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Archive for the ‘Tarot’ Category

((Here it is Thursday of the first E week and I’m just now getting around to posting last week’s posts. Here’s a second D entry, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow!))

I’ve been doing some form of divination longer than I’ve been doing paganism – tarot was, in a way, a sort of gateway drug. I got really into tarot reading at the end of my time in college, when I got involved with the Aeclectic Tarot forums and started swapping for decks and doing readings. I’ve done readings on and off since then, never for money, but often for barter. My favorite deck, by far, is the DruidCraft tarot, which I’ve loved since the day it came in the mail. I got it used as part of a swap, and though I’ve gotten many other decks since then, it’s my go-to reading staple. It reads very straightforward. (I also like the Shadowscapes and Revelations decks, as well as the good old standard RWS deck.)

Now I’m trying to learn runes, since that’s a very Anglo Saxon type of divination, especially given that there’s a full rune poem. I’m not very good with them yet, and still prefer to read tarot when I’m pressed for a quick answer.  Since I’m working primarily with Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian Gods, though, I’d really prefer to develop fluency with a divination system that they’ll be easily familiar with.

I use divination in two different ways, and right now that lines up with the two different systems that I use.

On one hand, I use it as an introspective way to examine the complexities of a situation – for this, I almost always use tarot. I don’t really use spreads, I just draw cards until I feel like I’ve got enough information. I don’t see this as “looking into the future” at all, more like looking into the present (and sometimes past) to see what influences I might be missing or not aware of.

The other way I use divination is as a way to communicate directly with the Kindreds, in ritual and in meditation. As part of ADF ritual, we make offerings in return for blessings from our Kindreds (the Gods, Dead, and Nature Spirits). These blessings are divined by a seer as part of the ritual itself, and can take several forms. I typically draw three runes, one for each Kindred, asking specifically what blessings are offered in return for our sacrifices.

I know it’s possible for a skilled seer to get the kind of nuanced rune readings I get from tarot, but I’ll just have to work toward that.

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I read this article on The Wild Hunt this morning, and it just made my skin crawl. The short summary is that (infamous) psychic Sylvia Browne, on the Montel Williams show, told a mother that her child was dead, and implied that the child was murdered. That child turned out to be Amanda Berry, one of three women rescued from being held captive in a house for the last ten years.

I know little or nothing about Sylvia Browne, though I hold a healthy degree of skepticism against out of the blue psychics who claim to communicate with spirits and the like, especially for high publicity jobs like those on “reality” TV shows. I hold this skepticism at the same time as I actively read tarot cards for others online (for friends and through forums, and not usually for pay) and am attempting to learn runes. I am large, and contain multitudes, I guess.

Granted, I think there’s a difference between “psychics” and performing divination – especially in the Druidic sense. When I am asking the Kindreds for their guidance, I’m specifically asking other beings that I trust to give me guidance in the form of cards or runes. I also tend to run those guidances through my own personal filters of “does this make sense”, and ask my teachers and other people whose opinions I trust if those guidances make sense. That’s for religious matters, but I do tarot readings for non-religious questions as well, and for people for whom a card reading is just a card reading, not an encounter with the divine.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, when it comes to reading for other people, it’s that I have to set boundaries. There are subjects about which I won’t read, because it is just too fuzzy, too ambiguous, and too likely to be incredibly damaging if I’m wrong. A teacher I once had called these things the “Three D’s”: Death, Disease, and Divorce. I won’t do a reading to tell you if you have cancer (go to a doctor), I won’t do a reading to tell you if you’re going to get a divorce (go to a counselor, or see a lawyer), and I won’t do a reading to tell you if someone is or is not going to die/has already died.

I also won’t do readings for people who aren’t actually there to hear them. If you want me to do a reading to look into your relationship with your mother-in-law, I’ll do that, but it will be focused on you, your actions, and how you contribute to that relationship (and whether or not your taking steps might mend or break that relationship). I will not do a reading to see how your sister is getting along with her husband, because a) that’s a huge breach of privacy – she may not want you to know that, and b) why don’t you just ask your sister? If you’re estranged from your sister, see above about a reading about mending a relationship.

And I always couch these readings with the strong statement that the cards I’m reading are only looking into how the situation looks right now. I strongly believe that even a ‘future outcome’ spread has the potential to change drastically based on how you respond to it, and that a tarot reading is never set in stone. For me, divination serves two functions – it serves as a tool for communicating with specific Gods and spirits that I trust, and it serves as a way to look into current situations and attempt to bring unseen aspects of those to light, for consideration and reflection.

Maybe I’m having too strong of a “squick” reaction to this case simply because it’s so egregiously bad. I know or know of several intuitive readers who have strong ethics and aren’t out for sensationalism. But this is just bothering me on a lot of levels.

I certainly don’t expect that everyone who reads cards or does divination work will have the same sets of boundaries and guidelines that I do – I know that kind of thing is very personal. I just really hope that people who take on this kind of responsibility will do so ethically and responsibly – in a way that suits their own boundaries and is beneficial to the person for whom they are reading. It just strikes me as highly irresponsible to tell someone that their missing loved one is dead and murdered, on national TV, and then say “well I’ve helped lots of other people, so I guess I was just wrong about that one” when it comes up as wrong.

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I’ve been rather at odds with myself on the question of hearth cultures. I started this druidic journey pretty firmly convinced that I was going to stay in the Celtic pantheon that I was already familiar with. Unfortunately I’ve not felt myself overly connected to that pantheon in my devotions, to the point of not really finding that I like my options for devotional rituals. It just doesn’t “feel” right. I love keeping a hearth in my kitchen, but working with Brigit just doesn’t seem like it’s working out, for example. I’m not feeling any return energy.

So I’ve started looking around at other options, wondering if maybe my lack of connection to the Divine is a result of not trying to get in touch with the right Gods. I really enjoyed the Gaulish ritual I did for Yule, but resources are very thin about Gaulish paganism, and I’ve had trouble getting anything beyond a few web articles. I couldn’t do my hearth culture study book on Gaul, since I can’t actually find any books!

I’m getting to the point, though, where I’m going to have to face up to the possibility that I’m being drawn to the Norse culture. I keep running into things that make me feel like I should be looking there, even though I’m more than a little uncomfortable with some of the Norse gods. I especially seem to be running into mentions of Odin, which makes me nervous, for while I don’t know a ton about Odin, I do know that he can be a challenging patron.

On some levels, it doesn’t make any sense. My ancestry is Scottish and Italian, with a little bit of English and French thrown in. I don’t really have any Germanic cultures in my recent ancestry, and it seems like that’s a big pull for a lot of people who end up following the Norse Gods. I also know very little about their mythology (and what little I know seems dangerous!), and I’ve tried, quite unsuccessfully, to use Runes for divination in the past.

On the other hand, when you start seeing ravens (and other birds of prey), or realizing that your clueless dolt of an uncle gave you a set of runes for your birthday when you were 10 that you just can’t make yourself get rid of, or that you keep running into High Day rituals in the Norse Culture that look wonderful and strong and beautiful, or that your closest Pagan friend is an Asatruar… Maybe I’m just not getting the hint, you know?

I also have a much stronger relationship with the land spirits, and an increasing relationship with the Ancestors, things I’ve been told are very important in Norse Paganism, so that’s a welcome idea.

But I just… it doesn’t seem right, or something? I’m really resisting the idea that I should work in a Norse culture, for some reason I can’t yet put my finger on. Maybe it’s all of Asatru’s bad press bubbling up from my subconscious, or just the fact that I’ve never felt like it should be for me. Maybe I need to remember that I’m looking at the Norse part of ADF, and not giving up on this dedicant path, and that questions are what being on the DP are all about anyway.

Given my turmoil about it, I figured I should do a reading. I didn’t figure an ogham reading was the best bet, since they’re so strongly connected with the Celtic lore, so I decided to do a tarot reading instead. Of course, I thought of doing that reading while I was at work, so I used the tarot deck I have on my smartphone (Mystic Dreamer Tarot, if anyone’s curious), and did a little lunchbreak divination.

Three Card Spread: How Should I approach my search for a Hearth Culture?

  • The Heirophant – Learned Truth, a teacher, balance of belief with practice – can indicate that you know the solution but need to put it into practice. There are two ravens on this card, bringing messages to the Hierophant.
  • The Two of Cups – Strong, passionate relationship (not necessarily romantic). Two things that come together to create a third union that is strong, beautiful, and passionate
  • The Hermit – Self Knowledge, seeking the truth within yourself. Withdraw from outside sources and review all of your knowledge, understanding, and experience.

I didn’t set this card up as a past-present-future spread, and in fact I didn’t assign meanings to the placements at all, since I want an overview more than a specific set of answers. I prefer to look at how the cards interact with each other.

In this case, I think the Heirophant and the Hermit go together:

Learned truth and self truth provide the foundation for a profound and meaningful new relationship.

Hopefully the deep and meaningful relationship will be the relationship with the Divine that I’ve been looking to establish. It fits with the Dedicant Path as well, since both learned knowledge and self knowledge are goals of the DP. I also didn’t expect the cards to have a strong Norse symbolism (which isn’t something this deck is designed for), but with the two Ravens, I get a strongly Odinic feeling from The Heirophant card – even if the man in the card has both of his eyes.

I didn’t ask a particularly pointed question, so (as expected) I didn’t get a particularly pointed answer, but I think the reading is ultimately positive. In some ways, it’s a bit of a “duh” response, not anything I didn’t already know. I’ll keep searching though, and I’ve borrowed a copy of Gods and Myths in Northern Europe to start digging through. That’ll be the learned knowledge part, at least. And if nothing else, I can’t go wrong learning about it, and I’ll continue to do meditation and devotional rituals that attempt to suss this out.

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I really enjoy divination. I especially like the tarot – my main deck is the DruidCraft deck – and I’m learning the ogams. Tarot has a lot more possible outcomes and gives both clear and nuanced readings, and my ogams seem to speak very clearly about things. Neither oracle pulls punches, and both can have a sense of humor when they need to.

I’ve had some questions about how I do my divination though, and how I got “good” at it (I’d argue that I’m only familiar with it, not always good at it, even though I love doing it!).

As a caveat, there are as many ways to do divination as there are seers. Some people watch bird flight, or smoke trails, or clouds, or the wind. I am not that good, and I really need some kind of symbol, something tangible to work from. I’m assuming that’s the kind of divination you’ll be doing, but feel free to disregard it if you’re doing your divination by fire-gazing (or whatever)!

So, how can you get comfortable with divination?

Start with just one symbol at a time.

There’s nothing wrong with a one symbol drawing. It’s a good way to start, and if you want a straight up answer, it’s a great way to get one. If you have a question with a yes/no answer, flip a coin! There are hundreds of patterns you can place symbols in, from 3 symbol Past-Present-Future spreads to the famous 10-card Celtic Cross tarot spread. Don’t think you need to start big though. I rarely draw more than 3 or 5 symbols at a time.

Don’t be afraid of picking the wrong symbol.

The beauty of divination is that when you approach an oracle, the right answer will come up if you trust it to. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense right away, but trust your oracle, your guides (whether they’re generic spirits or particular members of the Kindreds), and your own intuition. Be fearless!

Look up what the symbols mean!

It took me years to get proficient with tarot, and there are still times I want to look up a particular card because I’m having trouble placing it within a reading. I’m still new to the ogams, so every reading I do consists of drawing fews, writing them down, and then looking up where they are in my ogam chart, in the Green Man Tree Oracle book, in Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, and Skip Ellison’s Ogam: The Secret Language of the Druids. Every reading I get something new to add to my mental list, and my notes on each divination consist of little scratched words and phrases as I try to suss out what the bigger picture is.

If you get a set of symbols that you just don’t understand, say “I don’t understand, can you be more clear” and draw another one as a clarifier.

Sometimes divination is really clear – sometimes it’s clear as mud. I’ve had conflicting readings, confusing readings, even readings that suggested I was asking the wrong question (that’s always fun – ask about one thing and pull out a set of cards that all point at a different part of your life. Thanks deck, I see you have your own ideas!). Adding one more item to the set may make the whole reading come together, and I end up using a clarifier a good percentage of the time, especially for larger readings.

Allow your intuition to speak when you’re putting together the meaning of a drawing.

This is the most creative, intuitive part of a reading for me. If you’ve used a spread that has specific positions, that can be easier than a generic 3 item drawing. I write down what they mean in my notebook, taking little half-sentence notes and picking out the bits that stick out at me, even if they don’t seem to apply right away. Then I look at the big picture and try to find a way to combine the three meanings into a larger sentence that “feels” right. Sometimes I try two or three before I find one that fits. Usually that sentence will contain the major word cues for each symbol – a reading with Rowan would include the word “protection” in the overview sentence. It’s certainly not an exact science, and it’s hard to describe when you know you’ve gotten the general overview of a reading.

Don’t place too much stock in the overview sentence either – you can be really successful without writing these, what’s important is getting a picture of the reading as a whole. I like this technique for bringing together a multiple symbol reading, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Paragraphs are a totally legitimate way to explain a reading!

My biggest suggestion, though, is to keep practicing.

Draw a rune a day (or week) and write down what it means – even just a short, one word meaning. Ask the Kindreds what they have in store for you, or what you might be missing about a situation (that’s my favorite question to ask). The more you familiarize yourself with your oracle, the more comfortable you’ll feel doing the readings. Even if you never get past the 3 word meanings, you’ll be able to draw a meaningful oracle in a ritual.

Not everyone is called to be a seer or diviner, but I think everyone has the capacity to do basic divination for themselves. It’s a critical part of the COoR, and (for me) a critical part of doing magic. I do divination before I attempt any magical work, to see what the Otherworld has to say about what I’m attempting. It’s a good way to get clarification on a process, and sometimes you get a very clear “Hey stupid, don’t do that!” answer.

If you’re having trouble connecting to one of the Kindreds, make an offering with connection in mind, ask them what they would like you to do to build connection, and do a reading! Divination is one of the most concrete ways we have of connecting to the Otherworld, and it’s a skill worth cultivating, even just to get a basic proficiency.

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