Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tarot Thursday Three: Worst Deck Ever

Here is another round of questions for Tarot Thursday Three, hosted by Julia from Spiral Sea Tarot!

1. If you could have your likeness immortalized on any one of the 78 cards, which would it be and why?

Hmm...... I suppose I'd like to be the Hermit. I like to be alone, enjoy reading and studying and thinking and contemplating, and the number 9 is pretty awesome! Plus, so many Hermit cards feature men, which can be rather limiting!

2. When reading for yourself, are you able to remain unbiased and if so, what tips can you share for others?

Yes, I think that generally speaking I'm able to be unbiased in my own readings, and I'm sure that I do a much better job at that than I used to. One tip is to consider how you would read that same spread for someone else. Pretend the layout is for a dear friend. What would you tell her or him? How would you phrase things?
3. What is your least favourite deck in your collection and why?

I have the Pirate Tarot by Schiffer, and it's just awful. It's meant to look like images carved onto wood, and perhaps wouldn't be quite as bad if it didn't have grotesque and totally unnecessary borders that extend unevenly out behind the main image. The sole purpose of those borders is to allow for the word PIRATE to be typed along the left side of the cards. It almost looks like a prototype deck...except that it's not. It's really tacky. And since the border itself is uneven, if you were to trim the cards, the design on the backs would be off-center. So yeah.

The Empress and a Paleo-esque Approach to Food

Yesterday morning I drew the Empress from the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot just prior to leaving the house. It's always a pleasure to see her, and I felt her quietly asking the question: How are you taking care of yourself?

The answer of late is: not as well as I might! I haven't been sleeping as well as I would like, and for quite a while now I've been contemplating a change in food patterns - I just hadn't really made an effort to implement anything. I don't eat poorly by any means, but I am sure I consume more sugar than I probably should, and I often don't have a proper meal until dinner time on weekdays because I don't take the time to prepare a nutritious breakfast or lunch for myself. I'm busy, but that's not really an excuse. I hadn't found the right mindset.
I've heard so much about the Paleo style of eating over the past few years, where grains, dairy, legumes, and starch-heavy foods are eliminated in favor of a diet high in animal proteins, nuts/seeds, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats (such as olive/avocado/coconut oils). It's true that protein helps curb hunger and cravings (as well as helping the body's metabolism and energy levels), and high levels of carbs do lead to weight gain and energy spikes/crashes. So yesterday I decided to investigate the Paleo diet in more depth, and ended up printing out a long list of recommended and discouraged foods to pore over. Turns out we already eat quite a lot of the foods on the list, so adopting a Paleo-style diet wouldn't be a drastic change, in most respects. But we do consume a lot of carbs and dairy! Rather than assume a full Paleo diet, I wanted to let these nutritional concepts influence and guide our way of eating. I won't eliminate all grains from the house, but if we have rice or pasta as a part of our dinner, I will simply choose not to eat it, or I'll only take a tiny portion in favor of larger servings of vegetables and proteins. We can also shift to brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, etc, which offer so much more in terms of vitamins and minerals. I won't get rid of dairy altogether, but I can reduce the quantity of cheese I eat, for example. So while it won't be a true Paleo diet, it will be "Paleo-esque"! Ultimately it's about being more mindful about food and nutrition.
Roasted vegetables and lamb
Last night I spent some time cutting up broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, onion, and red bell pepper. I added them to a glass baking pan with avocado oil, salt, and a little black pepper, and let them roast for a while. Instead of rice or regular potatoes, we had this veggie hash as the primary component of our dinner, along with lamb. It was delicious, filling, and satisfying, and I felt "light" afterwards. Today I carved out space in my morning routine to prepare a turkey and avocado sandwich with a very small amount of a good cheddar cheese. I washed strawberries and put them in a plastic Tupperware, and packaged up sliced apples in a sandwich bag. This sounds pretty standard as far as lunches go, but it was a pretty big deal for me. So here is to embracing Empress-energy, and taking better care of my body!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Biakendai/Biikebrennen: Let It Burn

For the blog hop earlier this month I discussed the February 21st Biikebrennen celebration in North Frisia and South Jutland (Denmark) (click here to read more about it). This is a bonfire ritual specific to this region, and since my paternal great-grandparents were from Amrum (a North Frisian island) and South Jutland respectively, I wanted to celebrate it with my family for the first time this year.

Mind you it's not possible for us to have a bonfire at all, let alone one as vast as those on the islands, so we crafted our own version to honor the day...
Njörd statue
To preface it I want to mention a cool synchronicity that occurred in conjunction with yesterday's event. Over a month ago I had ordered a Njörd statue from a British Etsy shop (SJChilton). I knew it would likely take about two weeks to arrive to me after it shipped, but three weeks later I was starting to worry that it was lost. I messaged the shop owner yesterday morning to ask if she had any specific shipping information, and she kindly suggested I give it another couple of weeks to arrive. A few hours later I went out to the mailbox and there was one item inside: a small box from England. Interestingly, it had in fact been delivered to the wrong house, and the person had opened it up. Upon realizing that it was not intended for them, they put it back in the box, wrote an apologetic note, and hand-delivered it to our box. Needless to say, I was both happy and relieved. And the statue is pretty wonderful!

I have always connected Njörd with my dad's side of the family, primarily island and sea people from Northern Germany and coastal Denmark. So I found it particularly lovely that he showed up on February 21st, just in time for Biikebrennen!
My Njörd altar space
In Europe, islanders craft cloth-and-grass effigies called "Peter" which are thrown into the large fires, symbolic of the banishing of bad spirits and outdated energies. After dinner we all made paper "Peter" dolls out of a brown bag. The kids decorated their dolls however they liked, and then we wrote down any behaviors, thoughts, or feelings that we wanted to be rid of in our lives. Lourdes helped Gabriel with his. She said, "Gabe, what do you not want any more of?" He paused thoughtfully for a moment and said, "Your pickiness!" We all laughed. I told her that we could translate that to "sibling arguments."
Isabella decided to make her doll a girl - Petra - and added quite a bit of detail!
Lourdes wanted her Peter to wear a tuxedo:
Mine was a faceless vessel of intention:
When we were all ready, we went out to the back porch with a candle to burn our Peters.

It was a beautiful experience that everyone enjoyed, and we look forward to repeating it again next year!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Be Your Own Warrior (Not Worrier)

It has taken me a long time to recognize that I am a worrier. I've always been very laid back, flexible, calm, relaxed. Those aren't characteristics that I tend to associate with neurosis! And yet under the surface I would indeed be very anxious - always analyzing (and over-analyzing) conversations and events, worrying about people and responsibilities. During the day it was relatively easy to push it all back in the shadows, but it would inevitably rear its head in the darkest hours of the night. I would wake up at 2am and instead of turning over and falling back to sleep, I would wrap myself in a blanket of all of those fears. In most cases I was blowing things far out of proportion; during the day my rational mind helped mitigate the anxiety, but at night that balance disappeared, and reality felt as dark as the sky. I would lay awake for hours until close to dawn when it felt safe to sleep again.

This is a perfect description of the 9 of Swords.
Golden Tarot - Kat Black
For nearly a year I've held a stanza of the Hávamál like a mantra in my mind:
Jackson Crawford translation
This is extremely sensible, of course, and yet I was having a hard time putting it into practice. I know it's useless to lie awake worrying about concerns both real and imagined, only to have to trudge through the next day exhausted from lack of sleep, the same concerns yet to be solved. Isn't it easier to approach challenges with a clear, rested mind?

A while ago I decided to pull a couple of cards for myself about how to help myself and drew the 7 of Wands as the source, and the reversed waxing crescent as the solution.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot - Uusi
The 7 of Wands made a lot of sense to me: it evokes a feeling of "me against the world." While I always manage to sort things out and stay on top of it all, I was tending to focus on the dread associated with the need to solve various matters, rather than trusting myself. I felt like I was giving my power away. The Luna card was an interesting and yet very fitting response. Upright this would be a waxing crescent, but reversed it becomes a waning moon. What this told me was that as my fears began to grow, I needed to let them go. This seemed like obvious advice, and I still didn't know if I would be able to implement it. Just "let it go"? Is it really that easy, though?

The funny thing is that I found that it was. That same night I woke up in the early hours. My body was drowsy, and I knew that this was the magical point at which I could either allow my worries to take over, or I could go back to sleep. I wanted to go back to sleep. With some amount of irritation, I thought something along the lines of: "Not now, worry, not tonight." And I turned over and went back to sleep. Yes, just like that. I refused to permit my irrational fears to ruin my rest. I banished them. And every other time since then that I've awoken in the middle of the night and found myself in similar circumstances, I've just said, "Nope," and have settled back into sleep.

Last night I decided to make space to write my first "Post It Note Poem" (this is something happening on Instagram) as I was sipping hot tea, nestled into the couch to watch the nightly news. I actually produced quite a few poems, but this is the one that struck me most:
I didn't intend to describe those late night fear sessions, but I did. The funny thing is, the 7 of Wands was both the source of my worry, and part of the solution. In order to release those fears I had to take my power back and become an advocate for my own well-being. I am in the dark, and there are no stars, no light to ease my mind. There is only me. So it is my responsibility to be my own warrior.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tarot Thursday Three: to Reverse, or Not to Reverse?

Here is another round of #tarotthursdaythree, hosted by Julia at Spiral Sea Tarot. Feel free to answer these on your own blog, and let me know so I can read your responses!

1) Reversals or nah?

Reversals (usually). I started to use them at the same time that I started doing email readings for strangers years ago. I found the added nuances that reversals provide to be indispensable.
Wild Unknown Tarot
2. If you could go back in time and give your novice self one piece of wisdom to fast track your tarot learning, what would it be?

I'm not sure that I believe in "fast tracking" the learning process. It's a process for a reason - the trips and stumbles are valuable teachers. The biggest hurdle for me was to come to trust the messages that I was seeing in the cards, without second-guessing myself or overthinking things. The root of that is fear, and that takes time, practice, and experience to overcome.

3. What is your go-to spread?

I don't actually have one! I like to keep readings small (1-3 cards), and when reading for myself I typically draw a single card. Three card reading positions are often: Issue/Do This/Don't Do This; Challenge/Advice/Outcome. Whether reading for myself or for others, I tend to craft spread positions to fit the situation and query, so it varies quite a bit.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Imbolc Blog Hop: Biakendai

Welcome to the 2017 Imbolc Tarot Blog Hop! Please navigate to the other wonderful blogs in the circle by using the directional links at the top or bottom of this page. Our wrangler is Arwen Lynch Poe from Tarot by Arwen, and the theme she chose for us all is posed in the form of a question: 

How can I best foster the energy of the Aces in my life?

In northern climates, the month of February is a liminal space. Winter still embraces the land, but the sun is becoming ever brighter, and stays longer in the skies each day. Though the ground is still frosty, spring is on the way, and there is a restless energy in the air: a readiness to dig in to the fields, to prepare the ships for sailing. There are many festivals to welcome in the spring, and most include fire in some capacity, as a dispeller of the cold and ice. 

One little-known February festival called Biakendai (Biikebrennen in German) is held on the island of Amrum each year on February 21st. Amrum is a small island in the North Sea, just off the coast of the borderlands between Denmark and Germany. It is part of the North Frisian islands, home to a branch of the Frisian ethnic minority, and speakers of the Frisian dialect Öömrang. It was on this island that my great-grandfather, Gerret, was born into a rich community of family and close friends, and it was from this island that he emigrated in order to establish a new life in New York City. He and his family would have celebrated Biakendai by lighting a massive fire near the sea, and by blackening their faces with the soot of its ashes. It is said that the intention of the bonfire has shifted over time - that long ago it was meant as an offering to the ancient gods and goddesses, and with the coming of Christianity its significance focused more specifically on the more secular celebration of winter's departure.

Here is a newscast about the festival. Even if you don't understand German, you may enjoy the images:

For families of immigrants, reconnecting to lineage and ancestry can be a deeply rewarding experience of becoming "rooted." There is profound Ace energy in that, and this is one way I have been fostering that energy in my life.

Ace of Fire: Biakendai is primarily a bonfire festival for dispelling winter (and any lurking bad spirits!) and inviting in the springtime. The festival is held on neighboring islands and in the adjacent south of Denmark, where it is called Pers Awten/Pers Aften (Gerret's wife, my great-grandmother, Emilie, was a Dane from the ancient South Jutland trading town of Ribe, and probably celebrated that). Islanders gather their combustible refuse (tree branches, cardboard, etc.) and contribute it all to a mountain that will be lit on the 21st. Effigies named "Peter" are thrown on the fire to symbolize the burning away of the dark (both literal and metaphorical), the flashpoint where winter dies and the spring is born. The bonfire festival also served as a time to see off sailors and whalers as they began dangerous ocean voyages. This will be the first year that I celebrate this holiday in honor of my ancestors, and so this is my Ace of Fire.

Ace of Earth: In the Tarot, the 10 of Pentacles is a beautiful symbol of traditions that are passed on from generation to generation. But when traditions are lost due to immigration, an effort must be made to reclaim them. Thus a seed of "new" tradition is planted. I hope that the honoring of this festival will become something that my children look forward to in coming years, and if nourished and sustained, that it may even pass on to their own children. This is my Ace of Earth.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot - Uusi
Ace of Air: Radio Öömrang is a shortwave radio station on Amrum that holds a very special broadcast each year:

Radio Öömrang broadcasts once a year on the occasion of the Biakendai to the descendants of immigrants from the island of Amrum. Öömrang is a North Frisian dialect and is still spoken on Amrum. Biakendai is an annual celebration where a great bonfire is lit to dispel winter. (from the website)

They are reaching out over the airwaves on this traditional holiday in order to bridge the great space between Amrum and its diaspora. The broadcast lasts for one hour only: my Ace of Air. 

Ace of Water: Quite some time ago as I began to explore more in depth my Danish, North Frisian, and German heritage, I pulled a card about what the process would be like. It was the Ace of Cups. Indeed it has been like drinking from a hidden well, refreshing a parched aspect of my soul. Embracing my family history has been an act of love, not only for my ancestors, but for myself, and for my own children as well. This is my Ace of Water.
My great-grandfather Gerret (lower left) with family - Nebel, Amrum
Here is a festival song for Pers Aften. The video shows images of Biakendai/Biikebrennen/Pers Aften celebrations, including some from Amrum (look for the red/white lighthouse):

"And immediately about the fire were people in the crowd,
they danced and partied and went wild.
I asked a girl who approached me
'What are you doing, and what is it about?'
She smiled at me and she said:
'We celebrate the light, it's what we believe.
We sacrifice to Odin and Freya and Thor
and cry to heaven, where the gods live:
Weadke tar, Weadke tar,
Weadke tar, Weadke tar, Weadke tar,
Weadke tar, Weadke tar,
Weadke tar, Weadke tar, Weadke tar.'"

Thank you for reading, and Happy Hopping!