Thursday, March 27, 2014

I had a great idea for this post last night, lying in bed, but I didn't write it down and now I've forgotten what it was. EFFIN TYPICAL.

I haven't held my equinox ritual yet, slacker that I am. Time got away from me, somehow. I want today to be a "faith-focused" day; with this, and that, and the other thing, I still feel like my faith and my craft are not properly "integrated" into my everyday life the way I would like. My anxiety took a massive toll on my spirituality that I'm still struggling to get back. 

But the gods - or my wyrd - conspire to get me back to what I should be doing. Occasional pain flares from my new friend fibromyalgia force me into meditation to keep a handle on things. I've started using prayers and chants as "mantras", to calm and focus myself. "The earth, the air, the fire, the water, return return return return" works quite well, and I've been using another I wrote myself: "Lord of the Dance, You are the Rhythm, Lady of Music, You are the Song".

I was fussing about with the Standing Stones BoS last night, and Cunningham actually has some quite interesting ideas. I don't even cast circles and I like the idea of his stone gates. And his prayers are rather nice. I'm trying to re-work one or two.

Looking through the Big Book o' Spells at the moment for interesting looking love spells. Autumn is the wrong time of year for it, I know, but I'm bored! I want someone to rub my back, and be supportive, and... and various things. There are lots of ideas in here, but none that appeal to me, and if they don't appeal, how can they work? There's not much in here that I feel I can re-work, but there's still more to get through. What's this one stuck in my head... Sweet Mother, Sweet Mother, bring your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy m- wait, no, that's something different. 
Still. Interesting. Could be reworked. "Sweet Mother, Sweet Mother, bring Your child unto me, for I wish for a lover who will rub my back". Ha.

My stick is still standing in the corner of my room. I have this idea that I'd like to bless it in my equinox ritual and then have it ready for dedication at Old Year's Night. I'd like to sand it, maybe wrap it round with thread. I have some nice read thread somewhere, and some green. And I could hang some agate beads from it, or some moonstone. Maybe some silver charms. And feathers.


Friday, March 14, 2014

A Storm's Rolling In

Cyclone Lusi is a category 3 tropical cyclone and is headed my way. I am so fucking pumped! We haven't had a decent cyclone since I was a kid! ....which is the general feeling among people my age. We're a nation who will go down to the beach to get a good view of a storm surge. We're pretty daft that way, although we prefer to think of ourselves as a hard lot. So we're looking forward to it, in a foolish, my-emergency-kit-is-not-up-to-standard unprepared sort of way.

There's also a fairly decent chance my room could get crushed by a tree. The Norfolk pine outside my house is afflicted with some manner of disease, and the top half of it is brown and dying. Bits may well fall off and land on my roof. Also the cat will want to stay outside because he hates being inside when it's windy. I know he'll probably find somewhere warm and snuggly under the house and be safe as safe can be, but I'll still worry. And I'll still try to get him inside even if he yowls in protest all night. 

Right now, the skies are grey. It is like any other overcast day. But the wind is beginning to pick up, just a bit. Normally it wouldn't mean anything much, but it seems more portentous when you know a storm's on the way.

The dogs are agitated today. I don't know if they know on some level that a storm's on the way or they're just being a pain in the arse and I'm over-attributing. 

I'll have to appeal to Thor for His protection, lest the house collapse or something. 

Moving on.

I was walking my puppy yesterday in the early evening. I turned down a shortcut, a path between two houses, high fences, thinking about times I'd walked down there before. It was twilight, just when the sun has dipped below the horizon and the sky is darkening, but still pink in the west. Not dark but no longer really daylight. It's such a bizarre time, so surreal, that it honestly felt, walking down that path, that it would be possible to take a wrong step and find myself in the past, or the future. That in the twilight moment, it could be possible to move through time. Cross worlds. Literally find oneself, accidentally, in an Otherworld, the kind which one returns from to find a hundred years have passed.

I've talked before about Border Country. But now I wonder that I don't perform more spells and rituals at twilight, when things are so... insubstantial. It's absolutely something that I'll have to focus more on in the future. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Books and Tools

I'm thinking more "spiritually" lately. Which is good. I feel like I'm returning to a place I haven't been in years. I'm working spiritual study further into my schedule, and I'm putting myself back in the "new student" role and taking a look at some 101 books with new eyes.

This week's endeavour is Green Witchcraft by Ann Moura, that I might review when I'm done with it. So far, it's less awful than I thought it would be, but still pretty disappointing. I imagine it's worse if you're a new witch, picking it up hoping for something new and interesting. Most of it is basic sabbat info or stories about the author's family (who cares??) and it's filled with contradictions. On one page she talks about how her Catholic mother was a "green witch", and on the next says "green witchcraft" worships two soft-polytheistic deities. It's a religion or it isn't; make up your mind! There's a lot of info that's flat-out wrong, so not one for the newbies after all. (Freyja does not "represent peace"! Hagalaz doesn't mean "karma"! I mean I don't even know where you got that information.)

Still, despite the "wtf is she talking about?!" I'm actually enjoying getting back into those old books. I've never read Green Witchcraft before; it's been sitting inside my altar for forever, waiting for me to get around to it, and happened to be near the top of the pile when I went spelunking for a Pagan book to read, so that's the one I grabbed. I'm in a "glean what you can" mood, and the rituals are interesting. There's one where you apparently get given a secret name by your gods and a part of me really wants to give it a try to see if it works. I can't help but wonder what happens if you subscribe to Moura's religion and do this ritual, and you don't get a name. Are you, like.... a failure? Did you do the ritual wrong? Are you not worthy? I wish I could ask her. 

A month or so ago I was walking the dogs and I found a stick lying at the edge of a sports field. I imagine some kids had found it and were trying to make it into a staff before they were instructed by a parent to leave it alone. At any rate, only a few twigs needed to be removed to make it into a rather good staff. It will need some sanding, and maybe I'll carve some things into it, and stick other things onto it, or something. Then all that will remain is to find a use for it! A staff is a sort of tool that I've always sort of wanted, but never really had a use for.... although thinking about it, it would make a rather good conduit to the Otherworld. Carve some Raidho on there, hang my witch's ladder from it, maybe some feathers... What do you think?

I like to buy myself birthday and Yule presents each year, as sort of like.... self-love I guess, self-appreciation. This year for my birthday, I bought a silver fox's claw from Blood Milk Jewels. I saw it and thought, "yes, this is meant to be mine". It arrived yesterday, and it's perfect. It felt like a part of me from the moment I put it on. I don't want to take it off, but the patina might come off if I shower with it, and right now, it's on a beautiful chain that I don't want to break. Once I find some pliers so I can take the claw off its chain, I'll put it on a length of cord so I can wear it every day without worrying about breaking the chain. Then I can keep the chain for more special occasions. 

You should check out the shop, though. There's lots of witchy type jewellery. Hand made silver gorgeousness - but it's pricey, so tempt yourself at your own risk!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: Oracles of Shadows and Shapeshifters

So I thought it was about time I did a little review of my two new backs of oracle cards. They are both by Lucy Cavendish and illustrated by Jasmine Becket-Griffith, in her trademark large-eyed style. Each comes in a nice little box with a compact book. Some people may prefer to keep their cards in bags; I tend to prefer to keep them in their boxes unless they come with a book and the box is too big (or too flimsy). These boxes are small enough that they're fine for storage, and the cardboard is solid.

The cards are huge. They're glossy, but once you've got them out of the package and gone through them, they don't seem to stick; they're easy to shuffle. They're really quite beautifully presented. The backs are non-reversible, but there aren't reversible meanings anyway. I like how detailed they are, and how vibrant.

The books have two to three pages for each card, as well as an introduction and some sample spreads. Honestly I find the books a little difficult to parse. I've only just started working with the cards, but the book meanings don't always seem to necessarily work with the reading you're doing. Part of that may be the way I'm reading them and the questions I'm asking. Some of the meanings are kind of twee, especially when Cavendish addresses you from the POV of the card's subject, and it can be a bit tricky to get the meaning from a fairy's attempt at a pick-me-up. I get the feeling that the more general your question, the more easily they read; both decks seem to be more about guidance than questions about specific areas of life.

Each card's page in the accompanying book has three sections: an "About" that describes the nature of the card's character ("The Grumpy Red Fairy" is tired of being judged"); a "Speaks" section wherein the character gives advice directly to the reader ("Let's burst their boring bubble and go wild!"); and a "Divination Message" section wherein Cavendish explains what the card may mean in a reading ("When the Grumpy Red Fairy comes to play, it may be time to really just be your own true self"). This.... can be a bit confusing. And, as I mentioned, twee.

But when it hits on something, the three sections chime very well. Looking through Shadows and Light earlier today when I was taking pictures for this post, I drew a single card for myself. It was the Violet Angel, and she read "Breaking Dawn". The "About" section promised new beginnings, possibilities, hopes and positive changes. The "Speaks" section mentioned "there are times lately when you've felt... that your physical body has become exhausted - almost as if you were born tired!" and I can't tell you how relevant that's been to this week. I've had bad fibro days, felt weak as a kitten and beyond exhausted, so I was quite amazed to read this. It also mentioned waking up earlier in the morning, which I have been doing this week, to tend to the dogs, and take my puppy for a walk. It has been difficult, but I have been doing it. The "Message" speaks of "fresh hope after a difficult time", of early rising and trying new things. Everything felt so incredibly relevant, which is encouraging as I am having some trouble with these decks.

The Oracle of Shadows and Light is fairy-tale themed, but with a focus on misfits and outcasts. Personally, I'm not into the "sparkly things with wings" fairies generally, but these ones represent more sort of hidden concepts to me. So, I think because of the number of fairy cards, the number of people who would really love this deck is a bit reduced, just because some people who are into the misfits-and-outcasts aspect might be turned off by the sparkly aspect. There is quite a mix of characters, though, with angels, mermaids, and strange little girls.

 The Kali card is beautiful but seems a bit out of place; she's the only goddess represented in this deck. (The Oracle of the Shapeshifters likewise has a single deity: Quetzalcoatl.) I think going with a more generic "fairy of destruction" or "angel of death" card may have been a better option.

Shadows and Light is I think made with the spiritual type in mind. There are certainly cards that encourage one to do vaguely spiritual activities such as wake up early and walk in nature. But it's still a deck that reads well for most people, and across various parts of one's life. Even the more spiritual cards have a definite physical, "mundane" aspect to them as well. My Violet Angel spoke of beginnings across the spectrum of life, not just spiritually.

Here's a sampler of a few of the cards I rather like in this deck. Autumn is my Last Chance is so sorrowful, the Two Little Witches so utterly creepy, the Shallow Grave so quiet, restful, sadly fatalistic. The whole deck is quite dark, but not in the same way as, say, the Bohemian Gothic Tarot. This deck is more about moving as one of the misfits, about the hidden secrets of the world.

 The Oracle of Shapeshifters is, says the accompanying book, about change. To me, it seems to be more specifically about spiritual growth. It sounds weird to say, but I honestly would be hesitant about reading this deck for people who don't have a big spiritual focus in their lives. I occasionally do a reading on twitter or tumblr, for friends who are kinda into tarot but not (I hate myself for saying this) "magical types", and I feel like if I read this deck for them, I'd have to "translate" parts of it. Not because they wouldn't "get it" but like they don't have the context for it or they might be a bit scornful and they'd just be like "are you serious?" or something. (Some of my friends who say "sure, give us a reading" are particularly non-spiritual types who chime in for funzies. I have no problem with that; it's good practise, they're always pleased and I especially enjoy it if a reading seems to chime with them. But I'm still not keen on saying "you'll tap into the wisdom of the stars" or something.) A lot of the meanings are geared specifically towards the spiritual aspects of your life, so if you're looking for an all-purpose deck, I don't know that this will necessarily suit your purposes. On the other hand, if you're looking for a deck to help you along your own spiritual path, this might be great for the work you're doing at the moment. I mentioned above that the Oracle of Shadows has a spiritual focus too, but I found that deck a lot easier to read for others as there is more of a cross-over to other parts of life. If I felt a bit uncomfortable mentioning a spiritual aspect in a reading, I'd avoid that element of the card.

Again you have a few mermaids, a few fairies. Every card features an animal of some kind, from the impressive and popular like the wolf, to the humble hedgehog, to the poor misfits who never get spiritual representation, like the deep-sea angler fish. It feels much "greener" than Shadows and Light, which is a deck more caught in a shadowy, misty world of secrets. Shapeshifters is rooted in this world - admittedly reaching over towards that other world somewhat with its fairies and mermaids.

Some of the cards I like... Wolf Moon is the card that first drew me to this deck a year or two ago. It reminds me of a book I loved as a kid, Tanith. Little Red Riding Hood is challenge, strength and agency. The Deep Dark Sea Mermaid is curious. I can't help but think of her looking up restfully at the stars shining through the ocean, though of course it would be impossible to see them from the depths. And Once Upon a Midnight Dreary feeds into my Poe obsession. She's an obsessed little artist with clever, helpful feathered muses.

Despite some similarities, the two decks don't really mesh. I bought them both because I thought I could mix them together and make one super-deck, but upon handling them, that really won't work. They both feel very different, very separate. Little Red Riding Hood and Once Upon a Midnight dreary, for example, look like they could be picked up from Shapeshifters and slotted into Shadows and Light without a problem, but in practice it doesn't work so well. They just feel out of their element. That's not where they belong.

Honestly, these decks are worth it to me just for the production value and the art. They're vibrant and gorgeous, and the illustrations have tonnes of character. Right now, I can't speak too much about how well they read, as I've only just started working with them; I've been working mostly with tarot for years and I think oracle decks like these will take a while for me to get used to. The meanings provided in the books are unusual for me, and I have difficulty wrapping my head around them. I do think a part of that is working how what sort of things they are best used to answer. Having said that, personally I wouldn't recommend them to the cartomancy beginner. They're a tricky shape, and have a bit of a feisty nature - which, given the cards, is to be expected.

You can get your hands on the Oracle of Shadows and Light here
and the Oracle of the Shapeshifters here