requested he come early to help set up, so we ended up driving separately.

Another day I pulled this rune when my daughter had a school concert, and my husband was running late, and so met us there after work.

Once I pulled this rune when my sister helped me take the car into the shop - she drove behind me so that we could leave together after dropping mine off for servicing.

Now my husband is in Sweden, and yet I pulled this rune last Saturday. I thought "this should be interesting!" My daughter had a volunteer project at a park that morning, so the kids and I dropped her off in my car. Later we decided to pick her up and head straight out to a park by a big lake nearby. Since the highway is the fasted route, I swapped cars to take my husband's as it has the SunPass (for toll routes) in the front windshield.

Even this morning, on the day I am posting about Ehwaz, I pulled Ehwaz. ;) On my way to work I thought I'd like a coffee, but decided to wait until getting to campus, and then I'd walk over to the cafe. In the end I walked over there with a colleague so that we could have a "walking meeting." Not car related, but certainly connected to partnership and movement!


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Ehwaz?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Ehwaz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rune Post #19: Berkano

Happy Wednesday and Happy Midsummer! Today's focus will be on Berkano, the eighteenth rune of the Elder Futhark, and second rune in the third aett.

Berkano translates as "birch," or "birch goddess," and connects to themes of birth/rebirth, motherhood, nurturing, creation, sanctuary, fertility, and the emergence of new ideas/projects.
Power of the Runes deck - Voenix
An Old Icelandic rune poem reads:

Birch is a leafy twig
and little tree
and fresh young shrub.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Berkano?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Berkano has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

4) What deities do you connect to Berkano? Frigg? Freyja? Holda?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rune Post #18: Tiwaz

Happy Wednesday! Today's focus will be on Tiwaz, the seventeenth rune of the Elder Futhark, and first rune in the third aett.

Tiwaz refers directly to the god Tyr, and therefore connects to themes of justice, victory, clear judgment, leadership, and sacrifices made for a greater cause.

An Old Icelandic rune poem reads:

Tyr is the one-handed god
and the leavings of the wolf
and the ruler of the temple.
Tyr is best known in lore for having sacrificed his sword hand during the binding of the wolf Fenrir. This rune poem clearly makes reference to that history. Additionally, there is some suggestion that Tyr may have occupied the role of principal "sky god" (as opposed to Odin) prior to the Migration Period (this period occurred roughly during the first millennia A.D., and ended about a hundred years prior to the start of the Viking Age in 793).

In the Eddic poem Sigrdrífumál, Sigrdrífa (the valkyrie) instructs Sigurd to carve "victory runes" on his sword, and call on Tyr two times, in order to achieve victory in battle.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Tiwaz?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Tiwaz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Tarot Thursday Three: Everywhere Synchronicity

It's been a while, but here is another round of Tarot Thursday Three, hosted by Julia at Spiral Sea Tarot! Feel free to create a post of your own with the same questions, or comment below with your own thoughts....

1. What is the greatest lesson tarot has so far taught you?

I suppose that I'd say that working with Tarot - and divination as a whole - has taught me that synchronicity is an intrinsic and ever-present aspect of the essence of the universe. People often discuss the "mystery" behind why the cards are accurate - after all, aren't they "just" paper and ink? Yes, yes they are. But that's the funny thing about synchronicity - it touches everything, and that includes the cards (and even apps!). Tarot is evidence of synchronicity on a micro-scale.
Jodorowski-Camoin Tarot de Marseille
2. What is the biggest way tarot has so far changed your life or added to it?

Tarot has been an amazing tool for self-development and personal growth. I can't count the number of times that I have worried about [insert topic here], and found incredible, practical, sensible, and deeply helpful advice in the cards. Tarot has helped show me the best way to approach challenging situations, has encouraged me when I've been wrapped up in self-doubt, and has given me the hard truth when that's exactly what I needed to hear (even if I didn't want to).

3. What keeps tarot interesting and fresh through the years (or months if you're a newer reader)?

On some level Tarot becomes part of the regular life routine. I often pull a card in the morning, or throw some when I'm feeling confused or anxious or curious or excited. I sometimes read for others, which never gets old. But I can say that Instagram has been a wonderful forum for engaging with other readers, glimpsing new decks, seeing how others read or relate to the cards. And then, of course, there are the never-ending supply of monthly divination challenges which provide a reading focus for each day. In fact, Tarot brought me to Instagram to begin with!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Banes: Turning Poison into Medicine

I am participating in an Instagram challenge this month hosted by @lionharts, called #thejunetarot, and the prompt for day eight is: "Last day of the Moon cycle focus."

I drew The Banes from the Druid Plant Oracle (by Philip and Stephanie Car-Gomm) 🌿

I love that the full moon makes an appearance in this card - quite fitting, I'd say, given the prompt! The Banes provide much food for thought...

These are plants that were so often feared for their poisonous qualities, and yet, handled with skill and respect, became powerfully effective medicines. Many such herbs were utilized in the preparation of "flying ointments" meant to induce astral travel and spirit exploration.
How often do we avoid our own dangerous qualities for fear of succumbing to them? Of late I have been pondering the deep power in diving into them; opening up to them; allowing them to teach us. I remember once, many years ago, a young man told me that at his Christian university it was not permitted for students to dance. I looked at him, mouth agape. He became defensive, and explained that as dancing led people to immoral behavior, it was best not to engage in it. I recall thinking about how disempowering that felt: we learn about will, and boundaries, and our Selves, by entering the dance, not by avoiding it.

But I can understand the fear. Our wildness can be intimidating, uncertain. It can loom large over and around and within us. And yet ironically, perhaps, that's the best part. It feels good to plumb our own depths, to see what lurks in our shadowy corners. You let it embrace you, and instead of being overtaken by its potency, you discover just how much power you wield when you are able to own your own skin, the entirety of your being within your grasp. Shadow and light, all the shades in between. There is something sacred and worth savoring in that - a holy medicine.


I have also been pondering the power of owning our own experiences, from one moment to the next, and not allowing others' ignorance or negativity to poison our own emotional body. Last night we were at the store and while waiting in line to pay, a man told another (in Spanish):

"I just came from Puerto Rico, and I'm not used to seeing 'darkies' out shopping so late."

He was referring to Jorge (and his blackness), and was clearly assuming that we couldn't understand. I was incensed. But instead of confronting the guy (which he would have done some years ago), he said to me:

"You can stay quiet out of fear, or you can stay quiet out of strength. This guy isn't even worth it, and I won't let his stupidity ruin this wonderful night."

Hmmm..... turning poison into medicine.

Rune Post #17: Sowilo

Happy Wednesday! Today's focus will be on Sowilo, the sixteenth rune of the Elder Futhark, and eighth (final) in the second aett.

Sowilo's literal meaning is "sun," and it connects to themes of confidence, success, achievement of goals, the sun wheel, guidance, optimism, energy, and honor.
Power of the Runes ~ Voenix (US Games Systems)
An Old English rune poem reads:

Sun is by sea-men
always hoped for
when they fare far away
over the fishes bath
until the brine-stallion
they bring to the land.

(I love the kennings in this one!)


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Sowilo?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Sowilo has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rune Post #16: Algiz

Happy Wednesday! Today's focus will be on Algiz, the fiftteenth rune of the Elder Futhark, and seventh in the second aett.

Algiz's (also called Elhaz) literal meaning is "elk," and it connects to themes of protection, connection to the divine, the higher self, and inner strength.
As it intersects with the connection to divine forces at work in our lives, Algiz is often connected to Valkyries, who in lore are said to at times take the form of swans.

An Anglo-Saxon rune poem reads:

The Elk-sedge usually lives in the fen,
growing in the water. It wounds severely,
staining with blood any man
who makes a grab at it.


1) What other meanings do you attribute to Algid?

2) How do you utilize this rune in your practice?

3) If Algiz has presented itself in your rune work or castings, how have you seen its energy manifested, or experienced its impact?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Cup Overflowing

Note: this post is all about menstruation, so if that's not your cup of tea then you may not want to continue reading ;)

I feel like I've been mentioning this topic quite a bit lately, and that's probably because any mention of it at all is more than I ever usually discuss my cycle in public! But in some ways it feels larger than me - relevant to all women, in some way or another. I'm also realizing that I've been feeling a bit "activisty" about it all.

A short time ago I wrote a poem about my decision to stop taking the contraceptive Pill (you can click here to read that post) and this past Tuesday marked the start of the first period free of chemical influence. It did come as a small surprise since for many years it all ran like clockwork: I stopped the Pill on a Tuesday, and by Friday I was bleeding. I started the Pill again the following Wednesday, and so forth. Cramps were minimal, and the duration of my periods was fairly short. Without a pill pack my periods will be reestablishing their own rhythm (though to slightly reduce the guess work related to when I can expect it to begin, I may download a "period tracker" app). Ah well, who needs an app when those subtle-yet-unmistakeable physio-emotional signs serve as useful alert? I was sending a voice message to my sister on Tuesday morning about how irritable I was - how I felt a little "premenstrual" and was finding myself reacting more strongly than usual to small annoyances. I didn't think that enough time had passed from my last period, so I chalked it up to my own hormones going through a shifting and resettling process. But lo and behold, that afternoon at a quick bathroom stop I found that it was indeed that time.

Wednesday morning (the next day) I pulled the Ace of Cups as my daily draw from the Morgan Greer  deck:
Morgan Greer Tarot - US Games
My first thought was: oh look! My cup is overflowing!... not in the way we tend to think... symbolic love and emotion... no, no.... that morning it was quite literal. In fact, upon waking up I had run directly to the bathroom after a torrent of blood overwhelmed just about everything I was wearing from my waist down. This period is not messing around. And just look at that lotus situation happening at the bottom of the card: that is clearly a uterus and ovaries! ;)

Emotionally I have been feeling quite prickly for a few days, and rather than easing up, it seems to be settling in and getting comfortable. Today is day three, and my disposition is quite like a cat with flattened ears (you cat people know what I'm talking about). Today is just not the day to be having any kind of conversations with people. It could go terribly wrong. It's not even noon yet and I've already had to stop myself from sending a couple of emails that my superego (thankfully) deemed entirely unnecessary.

While some of this is rather uncomfortable (emotionally and physically, and even logistically), there is another part of it that feels satisfying, and very welcome. I feel like my body is sighing with relief, as if I've finally given it the tools it needs to conduct a major deep cleaning. I'm giving it back its agency and sovereignty. And that feels profoundly nourishing.