For weeks, my morning Tarot meditation had yielded nothing but an annoyingly redundant, increasingly frustrating insight: “You’re stuck.” “I know I am,” I snapped snarkily at the layout, “but what are YOU!?”
Maybe it was time to give up the Old Gods, and begin again.
A year earlier I had spent several days in and around Athens, Greece, exploring The Agora and its remarkably preserved Temple of Hephaestus (my husband’s favorite), as well as the Acropolis and its Museum, which happened to be hosting a temporary exhibit on the oracular site of Dodona.
In ancient days, Dodona was almost as important as the oracular site of Delphi. Nestled at the foot of Mount Tomaros, it was surrounded by fields and trees. Prophecies were interpreted by listening to the sound of the wind soughing through the branches and leaves of the oak trees, and by hearing the pinging patterns of acorns as they fell into the great kettle-like receptacles placed underneath. Dodona, which common folk visited to make personal petitions and prayers, was dedicated to Zeus and Dione. “Dione was described as ‘the temple associate’ of Zeus . . . [h]er name is simply the feminine form of Zeus (Dios).”
We were also fortunate to visit Delphi, site of prophecies that were of State-level importance. The site was held at one point by the Titan goddess Phoibe. Again, from www.theoi.com: “Phoibe was the third goddess to hold the great oracle of Delphoi (Delphi) which she in turn bestowed upon her grandson Apollon. Her name was derived from the Greek words phoibos ‘bright’ or ‘radiant’, phoibazô ‘to prophesy’ and phoibaô ‘to purify.’”
Returning home, I decided to add invocations to Dione and Phoibe to my daily Practice. Because I am very drawn to sets of three, I hesitantly added Hekate to the line-up. Thus, part of my incantation as I shuffled the cards became, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart always be acceptable to You, Ancient Mother, Dione, Oracle of Dodona; Phoibe of the Bright Intellect, Oracle of Delphi; and Hekate, Guardian of the Crossroads and Keeper of the Keys.”
Weeks passed and I felt a growing confidence in my connection to these Goddesses. I continued to study (and note this word, “study”, for it becomes important later in this Telling), and to learn more about the archeological sites associated with them. I bought a new Tarot deck by Lisa de St. Croix to celebrate my progress. My readings, which had already been fairly insightful, became more nuanced. Yup, things were just clicking right along. Until they weren’t.
Slowly, more Swords started showing up in my daily four-card spreads. The suits of Cups and Pentacles disappeared almost completely, though they would still make an appearance when I read for other people. Reversals became common. The Devil and The Tower made regular appearances. I felt increasingly disconnected from myself and the Goddesses I continued to call upon. Still, I maintained my daily Practice even though I did not perceive that I was getting anything out of it, knowing that daily Practices are not about having daily “aha!” moments. Instead, they are about cultivating Mindfulness and sharpening self-awareness. Almost a year after my “Come to Goddess” moments in Greece, though, I finally had to admit that This Wasn’t Working Anymore.I put the cards on the shelf for a few days, then a week, and then a couple of months had gone by. Every now and again I would sit at table with one of my decks, just to see if my spiritual logjam had cracked free—the answer, with disheartening consistency, was “no.”
“Maybe,” I told my friend Andrea, “I’m studying the wrong gods.” “You mean praying to“, she replied. Uhm, no.
And there it was. I realized I hadn’t been venerating Dione or Phoibe (or Hekate) at all; I’d been asking that they help me out during Tarot card readings. I had researched their histories and knew all sorts of facts about the archeological sites associated with Dione and Phoibe, but I hadn’t been trying to connect with their Essences . . . and I had never truly opened my heart up to Hekate, which—it turns out—had a lot to do with me not opening my heart up to myself. After waiting about a year for me to get my spiritual rear in gear, they were giving me the message, “Guess what? The words of your mouth and the mediations of your heart are NOT acceptable to us!”
“Where do you feel most in touch with the Divine?” continued Andrea. “Forests,” I promptly responded. And so, the next morning I began to think about opening myself up to The Green Man as I shuffled my cards and cradled them in my palms.
I visualized an altar we had once created on an old bench of weathered grey stone set deep in an otherworldly grove of Norwegian spruce at the local Arboretum. We had limned the edges of the bench with fallen spruce fronds, and used what was at hand as icons of the elements. Slender cylindrical pine cones, their brown scales as tightly compacted as snakeskin, represented Earth. Desiccated maple leaves that had once danced in the passing breezes had been collected from an adjacent copse and now symbolized Air. Cooled charcoal from a controlled burn in the East Woods stood for Fire, and Water poured from my bottle completed our offering of thanksgiving. There, in the shadows of giants, we felt a momentary stillness steal upon us as we meditated on the altar we had created.
Focusing on the image of our rough-hewn, rustic altar, I thanked Dione, Phoibe and Hekate for the time they had spent with me and said a respectful goodbye, at least for the time being. I reminded myself that a relationship with the Divine is more than book-learning and research; it is a learning of the heart, a sinuous, sensuous intertwining of the soul with All That Is. A grounding of Self in the Holy.
I drew my one card.
It was the Knight of Pentacles which is, in the de St. Croix deck, The Green Man.
I resumed my daily mediation spreads—only two-card this time—and as the days spun into weeks my focus once again sharpened. I rededicated myself to spending regular, weekly time wandering the nearby woodlands. I resisted my natural inclination to immediately intellectualize experiences and instead leaned into being in and of the moment. Less talking. More listening. Less pridefulness, and so much more humility.
And eventually, the Gods were no longer silent.