The Crow’s Nest: Samhain, Boundaries and Nettles

Samhain. It is the time a year the boundaries between the realms is at its thinnest.  My thoughts of late have been on a different type of boundary, however. The type of boundary we establish between ourselves and others. This type of boundary is often referred to as a “personal boundary.” Personal boundaries are the conditions and limits we set physically and emotionally in regards to our relationships with others. Personal boundaries are a necessary protective measure established to promote healthy relationships. By establishing personal boundaries we demonstrate self-care and self-respect. This indicates to others how we will accept being treated by them.

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Nettles and Signs

Earlier this year, I took a break from writing and teaching.  The reasons varied, from family obligations to a strong message from my Deities to take some time for personal growth and private study.  Walking in the yard one morning, I happened to come across several stinging nettle plants popping up in my flower beds. I had not planted them, they had simply volunteered.  A former student reminded me of the association of nettles and boundaries (I love it when the student becomes the teacher but that is another subject and another article). I began to contemplate the boundaries in my life, or rather the lack of boundaries in my life. I came to realize I had not been establishing healthy personal boundaries.  And in failing to do so, I was suffering. The nettles were a “sign.”

The Morrigan has taught me many things over the years. I would say one of the most important is accountability to myself and the knowledge that I am in control of my life. The personal boundary issue needed to be addressed.  Shadow work ensued.  As a practitioner of the Craft I am very familiar with the concept of protection and how necessary it is. While I always take steps to protect myself magically, why was I neglecting to protect myself mundanely? Why was I reluctant to establish healthy personal boundaries in the first place?  These were some of the questions that came forward during my shadow work on the subject.

The nettles have continued to grow. They serve as a constant reminder to be aware of boundaries and the necessity of establishing them.  Magically, they serve as protection. Mundanely, they serve as a conscious reminder to be mindful of boundaries.

What does this have to do with Samhain? 

Samhain is a Celtic Festival. It is the third and final Harvest Festival of the year according to the Pagan Calendar. Samhain marks the beginning of the dark half of the year. Bonfires were lit and Divination performed.  Spirits can move about freely, as the “veil” between our world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest.  The Dead returned to Earth for one night a year and if not appeased with offerings would damage crops and generally wreak havoc.  Honoring the Dead is still highlighted this time of year.  The Sidhe would also cross the veil during this time and were gifted offerings to ward off Their mischief.

Samhain represents change and transition. It is an ideal time of year to release what is no longer necessary in our lives.  This allows us to proper in general. Shadow Work is a useful tool in determining what aspects of our lives we need to work on.

What is Shadow work?

The Shadow Self is a Jungian concept.  He theorized that we all have a “Shadow Self”, a dark side of ourselves we do not consciously acknowledge. Shadow work involves bringing the unconscious dark aspects of ourselves to the surface of our conscious, acknowledging it.  By doing so, we come to know ourselves better.   The Dark time of the Year is an ideal time to perform this kind of introspective work, as the veil between our conscious and unconscious is very thin during this time.  There are many techniques and rituals available online and in print for guiding you through the process of Shadow Work. It is not an easy thing to do, facing and acknowledging one’s darker self.  Nevertheless, it is essential to one’s personal growth. As we come to know ourselves better, we come to know the world around us better.

It is important to be aware of the signs we receive from our Deities and the Universe at large. The nettles were my sign, what might yours be? Look around, you might be surprised at what signs you see. As we fall into the dark half of the year, be willing to fall into yourself and get to know yourself better.

A safe and blessed Samhain to all!

Fairies in Movies: Folklore on the Big Screen

Initially I was going to do this post about my favorite witchy Halloween movies since it’s October and I am an absolute fanatic for the holiday. I mean I love Samhain but I adore secular Halloween in a way that’s probably excessive. However I was talking about the idea with a friend and we ended up segueing into a discussion about fairies in movies and the way that many people lean towards the twee* versions which led to talking about movies that depict fairies more along traditional lines. So this is my list of movies, varying from campy to well done, that portray different versions of fairies in ways that are truer to folklore.

Photo by the author.
Photo by the author.
  1. The Secret of Kells – cartoon fairies tend to be the ones that take the hardest twee hit so let’s start with a couple really good cartoon fairy depictions. The Secret of Kells is a movie about a young scribe in medieval Ireland who befriends a forest spirit named Aisling. Aisling is shown as somewhat childlike in her appearance but has powerful magic and shows up to help the main character when he is most in need of it.
  2. Song of the Sea – by the same people who made Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea is the story of a young boy named Ben and his sister Saoirse. Their mother is a selkie and she left them to return to the sea the night Saoirse was born; Ben is human but his little sister is not and this forms in many ways the crux of the tension in the movie. It takes some liberties with Irish mythology but tells a great story and is full of fairies of different types all trying to get back to the Otherworld but trapped here. Only the song of a selkie can open the passage to Fairy, but the only selkie left on earth is Saoirse and she’s mute.
  3. Seulseulhago Chalranhashin: Dokkaebi [English title ‘Goblin: the lonely and great God’] – In fairness this is a Korean pop-drama so it is at points overly melodramatic and saccharine. However that said it is also a fascinating look at the folklore around the dokkaebi, spirits who are roughly similar to the western concepts of fairies; the word dokkaebi is translated as goblin. This serial drama follows the story of one particular ‘goblin’ and his search for the person who can free him from his curse: the prophesied goblin’s bride.
  4. Labyrinth – A classic movie based on the lore of Changelings; a girl asks the goblins to take her little brother away and they do, forcing her to enter into a bargain with the Goblin King to try to win him back.  Throughout the movie we see a huge range of fairies from dangerous to comical. Campy in places but has a lot of good material in it.
  5. Krampus – billed as a horror movie but hard to pin down Krampus does include some fairies, specifically the elves which aid Krampus throughout the film. They are loosely based on the traditional Jolasveinar [Yule Lads] who could reward good children or punish bad ones. These figures appeared wearing masks, as Krampus’s elves do in the movie, and in the older stories were known to do things like kidnap naughty children and boil them alive – note that Iceland actually banned parents from using the Yule Lads to ensure children’s good behavior in 1746.

    Old card reading "Gruss vom Krampus", 1900's, public domain
    Old card reading “Gruss vom Krampus”, 1900’s, public domain
  6. Hellboy II the Golden Army – loses points with me for mauling some Celtic mythology pretty badly (no Balor wasn’t Nuada’s father) but gains them back for having some of the characters speak Old Irish. The fairies range from rampagingly homicidal to helpful, and are most certainly not twee.
  7. The Guardian – homicidal dryad who looks for a baby to sacrifice to her tree. Very campy and the special effects leave a lot to be desired for a modern audience (the movie was made in 1990), but definitely a different perspective on tree spirits. Manages to convey the idea of these beings as inhuman while showing one fully within a human society, and like many of these films plays on the old changeling/stolen child stories.
  8. Pan’s Labyrinth – Fabulous visual effects and a grim story, Pan’s Labyrinth weaves together modern myth and older folklore. I like this one in particular because it also explores the connection between the dead and fairies, something that doesn’t often show up in movies (or books for that matter). The movie is full of many allusions to classic tropes from fairytales and mythology as well as a nod to the archetypal hero’s journey.
  9. "Plucked From a Fairy CIrcle" from the book "). British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions" (1880)  Via WikiMedia.
    “Plucked From a Fairy CIrcle” from the book “). British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions” (1880) Via WikiMedia.
  10. The Hallow – one of my favorites on this list, I watched it after a friend recommended it recently. Definitely leans into the genre of horror further than the folklore might merit and the actual depiction of the fairies is more zombie than fairy. But it draws on genuine tradition for the premise of the story, which centers on a couple who move to a small Irish town and ignore warnings to stay out of the forest which belongs to the ‘hallow’ aka fairies. Bonus points from me for being filmed entirely in Ireland.
  11. Secret of Roan Inish – Another of my personal favorites, the story of a girl named Fiona who is sent to live with her grandparents and begins to unravel some family secrets which center on the island the family left when Fiona was a small child, and the loss of her younger brother Jaimie. A story of selkies and the way that folklore can be interwoven through generations and affect people in the modern world.

This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but it covers a good range I think from children’s movies to horror films, from the light hearted to the serious. What they all have in common is their attempt to portray fairies not as tiny little environmentally conscious nature spirits, but as characters stepping from the pages of folklore onto the big screen. There are several others that I haven’t seen either because they aren’t out yet or because I haven’t had a chance but which I’ve heard good things about so I’ll add them here as honorable mentions and these include: the Netflix original movie Bright which is set in a Los Angeles where orcs and elves live side by side with humans; Mei Ren Yu [English title The Mermaid] a story about a community of mermaids trying to save their home from developers; and Córki Dancingu [English title The Lure] a story of two mermaids who come on shore and end up working in a strip club.

*twee – excessively cute, pretty, or dainty

The Hearth of Hellenism: Did the Philosophers Believe in God?

When you think of philosophy you probably think of the famous Greek trio Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These men dominate the history of philosophy from ancient times onward. Their brilliance was sought after later by Christians who wanted to show that their God was the true God. This was done by reinterpreting the polytheistic philosophers of Greece, by distorting their words and teachings, maintaining that their teachings were a precursor for monotheism, and that the philosophers rejected polytheism.

Christian church fathers hated Greek philosophy. John Chrysostom described Greeks as “dogs” whose philosophy was “worthless”.[1] Eusebius characterized Hellenism as Greek “excrement” and said it was “loathsome.”[2] Nevertheless, Christianity needed to put into the minds of the people that there was a continuity and cohesion between polytheistic Greek culture and the monotheistic Christian religion. A visual example of this can be found on the walls of one of the Meteora monasteries in Greece where Homer, Thucydides, Aristotle, Plato, and Plutarch are depicted, icon style. This is the Church’s revision of history and philosophy.

Photo by the author.
Photo by the author.

What did the philosophers teach? How are they being misrepresented? Why do Christians think the philosophers foreshadow the gospel? Let us begin with Socrates. Socrates left no writings of his own. What we know about him comes from his student Plato, who features Socrates in his dialogues, as do Aristophanes and Xenophon in their writings. Socrates appears to be a monotheist by virtue of poor translation (or intentional mistranslation) using the English singular term “God”. Any time you see “God” you need to visually add the before it. Newer translations are fixing this. There is no “capital-G God” when we read the philosophers because god is a common noun like “man”, so we need to read it as referring to one god of the many in the pantheon or just to gods in general, just as is the case when “man” stands for mankind.

Socrates was put on trial for impiety and corrupting the youth. At his trial, Socrates feels that it will be difficult to remove the jury’s prejudices, but he goes along with the process anyway, saying, “But nevertheless, let this be as is pleasing to God, the law must be obeyed and I must make a defense.”[3] Here we see the singular God, which is misleading, the proper way to translate the text would be, let this be as is pleasing to the God (one god of the many). The god is probably Zeus or Apollo. Or, since no god is being specified, we could translate “to the gods”.

One way Socrates attempts to defend himself is by offering “the god of Delphi”[4] as his witness. Socrates claims that his mission from the god–Apollo, in this case–is to bring wisdom to the Greeks, so they should not be angry with him, for it is the will of Apollo. This and other defenses did not satisfy the jury, unfortunately, and he was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. Socrates is clearly a polytheist, for he invokes a Greek god in his trial in his defense.

It is worth mentioning also that the trial of Socrates and his death was treated by Greeks in a similar manner as Jesus’s passion is treated by Christians. This is a good reason why Christians would want to get Socrates on their side presenting him and his death as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own sacrifice. Socrates willingly died; he was given the chance to escape by night, his friends tried to break him out of jail but he said no, he would obey the law.

On now to Plato. Plato founded the Academy in 387 BCE. The academy would be a hub for philosophy for nearly a millennium, until it was forcefully closed by Christian Emperor Justinian I in 529 CE. Edward Gibbon, in his monumental work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, states that the impact of Christianity on the schools of Athens was more fatal than the Gothic invaders.[5] According to Gibbon, Christianity was hostile to any form of inquiry and exercise of reason. Questions were answered with an article of faith, and anyone deemed to be an infidel or skeptic was condemned to eternal flames. Socrates, for whatever reasons, was condemned as well, but Athens atoned by treating him as a hero for the rest of pagan antiquity.

Doing proper justice to Plato and Platonism in the limited space I have for this blog will be unattainable. The details regarding the interaction between Platonists and the Christians are extensive. I will highlight what I think is important and relevant for this discussion.

Platonism was the most influential philosophy in the development of patristic theology because it was a dominant force in society. Church fathers could not avoid Platonism if they tried. Christians and “pagans” went to the same schools and received the same education. When developing their theology, Platonism was the “language” Christians used in forming how they thought about God.[6] It is important to stress that simply using Platonism in Christian theology does not imply compatibility; they are irreconcilable on key fundamental issues, such as the relationship between man and the divine. Platonism and Christian theology are not actually harmonious. In my entry, Why Greeks are Leaving Christianity, I pointed out that the monks of Mt. Athos called Plato the “Greek Satan” and would spit on the ground upon hearing his name.[7]

In Plato’s writings, he is searching for knowledge that transcends this world, truth which is truly real, eternal, and immutable.[8] Plato thinks that real knowledge requires full participation in the realm of Ideas or Forms. The realm of the forms is a divine realm, the realm of the gods. In the realm of forms, we find the Good, which is the cause of knowledge and truth, and thus is beyond Knowledge and Truth. The Good is also beyond being, surpassing it in dignity and power.[9]

Later Christians reading Plato will identify the Good with their God. However, Plato does not describe the Good as a god. Christians turn it into God. Plato is by no stretch of the imagination a monotheist, nor was he developing a philosophy in the direction of monotheism. He called the physical world a “visible god”, and that after death it is possible to join the company of the gods.[10]

Christians also diminish his polytheism. As Dr. Edward Butler explained to me, the tactic that is used in appropriating Plato is to ignore what Plato calls “gods” or claim he is being ironic, or merely pandering to popular sentiment. Plato’s “real” theology, they claim, concerns entities, like the Idea of the Good from The Republic, which Plato never calls “God” or implies in any way should take the place of the gods, because it better suits the Christian notion of what a theology ought to look like.[11]

Plato’s polytheism is also evident in his criticism of traditional religious beliefs. Plato was harsh on poets and the lies he thought they taught about the gods. For Plato, the gods did not behave in the manner as described by Homer or Hesiod. Gods, according to Plato, could not do harm, nor did they have characteristics that would be ridiculous in them, namely human-like behavior such as jealousy and anger. Plato was reforming polytheism, not abolishing it. Christians had to contend with the Platonists, as they were part of the intellectual elite in society, and Platonists criticized Christianity using their philosophy. Naturally, Christians would have to eliminate this opponent if they wanted to gain power and control the intellectual dialogue in society. This is one reason why the Academy in Athens and other schools were shut down. Eliminating the Platonists and later using elements of their philosophy removed a major obstacle to Christian dominance of society and directed the course of philosophical dialogue.

Third and lastly, we come to Aristotle. A similar appropriation as with Plato happened with Aristotle. Christians put their God into Aristotle and developed theology that is not found in his texts, according to Aristotle and the Theology of Living Immortals by Richard Bodeus. Bodeus explains that Aristotle’s actual remarks about the gods are ignored by Christian philosophers, while Christians fashioned a “theology” for him out of the doctrine of unmoved movers, which Bodeus argues Aristotle never intended to be taken as any sort of theology.[12]

The unmoved movers is a way in which Aristotle attempts to show that the universe is a singular causal system. Aristotle said there were a finite number of eternal circular motions in the cosmos, which must be oriented toward a system of unmoved movers. But this system, and the prime unmoved mover, which Aristotle describes as “thought thinking itself”, is a far cry in its original intention from Christians’ creator god. Aristotle cannot be viewed as a proto-monotheist. He talks about gods in his works, and in his will, Aristotle requested that statues be dedicated on his behalf to three gods.

The executors are to see that the images Gryllion has been commissioned to make are set up when they are finished: these are of Nicanor and of Proxenus, which I had meant to have commissioned, and of Nicanor’s mother and the image of Arimnestos that has been completed, as a memorial to him, since he died childless. (16) They should dedicate my mother’s statue of Demeter at Nemea, or wherever they think best. Wherever they put my tomb, they should collect and place the bones of Pythias, as she herself requested. Because Nicanor returned safely, he should put up stone statues 4 cubits high in Stagira to Zeus the Preserver and Athena the Preserver, in fulfilment of my vow.[13]

In closing, given the evidence laid out, it is clear the philosophers were devout polytheists. They were not developing a proto-monotheism that was preparing the way for Christianity. They, along with their philosophy, have been examined with the lense of monotheism, looking for its God to give credence to its theology and beliefs. But the monotheist God is not there: the philosophers did not believe in “God”, but in Gods.

Notes
1. John Chrysostom: Homilies on Ephesians: Homily XXI”
2. Eusebius’ commentary on the Psalms
3. Plato, Apology 19a
4. Ibid
5. Edward Gibbon and Hans-Friedrich Mueller, “Reign of Justinian,” in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (New York: Modern Library, 2003)
6. Andrew Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
7. Siniossoglou, Niketas, Radical Platonism in Byzantine, (Cambridge University Press, 2016)
8. ibid
9. ibid
10. Plato, Phaedo 82 B–C
11. Edward Butler (http://polytheist.com/noeseis/)https://newschool.academia.edu/EdwardButler) interviewed by Angelo Nasios, online exchange, September 27, 2017
ibid
12. Diogenes Laertius Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 5.11-16

The Cartomancer: The Full Moon Cut

Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot, 1650, reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy, hand-painted by Edmund Zebrowsky as a gift
Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot, 1650, reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy, hand-painted by Edmund Zebrowsky as a gift

These days I’ve been sharing my love of all things Zen as represented in popular culture, more specifically in Japanese and Chinese samurai and martial arts films from the 60s.

Raizō Ichikawa, 1951 (Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain in Japan and the US)
Raizō Ichikawa, 1951 (Photo: Wikimedia Public Domain in Japan and the US)

One of my favorite Japanese actors is Raizo Ichikawa, who famously played the swordsman Nemuri Kyoshiro, a badass ronin, described by critics as a nihilist and cynic.

The figure of the nihilist and cynic is, however, a Western concoction based on existentialist thought à la Jean-Paul Sartre.

But if you know your Zen, then you also know that we call nihilism and cynicism is but the representation of a highly educated mind that understands non-attachment in a non-conceptual grasping-at-the-mind kind of way to ‘understand’ the mind.

This sounds convoluted as it goes in a ring that teases out the dualist idea of the perceiver and the perceived, which the mind does not distinguish as such, the mind being the grand void, the empty mirror that it is, always reflecting form that doesn’t even exist.

Let’s save this discussion for later. What I want to say here is that there’s something very specific in the aesthetics of the samurai mind-set that I consistently apply to reading cards.

As early as last week already, on my other blog, Taroflexions, I gave away my prime secret, as it were, in terms of what I consider the best method of reading cards that enables you to achieve a level of mastery beyond comparison: The samurai’s Cut.

Shibata Renzaburo (Photo: Wikimedia in Public Domain)
Shibata Renzaburo (Photo: Wikimedia in Public Domain)

This year I’ve been celebrating 100 years since the birth of writer Shibata Renzaburo, the creator of the character Nemuri Kyoshiro, by watching an endless string of films featuring the famous ‘full moon cut’, the samurai’s signature blow.

From a martial arts perspective this cut does not entail much sophistication other than the tracing of a circle with the sword. You start at the base, sword pointing to the ground. You turn the blade upwards so that it reflects the opponent’s gaze. You start tracing the moon’s counterclockwise movement. You win everything because the opponent has no patience, and tends to walk straight into the circle of your sword. You get out of the circle yourself when you almost complete it, with blood on your blade. The strike is always on the back of the other.

Now, the reason why I find this fascinating is because of this cut’s relation to how the swordsman gives himself time. He is not in a hurry. There’s a lot to be present for in the tracing of the empty mind.

In this sense the full moon cut is not overrated, as one of Nemuri Kyoshiro’s opponents tells him in Sleepy Eyes of Death: The Chinese Jade, but rather it entails the highest treatise on emptiness.

You make your cuts in accordance, when you live life, have fun, or read the cards, when you can grasp precisely what your empty mind is doing.

As with all stereotypes, in own understanding of fortunetelling and martial arts, what I see happening when the cartomancer succeeds is this:

She gives herself time to check with what the cards mirror about her situation, if she reads for herself, or for another.

Today is my last post on Patheos Agora. The Cartomancer Agora Column has been promoted to The Cartomancer Patheos Individual Blog. What this means for the audience is a shift in my approach, as I want to make new cuts in accordance with what I see is necessary to share, cartomantically speaking, as far as I’m concerned.

The Full Moon Cut spread

In honor of my Zen masters (from Bodhidharma to Hui Neng and Huang Po), I’ve decided to design a new spread called The Full Moon Cut, channeling the spirits of actor Raizo Ichikawa and writer Shibata Renzaburo, who died too early, the first at 37, and the latter at 61, but not before leaving us with shining blades we can use to cut through all illusion.

This is a 10-card spread following the method of reading in line, creating a narrative that is built of a few sentences, formulated according to the following positions:

Card 1: The tip of the sword is your empty mind; your empty agenda

When you pose a question, you may think that your mind is involved, disclosing fear, desire, worry, strong emotions and the like. In reality, your mind is as empty as it has always been.

What does the tip of your sword point to, when this emptiness is considered?

What weighs on your ‘emptiness’? You can think of this point as a gravity point, anchoring your mind in this awareness.

Card 2: The turned up blade is what the world reflects back at you

Think of this as the agenda that the world, through your perception, hands over to you. If you read for another, then this reflects that person’s agenda.

Cards 3-8: Take your time. These cards tell you what you do with your time

What do you spend your time on?

What do you cultivate?

What do you waste your time on?

Read these cards as one sentence.

Card 9-10: Fullness of being, and strike

Think of these cards as a representation of what makes you say:

I’ve arrived. Thus.

You know what the problem is. How do you solve it? What makes you say, ‘I’m nailing it like this’?

The Full Moon Cut in action

When you read cards, you deliver. Whether on a silver or golden plate, it doesn’t matter. You deliver. You deliver yourself and the other.

Here’s my example of my own Full Moon Cut.

Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot, 1650, reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy, hand-painted by Edmund Zebrowsky as a gift
Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot, 1650, reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy, hand-painted by Edmund Zebrowsky as a gift

My entry point is the Magician. I know how the mind works, and what tricks it plays. When the tip of my sword enters another body, it has the magic of the trick to it. You never know what it is.

The world reflects back at me the World. How appropriate. No need to waste more words on the implication of this one. It is what is.

I spend time on cutting through illusion, cultivating freedom. Problems still arise, but I let them pass, while investigating into their nature.

I arrive in a chariot, thus, with a book in my hands.

The Popess’s book is my exit point out of the Zen circle. My sword is my word. I strike with the written word on the back of all who are full of concepts, understanding nothing.

The cards never lie.

Think of the The Full Moon Cut as an exercise in Thusness.

You are here now, watching, and making your cuts in accordance.

More cartomancy of virtuosity?

Stay tuned for courses and other, or check out the related post The Samurai’s Cut, featuring an original 13-card design with only the suit of swords.

Tree City Witch: Blood Magick & Pluto Goes Direct

I love my Facebook timeline. If you want to hang out with us and talk astrology and tarot, you’re more than welcome. Most of my astrology posts I make public. It’s fun. And I say this despite being a sometime cranky Cancerian (Sun, Mercury and Mars).

Today I started a conversation about Pluto. Pluto has been retrograde and Pluto goes direct this week and Pluto has been opposing my Sun for years now. That transit is about to end. FINALLY.

Symbol for Pluto.
Symbol for Pluto.

What is a transit? Where the planets are now and how they affect us.
What is an opposition to one’s Sun? Learning curve of the underworld. Death and rebirth. Over and over for the length of the transit.
What is Pluto? Power and powerlessness, among other things. Also, the aforementioned death and rebirth.

So I reminded folks, as I like to do, about Pluto going direct and for everyone it’s different because everyone has a different chart. For me it’s the 5th house of creativity and love while for you it may be the spiritual 12th House or the spooky 8th or the money making 2nd. Regeneration, that’s Pluto. For every planet, sign, and house, there are keywords galore.

You may not feel it right away or you may, Pluto’s station and motion forward over the next week. You may even mistake this transit for another. I think that happens a lot. People “blame” how they feel or what they experience on such and such planet when really it’s the moon. It can be hard to separate out sometimes, like those days when you throw all the colors into the wash instead of putting the white towels in the pile over there.

This housekeeping metaphor is not an accident. Although the Sun entered Libra the other day and we got Equinoxed, we have three planets still in Virgo, Mercury, Mars, and Venus, and this matters. Mercury is your mind, Mars is your drive, Venus is… so much. Love, desire, beauty, art, underwear. Her complexity never gets enough credit.

These Virgo planets make sweet music with Pluto (because Virgo and Capricorn are harmonious together — earth signs) but less so for the Libra Sun which will make the astrological aspect called a “square” which causes tension.

Think about it, even if you don’t know anything about astrology. The Sun enters Libra and our consciousness shifts from industrious hardworking Virgo to lives-for-love artful Libra. Libra is romantic. Libra is graceful. And Pluto? Pluto is not romantic. Pluto is not graceful. Pluto has a bottom line always, is not flexible, plays for keeps (if Pluto can be said to “play” at all) and in Capricorn that bottom line is business, all business.

Let me put it this way. Virgo and Capricorn agree. Work is what matters. But Libra and Capricorn? Work isn’t ONLY what matters. Relaxation matters too, says Libra.

So in the coming weeks as we fully shift from Virgo Season to Libra Season, you will feel this tension. You’ll want a break from all the work. You’ll want to glide or ride or swim or just be. You’ll feel pulled towards getting your nails and hair done. Clothes shopping. Vacation. Vineyards. Pentacles and Cups. You’ll have to find a balance between work and pleasure, which is what Libra likes to do anyway (so we are told).

Artist's Depiction of Pluto, from European Southern Observatory (ESO).  Public Domain Image.
Artist’s Depiction of Pluto, from European Southern Observatory (ESO). Public Domain Image.

ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE BUT IN A GOOD WAY

It probably won’t be that bad, but you will feel it. You will feel Pluto’s vice grip, Pluto’s compulsive obsessive nature, during Libra Season as Mercury, Mars and Venus all enter Libra one by one and make that “square” to Pluto. You’ll feel it as you reach for that second glass of wine and hear Pluto whisper (or scream) in your ear: all this pleasure, what has it gotten you? Any closer to your desire? Hmm?

You too may be ending a hard transit, a brutal transit, a death and rebirth transit. You may need that new pleasure giving thing that costs a little too much. And you tell Pluto no. You tell Pluto: I’m yours yes I am yours but Libra Season comes but once a year and I will revel and rejoice in her frilly insouciance!

Another way this could play out and this scenario is pretty likely actually: you will become obsessed with love. Libra rules love. You will become obsessed with desire, with feeding your desire, gaining power over your desire. You will feel unstoppable, insatiable, hungry. The result of this I’m not so sure. I don’t know your chart. But I guarantee you this: you will feel your desire multiply and you will want to feed.

Mountains of Pluto, from NASA, Public Domain image.
Mountains of Pluto, from NASA, Public Domain image.

I LOVE VAMPIRES

I have since I was a kid. And I love blood imagery, whether it’s vampires or Catholics. Never mind that I’m squeamish if I actually have to have blood drawn. That’s another story. But give me Padre Pio and his stigmata OR Andy Warhol’s Dracula and I’m good. Blood magick too. Blood is life. Blood is mysterious. Blood is forbidden if you keep kosher. And Pluto transits are the blood magick transits. Why? Because as I wrote above, we die and are reborn over and over for the length of a Pluto transit, which can last years. I’m not the same person I was and you probably aren’t either if Pluto is currently maligning your Sun (or moon or ascendent).

Am I recommending blood magick to you for Pluto going direct? Not exactly. I wouldn’t recommend anything that serious in a blog post to the masses but I will say this:

get your hands dirty. Get your hands wet. This week. If it’s blood so be it. Roll up sleeves and get to work. Pluto work. Pay attention to what’s happening in that part of your chart and in your life. It’s Pluto, people. Scrutinize. Research. Go deep. Pluto changes direction and your life changes too. It’s not just the motion.

Pluto is one of the rulers of Scorpio which rules sex so there’s that too but what is sex if not, well, what is it? Libra says it’s a lovely pleasure. But Pluto going direct wants more, much more than a pretty moan. Pluto wants to own you. That’s the energy we’re dealing with here, so it’s time. It’s time to face this instinct, or the lack of it, in yourself. Are you playing for keeps? Or could you care less? Where do you stand?

Ultimately this is what every Pluto transit is about, after the dust settles: to die so completely to who you were before that you must ask yourself: who am I now? And before you even hear the answer, you know.

***
Jupiter enters Scorpio next month and in honor of this transit I will be doing a 4-week Jupiter in Scorpio on-line course! We will discuss the meaning of Jupiter, the meaning of Scorpio (and Scorpio’s rulers, Mars and Pluto) as well as look at your individual charts! How will this transit affect the collective and you personally? Enroll and find out! Contact me at moonpluto@gmail.com for more information.

The Other Side of the Hedge: A Deep Dive on Orthopraxy and Immanence

The Pagan community pays more than occasional lip service to the idea that modern Western Paganism is orthopractic, rather than orthodoctic. The underlying problem is that it’s not really either.

Even at a glance, we can be certain that Paganism(1) isn’t hung up on orthodoxy. That much is clear from even a brief look. But then we try to apply the opposing concept: orthopraxy. This is an attempt to understand Paganism within the preexisting framework of Western religion.

"The Great Chain of Being" (detail) from 1579 via WikiMedia.
“The Great Chain of Being” (detail) from 1579 via WikiMedia.

Despite its occasional forays of belief into the territory of transcendent religions, one of the things that Western Paganism brings to the table is its conception of immanence. Rather than deities that are wholly outside of the world (transcending it), we have deities and practices that are spiritual and yet intimately involved with the world in which we live.

For the everyday person, transcendence and immanence are more trends of thought than explicit rules of belief. It’s not that the average Pagan thinks about how the gods and the world of the spirit are immanent. We just function that way.

Where the common Western view of religion is that the miracles are generally in the past or the future, for the Pagan community, it’s here and now. And while such event are impressive, our miracles are hardly considered miraculous.

Neither Orthodoxy nor Orthopraxy

Certainly some Pagans believe in the transcendent. We occasionally hear claims about how the gods are all-powerful, for instance. However, any religion that values magic, deals with a downright pragmatic immanent spirituality, and knows that the miracles aren’t a promise for tomorrow can’t rightly be called transcendent.

The categories of orthodoctic or orthopractic religions are better suited to understanding transcendent religions. If we were going to sum it up in a couple of words, “orthodoxy” is about “right belief.” It is often, in the Pagan world, held in contrast to orthopraxy or “right action.”

That seems to fit nicely. At first glance Paganism, in contrast with our (mostly) Christian heritage, doesn’t so much care what you believe as what you do. If bumper stickers with nine-letter words every got popular, we could get a bunch made that say “Orthopraxy, not Orthodoxy.”

Unfortunately, it’s still a bumper-sticker solution to a deep problem. In order to hold true to this binary opposition, we either need to define “action” in ways that are extremely broad, or we need to reduce our behaviors to their mechanical components.

The idea that Pagan religion is involved in “right action” doesn’t hold much water. We could just as easily redefine Paganism as “right awareness” or “right membership” or “right relation.” I would go so far as to say “right pragmatic, immanent awareness and action.” Sadly, if I tried to put all of that on a bumper sticker, people would constantly drive into my car trying to read it.

There are religions out there that are, in fact, orthopractic. To see a “real” orthopraxy, it would be more appropriate to look at maybe Shinto, or even a number of the more spiritual martial arts. These are practices that prescribe actions in the “real world” sense.(2)

What Paganism (including Wicca) does seem to have in common is a different ortho-something. It’s not right belief, or right action, so much as it is right-relationship, or “harmony.”

This isn’t the transcendent New Age harmony of being at one with the universe, but more of an Immanent harmony of being at one with reality as it really is, all around us and right now.

"The History of Witches and Wizards," 1720 via the Welcome Trust via WikiMedia.
“The History of Witches and Wizards,” 1720 via the Welcome Trust via WikiMedia.

What does Immanent Religion Look Like?

I just read a piece by Sarah Wreck over on Disinformation titled, “Noise Guy Calls Out Empath on Her Bullshit”. It’s a really good piece to read if you have any interest in the actual application of magical ethics or consider yourself sensitive (and yet not sensitive to foul language).

You see, the author isn’t just super-sensitive, she considers herself a sensitive. If I’m understanding, it’s not just something she does, it’s a defining part of her identity. Which means that her sensitivity is a part of pretty much every situation in which she finds herself.(3)

To summarize Sarah’s piece: she was at Kansas City Noise Fest. After a set, Noise Guy came up to talk to her, and she casually went into empath mode.

Noise Guy called her on it. He set boundaries. They had a pleasant conversation, and they both moved on with life. What’s interesting is that he recognized her for what she was and insisted on an equal sharing. He didn’t spook; he didn’t freak. And he didn’t compete.

How was Noise Guy able to do this? That’s not part of the story. And I suppose it doesn’t really matter how.

Overall, it is an interesting and useful piece in a number of ways. But the most useful thing that I took away from it was that Noise Guy, whoever he is, is perhaps the new face of an American Paganism.

What’s that? Where did I get that idea? Because at the end of the day, Noise Guy took the spiritual world in stride. This is what immanent spirituality really looks like. It’s not so much “O.M.G. you’re Magickkkkal!” as “yeah, yeah, we’re all magical, now are you gonna take care of that?”

When we make the switch from transcendent religion where the fruit is forever out of reach, to immanent religion where we end up making jam all day, we discover that the fruit isn’t always perfect. We learn that making jam is repetitive, sometimes boring, and definitely hard work.

The interesting thing about immanent spirituality is that it is neither based on “right action” or “right belief” (orthopraxy and orthodoxy) in any but the broadest senses. It is based almost entirely on praxis. Or, to put it less gently, “whatever works.”

Whether we use the family recipe, take classes in jam-making, or just plain experiment until we get a flavor we like, what matters isn’t the process. What matters is the product.

Doxis, Praxis, and the Way Forward

At first glance, orthodoxy and orthopraxy form a nice, tight binary opposition. Using this tool of analysis, religions are considered one, the other, or something in between. But Paganism is neither fish nor fowl. At its best, Paganism follows a trajectory that ignores the binary. This is how it should be.

The use of orthodoxy and orthopraxy as terms of analysis are tied to the use of the root “ortho-“ meaning “straight” (Greek) and implying in their use “right” or “correct” (viz. right belief vs. right action). But the idea is really tied to conceptions of correctness and being on the correct path.

Binary oppositions form a significant portion of how we think about the world. They include patterns of thought such as true and false, correct and incorrect, straight and crooked, and right and wrong. But these are not things; they are ways of talking about things. When we say that Paganism is orthopractic, that it is based on “right action,” we buy into the idea that there is a “correct” way and that the way to understand it is through words.

But in the philosophical jungle that is the West, we end up finding that any concept of right and wrong ends up resting on some kind of infinite authority of Neoplatonic origin. It’s just how we use words.(4)

It gets worse, though. In the analysis of praxis (action) and doxis (belief), Paganism has little orthopraxy and even less orthodoxy. While Christian conceptions of orthopraxy involve good works, right living, and ritualism, Western Paganism focuses on ritualism and mostly ignores the other two.(5)

But if immanent spirituality is such a good fit for much of Paganism, why are we so interested in taking up the trappings of a transcendent religion?

Further down the great chain of being . . . .
Further down the great chain of being . . . .

Our Judeo-Christian Heritage, Materialist Positivism, and Progress

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, they say. It is ingrained deep in our culture that anyone who has hidden power is up to no good. The fact that magic is less powerful than a law degree, less useful than a CPA, and (if you do it right) more work than an M.D. – all while failing to come with dental or even a pension plan – seems to escape the rumormongers of the West.

There are some few of us who struggle to cultivate our own spirits. We stand outside the everyday world, and live without swearing our souls to some universal (and yet also seemingly mundane) hierarchy. From the outside, most of us are pretty uninteresting. But no matter what we do, we still get the stink eye.

What terrible things do we do? We dare to understand our own spiritual natures. We try to understand the nature of the world around us. We throw off the yokes with which they would bind us to what they would call harmlessness, but is closer in truth to powerlessness.

The Chains That Would Bind Us
The everyday Westerner has been taught one of two things about the nature of the human spirit. Both are equally reductionist, useless, and disempowering.

The first terrible idea is the idea that the human spirit is some glorious thing. This is the conceit of the modern Judeo-Christian tradition. It comes from an inability to linguistically distinguish between classes of spiritual experience.(6) There’s no good way for your average Christian to distinguish a spiritual experience from a sacred one. Christians can tell the difference as well as anyone else, but the average believer doesn’t have the language to talk about it.

Once upon a time, there was a Christian language to talk about this. Everything in the universe was put on a scale from God to mundanity. This was the Great Chain of Being, and it works pretty well if you’re a monotheist.

When this lack of a relevant language is combined with a conservative reliance on past knowledge, there isn’t a lot of room in Christianity for the same type of spiritual growth and understanding we find in Western Paganism. In fact, most sects have rules against it.(7)

The second idea that would chain us exists in counterpoint to the first. The materialist positivist approach, used in science, discounts the spiritual as irrelevant to their study. As science has increased in social status over the past four centuries, it has become somewhat fashionable to apply this tool of analysis not just to scientific research, but to every aspect of life.

Materialist positivism holds to the idea that the human spirit doesn’t exist at all. “Magical” experiences are described as nothing more than epiphenomena that fools think they experience because they don’t accept that they’re no more than a meat-body.

Such a position lives in uneasy harmony with the transcendent approach of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Their common ground is that the immanently spiritual is either suspect or fraudulent. But the immanently spiritual is our territory. Western Paganism lives in the crevice between these two flailing giants.

ProTip: For all that I am a fan of immanent spirituality, there are dangers. Beware of prosperity theology, whether it comes cloaked in Christianity, Neoplatonism, or just plain New Age fascism.(8)

Prosperity theology is any practice that draws a one-to-one correspondence between one’s spiritual wellbeing and material health and success. It’s the spiritual equivalent of blaming the victim. It’s bad theology, and it’s mean.

Spiritual strength, flexibility, and health are all things that can improve our lives. And these are all true Pagan values. But any path that promises to insulate us wholly from the realities of being human – from everyday bad luck to inevitable death – is playing you for a sucker. At best, the leaders are lying to themselves. At worst, they’re true believers led down the wrong path by their own mentors.

Neither Orthodoctic nor Orthopractic
When it comes down to it, the bulk of Western Paganism is neither orthopractic nor orthodoctic. It is neither wholly “religion” in any traditional sense, or wholly “science.” It’s a classification of knowledge doesn’t quite fit the Western model because it recognizes an immanent spirit that is part of everyday life.

Whether it’s card reading, empathy, or straight-up magic, we Pagans live (or at least seek to live) in a world that is rich in spirit. There are few promises of eternal life. Our spirituality exists in the same world as death and taxes, and makes no promise to free us from either. Perhaps our “miracles” are prosaic, but they’re here and now. And that’s enough for me.

NOTES

(1) Paganism is defined here, somewhat circularly, as the breadth and depth of “religious” activity in which people self-identified and in many cases identified by their communities as Pagans take part. It may also include a number of associated groups that may or may not self-identify on a case-by-case basis.

(2) There is a place for straight-up orthopraxy. If you’re ever been serious about the martial arts, or lived in East Asia, you might well be familiar with the level of perfection that goes so deep that it becomes something spiritual. From the tea ceremony to flower arranging to drawing a sword, there is a depth to these practices that brings out an inherent, beyond utilitarian, value.

(3) I’m making some assumptions about the author based on being a long-time reader of her Shitty Occult Comics.

(4) The only way out of this, in my experience, is to “cross the abyss” (by one name or another). It is only by doing so that we can collapse the binaries that necessarily arise when we look out from out limited perspective at a larger universe.

(5) When Paganism does focus on good works and right living, it’s usually borrowing popular political concepts. Since the 70s, that has mostly been left-leaning politics from the ecology movement and feminism. The “right action” of Paganism merges nicely with some of the trappings (a female aspect of divinity, for instance, or a love of the Earth), but is only loosely emergent from its cosmology. It is just as likely that our politics shape our religious beliefs and actions as the other way around.

(6) That’s not to say that Christians lack the ability to attain spiritual growth. They can, and do. But that growth looks very different from what a Pagan’s spiritual growth looks like. If we combine the worldview of the Christians with the practicality of the Pagans, we get something that looks like Prosperity Gospel. See the ProTip for details.

(7) YMMV on individual practitioners. I have known a few Christians fully capable of straddling the immanent/transcendent line. I’m talking about basic theology here, not every Christian ever.

(8) For the quintessential example of this, take a look at Carlos Castaneda’s cult, where he was unable to admit his cancer because he’s made promises as a teacher that his practices would insulate his followers from such things.

Tree City Witch: Irma & Rebirth of a Witch

I apologize for my absence. I had, and still have, a wicked deadline, and then Hurricane Irma happened. And happened. And happened.

First there was the week of panic and preparation. Prepare for tropical storm winds. Prepare for hurricane strength winds (not normal for my inland college town). Prepare for tornadoes. Have a safe room ready. Prepare for at least two weeks without power. Stop the presses and get busy. After all, you could die.

Photo from U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain, via WikiMedia.
Photo from U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain, via WikiMedia.

Well-meaning friends had good and bad advice, and my landlord told me to head for a shelter. I told him, and others, to stop putting their anxiety on me. He hung up the phone.

I swear I was relaxed. At first. I told a friend in an email that the storm could “blow me.” I was that blase. “Leave me alone I got deadlines! I got shit to do!”

And, furthermore, I had drawn good cards. I’m a Tarot Reader. GOOD CARDS, including the Empress and the Ten of Pentacles for me and my house for storm outcome. The storm was on the way though, and the tidal wave of town emotion took me along with it. Not that I blame them. We were all preparing for a handful of possible worst case scenarios and what if’s.

The fearful collective energy of the town, fearful with good reason, was itself a tornado. But I wouldn’t go to a shelter. Nobody asked us to. Inland. We got this.

So first there was panic and preparation. Then there was the night of the storm. Then there was the aftermath: power outages, cleaning up, damage assessment, and a tree fell on my house the morning after. Luckily, the roof, and myself, remained safe although I’ll never forget the sound of the bark breaking and splitting in half. I only mentioned three parts though. There is a part four. Emotional recovery. The exhale. Assessment of trauma and whether the heart has stopped beating so damn fast. Not being afraid of the rain. Not being afraid of the wind. Not being afraid of buying cream because what if the power goes out and doesn’t come back on for over a week.

Now it’s a week later. Now is the time to get back to business and normal life, including my column here. I want to tell you a story about that night, the night of the storm.

Dear reader it was terrifying. The most terrifying thing was the sound. Nonstop rain all day, I wondered if my house (elevated, not flush on the ground) would kiss the inches of rapidly rising water. And then, once things really got going, there was the wind and waving branches outside my bedroom window, branches from a live oak, which, my landlord said is so strong they don’t fall — and yet I heard stories of live oaks falling from Hurricane Irma, full heavy branches swung loose on the heads of houses.

The most terrifying sounds were the booms – sometimes transformers (causing houses to lose power) but also the crack and snap of trees falling nearby and the slam of my backyard’s locked gate. At the time I didn’t know what that particular sound was, but its boom woke me up. Oh yes I did sleep at least an hour that night because after the first part of the storm, the tropical storm winds part, there was a lull. I thought it was over.

But then the lull ended just as the weathermen on the news radio station predicted. The worst was yet to come for my area, in the wee hours, when it would be close to sunrise, and once those roaring winds started up, I went to my safe room, my narrow walk-in closet where I had stored the crank radio, water, cat food, flashlight, batteries, food. I forget what else. Everything needed for a semi-long stay.

"Among the Waves" by Ivan Aivazovsky.  From WikiMedia.
“Among the Waves” by Ivan Aivazovsky. From WikiMedia.

But the reason I’m telling you this story is for the witch story.

I was scared. The whole night felt like an out of body experience. Although my house is one-story I felt like I was on the second floor (no clue why). Terror of what would happen next. Would the house survive the night? Would we survive the night? Would anything be left the next day. It was me and Goldy alone in the world. We had the radio until the power went out at 3 am. Other people, alone in the storm, were calling in. There was one woman in her car (her car!) with her dog and two pet skunks. I’ll never forget it.

So I rolled around inside this scared feeling for easily a good hour or so, in a panic, regretting my decision to spend the storm alone, until some part of me, deep inside of me, got angry.

This part of me said: STOP! ALIZA, YOU ARE A WITCH. If you cannot control (yes, control) THE ELEMENTS, the wind and the rain then what kind of fakakta witch are you anyway? YOU CAN DO THIS. You can keep your house safe. You can keep yourself and Goldy safe and you can protect your house and push any damaging winds and rain away. Push them away. And that was exactly what I did.

Dear Reader, this is a true story, coming from true belief and true experience and not magical thinking, but MAGICKAL thinking. My witchcraft has never been based on theory or books, but on real life experience, actual spellwork. Natural magick. And what happened happened spontaneously. In the middle of my fear, I had a job to do. To act instead of be acted upon. To push back and protect.

I also conjured the face of my worried landlord (or perhaps he showed up on his own), his wool-like hair, and that his spirit was guarding this house, which is far more his than mine. I am merely a temporary caretaker and tenant.

Everything changed after that. I gathered my anger and my power and I kept our little world safe. Even the next day when the tree fell on the house, we were safe.

Irish-American Witchcraft: Honoring the Álfar on the Equinox

“It appears even that to these black elves in particular, i.e., mountain spirits, who in various ways came into contact with man, a distinct reverence was paid, a species of worship, traces of which lasted down to recent times. The clearest evidence of this is found in the Kormakssaga p. 216-8. The hill of the elves, like the altar of a god, is to be reddened with the blood of a slaughtered bull, and of the animal’s flesh a feast prepared for the elves….An actual âlfabôt. With this I connect the superstitious custom of cooking food for angels, and setting it for them. So there is a table covered and a pot of food placed for home-smiths and kobolds; meat and drink for domina Abundia; money or bread deposited in the caves of subterraneans, in going past”
– Grimm, Teutonic Mythology

"Dancing Fairies" by August Malmström.  From WikiMedia.
“Dancing Fairies” by August Malmström. From WikiMedia.

The Autumnal equinox means different things to different people and is celebrated in many ways depending on a person’s spirituality. For me it is a time to honor and offer to the Alfar, the elves. This can seem like an odd concept to some people who think of religious celebrations as things that center on and celebrate the Gods but while the Gods certainly do play a part in my spirituality the foundation of it all for me is the Good People by many names and that includes both the Daoine Uaisle and the Alfar.

There is a long and reasonably well documented history of offering to the elves which can be described as a more formal religious ritual or sacrifice. In the 11th century Austrfararvísur there is a passage which recounts the story of a Christian traveler who is turned away from a Swedish home because the family is celebrating an álfablót and fears to offend the Gods by allowing the unbeliever in (Hall, 2007). The widow who turned him away specifically cited a fear of ‘Odin’s wrath’ which may indicate a link between the Alfar and Odin, something which is reinforced by Odin’s connections to the Wild Hunt (Gundarsson, 2007).

Evidence suggests that the Swedish álfablót took place in late autumn; additionally in the quote mentioned above by Grimm the reference from Kormak’s Saga involved an injured man who was offering a bull sacrifice to the elves in hope of healing (Gundarsson, 2007). There is also an account from Norway from 1909 of a man whose family sacrificed a cow to ‘the mound dwellers’ when his father died (Gundarsson, 2007). This indicates that álfablóts were possibly both seasonal and done when need dictated.

As part of the religious aspect of my spirituality focused on the Hiddenfolk I do celebrate álfablóts [sacrifices to elves], although I am not in a position to sacrifice cattle. I generally offer butter and milk or cream, as these are two things that folklore across many cultures says that the hidden folk value. I have a boulder in my yard, and for all intents and purposes I consider it an álfur steinn, or elf-stone. Elf-stones, called elf-stenar in Swedish, are boulders with cup like indentations, or that are strongly associated as being the homes of the Alfar, and are believed to have healing powers (Lockey, 1882; Towrie, 2016).

"Plucked from the Fairy Circle" (1880) from WikiMedia.
“Plucked from the Fairy Circle” (1880) from WikiMedia.

These boulders were places that people would go to make vows, and to leave offerings which ranged from lard and butter to copper coins, flowers, and ribbons (Lockey, 1882). The acknowledgment of the one in my yard is obviously personal gnosis on my part but I have my reasons for believing this is what it is – I can say for example that the spring after I started this acknowledgment my entire backyard was inexplicably taken over by raspberry canes, something I consider a great gift and the only fruit that grows wild in my area. And in any direction the stone serves this purpose for me certainly. It is at this elf-stone that I leave my offerings for the Alfar and where I celebrate my rituals to them.

I celebrate my álfablóts twice a year on the equinoxes, as well as at any point that I feel one is needed. Some years that may not be any, some years that may be often. My connection to the Alfar is an organic thing that is always in motion and depends a lot on my respecting them, knowing what I should and should not do, and listening when I need to listen. I do a lot of listening.

I like honoring the Alfar on the equinoxes. To me the equinoxes are a good time symbolically to honor the Álfar because they represent a time of balance, a time which is naturally liminal, but I also like this because to me the Álfar are tied into the fertility of the earth and the harvest. Honoring them on the vernal equinox when the earth in my area is just beginning to ready itself for a new year of growth and planting as well as at the autumnal equinox during the harvest seems very appropriate.

There is also a nice balance in the twice yearly offering specifically to the elves at such a time, or the spirits that we may call elves in English. At Yule I honor my house spirits, and at Yule and and Walpurgisnacht (Bealtiane) I honor the Wild Hunt. At Midsummer I honor the Good Neighbors more generally, as I also do at Samhain and Bealtaine. So I like the idea of having those two equinoxes to honor the Alfar, the elves, to remember them and offer to them.

As day and night hang in balance I will go out and offer butter and cream and remember to be grateful for the blessings in my life.

References
Hall, A., (2007). Elves in Anglo-Saxon England
Grimm, J., (1883) Teutonic Mythology
Lockey, N., (1882) Nature, vol. 26
Towrie, S., (2016). Orkney’s Standing Stones
Gundarsson, K., (2007) Elves, Wights, and Trolls

Hearth of Hellenism: Is Jim Carrey Studying Esotericism?

Jim Carrey received attention for his eccentric interview on the E! Network at a New York Fashion Week party. In the interview Carry described the event as “meaningless.” Catt Sadler, the interviewer, responded by saying that the event celebrated icons, which Carry responded by saying “I don’t believe in icons” and “I don’t believe in personalities. I believe that peace lies beyond personalities, beyond invention and disguise, beyond the red ‘S’ you wear on your chest, that makes bullets bounce off.” He also added in that the world is not ours and “we don’t matter.” – I think his comments were a commentary on the trivial nature of nonsensical events, how we focus on things like fashion parties instead of deeper matters. Carrey is woke AF in my opinion.

Picture of Jim Carrey by Ian Smith, via WikiMedia.  CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.
Picture of Jim Carrey by Ian Smith, via WikiMedia. CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.

To make things sound even weirder to an already strange interview, Carry also threw out “and there are clusters of tetrahedrons moving around together.” This sentence caught my attention. Carry is not spouting out random crap or speaking crazy talk. His rant sounded somewhat Buddhist in nature, but the mentioning of tetrahedrons is based on the philosophy of Plato and the Pythagoreans before him. A tetrahedron (also known as a triangular pyramid) is one of the Platonic Solids.

In the Timaeus, we learn of five regular solids know as Platonic Solids. The tetrahedron is one of these five solids which are cube, tetrahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron. Four of the five are associated with the four classical elements. Cube with Earth, icosahedron with Water, tetrahedron with Fire, and octahedron with Air. I am not an expert on details of the Platonic Solids, there is a lot of interesting information about the Platonic Solids online for you to research, check out Secrets of the Platonic Solids Revealed.

What I can say on the subject is that they are part of esoteric studies. Platonic Solids are linked with sacred geometry and offer insights into the nature of the cosmos. Carrey mentioned tetrahedron and what is associated with Fire. Fire is the element which creates change and is linked to the soul. Carrey’s words are a bit more meaningful when you put together everything. By saying “clusters of tetrahedrons moving around together” he could be alluding to an esoteric view of the structure of the cosmos, that we are built of tetrahedrons. He could also be using tetrahedrons as a stand in for souls, stripping away the “icons” and “personalities.” Carrey has clearly been reading material that is philosophical and or possibly esoteric.

The Cartomancer: 5 Ways of Boosting Your Mojo Through Patience

Old postcard in my private collection.

In my work with psychoanalysis I have come across this: Eager person equals loss of energy.

In my work with cartomancy I have come across this: Eager person equals loss of energy.

In my university teaching, I have come across this: Eager person equals loss of energy.

In all three, counselling and teaching capacities, I have also experienced this:

When eagerness is coupled with entitlement, it becomes hysteria.

Hence the question: What causes this extreme manifestation of drive, drive that we normally tend to think of as positive?

Lack of patience.

When you’re not patient you invest a lot of energy in anticipation.

But what is anticipation if not an exercise in futility, in projecting expectations that may or may not manifest?

Anticipation is thus informed by a whole lot of loss. Loss of energy.

When we eagerly anticipate something, we tend to think that the very act of anticipating is a good thing. Think again.

What eager or impatient anticipation creates are several types of danger:

  • While waiting for things to happen you throw yourself into projects that run parallel to what you anticipate and that may have nothing to do with the anticipated.
  • While waiting for an event, you project an outcome.
  • Stemming from the projection of an outcome, you tend to evaluate the event, even before it has taken place.
  • You think form is everything, and forget that form is emptiness and emptiness is form. You’re ready to embody a desired identity that you think has solid form. But even without ever having heard of the Heart Sutra, where the line: ‘form is emptiness and emptiness is form’ comes from, you could still intuit the truth of the non-substantiality of all things, if you gave yourself time, which you don’t when you’re impatient.

There are other dangers as well, but I see these as the most troublesome since they lead to massive loss of energy.

Massive loss of energy simply means complete loss of mojo, personal power, and the capacity to be in the present where you can distinguish between what you need and what you don’t need.

Anticipating that you need something (for the future, rather than right now), or that you don’t need something (also for the future, rather than right now) is what causes anxiety, because a true assessment of what you need can only be done in the now.

If you’re engaged in waiting for something, it’s thus much better to simply wait and see what happens, rather than decree in advance, either that what you’re waiting for has value or that it doesn’t.

It goes without saying that since the experience of what you anticipate is not here now, there’s no way in hell you can have any opinions about it, and nor can you make any educated guesses.

This is a common sense observation.

Boost your mojo

So here’s a short list of what you can do to become more aware of the extent to which you let your ego run the show, either through being too eager, or what’s worse, through being eager and entitled.

The idea is to see what function the ego has, acknowledge it, and then get on with the program, the program of putting your ego to your service, not vice versa.

For each of the five axioms, I offer a question. You can either reflect on it in quiet time, or you can use the cards for inspiration.

1. Patience is key to success.

Says old wisdom. If you think a little you’ll see why.

Being patient doesn’t mean settling with your major and minor desperation. Being patient directly tests your spine, the place where tenacity sits. Can you stand the distance?

Ask yourself:

‘In anything that I do, how much energy goes into tenacity, and how much into eagerness?’ If there’s no balance, change your attitude.

If you sit and wait quietly, chances are that you get to experience what’s happening right under your nose; and be aware of it. When you’re aware of it, you have clarity. You have mojo. Your energy is conserved.

If you charge ahead too eagerly, you jump at conclusions before you even get to the point where you can see what the project that you yourself have devised, or decided to participate in, entails of value.

2. Patience is audacious hope.

I say. Why audacious hope? Think. Often there’s a problem with hope, as hope lacks immediate manifestation. Things are not here yet, but you hope that they will be.

So the art is to know how to hope.

Ask yourself:

‘Is my hope informed by courage?’

You want to know this because courage is what anchors your hope, so hope won’t just float in the air, where it becomes something else than the expression of patience, where it becomes pink fluff devoid of devotion.

Courage lends your hope the strength of your spine, the strength of your resilience.

You have great mojo when you’re not invested in getting answers now, finding solutions to all things now.

All this takes a lot of energy and effort, and it often leads to disappointment.

Quick solutions turn out to merely replace one system with another, giving you another problem.

Hoping to embody a desired identity does not always lead to solving your current identity problem. Hoping to be able to control a new horse does not always lead to solving the problem with the old horse. Replacing small with big does not always solve the problem with small.

The art of hoping when it’s informed by courage goes beyond replacements instated as proclamations.

Your mojo is vastly boosted when you refrain altogether from language and its quick labeling solutions.

That’s what hoping in courage means: You have patience for seeing what is to be seen. Launching into quick verbal repartees is a sign of solid wit, but it has its place. If you can’t see this place, then you end up losing energy, and your wit will make no impact.

3. Patience overcomes obstacles.

Says Taoist wisdom: Be like water. Water, the softest element, has been observed to be the more efficient of the two in its encounter with the hardest rock. Water simply goes around it, flowing down the hill, following the natural law of gravity, thus overcoming everything that stands in its way.

Ask yourself:

‘What is my attitude in the face of obstacles?’

Do you launch into hysterical hopelessness, or are you accepting of whatever is in your way, blocking you?

Being like water is actually having the greatest mojo, simply because being like water means being beyond any concern.

You don’t even ask the question of what’s impossible. You just flow without losing any time with questions of what’s needed and what’s not. Energy is conserved at the maximum.

When you are like water, kicking your patience into a higher degree of acceptance, you realize that concepts such as overcoming pain for the sake of being in a state of pleasure don’t even exist.

The concern with pain and pleasure is not an issue.

The concern with what is necessary and what isn’t is not an issue.

The concern with what is urgent and what is significant is not an issue.

When you are patient, there’s no resistance. There’s no concern.

4. Patience elicits clarity.

I say. The vehicle for this is readiness and a form of surrendering to faith; the faith that all things come to you as they do, as a matter of course and by default.

You don’t force your way towards enlightenment. Enlightenment comes to you. It knocks on your door and says: ‘Hello, you actually know me, as I’ve been here all along’.

You don’t waste energy with making an effort to understand what IS already. You just stand in readiness. You say, ‘welcome’.

There is great mojo in acknowledging that standing in readiness is not even a question of your needing to do so, through proper preparation or other conceptual thinking about it.

When you have patience and faith that all things to come to you, as they do already, when you see that they have arrived, you just nod.

5. ‘A Pandora, in the higher sense, Patience.’

Said Goethe, in his collection of maxims and reflections, thinking about how faith, love, and hope, when working together, create this image, of Pandora’s box that everyone wants to open.

Ask yourself:

‘What drives my eagerness?’

Is this a desire to establish your work as relevant? I hope you’re not too eager about it.

I’ve seen many impatient people working way too hard towards establishing the relevance of their work as compensation for their sense of self-loathing.

Establishing relevance for your work should be the manifestation of passion, not dramatic intent.

What you need to remember is that you don’t have to establish any relevance for your existence.

Give yourself time, and time will teach you what you are, beyond form, beyond masks, beyond appearances, beyond fear and anxiety, beyond entitlement, and beyond opinion.

Give yourself time, and keep going.

I teach people to read cards like the Devil.

Stay tuned for courses and other cartomantic activities.

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