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

YT Pagan Challenge: My Witchy / Psychic Talents

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Hello all! I’ve learned, as of this post, that WordPress will no longer let you imbed YouTube videos on your posts with the free plan (or at the very least, I can’t figure out how to do it now!) At any rate, I’ve posted another video on my YouTube channel that discusses Witchy/Pagan talents. The fifth topic for the YT Pagan Challenge was: Do you have any magical talents, psychic techniques, which you consider your specialty? Like I did with my previous video, I want to keep making blog posts to accompany the new vids.

So! On to the topic of witchy talents. As I discussed in the video above (and more than likely in posts throughout this blog), I’m not someone who does a great deal of magic. Candle magic tends to be my go-to for spell-craft, and I guess I’d consider that my talent / technique as far as that goes. Beyond that, I tend to have a sort of knack for just… guessing or intuiting what something could be used for.

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Picture found via lunaticgarden.pl

An example of this was one summer, while I was roaming around my back yard and the forest behind it with Mark, we came across a white bush growing amongst all of the cedar and pine trees. We’d been gathering some wildflowers and the like for making a Midsummer incense, and came across it. I’d mentioned that it gave me the vibe of being good for magic involving love, light, the sort of spirit of summer, or something that would be useful for weddings. Sure enough, once we’d researched it, we found that it was a magnolia bush- and it was indeed useful for spells involving love, fidelity, friendship, happiness, etc.

Basically, I have a very difficult time remembering things in the encyclopedic sense, and a great deal of luck in just being able to intuitively know things.

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I also learned this summer that I’m good at scrying- though not in a traditional sense. I have (and you can see it in the video above) a dark brown agate mirror that I found at the local Pagan Pride Day festival. This summer, while I was on a camping trip, I cleansed and blessed the mirror in a stream and by the light of the moon at the beach we were near.  I placed the mirror under my pillow, for the entirety of the trip and a number of really vivid dreams. I can’t get mirrors to work in a normal “look into the mirror to see x” sense, but I’ve found that using it in that way works quite well.

Beyond that, my real talents in my practice are mostly in making my own tools and ritual jewelry, and tarot. I sculpt my statues for my altar space and have made a number of the pieces that I actively use in ritual.

I  had a lot of fun making this video and blog post, and look forward to following it up with more in the YouTube Pagan Challenge.

Blessings,
Rachel