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.

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.

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’m Still Confused by the Buttwipe

What a lovely month it’s shaped up to be. Coronavirus has swept the globe, going from a faint abstraction a month ago to literally the next county over as of last week. If you aren’t under a shelter-in-place order, all the public spaces are closed, which is basically the same. Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, Lysol spray. It’s. Everywhere.

And people did as people do: panic, and behave strangely (the hoarding of toilet paper, of all things), or pretend it’s all a government hoax caused by the Democrats because “they couldn’t impeach Trump” (even though last I checked that was held up due to the fact that Republicans refused to cooperate with Democrats under any circumstances but the ones that would allow them to throw out the evidence).

We’re still out of toilet paper, by the way. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer. People I work with are still trying to downplay the very serious pandemic going on all around us. One day I was deeply overcome with anxiety over the whole situation. Ever since, I’ve put more feeling into appealing to the Gods for health.

Thankfully, I haven’t had a crisis of faith yet. Those all seemed to happen before I knew who the Gods were, the ones I’m specifically talking to and praying to right now, and who are also making sure I eat something resembling health food every morning. I’m not sure if They saw all this coming, or if this is part of everything else which is going on, between the election (#hidinbiden) and the environment and who knows what else. Perhaps They did, and They know that small routines are good for times like these. Where would I be otherwise?

But, I don’t think about it tremendously much. I try not to panic. I avoid the news. I wait it out. I read other things, on other topics. I’ve been keeping myself sane for the most part. And, I’ve noticed very little change in my actual habits. I’m an introvert, after all. It just feels weird that the rest of the world is with me on that. (And, in the mean time, my Christmas decorations are still up, and a little off-season Holly Jolly never killed anyone, far as we know.)

Starting the Decade – Initial Thoughts

I’ve been spending the last hours of 2019 and the first hours of 2020 reading, and thinking. I’ve once again returned my attention to the resurgence of the Otherworld, which I started reading about earlier last year and possibly once more before that, but I can’t remember. I’ve been reading about the Fair Folk and the call of the Gods, and thinking about how obligated I’ve felt over the past holiday season to be festive. I want to try to parse this all out.

Obligation

I sensed it for Halloween, feeling obligated to get those lights up and choose a costume and do the other Halloween things. By then I wanted to get to Christmas already, and then I did, eventually. And by then I had worn myself out of Christmas hype. Fighting Command hooks did me no favors there. People kept asking me if I was going to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family and I would have to explain that no, I was cooking for myself. I made too much food, and I had to throw out most of Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas dinner has lasted longer only because part of it is currently being frozen for later. I burned out.

And now I’m sitting at the start of 2020, reading and thinking, and wondering if perhaps I had sensed something else brewing in the coming winter that required, well, a different response than cooking my feelings. I don’t know what that was supposed to be, but as the harshest bits are yet to come, I think I can still figure it out. The Christmas lights, however, are staying on for as long as possible.

The Otherworld Bleeding Through?

I don’t class myself as the most observant person, but across religious lines people I know have sensed a kind of shift in the world. There was a point when climate change was no longer reversible. There was a moment I knew who my gods were (for them both, I want to say around 2012 or 2013). People believed the world would end in 2012 and while there was no apocalypse as we had come to expect thanks to Hollywood, those who can sense have detected, sometimes as early as 2013 but sometimes well into the middle of the decade, a change in the Otherworld. There are theories: some say Gwyn ap Nudd has decided to restore balance by protecting the Forests and the Fae from humanity, the current standing threat to the planet. Some say the gods, in particular the warlike ones, are recruiting. While I would argue Ra is not “warlike” the way bloodthirstier gods are “warlike”, I can tell He would never shy away from conflict, and is much more likely to keep a level head during. Andred is soaked in blood and the Mistress of the Field, which certainly settles that. If they are on their own side or the side of humanity or the side of only some humans or completely against humans entirely, I cannot tell.

Interestingly, however, these gods being fully present in my life has led to some dramatic changes, especially in the past two years. Changes that require me to be on my own and figure myself out. Changes which separate me from poison so I can recover–only a fresh fighter can effectively go into the field. I’ve begun to see myself, and in the process question everything I’ve done up to this point. Maybe I will get to where I want to be, but at this point, looking back, I think I will get to where I need to be, and where I am needed.

The Fair Folk

Periodically I find myself reading articles on these creatures, and how one should always be cautious with them. One writer thinks we will see more of them in the coming decade and beyond, and maybe this is true. Many say spiritualism and interest in magic (even if it is superficial) are on the rise in the general public. The Binding of Trump was for quite a while its own attractor of media attention, and the attention of “spiritual warriors” on the other side of the aisle. Recently, I’ve internally speculated whether some of these workings have sown the seeds for Trump’s impeachment hearings.

I’ve felt for years that but for a few exceptions, most spirits should be approached with caution and honored from a safe distance. That may become impossible, and it may be necessary to renew my extant relationships with some of the spirits I’ve come to know. I am still careful, and I think I will always be so, because I doubt I can be protected from them, even by the Gods. I would never think to ask for such a thing, as it is; my safety with regard to the Fair Folk is my responsibility.

People acting recklessly with the Fae have been compared to people trying to take selfies with elk. Where I’m from, elk, moose, and deer are everywhere, as are wolves, bears, and coyotes. You can find bison in a few hours, as well. Personally I’ve heard of people get gored by bison for their recklessness. One group tried to take in a bison calf in the back of their van because “it looked cold”, and the calf was shunned by its herd. As I know better than to get reckless with wildlife, I know better to get reckless with spirits I’m unfamiliar with. This, of course, is not to compare the Fae and wild animals, as the Fae are sapient through and through, but they have unknown powers and being reckless about that is the same as being reckless with bison or elk, or moose.

Priesthood

This is another thing I periodically find myself reading about. As I am cautious with the Fae, I am also cautious with oaths and vows. I was held to obscene standards as a child, that I either sensed or outright knew never applied to my parents. I was told to be good and behave myself and my own father failed at that so spectacularly he had to serve thirty days in the county jail. I failed to understand how I had to never do anything “bad” but I could be continually picked on by everyone I knew in my age group. Mommie Dearest moved the goalposts of my behavior so often that I could begin to see where she contradicted herself.

It has taken me a long time to accept that the Gods who adopted me are not the same as my physical parents. For one thing, They are patient, and that’s a pretty rare commodity in a modern American society. The one constant is that They are older than all of this and value different things as a result.

But the other matter is, there is a difference between my relationship with Ra and my relationship with Andred. She has specifically asked me to chronicle my experiences with Her and what I learn, and to write down in this blog what I think that means as it pertains to Her pretty much exclusively. I’ve stated elsewhere that Ra periodically gets mentions, however, as I’m His just as much as I’m Hers, but this is about what it means to be Andred’s, to follow Her. I have work to do, in that regard.

I don’t know if this makes me Andred’s priest(ess), but if so I’m the first I know about in roughly 1500 years. Probably 2000. The thought of it is as intimidating as the thought of further interactions with the Fae. It gives a sense of “you need to prepare right away”. I have no idea if these are things I need to prepare for or not, I can’t pick apart exactly what it all means yet. Maybe, by instinct, I have figured out the key to my own survival, but then I would have to reverse engineer it to fully understand.

Conclusion

I’m approaching 2020 once again thinking about the future. An ill advised tactic if you do too much of it, sure, but a part of me knows that I cannot remain in a tenuous present forever. Though I’ve given up on the news and would argue my mental health has benefitted, not even I could ultimately escape the word that Trump’s impeachment was being decided by the House a couple months ago. That still won’t stop climate change, the relentless push of extremism and reactionary extremism, the politicization of everything I could encounter, and once again the growing sense that nothing I could do would be good enough.

So, I surrendered on politics, and I’m not even sure if I will vote this time around. I know it’s my civic duty, but I also feel that my voice doesn’t matter to the wider human-created systems that led to this mess and show no signs of getting us out. I happen to know for a fact that when it comes to certain political sects, my voice doesn’t matter at all regardless of whether I say the right things or not. So I don’t think they deserve my support regardless of if I were involved or not.

I’m not looking forward to this election year, and I’m certainly not looking forward to any of the chicanery surrounding it. Of all the otherworldly events allegedly happening around this, as well, I do not even dread them compared to how much I dread the shrill cries of how racist I am based on my skin tone and refusal to tow a party line. I’ll take a glowing green bird over any of that any day of the week, honestly. Maybe in that case I would begin to sense a glimmer of meaning in my life.

Rabbit Rabbit – Jan 1

This is the time of year I put everything into the brand new calendar, making sure I have all the dates right and so on. Of course, I’ve since moved on to a type of calendar where most of that is of little issue (bless Llewellyn, for all their faults and even if they will publish anyone). Today is New Year’s Day. Last night, a bunch of people got very drunk and kissed strangers at the stroke of midnight in the name of good luck. This morning, they’re hungover, watching the Rose Parade, and thinking about football. Many people still make resolutions, only to kiss them goodbye come February.

These phenomena have me thinking: maybe a proper “new year” celebration just as the harsh bits of winter set in, is a bad idea. It’s certainly arbitrary, and who knows why January was chosen as opposed to some other date, but from where I stand, I’m seeing forward into a cold, harsh couple of months, and worst case scenario? It won’t let up until June. Were it up to me, I would keep the warm holiday gatherings going for at least a few more weeks, as I see absolutely no reason to cut off the warm fuzzies of “the Christmas season” at 12:01 Dec. 26th. Especially when I’ll want that fireside vibe come February when we start seeing -20 routinely.

Maybe there is a logic behind the Jan. 1 date that I’m missing. Something perhaps to do with the coming cold. I have my doubts, but that isn’t to say a New Year’s date can’t be chosen without a reason. Kemetic New Year, Wep Ronpet, is marked by the heliacal (before the Sun) rising of the star Sirius, which used to coincide with the annual flooding of the Nile River. Fields are flooded, go have a party or go work on the Pharaoh’s new project. Makes sense to me.

I’ve also read that Samhain is “Celtic New Year” on a principle that the day starts at sunset, such as in Jewish tradition and the system known as Byzantine time, and so a new year should start at the beginnings of the darkest part. Also makes a fair bit of sense.

Learning all this has given me a more fluid idea of what “new year” means. I’ve kind of reached the conclusion that it can start at any day you see fit, really. Similar to the saying “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. But I don’t do that, not in the way that sounds. I take it to mean that if I want to start something, I don’t have to wait for an arbitrary date unless there is a practical concern involved (such as filling in a new calendar).

Rabbit Rabbit – Dec. 1 (Dec. 4)

The Christmas season is now upon us, and I’ve done something peculiar with it. I know a lot of Pagans choose to eschew Christmas altogether for its religious connotations, choosing Yule or another winter holiday instead. But I’ve decided that if a lot of Christmas symbolism is Yule related, then I can nix any talk of the Nativity without much trouble and throw up the lights, wreaths, and trees, and put on some eggnog or cider and hope February is not abysmally cold. That seems to be about the only thing humans in the northern hemisphere have agreed on, after all: that winter is a bitch and it’s best to hunker down, put on as much food as possible, welcome guests you see out in the cold, and try not to starve to death.

I have generally given Christmas over to Ra as a means of honoring Him and it makes logical sense based on my geographic location. But there is also an element of Andred there. She is not particularly a hearth goddess, but there is something to be said for being home during the winter, for having an “off season” from war. (This was, I should note, a convention historically for quite a long time. Nobody had any mind to go out fighting or raiding or so on after the harvest was over, and that carried over into the customs of war until WWI, if I recall correctly.) And there is definitely that feeling in the air this month and through most of the worst part of winter. You just want to hunker down by the fire with people you like and some hot chocolate, with some nice warm lights up perhaps. It’s a good time, and I don’t see why that should just cut off at the start of a new year (arbitrarily setting the new year in the middle of winter is another matter entirely but we’ll get there).

I look to this season for a sense of warmth and happiness, that home is an OK place to be and not some backdrop for the horrifying nightmare surely brewing. Christmas especially was the time of year my parents didn’t try to kill each other or myself, and even though I was probably the only one that did any decorating nine years out of ten, it was still OK. It was warm and pleasant and that was never a feeling I wanted to lose. In fact I’ve been able to hang onto it more and more after moving into my own place and shifting away from preferring Halloween (although the collection of free candy is pretty sweet, if I’m not too sick and exhausted to go out for it). As the song goes, Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.

Rabbit Rabbit (Nov. 4, Good Luck Still?)

I’ve forgotten this for a few days, sadly, but I have a couple of thoughts, namely on the past month. I haven’t been into Halloween as much this year as I have been in years past, and I have since been unable to determine why. Perhaps I want to just get to Christmas already and feel like my world is happy and warm and content as winter sets in (remarkably early this year. I hear it will be colder than last year, and I’m not looking forward to that). I’ve never been into Thanksgiving, and don’t give it more thought than “I will probably make something nice that day I’m not sure”. It isn’t that I am ungrateful, I am quite grateful, but my mother has always loved Thanksgiving and it has this undertone of “be thankful that I am your mother or you’ll be sorry!” to it. I had Thanksgiving one year with a friend’s family and I was shocked and overcome with how warm and inviting the atmosphere was. It felt as though this whole huge family was there just to be there, and I loved it so much. My own family never felt like that, and I don’t remember it from holiday dinners with my mother’s family. That is, however, the feeling I receive from my gods. So, I will cook something nice this year, and share it with Them, because I love Them.

The second thought is, I saw a post (https://riley-poole27.tumblr.com/post/188823229297/hypervigil-theyve-always-said-when-you-feel-a) which suggested that not a person, but a rabbit, crossing your future grave caused a shiver down the spine. I had always heard otherwise, but this gives me some life and hope. I hope Andred’s creatures have found a nice spot for me. I wonder if I will find it before I die. I wonder if such a thing can be divined. Probably.

I think, in aggregate, I am moving away from celebrating any warped concept of “family” I developed growing up, and into celebrating my gods (and with my gods). Feeling Their energy and reveling in it and believing that the world is right. It’s certainly better than allowing my parents to live in my head without paying the rent or utilities.