Monday, July 30, 2012


Tonight I drank with Thor, in friendship, kinship and love. 

This is one of my favourite holidays; Thor's protection in the middle of winter may not be as important here as in other places, but bigods the wind blew strong today. I thought the roof might disappear. Yet, it has stopped blowing now. Regardless, though, of weather, this holiday for me has always been a time to renew ties with Redbeard, and to thank Him for all He does for humanity, and to renew the "contract" by which He gives His blessing and protection. 

It's a particularly wonderful rite, one that has always been an incredible experience for me and others I've spoken to have expressed something similar. The feeling of warmth and protection during the blót is really something else.

Hail Þórr!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Steampunk Tarot Review

 Book: Steampunk Tarot
Author: Barbara Moore (book), Aly Fell (card illustrations)
Subject: Tarot deck & book
Publisher: Lewellyn
ISBN: 9780 738726380
Score: 5/10 (marked down for poor quality card stock)

The first thing I have to say is that these cards really are flimsy. Like, paper-flimsy. I'd heard they were of poor quality, but hadn't expected them to be quite this papery. Most decks of playing cards are a lot more hardy than these. It's disappointing, even though I don't intend to use these as my "primary" deck, because they don't feel as good in my hands. I'm worried about damaging them just by holding them. For that reason alone I wouldn't recommend them to others, despite how charming they are.

In addition to being flimsy they also seem smaller than some of the other decks I own. They don't come with a box to keep them in, either; there is a cardboard box but it's far too large for this deck. You'll have to find another box for them, or keep them in a bag or something. I won't use a bag myself because I'd wager they'd get damaged if I did. Each card has a black border, making the images smaller still, something some people will dislike. I don't really mind them myself, but size-wise I wish the cards were larger because the illustrations are so beautiful.

Overall the deck is bright, energetic and easy to read. It's very much plugged into the Steampunk "Victorian Explorer" drive for exploration and discovery, so it has an adventurous energy, and I like that.

Now, the images. Worry not, it's not 100% brown-and-brass. There are some rich colours here. Most of the cards have something of a story to them, which is something I love. A few don't, and it tells; they're just not as good as those that do, however pretty they are. Some of the cards do tend towards more of a "fantasy" feel than a Steampunk one, which bothers me a bit. The Ten of Wands, for example, is a girl with a glowing staff, the only "steampunky" thing on the card a cogwheel on her hat which just looks out of place. Cogwheels aren't a steampunk requirement, and to stick them on an otherwise un-steampunky card feels like the deck is trying too hard. The deck does do a great job on other cards, though: the King of Wands is a magician, for example, which is perfect. Most of the pages and knights are all females, which is an interesting change. It's a woman-heavy deck, actually, though many of them eschew gender roles. There are plenty of aviatrices and adventuresses. A couple of the cards have a London skyline in the background which makes me wish they'd used smoky city backgrounds more often. They don't stick to Victorian-flavoured Steampunk as is usual; a few cards have more of an Art Deco feel, such as The Star. The backs of the cards are non-reversible, but pretty cool, with all four suits picked out in brass.

I don't feel like they've put as much effort into the male figures as the female ones. They're all more or less similar, moustachioed, serious, dull, which a couple of exceptions. The Fool really throws that into perspective, as there's a male figure with some real personality. The Lovers card isn't really my thing; the figures are nice enough but the angel above them seems out of place. Strength is also pretty disappointing; usually one of my favourite cards, the woman taking the cogwheel from the lion's paw just seems bored and the setting of trees is rather dull. They could have had some sort of Hyde Park menagerie instead, or the lion as a lady's pet; here I'm not really sure what's going on, why the woman is where she is, whether she just found the lion or it is accompanying her. For all they tried to make a story with the lion and the cogwheel (Androcles and the Lion was an obvious influence) it just appears to be a single scene without much depth to it.

Onto the cards I like. The Three of Cups I rather favour; it has three women in a bar, one in a dress, one in a harem-pants getup, and the third in breeches and a waistcoat. It's like some beautiful little lesbian three-way. The Queen of Pentacles is out of her era - she looks rather more Art Deco than Victorianesque - but she's still marvellous, descending the stairs in gold silk with a fan and a lofty expression. The Devil is a great steaming automaton, controlling a man and his apprentice on strings, and I love it. The Page of Pentacles is a gorgeous woman in a greatcoat and buckled boots, stepping in from (or is it out into?) the snow. In contrast to Strength, for example, this card has some real story to it - you might not know what it is, but you're eager to invent it.

The book is small, but sturdy. I wish the cards themselves took after the book more. The images inside are black and white. Each card gets a page or just over, but not every card begins on a separate page. That's not really an issue for me, as there's an image for every card anyway and things are clearly laid-out. Each card comes with a "quote" at the top of the page. For most of the cards these aren't sourced (authors of quotes appear only for the Kings as far as I can see so far), so they appear to be created by the authors, which is fine. (Although one of them contains the phrase "allons-y" which makes me wonder.) They illustrate the cards nicely. There are a few spreads, with wonderful names ("A Most Excellent and Sensible Spread complete with moving parts") but I wish they had created a few more. I love finding new spreads.

Overall, they're a great set but the poor quality of the cardstock just ruins the entire deck for me. It's a great shame, because it's easy to read and beautiful and charming. If they re-issue the deck with better card stock, I'd be tempted to buy it again. Having read a couple of spreads, I would be tempted to make these my primary deck if they were hardier, but they just won't stand up to regular use. I might see if I can improve the quality through lamination or something. But I worry I'll ruin them!

They're good, but they're let down by the card quality. Let down a LOT. I feel quite sorry for the authors, because the publishers really screwed them over here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

So, I was probably going to post something last week. But then I got appendicitis and spent a day and a half in hospital, and I haven't felt much like being interesting or....... anything else, really, except sleeping and watching old episodes of Grey's Anatomy. So there's that.

They send you the organ after they do tests on it. I'm torn between keeping it in a jar forever and giving it a name, or burying it in some sort of religious ceremony. OH HEY, you know what I could totally do, I could use drops of the liquid it's suspended in in witchcraft. That way out-grosses menstrual blood as a spell ingredient. Diseased organ pickle-juice.

I have disgusted myself.

So I was watching Grey's Anatomy, and Denny had just died (saddest episode ever) and they were going to sit shiva for him, which is a Jewish custom wherein you don't bathe or wear jewellery or leather and people bring you lots of food etc. And I got to wondering about mourning customs in Paganism, and Heathenry particularly. Not funeral customs (we do have some records of those, happily) but whether people did anything particular, historically, when someone had died.... like not wearing certain things or eating certain things or using particular words. I haven't found much about it yet, but then I haven't looked very hard. (Like I say.... sorta still recuperating.) If I find anything interesting I will totally let you know. 

In other news I bought some new tarot cards last week and it should be arriving this week, so that is exciting. (I couldn't help myself, they were totally on special. IT WAS A BARGAIN. I could justify the expense at the time but one $80 4a.m. doctor's visit and now I am not so sure.) I will let you know what they are like. I might even do a mini-review of them or something. My reviews are always way too long and bloated and is like do you really care what is on every single page.... but at the same time I like to be thorough. Many's the time I've bought a book based on a review and it hasn't been what I expected. But that also means I do, like, no reviews. So I am going to do mini-reviews also, maybe, and some tarot card reviews, or something.

I am not erudite tonight because my side hurts and it is 2am. But I had to stay up late because you have to take the stupid pills every 8 hours.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pagan Insights #1

Gods above, time is passing and I'm not noticing it. It's already the 5th and I have not posted since last month and I didn't even notice how long it had been until just now.

So it's a good a time as any to make my first Pagan Insights post. I probably should have done so ages ago, given that I'm involved in TIP, but I didn't because I am a terrible slacker and had other things to post about... and also because I wasn't quite sure what to say.

So, here we go. I'm going to do these, I think, all in the one post. I like the idea of a single thing that one can revisit over and over. It's sort of a way to pause and take stock and reflect. I'm going to do it from time to time, but probably not on any sort of set schedule because let's face it I will forget.

In Your Own Words
It's a bit difficult sometimes being a practitioner of two religions at once. I've mentioned before that I go through sort of phases focusing on one and then on the other... There are elements of being a straight eclectic that I miss, because I have such an interest in gods of other faiths - Ares, Anpu - Whom I do not honour at all because I feel like I don't really have the time or motivation to focus on honouring Them properly and truly sinking into Their cultures and so on. Yet I still have this interest. Having said that... I know Heathenry is my home (ADF calls it a "Hearth Culture"). And I don't even attend to my studies here as much as I should. So I'm left feeling a little sad, in a way, as if these other gods are old friends with Whom I no longer keep in touch.

Post a Pic
I think for this one I'm just going to link to images, unless I've taken the photo myself. This one is a rather "primal" take on Loki. I don't know why I like it so much. I suppose it's just an unusual view of Him; most pictures have Him smiling, and bright. And He is, often. But not always. And yet it still has the angular features and high cheekbones that many artistic representations of Him do. There's also a part of Loki that is very wild and all my favourite images of Him have an element of that; this one does in spades. It forces us to confront the fact that He is not always laughing. Also it is pretty sexy.

Musical Musings
This one's more tricky. There's no particular song or chant that's a part of my life at the moment. So here is Ensiferum's Ferrum Aeternum. Sometimes I play it before a ritual. It always makes me think of quests and journeys and the Sagas, which in turn to some degree makes me think of our ancestors sitting around the hearth and telling stories on holy days.

Action, Action
I've talked recently about my Yule ritual, so I guess right now I should be talking about how I've been keeping up with the weekly blótar I talked about doing. Except I haven't been doing that because I am a useless slacker, and weeks pass before I've really noticed it's happened. I'm not very good at keeping track of when it is, or when I've last done something, unless it's something I do every day. It's still something I intend to be doing, though, so I should really pick a day, lest it pass me by again.

Much of what I'm discovering recently is related to paging through "Elves, Wights and Trolls". It is so magnificently well-researched that I feel uneducated every time I open it. Last night, I was reading about etins as "eaters of the dead", and the relation there to both eagles and wolves (as "battle beasts" and eaters of the battle-fallen). It makes me think, this book. What I've found most stirring so far as the overlap between gods and etins, and the worship of etins alongside gods in archaeological finds.

Also, because the last one is "Eureka", shout-out to the guys at CERN. Awesome job, guys. Maybe a tad unsatisfying for us non-physicists but it's still a thrilling discovery that we're all quite lucky to have been around to witness. Seeing Dr Higgs cry at the end was a beautiful moment, and the whole "This discovery is for all mankind to share" feeling was really moving. It also Taught Me Things About Physics.