Tarot Readings: July 2016

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Hello, all. As some of you might have seen through my various other social media posts, I will soon be offering for-sale tarot readings on Fiverr. They’re priced at $5, $10, and $15 per reading, and will include a typed-up description of your reading as well as a photograph of the cards drawn.

In addition to this, I also want to offer a limited number of free readings each month with the Full Moon. My plan is to post an update (such as this one!) two weeks in advance as a sort of reminder; this month’s post is a little later than that, sorry!! Like my for-purchase readings, these little freebies will include a picture of your reading and a written description, and will be delivered within about two or three days after the Full Moon.

For full information on my readings and the process of contacting me regarding them, please see my page titled “Tarot Readings”.

I look forward to getting this started and to hearing from some of you! This month’s full moon falls on July 19th.

-Rachel

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A Poem of the Incoming Storm

Ripping across the white-capped waves,
The wind catches my breath-
My hair, my arms outstretched-
The ephemeral feathers ruffl’d there…
A song rises in my gut:
Burbles, churns like a riptide-
Rumbles. Like thunder…
Builds with each crashing of water on shoreline
Until it is humming behind my lips-
Quieted by the buffeting gusts of
Seaweed scented air…
Air that’s flecked with beach sand,
Broiling and tense with the tempest to come.
For a moment, my soul is caught up in it-
It soars in the cool blasts,
And I am giddy with the exhilaration it brings.
But with that first, brilliant flash of light-
The blazing purple hue that cuts the deepened grey-
I am brought back down to my rooted feet.
The storm is coming,
And now, we must go…

This poem was inspired by some adventuring with a good friend of mine tonight near the Saginaw Bay in Bay City, Michigan.

A Manifesto (Or the Big, Bad Post of My Beliefs)

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In some attempt at negating a need to continuously link back to my other blog’s posts- and in part to really gather my thoughts and set out a foundation of what it is I believe about a variety of cosmological and general witchy topics- I’ve decided to make this post. It’s a sort of manifesto, a statement of belief, and of what standards I hold myself to in my personal practices as I start to rebuild them. For me, it will help to de-clutter my head space and focus on what my deeply held thoughts/beliefs/ideals are, and what things are no longer of use to me. And for you, it’ll give you a bit of an idea of where I’m coming from, and the belief system which influences my writing.

So. Let’s begin, shall we?

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On Creation / Cosmology / The Nature of the Universe: Until very recently, I hadn’t really connected with a specific creation story in a way that had really resonated with me. About a year ago, I came across Frank Mills’s re-telling and analysis of The Oran Mór. I can’t entirely explain it, but something about this story just struck a chord deep within me, and almost immediately, it felt like a secret truth- a sort of means to have an origin story beyond science, but still allow for the science of evolution and the gradual development of different forces of life, natural movements of the earth, the possibility of alternate dimensions… Basically, it took science and faith and wove them into poetry (my retelling of it from Mills’s writing is found below):

The Oran Mór begins, as Mills describes, with stillness and silence. Then, softly at first, but with growing, spiraling momentum, a melody began to stretch out across the dark waters. In that crescendo, life began. But, the melody did not cease; it continued, cycling as knot-work might in an ever-continuing pattern of life and death, giving and receiving. In his essay, Mills continues to call The Oran Mór “the sea melody” and “the creative melody.” It is the Great Melody that “…flows through the myths and legends of submerged lands, mystical springs, life-giving cauldrons, and holy grails.” It is the Great Melody that inspires wisdom and creation both in the singer of it and those who hear it. It is this song that became the sacred song of life in Celtic tradition, and it is this song that drives us to create, to tell stories, to recount our histories, to go on pilgrimages, and even drives the urge to go “home” wherever that home may be. He even suggests that it is The Oran Mór that gives rise to the song-like Celtic languages.

He then turns to what he feels to be the basic question not only of Celtic Myth, but of life:“Why do you suffer?” Mills goes on to describe that though the song is still playing on, as it always has, we live now in an age where many cannot hear it and many more do not even bother to listen. We live in an age of fragmentation, of in-your-face individualism, and of a number of half-truths all trying to be presented as The Great Melody. In this world of conflicting ‘realities’ our souls are in a state of dis-ease. Because of this dis-ease, we have lost our way and our own connection with the divine powers of creation. We have lost touch with our co-creative role with the divine.

Still, though this seems a bleak analysis of the modern human condition, there is hope. Though we are, as Mills states, fragmented and in that fragmented state quite incapable of becoming one with The Great Melody once more, there is a means. We must find our hero, that “…divine nature with which we have been created that is within.” By finding that piece of our inner selves, we are able to succeed in the struggle between the fragmented state and connection with the song. In finding this state, we become one not only with ourselves and our world, but with all worlds and the places between them. Mills calls this place between the mundane world and the Otherworld the “One World.”

Mills suggests that to live sustainably and wholly, we need to learn to live within / with connection to The One World. When we find ourselves at one with and open to The Great Melody, the melody within us recognizes itself in melody of the Great Song. It is at this point, we find ourselves possessing great intuition. The Oran Mór brings to us, when we are able to recognize it and sing with it, “The Sight” of all things that were, all things that are, and all things that will be. Rather than living, as many traditions would suggest, with one foot in this world and one foot in the Other, Mills suggests that we live simultaneously in both worlds: in the One World. It is then that we rejoin once more with divine creation and find that we are no longer suffering.

Rather than using the scientific, impersonal terms of the Big Bang, the story of The Oran Mór is more visceral. It’s easier to imagine a song stirring in the darkness and gradually building and building and changing as worlds and life are created, than a sudden explosion that came out of (seemingly) nowhere in the vastness of space. And yet, in acknowledging that the song is changing, constantly creating, etc. it gives room for the scientific truths of evolutionary theory to coexist with spirituality. It gives, beyond then, a sense of meaning- we are part of the eternal forces of creation. We are one with all beings and all worlds, and our purpose, as is the purpose of all life, is to create. Being in-tune with that song of creation brings us closer to that connection, and allows us to do incredible things. All worlds exist within the song, and all things are but strands of melody within it.

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On Gods / Spirits: Because The Oran Mór story doesn’t include a creator deity, it stands to reason that Gods, Goddesses, faeries, etc. were created by the Great Song. In Celtic myth, I’ve found especially, figures whom are now worshiped by neo-Pagans as deities are not really explicitly called as such. Some of this could have much to do with the means in which the stories were recorded by Christian monks, but could also, I think, have some to do with the fact that these myths were part of a rich and vibrant oral tradition. The figures linger somewhere in the fuzzy lines between history and legend.

It’s my personal gnosis that the gods are just that: somewhere in the spaces in between. I think they were beings who once lived, and had (hence their great abilities) a deep connection with The One World and the song of creation. Once they passed on, they became one again with that One World and the song. Because they were gifted, and because they were remembered, I think that they can still be reached through their legends, through the right strands of melody plucked from that song of creation. They can still offer us guidance and assistance. They, like the song, are in all things and all beings; you only need to have a properly trained ear.

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On Life/Death/Rebirth & Where the Wylde Hunt Plays Into This at All: I explored this topic in-depth earlier in 2015, and my thoughts haven’t changed too much regarding the matter:

Much of my idea of life, death, and rebirth in this post will come from the Oran Mór myth and from the Three Circles of Manifestation concept in John Michael Greer’s The Druidry Handbook as these are the two that resonate the most with me personally.

In Greer’s chapter on The Three Circles of Manifestation it speaks of a pattern of reincarnation. To me, it felt a bit akin to the idea of finally reaching Nirvana in Eastern traditions.

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In this pattern, all matter and “soul stuff” (for lack of better term) originate from Annwn, simultaneously Underworld-of-sorts and source of all building blocks for life. Once a soul has been born from the depths of Annwn, it begins a journey through many lifetimes. The realm in which this series of lifetimes takes place is Abred. The soul must experience and suffer all things through these different incarnations, moving from very simple single-celled life, into plants, into animals, and in the upper reaches of Abred, into human life. Throughout this process, the soul might move up and down between different life forms, learning all lessons there are for it to learn.

Once the soul has experienced all things, it moves onward into the realm of Gwynfydd. Here, each soul is allowed to rest and reflect, synthesizing all the lessons they have learned in their many lifetimes. The soul is given gifts of power and wisdom here, and soul is able now to reflect its own unique Awen (or as I’ve come to think of it, their strain of the Great Song).

Once a soul has learned to express its unique harmony, it may rise again into the realm of Ceugant. It is here that the gods dwell, and here that soul will dwell forever in peace, power, and knowledge.

I have begun to connect this to the Oran Mór as thus: if the One World is, as I feel that it is, like an ocean, could these not be viewed as sort of levels within that primordial and dark sea? Souls come forth from the depths of the One World. As we live through many lives, and learn all that there is to learn, we come to be aware of our connection to all that was, all that is, and all that will be. When he come to know our connection, and indeed to know on a soul-level, all things and their experiences, it is then that we move beyond to the next step.

With what we have learned, in Gwynfydd we learn to express our unique song and its reflections of all that our soul has learned. We begin to be able to sing, as Taliesin had:

I have been a multitude of shapes,
Before I assumed a consistent form.
I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
I will believe when it is apparent.
I have been a tear in the air,
I have been in the dullest of stars.
I have been a word among letters…

Once we know our song and know of our ability to sing it in harmony with all the strands of the Great Song, we move beyond to Ceugant. Ceugant is the outer reaches of the One World, where the soul joins in the endless process of co-creation in the Great Melody.

For me, the Wylde Hunt exists as a sort of psychopomp-like entity. It moves within and without the various planes of existence. It is the force that brings the necessary end of one phrase of the song, so that another might take its place. It is the Wylde Hunt which, in my views, ferries a soul through these different realms of existence and onto wherever it is they are headed to next: a new life, a new realm, or even into their ranks.

For me, working with the Hunt entails honoring them as the wild forces of the Universe, working with them through transitional parts of the year (and I’m currently working on casting off the Wheel of the Year and developing my own) as well as those deep, transitional parts of my own life. I also feel called, on a personal level, to assist those I can on those same big transitional points of life to the best of my ability.

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Things I Value Beyond All Else: The first is (of course) the natural world and the deep connection I feel with it: the faces I find in the trunks of trees and the exchanges I have with them, blazes of color in autumn that take my breath away, the absolute joy of identifying stars and planets in the night sky, winds strong enough to nearly blow me over- and gentle breezes that rattle the cottonwood leaves, the list could go on literally forever.

The next thing would be, I think, creativity. My ability to create, to share my thoughts and my expressions of self through poetry, photography, music, drawing, etc. etc. is incredibly valuable to me- and I always want to encourage and embrace that in those around me. We are most connected to all that is when we participate in leaving something of ourselves- our souls’ visions in the world.

And of course, there are the very traditional values of loyalty, hospitality, compassion, courage, honesty, respect, wisdom, peace… I tried, at one point, to make a sort of chivalric / ‘Hunters’ Code’. At best, it feels redundant. My thoughts now are basically this: be compassionate and respectful of all people, yet defend yourself and your energy should you be in danger; always seek truth and wisdom, and live honestly, fully, and in harmony to the best of your ability. 

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On Some Witchy Topics: This is the part where I try to go through some of the main topics of discussion I’ve seen floating about the community and my stance on them.

  • Laws of Return / The Wiccan Rede / Etc.: I don’t follow this exactly. Obviously, I would NEVER hurt anyone or anything intentionally, and I do believe this: if you put out nasty energy constantly, eventually some of that’s going to come back to you. The same is true of putting out positive energy. I don’t think it’s always a neat ‘three/five/ten/whatever times what you put out comes back’. Do accidents happen? Yes. My rule of thumb is to consider the consequences of my actions: How will this affect the whole?
  • The Role of Ritual: I’ve explained a bit briefly elsewhere, but I’ll touch on it here, as well. Ritual here, means something deliberately done, and in a particular order that can be (and often is) repeated. Habits and routines are different in that they sort of become unconscious decisions after a time.
    For me, ritual is very indicative of careful thought and intention. Each step of the process has a specific meaning. It is thought-out and done intentionally because of its meaning, not because “well, we do it every day/year/etc.”The situations that lend themselves most towards being considered “ritual” in my personal life are, of course, spiritual. On the high days, there is a specific sequence of words, gestures, etc. that I perform to honor my gods and to celebrate the seasons. When I am in need of something and decide to do spell work, there is a set of motions that I go through with careful thought and focus on my intention. More mundane rituals, for me, might be graduation ceremonies, birthdays, funerals, celebrations of secular holidays, etc. Each time, there is an intention and a thought process that accompanies the set of actions. 
    These rituals, spiritual and mundane, for me mark passages through life and through time. They are the points where we are called to take stock of where we are, to reflect upon what has past, to celebrate all of those things, and to look forward towards what is yet to come. The word “ritual” for me denotes something sacred, not in the way that religious pilgrimage sites are sacred, but in the way that they remind us of our humanity, and call us out of our auto-piloted careening through everyday life.
  • Circle Casting: I rarely, if ever, cast a circle when I’m doing witchcraft. For some people it is an awesome tool for focusing their energy, projecting their consciousness between realms of existence, and protecting themselves. For me, it is more distraction than anything; my energy is spent before I get to what it is I’m trying to do- and I’m all out of focus because I’ve spent a great deal of attention calling upon energy for the circle, the elemental quarters, and then deities. It is my opinion, that I can connect with energy, protect myself with personal sigils and amulets that are worn, and focus myself far more efficiently without one.
  • Spells- And That Nasty Topic of Hexes/Curses: I do spells very sparingly. If I need some help with a situation, and I have done all that I can on a mundane level, then I may cast a spell. Hexes and Curses, I believe, aren’t necessarily grounds for condemnation. Do I think there are better uses of energy? Absolutely. Do I think that people who do them are totally valid? Absolutely. The closest I’ve come, personally, to doing a ‘curse’ was more akin to holding a mirror up to someone and saying “Look. Look at what it is you’re doing; it’s causing me distress.” It was an “I’m feeling desperate and cannot escape your presence, so look:…” type of spell used in, what I felt were, really extreme cases of self-defense.

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And since, I’ve exhausted my immediate pile of topics that wouldn’t require a longer tangent (and some of these may yet get a longer post)- and I’ve gone on for just about 3,000 words, I think I will wrap this up. Above is, essentially, my personal beliefs about the Universe, the gods, and my thoughts on witchy practice. As I rebuild my spirituality, my focus is on connection: feeling truthfully and deeply connected with all that is around me. My goal is to create a regular practice that sustains me. It should aid me in difficult times, and allow me to soar in the more pleasant ones. It should be a living, breathing practice that has room for all aspects of my personality- all the verses of my song.

Until Next Time,
Rachel

Breaking Free: A Summer for Shadow Work

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I couldn’t find an artist for this image, but found it via Pinterest here.

I have been, in the past five days since my first post’s publishing (and since I started working on this new blog), really beating myself up over what my first few posts should be about. Being at home- and without my campus job’s income- means that I have a lot of limited space to do things, and access to not only some of my tools but things that I tend to like to purchase such as candles, incense, and the like. Especially this summer, it’s been feeling a bit like I’m not doing much that seems worthy of a blog post.

I have, however, been doing a lot of thinking and planning.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of my focus this summer has been on improving my self in the sense of health, organization, etc. and really jump-starting my spiritual practice which had all but ground to a halt entirely over the course of the last year. I had some ideas about what this might mean when I left Grand Valley for the summer, but it’s turning out to have touched me on even deeper levels than I could have ever imagined. It seemed simple enough to come up with some daily things to do, go on some camping trips, get my inspiration flowing again. What has begun, instead, is a complete transformation of self.

Now, I’m sure if I looked good, long, and hard enough back at journals and the like, I could see the beginnings of this change hiding out in the months leading into summer break. The more noticeable thing, however, was a sudden resurgence of Morrigan imagery after many many many months of very little nudge from anything at all. Almost as soon as I acknowledged that perhaps this message was for me, and not a close friend of mine, things began to pick up rather rapidly right before my most recent camping trip. I kept getting more and more and more of that crow/raven and warrior goddess imagery, and quite literally the day before I left for the camping trip, a filling broke in one of my teeth. What I had been planning, really, was eating healthier, meditating more, doing witchy things… But Morrigan came knocking and insisted on something else: over the last several years, I’ve taken pretty dreadful care of my teeth. Depression kicks in, and my will to care sometimes just drifts away. This was a jarring wake up call- to not only face some deep fears (I hate dentists, and have developed this weird thing where I worry about how bad the news will be and therefore avoid hearing it), and to take better care of myself. It’s something I’ve added to my list of things to work on for the summer, and I’m already starting to feel a bit better (though I’m still in need of some dental work done).

During the trip, a dear friend of mine brought out some shadow working and self-analysis prompts that were posted on Kelly-Ann Maddox’s site, and I’ve really started to address things like how I truly feel about various aspects, how I handle fears and angers, etc. We’ve continued these prompts over the last couple of weeks.

The other really big change in my life came with what felt like a random whim to sort of revive my more classy-goth sense of style in the couple of days before my birthday on the 2nd of this month. I’d been at the library and picked up a copy of Walking the Twilight Path: A Gothic Book of the Dead, which I’ve admittedly not delved into quite yet (but seems to really delve into some personal vs/ slightly anthropological-ish issues involving death, dying, etc. and seems like a book I’ll order on Amazon because I may not have time to get to it this summer), as well as a couple of other more light-hearted books on the goth subculture.

On my birthday itself, I set out to sort of search for some new clothes to sort of reflect this darker aspect of self I was embracing, and ended up visiting my local metaphysical shop with my mom and aunt. I received both a tarot and astrology reading (from my aunt and the shop’s owner respectively), and had a good, long talk with them about what the future had in store for me as I turned twenty-two and was headed into my final year in university. In both readings, the themes of rebirth, redefining the self, working through a lot of shit, and looking towards a future seemed super prevalent. But what started the real turn-around of the conversation was them asking me what I wanted to do for a career once I’d graduated.

And it sort of hit me: I don’t want to work in a museum. I don’t want to go to grad school. I don’t want to continuously do historical research- not for a living, anyway. That’s not what I find fascinating about history. What I find really interesting is the ways in which history acts as a many-faceted story of us: humanity, and it’s really those stories- and the stories that often go unheard that interest me, not what can be researched and argued. I also bemoaned that being a witch, doing tarot readings, writing pagan books, blogging, etc. is not exactly an easy way to make money (though I damn well think it should be). I said, sort of off-handedly, that I’d debated going into mortuary work: more specifically funeral directing and the sort of pre-need counseling type stuff. Of course, the shop’s owner gets excited because that seems to match quite well with my chart.

But the more I thought about it that day and in the few days that followed, the more it sort of made sense. It’s something which allows me to use my spiritual, compassionate side- to assist others in dealing with what is arguably one of the greater transitions in life: its end. There’s a creative, compassionate element to it; it echoes the sense of purpose I get when I think about being a priestess and leading others through ritual. I have a post detailing my thoughts on ritual and its purpose on my older blog, found here, but essentially, my thought is that ritual is supposed to in some way be transformative and transitional. One should leave ritual slightly different than when they entered. It also sort of reflects my views on the Wylde Hunt, my feeling drawn to them, what I’ve always sort of felt my purpose in working with them is, and how they act in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Detailed here, it is essentially that the Wylde Hunt for me acts as a sort of psychopompic force; that they are the necessary end to life, but also the ferriers of souls into whatever next state of being they are destined for.

And with the Morrigan death/war/crone goddess symbolism and presence around, with the darker themes of shadow/self-work and even the stylistic choices, it all just suddenly seemed to make sense. I looked up the information I needed, and could get certified to be an apprentice and work in the funeral industry within a year after graduating if I enroll and complete a 21-credit online program from a university only about 45 minutes away from where my boyfriend is living in Florida. Suddenly, even moving down to Florida to be with the man I love dearly makes a lot of practical sense that I seemed to be lacking in the beginning.

I sort of joked that I’d gotten some new tops, a new bra, and my life-purpose for my birthday.

With all of this change, it’ll be interesting to see where else this flow takes me by the end of the summer.

Lots of love to you all,
Rachel

New Blog, New Direction

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I imagine that many of you who are reading this first post on my blog are coming from a final post on my previous site: The Raven & The Oak. If you are, welcome to my new space! If you’ve manage to stumble upon this by means of the tags, my Tumblr, or some other weird corner of the internet: welcome to my blog!

So why the change? As was explained in the post I mentioned above, I was feeling a need for a fresh start: without craft/pen names, and without the content I wrote over the last five years. Despite the pride the other blog and all of the work I have put into it brings me, it’s time to move on and create a new space: one that’s more adult and genuine to experiences. Essentially, I wanted a blank slate as I go about the process of re-writing a witchcraft practice that more effectively works in all aspects of my life. I wanted a place to try again at really getting involved and vocal in the Pagan community after being a little lax with my writing over the last few years.

Right now, this blog space is under construction as I begin to make changes, sync accounts, etc. etc. etc. It will probably remain so for a while, but my goal is to get it into shape by the time I return to school at the end of August.

To those who have followed along from the other blog and will continue to do so here: thank you for your support and I hope to continue sharing with you soon. To those who won’t: thank you for following along on my other blog for the past few years! To those, again, who are new: feel free to check out some of the poems and art and the like on my old blog, and enjoy what little I have up on this space. There will be much more to come. I look forward to sharing this new chapter with you all.

~Rachel