Tools of the Trade: My Must-Haves

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I want to preface this post by saying that tools and all of the props and decor are not at all necessary for a fulfilling and powerful magical and spiritual practice. What follows are simply my personal beliefs and the tools that have become essential in my own practice. Below are my “must-haves”: the things that I have come to feel are an integral part of how I follow my spiritual path. I won’t include things like candles, herbs, crystals, etc. because they seem a little obvious and

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Drums: I’d been on a hunt for a proper hand drum for ages before finally finding mine in the autumn of 2016. Yes, trance work can be done with chanting, mantras, rattles, etc. I admit that there were things I could have done in the meantime, but found that old baggage about how my voice sounds and personal preferences were holding me back (things I’ve since released). The drum is primal, ancient, earthy. The ability to disappear into the trees and lose myself in a rhythm has been the most cathartic gift to self ever.

img_3048.jpgAthame/Dagger: I began my path with Wicca, in which the Athame, or ritual dagger, holds a great deal of symbolism. My first was actually nothing more than a letter opener, as the Athame is usually not supposed to be sharp. It was something I maintained in my magical arsenal for a long time simply because a) I liked the aesthetic of it, and b) I was the only one in my group of witchy friends who owned one. It was sort of a group-use tool that got brought out for big rituals, but sat on my altar collecting dust otherwise.

A camping trip in 2013, shortly after my journey with the Wylde Hunt had begun really changed the use of the dagger for me. By then, I’d turned 18 and purchased a blade with a bit of an edge to it. Unfortunately, we’d forgotten to pack any form of scissors or utility blade for cutting rope, opening the packages of the food we’d brought, etc. Faced with this dilemma, I came to the conclusion: If a member of the Wylde Hunt was placed in a similar situation, they’d undoubtedly use the blade they had- ritualistic or not.

Ever since the blade has served both purposes for me. It is both there for the ritual symbolism, and a practical tool. Its edge cuts cords and other spell components, primarily. I don’t really do much actual hunting and, thankfully, have never needed to use it for any manner of defensive measures.

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Vessel: Speaking of tools meant mostly for utility purposes: I always keep some manner of bowl/vessel/etc. on my altar. It acts as a containment for water for ritual purposes, acts as a place to put offerings when performing rites indoors, and a safe place for sage bundles and the like when cleansing.

Divination Tools: My spiritual practice began with an interest in divination and it has remained an invaluable tool in my life. Tarot, runes, and a scrying mirror make up the main of my divination practice, though I focus most on tarot. Divination, for me, is both a means for communicating with the divine / universal energies, and recognizing patterns in mundane matters of my life.

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The Lantern: This is the newest tool on the list in terms of its integration into my spiritual practice. After several months of being bombarded in meditations with images of a moon goddess carrying such a lantern, I finally purchased one to place upon the altar. I light this lantern at the beginning of each working and during my study sessions. For me, it is the light of this mysterious goddess guiding me through the dark and murky parts of life. It is a light of guidance, inspiration, hope- an urge to keep going.  It is lit in devotion of the goddess in hopes that her light might show me the way.

And that pretty much concludes my list of “essentials” for my own practice! What sort of tools do you find most important in your practice? What sort of uses do they have? Leave comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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YT Pagan Challenge: Divination Methods

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As was promised earlier today, there is a new YouTube video up and posted on my channel! This one covers topic six of the 2017 YouTube Pagan Challenge: What kind of divination techniques do you prefer? Do you record your divination results in your grimoire? The video has a little bit more show-and-telling of my different decks and tools, but as always, I wanted to post a blog post to accompany it.

My oldest deck is the first pictured above: The Druidcraft Tarot, illustrated by Will Worthington. This is the deck I tend to use for the majority of my readings for other people- at least as far as doing readings in more public settings go. This deck, with a few exceptions, follows the sort of order and style of a traditional Rider-Waite-based deck. Two of those exceptions I remarked on in my video were Cernunnos to replace The Devil, and Rebirth to take the place of The World. Overall, they’re a very easy to read, vibrant, and colorful deck that plays a bit more at the Celtic flavor of things than the traditional Rider-Waite style does. The only slight dilemma with these is that they are huge cards, and a little difficult to shuffle with.

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This next deck is The Wildwood Tarot, also illustrated by Will Worthington (I love his art style and the decks with his illustrations if you cannot tell). This deck was purchased some years back- I want to say about four or five now. This is the deck I use almost exclusively for Wylde Hunt-inspired readings. If I need to get in touch with nature, my wild side, my spirit guides associated with the Wylde Hunt, etc. these are my go-to. This deck is a bit different. All of the minor arcana are accompanied with a sort of key-word for the card, the court cards are all animals, the suits are different (stones, vessels, bows, and arrows rather than pentacles, cups, wands, and swords), and many of the major arcana are different. For example see The Woodward in place of Justice, or The Blasted Oak instead of The Tower, above.

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As far as the deck I am least connected to (as of right now, at least) goes, it would have to be The Tarot of the Hidden Realm (or Secrets of the Hidden Realm or Tarot of the Hidden Realm? I feel as though I’ve seen the name listed a few different ways, and now I’m feeling like I’m going a little nutty and have been using a wrong name this entire time). This deck is absolutely gorgeous, and I was really excited when I picked it up a few years ago. It seems to come and go in importance for me, though. Not all of the cards have as much of a deep image to probe into as the Will Worthington illustrated decks (which isn’t always a problem, as you’ll see below). Something about the closeness of the people in the images to the foreground of the images and the lack of other imagery (besides the gorgeous Celtic knotwork) makes it difficult sometimes to read the cards. You have to be good at reading the people in the cards for these to really work, and it gets to be difficult at times.

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My current working deck will be quite familiar to those of you who have received tarot readings from me online or in-person over the last several months. I actually purchased The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot as a sort of compromise to not getting Th e Wild Unknown Tarot (this was of course before I realised The Wild Unknown was going to be becoming more easily available very very soon). It had that same sort of scratchy style and strange imagery with bright vibrant splashes of color that had drawn me to the other deck. Its almost complete lack of human faces and the darkness of some of the images have really caused me to do some psyche diving with this deck, and working with them is a challenge in all the right ways. Right now it is my absolute favorite deck, and you will probably be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

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My cartomancy practices also include oracle decks. The first that I have in my possession is The Heart of Faerie Oracle by Brian Froud. This was one of the treasures I picked up in the month that I studied abroad in the United Kingdom. While poking about shops in Glastonbury, I found this as a used copy in a shop. As it was a) so inexpensive, b) in Glastonbury and I was shopping for some witchy treasure, and c) Brian freaking Froud, I had to get it. Brian Froud is, of course, the conceptual designer  behind much of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which has been one of my favorite films since I was a small child. Needless to say, this one was coming home with me! This particular deck deals a lot with questions of relationships with others and various archetypes people might take on. It’s a really beautiful and interesting deck to work with.

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My other oracle deck is The Wisdom of Avalon Oracle by Colette Baron-Reid. Are you sensing a bit of a Celtic theme here? This one again, deals with different animals sacred to the Celts, archetypes to be found within the Arthurian legends, and some more abstract concepts such as Death or Focus. This was gifted to me by my good friend, Mark, several years ago, and has been a really useful tool when doing simple readings for myself and others.

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I don’t limit myself to just card reading, though it is by far my strongest suit. I also have a scrying mirror (which is a dark brown agate slice that I’ve blessed and empowered for that purpose. I have a very difficult scrying in the traditional “look-in-the-mirror-and-see-things” sense, but I’ve had a great deal of luck in placing it under my pillow and interpreting the dreams or meditations that come from that.

I also have two pendulums, both were gifts. One is made of amethyst, and the other from deer antler (that one was actually supposed to be a ceiling fan pull, we believe, but it works quite well as a pendulum!). Pendulum work is really fun and easy to do; both my mom and I have a knack for it, but I find it really limited in its usefulness, so I don’t use it often.

And finally, my Ogham staves. There’s a video floating about YouTube somewhere on an old channel I had about how I had constructed these. They’re basically just flat popsicle stick- type pieces of wood with the Ogham symbols and meanings written upon them. I tried for a very long while to get into using them more often, but I’ve found that I’m a much more visual person. I need the deeper, more detailed imagery of cards in order to really get a feel for the answers I’ve been given. This is the same reason I no longer use Runes in my divination practices.

As far as recording my divination work? I always do. More often than not, it’s simply in the smaller hardcover notebook I carry around, but I do write out the more important and weighty readings or the ones that accompany some form of ritual into my larger Book of Shadows as well. I think it’s always important to record such things because otherwise, it’s very difficult to reflect back and see patterns in personal growth and practice, and how things came to manifest versus how you interpreted them at the time.

Much love and many blessings,
Rachel

Updates: Nov. 7th, 2016

Things have finally slowed down enough for me to sit down and write. I’ve spent several weeks away from my blog and YouTube despite a number of plans I’d had for various projects. The Universe, it seemed, had other intentions for me.

My Wylde Hunt Challenge fell short. I didn’t quite get off on the proper footing, and each attempt to keep it going sort of followed suit. Many of my personal creative projects fell to the wayside as well. I’m a little bummed. Autumn is usually such a productive time for me; this Autumn felt like a bit of a train wreck.

On the New Moon at the end of September, I decided to perform a ritual to cut away a lot of the negative aspects of self that were destructive and causing me suffering- old patterns that no longer served me and where I would like my practice to go.

The ritual consisted of me creating sacred space. Within it, I called upon the Hunt, on Herne as its leader and my patron, and upon Yew- the black dog and guide that has been in my dreams and meditations since this summer. I asked them to help me ‘hunt’ down those parts of self, to slay them, and to help me carry them away in the days to come so that I might move on from things which are no longer serving me. It was part shamanic journey, and part physical. The poppet I had made to represent that which I wanted to ‘hunt’ was destroyed, and lain atop my clan tartan scarf (to reflect ancestral ties), and a little bundle of dried cedar and lilies from my home. It remained there for a week, until I could finally burn them and bury them in the earth in the ravines.

The evening I set out to burn them, things got very strange. The Hunter seemed a bit angry, aggressive- quite truly terrifying to me at the time. Some items I meant to burn and bury wouldn’t, and I was really quite confused and frustrated for a while following what was supposed to be the conclusion of my ritual… Now that I’m looking back, I’m seeing that there was a period of darkness that was necessary before rebirth was possible: just like Samhain marks the witches’ New Year, but we do not see that change and that return of light until much later.

In the couple of weeks between that rite and Samhain, it felt as though everything just fell apart. I had a temporary falling out with a close friend, another longtime companion went to prison; my family cat was put down; I made decisions that tore me apart until I was finally able to admit them… I fell behind on school work, on personal chores, and especially in my practice. Some of it wasn’t resolved until a couple of evenings ago. Sometimes, you just need a friend to drag you into the woods with a sage bundle and mead until you end up coming to the conclusions you need.

Things aren’t perfectly fixed, but they’re getting better. I really feel like what I need to power through the rest of this school year has finally come. The Hunt no longer feels threatening, the shadows that needed addressing have been addressed- and those that needed to be have been laid to rest where they belong. School work has still been keeping me busy, and I’m therefore hesitant to make promises of any further projects or regular posting until the semester has reached its end.

I’m looking forward to the Winter months- and hoping they hold a much smoother time than Autumn did. Plans have just been begun for Yule with the witchy tribe, and I’m feeling a lot better about making it through this semester and onward towards graduation and beyond.

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful Samhain, and that the months to come are full of magic, love, and prosperity.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

P.S. For the month of November, I will not be offering my tarot service on the Full Moon. I’ve got too many things due between now and the Thanksgiving Break to do so. I’m very sorry I forgot about it for October and will not be able to do so for November. I should be returning with it come December, though.

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