When Divination Hands It To You

Every month this year, I have striven to do a tarot reading at the start of it, to peer ahead about three months and see what’s what, and what I might need to plan for or worry about. I did skip one on accident, but otherwise I have managed to keep consistent. The format of the reading is adapted from a divination I did at the start of the year, which was about what each month would hold. The cards representing each month were set aside, and three more cards pulled from a shuffled deck to elaborate and highlight things I might need to focus on.

Usually I keep these notes to myself, but this month’s reading (covering October, November, and December, rounding out the end of the year and reminding me that next month I will only be reading two months ahead) was unusually intense, energetically speaking. Cards elaborating on both October and November highlighted something I have been reading about increasingly in the past few years. The phenomenon is termed variously by Pagans as “The Otherworld Bleeding Through” or “Tower Time”, and is a combination of the general dramatic collapse of the American Empire and everything it “stands for” (those nebulous American/Traditional/Christian/Family Values), and an increase in the presence of Otherworldly beings of all stripes in the lives of us mere mortals.

Last year I was especially aware of the shift between a “solid” seeming “physical” world and a more “porous” one. I was not the only one; someone in a Discord server I am in also said they felt the world has become more “porous”. It began, for me, with a dog.

A couple of nights ago I had a rough nightmare involving a spirit I could not observe directly (the attempts shook fear into my soul the way only an immersive nightmare can) invading my home and needing to be forced out over a threshold of salt. I have details in my dream journal, but everything about the creature from its size to its nature to its obsession with the milk and eggs my dream self possessed (evidently), screamed, as I woke, “fairy”. I’m concerned it’s one of those rare warning dreams I sometimes receive; the last of those I had involved a figure in Egyptian cosmology that must routinely be fought against. It turned out that someone was going around in the community at that time asking about how to worship that specific entity, seemingly not understanding the fierce resistance they were met with on all sides.

Then, today, I did a reading (so that I do not forget for this month), and I found eight out of twelve cards screaming at me about spirits. October in particular stood out for having one card from each suit present. It became, to me, this grand something or other involving the Four Jacks to which Penczak introduced me. But one of the cards present also reminded me of the time I meditated on it, and found its environment forbidding, dangerous, even. I see it as a reminder that the spirit world is dangerous, that the fae are dangerous, and, as per the dream, I have no business getting in over my head with them.

November also showed something interesting: in one half, suggesting a short rest, but only that, from some problem I am facing in order to gain perspective. In the other half, I was reminded of a series of posts on this blog, about Gwyn ap Nudd (depicted in the Sacred Circle arcana card “The Underworld”, which is #14). He balances the world, and since humans have stepped out of line, he will balance it again. More details on the blog I linked. Nature is reasserting itself, spirits and Otherworldly beings are reasserting themselves, and there’s very little we can do about it. But, y’know, a good break to gain perspective never hurt anyone.

So I have been energetically drained by the experience, with the chief takeaway that the traditionally haunted time of year is about to be extra haunted. Mind the old rules, lock your doors.

“I call upon you as woman speaking to woman!”

This is something I noticed and reflected on last night.

The only surviving story of Andraste is in the account of Boudica. The quote above comes from Dio Cassius’s version (although I think there is one other floating about). The Romans had stolen Boudica’s portion of her husband’s inheritance to her and beat her and r*ped her daughters when she protested, and this is what motivated her to rebel against Rome.

After divining with a wild hare, Boudica is reported to have said:

I thank thee, Andraste,​ and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!), much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person); nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are thoroughly versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men. As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, — if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, — boys past their prime at that, — and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too. Wherefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men; let the wench sing and lord it over Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader.

Text of Roman History, Cassius Dio. https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/62*.html, emphasis mine

Typically in summaries of the events, quotations stop at “I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty” as though the second half of Boudica’s speech did not exist. In fact, most of the derision of Rome as a nation of women is omitted. I have checked, and there is one book, Women and the Colonial Gaze, which seems to comment on the fact that Boudica is masculinized by Cassius, portions of which certainly show in her speech.

But, that isn’t the important part to me today.

The important part is, “I call upon thee as woman speaking to woman”, which in the context of her story, suggests something to me. It suggests that Andraste may have specifically been a goddess who protected and got vengeance for women, or was connected in another way to women’s affairs, such that Boudica felt safe calling on Her in this capacity. Of course, as with 99% of what I know about Andraste, this is UPG (unverified personal gnosis), and not even properly contemplated UPG at that.

But it is significant or at least interesting that this is the only surviving account of Andraste’s existence and worship.

Ancestors

It’s very difficult being a pagan and an abuse victim, especially when ancestor veneration/worship comes up in the books you’re reading. The assumption is always the same: that you’re working from a decent enough background and just changed religions from your parents or other extended family. (One person I know of doesn’t make this assumption, but that isn’t enough.)

I just finished reading a passage in a book that discussed ancestors, including “difficult” ones, where the author concluded that because her father stayed in contact with his obviously abusive biological father, then she has no right to cut him out of her practice. Her justifications amounted to the aforementioned “my dad kept talking to him until he died”, as well as “he had his good moments/qualities as well” and “no ancestor is perfect.”

I have heard every single fucking one of these as an abuse victim, about my still-living parents.

“You can’t cut them off! They’re family!”

I will talk to or not talk to whomever I see fit. I don’t have to put up with gaslighting, emotional manipulation, the threat of violence, or actual violence because of blood ties. Besides, the author expressly stated that death did not change personality, so why would she trust this ancestor of hers given all she knows?

Besides all that, even if someone does choose to stand by their jackass family members, that’s more a sign of Stockholm Syndrome than anything else. You may see a dedicated family member but I see someone who is so abused and so blinded they can’t find the way out.

“They have their good qualities too!”/”You just have to look past the bad stuff.”

No. No I fucking don’t. All the times my father took me fishing do not erase his neglect and drunkenness. In fact, his neglect and drunkenness almost completely erase all the fishing trips to me, because the first thing I think of when I think of my father is “oh, the man who doesn’t really love me”. People who say this have no true understanding of abuse and trauma.

“Nobody’s perfect.”/”You just expect your parents to be perfect!”

I don’t fucking care about perfection. I care about making an effort. As YouTuber Aliakai said, “Respect is not an inward feeling but an outward expression.” If you aren’t making the outward expression, I have no obligation to feel anything toward you.

Perfection may or may not be possible, but if you aren’t striving to be a good parent, you cannot be angry with your family members for deciding you aren’t worth their time and effort. And if you think people owe their jackass family members something because “family!” and “blood ties!” and “Blood is thicker than water!”* you are a horrible person.

*The true phrase is “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”, and means the exact opposite of the way it’s been used in modern times.

Santa Claus

So I stumbled into a huge collection of articles about “The Santa Lie” (i.e. parents telling their children that Santa Claus literally exists and is capable of a host of magical feats, and the realization or learning of the truth of the matter having a host of consequences such as eroding trust in their parents and possibly threatening their religious beliefs). Listen, there are a host of controversies about Christmas, especially this year (every jackass on Twitter is commenting about how “communist regulations” are “canceling family” or whatever). This is “tame” by comparison.

But I really think it’s a matter of worldview. I hold a view of the world that accommodates magical, spiritual beings. I wouldn’t be running this blog if I didn’t. In my brain, Santa can be literally real, but not a physical entity. (As to the point on how some kids who learn Santa isn’t real begin doubting God or gods, well, it’s the same sort of thing. I don’t take the gods to be physically real in the same sense as this laptop, for example.)

John Beckett talks a lot about materialism as a worldview and why he disagrees with it, and I think this is an instance of that. People tend to believe that because Santa Claus is not a physical reality with a literal workshop at the North Pole and elves (helpful or otherwise), then he simply flat out doesn’t exist. They believe this about God, as if there must be physical and indisputable proof of a divine entity for that entity to be taken as “real”. (I’m using the words “physical” and “real” a lot in this post, so apologies if they stop seeming like proper words by the end.) However, as anyone who has had a mystical experience and touched the numinous can tell you, this isn’t necessarily the case. Andred is real because I have experienced Her, many times. She has yet to make a physical appearance in the mortal plane, but is that really a necessary thing?

We know there’s no workshop at the North Pole these days. We’ve taken satellite photos, explored up there, there are probably scientific expeditions going on considering the looming threat of global warming and glacial melt.

To pull another example, we have yet to find any evidence of alien life, despite all the UFO sightings and allegations of cover up and secret bases and so on and so forth. A diligent researcher can probably explain almost all sightings, given enough time and resources. But that is different from spiritual beings (including gods), who have been defined for ages as belonging to an otherworld or otherwise separate place distinct from the human world (but anchored in it somehow). They are distinct and separate from humanity, even if they can or could once “walk amongst us”.

Aliens are not gods, despite what Ancient Aliens may have its viewers believe. (I could go on a huge tear about how that show tries to shove spirituality into a materialistic framework if I could be assed to watch it again.) Physically separate, yes, but in a different way. Aliens are always assumed to be physical entities, that we can touch and interact with.

And some people think Santa Claus or Jesus or Ra or Andred must be physical entities that people can touch and talk to face-to-face, or the people who claim to believe in them (at least the gods on this list) must be hallucinating, delusional, or lying. I would not (intentionally) lie about my experiences of Andred, when it was She who taught me Her name in the first place. So I’m of the opinion that there is a third option.

Perhaps, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He lives in the Otherworld, where time moves differently than it does here, and in general none of the usual rules apply. Do not forget your offerings on Christmas Eve.

(Although in my reading a point was brought up to nix the Naughty/Nice list dichotomy and instead teach kids that Santa loves us all regardless of behavior, and leave the coal at the door.)

Jack Frost

Now, last post, I mentioned witnessing a black lab running about town (I suspect; I saw another black lab this morning, being walked by someone, but I am also unsure whether that is here, there, or anywhere). It maybe spirits, omens, or other such things, and I can’t be sure. All I really know is I get vibes off encounters like this.

I also get vibes off of reading the encounters others have with the numinous. Most of the time, I think I can tell whether someone is telling the truth about a god or spirit, or making it up (in the former camp we have, off the top of my head, Mankey’s encounter with Santa Claus with which he opens his Little Book of Yule, and in the latter we have the infamous “Smarmy’s Set Interview”, which can be found here).

This is all a bunch of set up to talk about Jack Frost.

This year, I have been feeling the pull of the spirit world, especially around fall and winter. I’ve been seeking it out and it has been answering. Ancestors, nature spirits, and so on are putting in appearances while I dive deeper into the lore of the season. (I’ve also been watching Rise of the Guardians on repeat for the past week, and that movie is a cinematic masterpiece, but really the former led to the discovery of the latter.)

So I took the leap. I sat down today and instead of reaching for a quiet Goddess (and She has been quiet lately, but She isn’t the only one and it isn’t as though I’ve been abandoned), I reached for Jack Frost.

In preparation for the big moment I had done some research, trying to find out the average pagan experience of the figure. I stumbled onto the account Christopher Penczak offers in The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits, and the Healing Journey. His theory of the God is that there are eight iterations, four Horned and four Jacks or Johns (so to speak). One of those four Jacks is Jack Frost (the other three being Green, Barleycorn, and O’Lantern). I’d read the excerpt, in which Penczak describes how he never quite liked winter, and when he tried to reach out to Mr. Frost, Jack had been hostile and short with him, and asked that, to make up for it (besides thanking the guy for keeping him safe each winter), Penczak was to offer a drop of his own blood.

I could not get a read off of this account, on whether it was true or not.

And so I decided this morning, when I visited the painter, I would ask. And I did.

To me, Jack Frost was excitable, animated, bouncing around everywhere as if he was finally happy to have someone to talk to him just for its own sake. He took to me well enough, recognizing me as someone who likes the peace winter brings to the world and feels the pull within me to sleep later and go to bed earlier (to, essentially, hibernate). But, he said the blood thing was true. He suggested it was one of those things that goes for people who don’t like winter, who try to resist its energy.

Now, this is just my first visit, my first impression of him. I like him, but he’s already shown signs of the complexities he embodies, being the personification of and/or bringer of winter weather. The thing about winter is that it’s harsh to the unprepared, and quite frankly, those who cannot, for whatever reason, afford to prepare. This is the importance of giving, and of being able to survive yourself. It requires forethought, and selflessness. It is, in short, complicated.

He is complicated.

The Dark Half of the Year

Traditionally, the dark half of the year begins at or around Samhain and ends at or around Beltane. These are the two points where “the veil between the worlds” is at its thinnest and spirits can be reached. People have argued for years that this veil has been shredded or at least exceptionally porous lately, more so than it has been in the past.

I don’t know about any of that, but I do know that this year, I’ve been highly sensitive to the porousness of the physical world. It started, to me, somewhere two weeks before Samhain. I know that I was gradually being consumed by thoughts of ghosts and spirits. And then, three days before Halloween, I saw a black dog running across the street, in direct line of sight from where I work. I’m unsure if this was a sign, but it felt like enough of a thing for me to take notice.

I’m not sure what it meant.

Then there’s the persistent quest this year for something to Yule and Christmas that isn’t the usual cheery nonsense. Something deeper and scarier. This is the realm of Krampus, Berchta/Perchta, the Wild Hunt (in all of its forms), and, believe it or not, A Christmas Carol. This is the world of blizzards and bitter cold and the struggle for survival and the impulse to huddle together with loved ones (note: the key phrase is “loved ones”, and there are people I am biologically close to that I do not love). Part of me craves that atmosphere, as though the blizzard will contain the numinous.

Based on all the folklore, I think I’m on the right track with that one.

Rabbit Rabbit 8-1: Augury

In Beckett’s post “Run, Rabbit, Run – An Augury for One” he puts forth the following theory: gods do not direct animals to perform certain portentous actions wherever humans happen to be able to witness. Gods direct humans to where portentous events are occurring so that we can witness them. There’s a big difference between the two. The first is human-centric, the second is not. The second regards humans as another “cog in the machine” of nature. Gods can direct animals, but direct us instead because it’s all the same and the outcome is more important.

This wasn’t intended to be a Rabbit Rabbit post. I’ve been sitting on the above paragraph for a couple of weeks, wondering where I was going to go with it.

Last night, I baked some bread. I offered a slice to the gods, and Andraste asked to hang onto it. Then, later today, I was asked to give it to the local river spirit (of a body of water I refuse to accept is a “creek”). I confess that my last interaction with this spirit was essentially asking a stranger for a favor. I knew what I had done and tried to keep radio silent on the matter. I’d succeeded for two years, and then came tonight.

Finding the right secluded spot away from people was a challenge provided by nature and complicated by people, with a live music event in the nearby park. Slight water logging and many bug bites later, I had found the spot. I sat, and I explained myself.

I said Andraste asked this of me. I thought about how best to disperse the bread (worried someone would notice). I apologized for the incident two years ago. I explained that I had become acquainted with the work of someone who taught me better, who was steering me toward right relationship with nature.

I think the river accepted. I know something between us mellowed out after the final bits of bread floated downriver. I talked very briefly about how everything was collapsing (in that, I tried my best in the world we live in and I disagreed, but was a cog in the machine, and the full weight of the year of our Lord 2020 has been brought to bear on capitalism). And I sat there for several minutes staring at the pool I had found in the river, between two bunches of dead trees and fallen branches.

I had wondered, but dared not disturb, what took shelter there.

And, for a little while, I was completely alone with the river, or so it seemed. And that was fine.

I’m recounting this to suggest that I had been guided there for that specific purpose. When I bid my farewells and began to feel more at peace, I remembered this post and what I had been working on. I suspect the thesis of Beckett’s piece is that humans can be guided the way we think animals are guided by the Gods, and it is probably easier for the Gods to guide us than to guide a multitude of players to compose a specific scene They want us to see. I think as a result, humans are guided more often than not (or whacked with the appropriate clue-by-four, as needed), but think too highly of our own agency and centrality in the world.

(Yes, we have agency, but no, the world does not revolve around us.)

And I will say, this is certainly the year of my changing pagan practice. I think the tree in my yard would agree.

I Write Science Fiction

For the past couple of months, I’ve been watching the world spiral out of control. Between the pandemic (and the economic strain it places especially on “essential” (read: poor) workers) and news of a host of other disasters, it was hard to think otherwise. And then a man was killed by cops, sparking protests and any and all efforts to shut those protests down.

I won’t write one of “those” posts (whatever you think “those” posts are). You can find much better elsewhere online. But I will say that I have been thinking about (and writing, and worldbuilding) the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Why do we need cops? What are those shifty bastards good for that we can’t manage by ourselves? (And furthermore, why aren’t we managing those things ourselves? Why aren’t we protecting our children? Why aren’t we helping people out? Why did we decide this was OK?)

The more this goes on, the more I think it’s perfectly OK to collectively shame people into proper behavior. Not outmoded standards about how women should behave, of course. That’s bullshit. But the basics that we can all agree on, like “murder is bad” and “everyone is equal so treat them that way” and “don’t diddle kids” (yes, that last one needs to be stated). I know not everyone agrees on all of those, but plenty of decent people do. Hopefully critical mass.

We express the ideas we think about, and how we regard them, in fiction. This is the principle behind storytelling “karma”, that authors will punish specific actions to show their readers that a thing is not OK. Or do the reverse and reward some actions to provide a role model of sorts. This is where the “evil slutty woman” trope comes from, among a ton of others. And I think that principle can be put to good use. If the things we used to write as good were written as bad, and vice versa, and if we wrote those books and published those books, we could reach a few people. One or two of us might be bestsellers, or hit an equally big potential audience piggybacking off of something else. And there go the dominoes.

Write the book about someone outside “the box” (you know the one, labeled “Blank Slate” in big red Sharpie). Those things you see demonized elsewhere? Show they’re good. I know this has been said a LOT, a ridiculous amount, and it won’t directly counter the tide of every other bad message elsewhere in the world, but it’s a good place to start, and there needs to be a lot more books like it. And, if you have to, stand by your authorial choices. Don’t change your protagonist because the agent doesn’t like it.

On Cycles

History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes.

Unknown

As we know, this is a peculiar time to be alive. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself thinking things like “This must’ve been what it was like to live through the Black Death” or “…the Spanish Flu.” There’s a group of pagans, bloggers and otherwise, who have sensed for years the coming of dark times and Otherworldly beings. One suggests the latter at least is a cycle.

It’s as good a time as any to talk about cycles, I think.

According to the Llewellyn 2020 Sabbats Almanac, under the Cosmic Sway section for Ostara:

A new thirty-two year cycle started on January 12, 2020, with Saturn conjunct Pluto. Jupiter joins the fray on December 21, 2020. The Great Conjunction, as it is named, is associated with huge shakeups, politically and planetarily, literally and metaphorically. Nine US presidents have been killed, died of illness, or experienced an assassination attempt during a Great Conjunction. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are also more common. The Great conjunction is all about destruction. To add more misery, the weather predictions for the winter this year are heavy snows brought on by a strong La Niña depression off the coast of Central and South Americas. The time for preparation is in the spring and summer. Prepare for a lack of food, water, and electricity during the winter months. Sow heavily in the garden this year, and sow often, taking advantage of the planting days. Can and dry and pickle and ferment; save all of the food if possible in case of a long, difficult winter. Stock up on firewood if that is an option, otherwise prepare for long power outages and lack of heat. Water is always the most important emergency provision, so store water, as well as gasoline for a generator. Don’t forget blankets, candles, and matches.

pg. 132

The Almanac was released in late 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak, during which many are already experiencing some of the things listed above (namely food shortages), and plenty not listed (shortages of things like cleaning supplies and toilet paper). If this winter is as bad as all that, then we should expect plenty of hoarding behavior then, as well.

I don’t understand astrology very well, I’ll be the first to admit, so I had to google “Saturn conjunct Pluto” to work out what that means. The most I’m able to parse out from the vague word salad of astrology-speak is that something big has begun either earlier this year or late last year, and will persist for quite a while. It would be easy to say that astrology predicted the coronavirus, but I won’t, because I’m probably wrong.

But this isn’t about coronavirus, at least, not entirely.

There’s something else at work here, and I think I’m finally beginning to see it (took me a while, eh?).

This brings me to the real reason for all this pondering.

Search “otherworld” on John Beckett’s blog (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett) and you will find posts about the glowing green bird and his theory that the Otherworld’s “proximity” (for want of a better word) to our world waxes and wanes throughout truly epic scales of time. I’m sure that’s possible, as everything else in nature works in cycles, from the movements of the planets down to a day, a year on Earth.

And speaking of Earth, I bring you Milankovitch Cycles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles). These are a collection of long-range cycles the Earth goes through and what that means for the climate. For example, eccentricity (how close or far the Earth’s orbit is from “circular”) is, at last Wikipedia update, .017 and decreasing. This means seasonal changes are getting milder*. Axial tilt also changes, and is currently at 23.44 degrees. (I seriously hope you don’t need me to tell you how this affects Earth’s climate.)

*I will not be taking comments from people who want to use this to day humans didn’t affect the climate at all ever and therefore should let it work itself out.

Eccentricity runs on a roughly 100,000 year cycle that we seem to be roughly in the middle of. Axial tilt was max 8700 years ago and will be at its minimum 9800 years from now. We can speculate that “the time of gods walking among men” and other such things ended at roughly the dawn of human civilization (more or less, and accounting for regional variations), which was maybe sometime between these last two end points.

Now, cycles move independently of one another and sometimes line up with other cycles in interesting combinations. For example, the eccentricity cycle is an order of magnitude longer than the axial tilt cycle. Mercury retrograde happens at least once a year (and boy do I hear about it). The Saturn Return is roughly once every 30 years. Sometimes, statistically, two or more of these happen at the same time.

Now let’s return to our Saturn conjunct Pluto. It happened to occur in the earliest days of the outbreak, and also in the midst of the Otherworldly changes going on. AND ALSO, for an election year. And, for Yule this year we get the Great Conjunction (just what I always wanted!), which may or may not be a portent of doom. So, that will just so happen to occur following the results of the November election, and hopefully once we’ve got this outbreak under control. And we will probably still be in the middle of whatever the Otherworld is doing.

I’m not the greatest at suspecting the Otherworld is doing much of anything. But, people whose work I respect have noticed, so I feel fairly confident taking them at their word.