Just a bit over a week ago the Independent posted an article called “I spent a week becoming a witch and the results were worrying.” Obviously, and with good reason, it created quite a bit of a stir in the pagan communitiy. The article can be found here.
I do not wish to comment on that article directly as there are several other people who have done that already, but I do want to write a little about a subject that touch upon some of the points that some of the criticizers have pointed out.
As I have said in previous posts there is no kind of unison idea of what witchcraft is, which makes it quite complicated to dive into. I even think that some people who claim to be practicing witchcraft actually are doing something else. That alone makes it difficult to get a good overview within a short time period.
On top of that perhaps the most difficult thing about witchcraft or the reconstruction of ancient religious practices is understanding “myth”. To move away from our normally logical and organized modern worldview and into a mythical one is something that takes practice and a lot of effort. The reason for that is that becomes myths are anything but logical and organized. They can be quite irrational to our modern standards, there can be different version of myths and still they might be considered to be true even if they can be conflicting to one another.
To our modern minds things essentially need to be either right or wrong. If anything falls inbetween those two categories we find it disorganized and difficult to grasp. Often myths do exactly that. They claim to be true, but there is little or no evidence to prove their validity. A rational mind would then be inclined to disregard the story simply as false. Granted, according to scientific standards the tale of a myth does not hold up, but a myth is not something that only aims to describe events just as they happened. They are stories, but at the same time they are filled with information about our cultural heritage. In that sense they need to not to be true even if they claim to be. There may be elements in them that are true, but whether or not they were true may not have been that relevant to the ancients. It is us in the modern world who care about making that kind of distinction. In the mythical world they were still being treated as if they were true.
Perhaps the best example is the Trojan War. None knew exactly when this war had been fought, but it was commonly accepted in ancient times that this actually was a real event that happened even though none was sure of when exactly it took place. Today, none of us, would have accepted a tale about a war in the distant past without some kind of evidence of it. To the ancient Greeks though it was very real and the stories of heroic deeds from an ancient mythical era were used to educate and teach the desirable virtues.
My point here is that with myths the boundaries are often blurry. That is why they can be difficult to work with. I highly doubt that most modern day pagans would take the myths literally. I suppose even the same could be same of the Abrahamic myths. Although it is less common to talk about them as myths as in the western world those are the dominant religions. In fact, myth has been suggested to be “the religion of others”.
That kind of mindset which is required to understand and work with myths isn’t something that can be developed quickly. It requires practice, reading the myths and contemplating them. It requires the ability to shift the mind from being logical and rational to something that is more undefinable. Something that is not quite irrational either, but something that follows its own “inner kind of logic”. It is the understanding of the world inbetween the categories – the thinking outside of the box; beyond right or wrong and true or false.
The first post on this topic was written quite some time ago. I never forgot about it, but it has definitely been challenging to figure out. I would not say that I start from the beginning again, but to start right where I left off would not make sense either. In fact, here I was planning on writing a new topic until I realized that a lot of it ties in with what I wrote back then even if it may not be that obvious at first. The original post can be found here.
When I was younger there was a tradition to watch the BBC dramatized version of the Chronicles of Narnia in the period between Christmas and New Year (Of course I have also read the books). In particular I found the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be extremely fascinating. The idea that you could walk into a wardrobe and enter a magical land, which by the way, only was accessible to children, was for me a truly inspiring thought. It did not matter to me that it was a land of ice and snow with an evil white witch causing it all. It was a land that was magical. That was enough for me. It did not seem to bother the children in the story too much either. After all they eventually became the heroes of the book. They got their adventure until they were too old to return. In one way it was the one thing in me as a child that was all I ever wanted, but never could have. In that sense Narnia became the Land of the Broken Dreams, because it was not real. It was just a fairy tale. I knew that of course, but I still wanted it to be.
As an adult, can I honestly say that it has changed all that much? I think that making up stories and things for us to believe in is something that we are doing constantly through our lives. There is no reason to think that an adult do not make up stories or create their own realities of how they want things to be. Just try being a tarot reader for a few days and you will soon realize that most of your clients only want you to reinforce their own fairy tales. Most of them have no real sense or even interest in developing themselves outside of their set of beliefs and ideas. They might not have a naive and childlike imagination anymore where the fantasies are quite distinct from the world we have to relate to, but they will still tell themselves things about themselves that probably are not true. It can be about finding true love, getting a little bit more cash or perhaps losing a little bit of weight. The fantasy is obviously not about that these things are not achievable. They might be. The fantasy many people keep telling themselves is if that they only get this one thing it would lead them to some kind of everlasting state of happiness.
Everyone who had just one piece of chocolate or one like on a post on social media knows that they could do with just one more until they become satisfied. It’s never ending.
It’s not about the dream in itself. It’s about the satisfaction. People tend to believe that their dream or vision of things are “supposed to be like” will bring about that satisfaction. Most probably it also can, but only for a while. The satisfaction is temporary and when it is over we return to the state of yearning once again.
As a child, I did not think of the consequences of entering Narnia. It was perfect, even though it clearly was not, but I failed to understand that. I did not possess the wisdom to understand that even in this fantasy land there would be hardships such as friendships forged and broken, love won and lost and so on. I thought that the power of a magical land filled with magical creatures would be enough for me to be satisfied and get a break from the dull and ordinary world.
There is only one thing to be done to break out of that endless circle of seeking satisfaction and that is to realize that there is only one thing that life will force you to do. That is to face the consequences of your actions, which really is the true meaning of karma. You are fated to face those consequences, but it does not tell you how or why. It really does not matter as the outcome anyway will be that there is one set of consequences that need to be faced. There is no judgement or human concept of justice in this. In the tarot trumps it is represented by the Wheel of Fortune and Justice. Crowley renamed the Justice card to Adjustment precisely because it is more about balancing the scales than any human concept of justice. Together these two cards reminds us of Fate and accepting it to bring us into a balanced state. Extra baggage or distractions would just tip the scale in one direction. Satisfaction would be extra baggage for you are not fated for it.
Mystically speaking this relates to the divine feminine. The Spinners of Fate and Justice have always been seen as feminine forces. Justice is connected to Venus through Libra and shows us a darker side of the divine feminine. At first we meet the Empress and experience Venus in its seemingly more positive aspect, I say seemingly though, because what is given birth and becomes manifested will later have to experience the fate and the judgement that awaits at the scales. There is no escape from it and it is why Venus also can be experienced as having a darker more sinister side, but that is only through the lense of what mortals think of as right and wrong. Nature can be experienced as brutal and this is not really any different than the nature of things.
That is also why the Hierophant is connected to Venus through Taurus, It is the card that reminds us of the mystical connection between all things and the divine. It can be a symbol of seeking spiritual guidance, but also that the divine mysteries have a role to play out on earth and that the hidden knowledge should be shared to the people. On its own it is not enough to gain any kind of enlightment, but it can be an important step towards it. It is a card that is often being interpreted as standing for the traditional and sometimes hierarchical structures. It is one of these cards that really seems to bring out the patriatrichal side of the tarot as within the Judeo-Christian tradition priesthood has mostly been male. I find though, that with the connection to Venus it is not a good interpretation for it. And I do not really see any reason for why the priesthood here could not have been substituted with female priestesses.
In any case, the seperation of these three cards to put them together based on planetary and zodiac associations is just an exercise. In practice everything is connected somehow and it is why I had to resort to be using the Wheel of Fortune to try and tie things together. In the universe the male and female forces, if you can call it that, work in unison with each other and therefore are dependant on each other as well. I still think though that these kind of exercises can be good for an increased understanding and may at some point increase the wisdom of the practitioner, but it took me a long time and quite a bit of work (book reading, contemplation, rituals, all kinds of stuff) to even begin understanding the divine feminine. I can also say that my perspective has changed quite a lot since that first post. Some would call that development.
I think I have learned my lesson through this experiment which is to accept fate and leave out that idea that there is something out there that will bring me some kind of lasting satisfaction except the truth. That satisfaction is at best temporary and a short term escape, exactly like that fantasy about heading into the magical dream land of Narnia.
In my last post I wrote about the current ongoing magical revival where I focused on some of the issues related to that. One thing that I did not mention is that alongside it there are also a myriad of different online courses being set up which will promise to teach you all kinds of things. There is nothing wrong about that as such, but there are more than a few people out there who seem to be more interested in earning a few quick bucks.
I think that some of them setting up those courses genuinely think that they have something interesting to offer, but sometimes they seem to be a bit too eager to be coaching others. So my advice whether it is a magical course or a tarot course is to try and get an overview of the course material before signing up. Sometimes it can be difficult as we usually enroll into courses if we do not have any prior experience with the subject, but it is at least worth it to make the effort. These courses can be quite expensive, usually a lot more expensive than books and it would be a big disappointment when you enroll only to find out that it is not in the slightest what you expected and you end up giving up on it.
I have myself taken a few online courses – none of which I ended up completing. And I also considered taking a few others too that I probably also would not have completed. At first they may have sounded appealing, but when I looked at the course material I realized that 1) This is not what I am interested in or 2) I already have a lot of the material found here available in books that I already bought.
If it is a good and well set up course then it will structure and help you out with the material and perhaps give you the right motivation so they are not all bad. Still it is worth being a bit extra cautious so you do not jump aboard one of the many bad and expensive ones.
In my personal and non-commercial opinion (spambots please stop asking to send me traffic, I am not interested. I do not sell anything) the need for courses are highly exaggerated. It is far better to get some good book recommendations and set up your own syllabus for what you are interested in. Don’t know where to start? Start somewhere. If it is something you end up liking a lot of books often have a reading list for further reading. That is a stamp of quality as it also means that the author has done some proper research.
In recent years more and more people are coming to an agreement that we currently are in the midst of a magical revival. Compared to 15-20 years ago the amount of texts that were available have skyrocketed. This is of course something positive and there is no doubt that scholars are doing a tremendous job in making old texts accessible to the public, but in its shadow and mainly in social media, something else that is less positive has also emerged in its wake: a kind of unhealthy and competitive spirituality.
I am not of the opinion that everyone needs to agree with each other, but the aggressive tone of the various discourses goes well beyond that. And it seems to be the norm everywhere whether it is regarding Solomonic Magic, Witchcraft and perhaps the occult in general. This is why I have chosen to call it “The Tragical Revival” as the premises for making something better is there, but the general outcome is rather tragic and depressing.
One example of a discussion which tends to get quite heated is the discussion of methods within Solomonic Magic and perhaps particularly the method of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC). On one side you have the grimoire purists and on the other side you have those with a more experimental view. I am not going to go into that discussion here. My point is rather that it quite clearly demonstrates a kind of competitve tone in the discussion between two sides who are not willing to settle on their differences.
Mysticism and Magic
Recently another discussion has popped up, which at least I have not picked up on before, that relates to mysticism and magic. In a recently published anthology called Circling the Compass by Anathema Publishing Dr. Stephen Skinner is quite explicit on that he does not see a place for mysticism within magic. That is of course a legitimate view, although I strongly disagree with it, and find it quite peculiar based on that the Magical Revival in the 20th century had a lot of mystical ideas in it. It remains unclear whether Dr. Skinner thinks that the leading occultists of the 20th century were practicing much magick at all. In any case, it is not a matter that is undisputed. Although I can agree that there seems to be limited interest within Solomonic Magic for mystical ideas.
However, this is not my main problem with his article in that book. My problem is with what he proceeds to say. He states that the techniques found in Solomonic Magic is similar to scientific methods where the experiments are repeatable and that he values this type of scientific enquiry also in magic. It all makes sense so far. But then he goes on to tell the reader about the supposed dangers of not having a proper circle. Okay, so he agrees on that the warnings in the grimoires about physical demon attacks are a bit too much, but he claims that he often hears accounts of people who shortcut the method and make careless mistakes. And then he, rather arrogantly, adds that they are mostly protected by their own incompetence.
I have two problems with that. The first being that “hearing accounts of…” is not very scholarly. I understand that this is not a scholarly work, but one cannot simply go from stating that scientific values are highly desireable in magic to come with such an unspecific example. Sure, I have heard “accounts” of people who have dabbled in the grimoires and horrific things happened to them. The problem is that none actually knows these people. It’s always that friend of a friend or someone distant. Taking away all those who have managed to scare themselves, there are not much to these accounts at all.
The second problem is quite revealing. It is obvious that Dr. Skinner cannot have an overview of what methods or what amount of knowledge these people supposedly have had. To me the whole thing sounds like an ad-hoc explanation, while at the same time trying to establish his own authority with cheap rhetorical tricks. I found it unecessary as Dr. Skinner is already highly regarded for his work. And I also find it disappointing that someone who has done so much for the occult scene feels the need to take part in that kind of competitive spirituality. It is definitely not a kind of behaviour that I associate with scholarly or scientific work. These types of formulations are things to be expected to be found in social media discussions (who unfortunately are way too toxic) and certainly not in a published anthology. The essay certainly left me with a feeling of left-hand work. Although this post is not meant to be a book review I can reveal as much as that there are several other interesting essays in there that may be worth getting it for. Dr. Skinner’s contribution however only left me with that I should be getting his other books and follow the formulas precisely, if not, I would be considered incompetent.
Let’s leave Dr. Skinner alone for now, but I am not quite done with the grimoire purists and their view of magick yet. Naturally, I cannot say that all the grimoire purists share the same idea as Dr. Skinner that magickal experiments should be repeatable similarly to how scientific experiments are, but my general understanding is that it is quite a common opinion to have among them.
That brings me to the Abramelin and the idea of the Holy Guardian Angel. It needs to be said that the Abramelin operation is not considered to be Solomonic Magic – yet for some reason it is still quite popular among the grimoire purists, First of all, the idea of a Holy Guardian Angel to begin with, is a mystical idea, secondly, everyone seems to have their own interpretation of what the Holy Guardian Angel is and thirdly because the Abramelin operation is extremely demanding in a modern society (it was already demanding enough back in the days), almost none can follow it by the book. Suddenly because of the great inconvenience of the method it seems to be okay to shortcut it. To me there seem to be just as much to that as that there is a gentleman’s agreement to that a bikini on the beach is okay while underwear is taboo. Personally I disregard the whole idea of a HGA as none can seem to agree on what it actually is anyway.
My point is not to take any experiences away from anyone, quite to the contrary, I just want to encourage people to not be so vocal about them and also refrain from commenting too much on what other people experience. There is a reason for why one of the powers of the sphinx is to be silent. I don’t think it is in the best interest for the continuation of magick within the frame of competitive spirituality. The original Magical Revival had a lot of mystical elements to it and that is why I find it tragic that they now are being left out.
Well, that is only partly true though. For starters I am not sure how one could claim that having contact with angelic beings and so on would not have some element of mysticism in it. The lore around which they build upon is quite mystical.
Then you have different brands of magic such as various traditions within traditional witchcraft. And surprise, some of them are highly mystical. Just look at the works of Andrew Chumbley, Robin Artisson, Nigel Aldcroft Jackson and several other writers and tell me that there isn’t any kind of mysticism in it.
The Witchcraft Issues
Witchcraft has also undergone a process of renewed interest, but the challenges it faces are quite different from what is currently happening within Solomonic magic. My main issue with witchcraft is that there seems to be so much nonsense going on. It’s so diverse that it is really difficult to get into and see what it really is about, but it seems like most of the Facebook groups out there are mostly busy with posting nonsense cat memes, getting advice for their own experiences in life (often completely unrelated to what I understand being relevant for witchcraft) and progressive political opinions (naturally these people are extremely offended if you would disagree with them). There is very little discussion of witchcraft practice in itself or in the very least the history of the various practices of witchcraft. Most people seem disinterested in that or they are just unaware. And don’t even get me started on the Wiccans who always seem to have the most fantastic and embellished accounts that I ever read across any occult tradition.
I find it tragic that with access to all this new information and possibility to connect and share experiences through social media, that it seems to be a step backwards rather than a real revival of anything. I am not so sure if it is the quest for truth that is the most important for everyone involved. If it was, then why spend so much time and energy on other people to try and influence their opinion? It seems like a self defeating thing to do and it does not have any place in anything that can call itself a true magical revival. And that is a great tragedy, as there is potential to be had out there. But in its current state it does not seem to be anywhere near fulfilled.
I am not here to decide what works or not for others. I am here to share my own experiences so that other people can decide if that works for them or not. That is also how I treat books by the authors I read and what I look for when connecting with other people. Right now I feel quite disillusioned about the whole thing. It seems to make more sense to just take a step back and only focus on my own stuff, because “everyone” you connect with on social media seem to be focused on anything but themselves. Except the likes they generate of course. Who knew that the meaning of life (and magic) after all is a number: the number of likes that you generate. At least we can agree on that isn’t very mystical…
In this post I will examine some pros and cons for choosing either tarot or runes for a few different purposes. You can of course choose to learn both, but as they are quite different from each other it would also mean it would take twice as much effort. For the purpose of this post I just assume that a standard tarot deck based on RWS is being used.
Both tarot and runes can be used for both magic and divination. I should probably also mention that there have been some attempts to combine the two by making various Viking or Rune tarot decks. I am not a big fan of such attempts for several reasons, but mainly I find that it complicates things if you try to force one system into another system. Let’s just leave it at that and keep them separate. Having that said, I don’t mind as much to bring some tarot knowledge into a runic system and the reason for that is that there are quite a few gaps to fill with the runes. I touch a little upon that subject in this post. Assuming that you have no prior experience with either tarot or runes, learning the runes will therefore take much more effort, but there are some good books to get you started. For example this one I reviewed here.
I have done tarot much longer than runes and personally I prefer tarot as it is a much more developed system. Runes are a lot less visual and they don’t give you many clues to their meaning just by looking at them. I also find that with runes you need to develop your own system and meanings a lot more. There is an abundance of information written on the tarot, but when it comes to the runes there is so little that we know that we have to close the gaps ourselves. It works too, but it requires a lot more effort.
In a standard tarot deck you have 78 cards in contrast to when you are working with the Elder Futhark runes you have 24 runes. My experience so far with experimenting with runes is that it feels less more like they function better on the bigger picture, while the tarot can be used on both the bigger picture and go a bit more into the details. If you only read tarot with the Major Arcana you would probably get a similar result.
I also don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense to do big spreads with runes. When you do the big spreads in tarot, you generally include the Minor Arcana, which make a lot of difference.
So when doing a rune spread, I would probably do something similar to a three card spread in tarot. For example: 1) What influences to let go of 2) What can I expect the situation to look like if I successfully let go of these influences and 3) What new opportunities should I be looking out for. Note that when I use this spread I tend to switch around the positions depending on what phase the moon is in with the first rune or card representing the current moon phase (in the example waning, new moon and waxing moon).
If you are only planning on doing these smaller, more general “big picture” spreads, I find that the runes can be a good tool. If you are looking to do divination professionally, and give readings to customers, I also think that adding rune reading to your repertoire would make you stand out a little bit more in the vast competition. There is definitely something exotic and intriguing about the runes that a lot of people are attracted to.
I cannot really say that tarot or runes work better than the other for magic. There are nearly infinite possibilties of how you could use them in your magical practice, and probably, it is more important how they are being used rather than what is being used.
If you are interested in tarot magic I can recommend Donald Tyson’s “Portable Magic”. It also goes under the title Tarot Magic – Ceremonial Magic: Using Golden Dawn Correspondances. There are a lot of interesting ideas in there.
Personally I find tarot a bit inconvenient if you are going to create talismans etc. As it may mean you need to remove cards from the deck and purchase new decks everytime you want to create a new talisman. It can be quite costly.
If you know the runes you can just carve them into something or paint them. I find that to be a great advantage. In my opinion it’s a lot more flexible and a fun, creative way to work. You can create powerful rune sigils that just look awesome, inspiring and feel magical in themselves. So for me, this isn’t even a close race. Maybe it is just me, but it makes me feel much more involved in what I am doing and everything that brings a little bit of extra enthusiasm into the magical work is usually a good thing.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. If you have the time and patience for it learn both. If you are willing to put in the extra effort the runes can really be worth it, especially if feel drawn to norse mythology, vikings and paganism. If I had to pick one of the two, it would be the runes because I consider them to be more flexible, but I do find tarot better for divination.
Edit: This has been in my drafts for a while, but I just never published it.
Some time ago I got involved in a discussion about cultural appropriation. And I would like to share my thoughts around this concept in the context of witchcraft. There are quite a few people out there who apparently see witchcraft as a progressive political movement with strong roots within feminism. I am not saying that it cannot be that, but that is not the only thing that witchcraft is about. A lot of currents within witchcraft are counter-cultural and opposed to the ideas of mainstream society, but that does not mean that it has to be political.
When I pointed that out to someone who apparently saw it like that, they got offended and could not understand that someone else could be of a different view.
Personally I have huge problems with the concept of “cultural appropriation”. In my opinion it encourages racism in the sense you cannot borrow from other cultures and therefore they will remain “pure” or separate from one another. It’s a political ideology based on the idea that you need to be careful about not offending someone else. The problem is that cultural appropriation does not have any good definition and it is extremely problematic to know where the limits are. For that reason alone, I do not think it is very fruitful to use it. If a boundary is overstepped and something is “culturally appropriated” and it is clear that the intent was to offend, it can easily be defined as racism, sexism etc. instead. We do not need a concept that is masking up other concepts and making them more unclear. It is not doing anyone any service.
Historically, things get mixed when different cultures meet. Just look at the syncretizing of deities in the ancient world. I don’t think we can point to just one reason for it happening, but one of the reasons was people in conquered territories would be allowed to keep their own customs. Over time it would evolve and maybe be merged with a similar local deity. This happened for example with the Roman deity Mars who essentially is the Greek God Ares mixed with a local agricultural deity.
Also it doesn’t only need to happen through conquest. When traders met, it is not unlikely that they also would gain knowledge of how to gain safe passage through meetings with other cultures. Asking for safe passage has been one of the main things that people asked deities for.
I think the important thing to understand here is that when a custom was adopted, that it does not necessarily take exactly the same form as it originally was. That is not something that is done out of disrespect of the original source rather it is something that happens and evolves over time. Take the goddess Hekate for example: the mother, maiden, crone aspects are a modern invention. Some people decide to use it, others don’t (I’m not).
Another example is how Tarot and Runes have been appropriated by the New Age Movement. I personally cringe when I hear some of the modern ideas about tarot. But it has to be that way.
The point is that the meeting of cultures happens all the time. It did not stop in the ancient world. And today with the internet and information so easily accessible. It’s a natural organic process that things get mixed up. Sometimes it happens that it won’t resonate with us. It could for example be argued that seeing witchraft as a progressive political movement is an appropriation of what witchcraft used to be, but that’s fine, even if I don’t agree with that version of witchcraft. There is just no way that we are going to have a world with a political consensus where we can agree about everything. And that is why there is no use for concepts such as cultural appropriation.
In January 2018 I had a dream. I often dream when I sleep and usually there is some kind of strange story going on. And if there isn’t a story going on at least there is some kind of location or setting that would be possible to describe. In January 2018 though, when I had this experience, there was neither a story going on or any particular location that I would be able to recognize. Everything was pretty much black or grey. It could be that I am in a dark cave or something, but I cannot tell because I don’t really see anything.
All of a sudden I feel a force that seems overwhelmingly powerful and frightening. I understood instinctively that I was no longer alone in this dark space. I would never hold any conversation with any entity without trying to have it identify itself, so I asked it what it was and it replied “I am the Goddess Hekate”. At the time, I did not really know much about Hekate at all. I had never worked with her before and the only context I had heard her mentioned in was a negative context as something dark and terrifying and referred to as the Queen of the Witches. So perhaps not so surprising my response back was asking what she wanted from me. Her response took me quite a bit by surprise: “I want you to become my messenger”. Only a fool would accept such an outrageous request immediately so my response was somewhere along the lines of “Hell no!”.
Today, I am not actually sure how much choice I had in the matter. I don’t act on or put too much meaning into every single dream I have, but now I felt strongly to seek out information on Hekate. Perhaps this was the intention. It is likely she already knew that I would seek out more information. I ended up getting a few books and reading up on the historical Hekate. It was a lot more complex than I had expected with all the different epiphets, syncretisms and alternative names so getting a clear picture of exactly who she is, isn’t easy. I am not going into detail of that here, as I think that is a process that is useful for anyone with an interest in her to go through, but she is definitely not what I thought she was when I first met her in that dream.
I also had some books recommended to me by an “occult friend” who had been interested in Hekate some years ago and that’s when I got into reading books by modern day devotees of Hekate. I enjoyed these and I enjoyed reading about the historical Hekate so eventually I decided that I would be willing to be working with this entity. So I set up a devotional shrine where I can honor and petition the Goddess. After that I have just been continuing that practice as well as incorporating new elements into my practice, adding things step by step, as it feels appropriate when I read something new and discover new ideas. The studying doesn’t stop (it never will). And I frequently have new and interesting experiences.
One rather interesting episode happened after I got my statue of Hekate. I had decided to invest in a proper nice statue and much to my dismay it arrived broken. It was broken in two places. The headdress of the statue I managed to fix quite easily with some glue, but the torch she was holding in her left hand proved to be more difficult. I tried to glue it back on, but it just wouldn’t hold. When I took my fingers away after holding it in place for a longer period of time it would fall off again. So I went to the store to buy a second type of glue and repeat the process. It still wouldn’t hold. In a last desperate attempt I went back to the first type of glue and it still didn’t seem to work, but after I got tired from holding the torch in place at the correct angle, I decided to try and support it up with a small box of incense sticks that I placed between the torch and the body of the statue. It seemed stable enough, but suddenly the box of incense sticks fell rather violently to the ground. Anyone familiar with spirit communication knows that it doesn’t necessarily take the form of audible sound. In this case I suddenly felt a strong sensation of “I don’t need this”. The torch has been standing in place ever since.
The reason why I said that I am not sure how much choice I had in the matter is that now recently, I have been asked to hold a talk about witchcraft in a local shop. It wasn’t even my idea! I don’t know much about Wicca or other types of witchcraft so naturally a lot of my talk will center around Hekate and the type of work that is possible to do with her. What was absolutely unthinkable for me before is about to happen. I suppose I have gone from a “hell no!” to a “hell yeah!” Having that said, I consider this story that I just shared to be rather ordinary and normal. There are a lot of devotees out there with interesting stories (many way more interesting than my own).
Going forward I suppose I will share more of the work I am doing with her as it ties into some of the other topics I have already started writing about here.
A while ago I started a project to learn more about the runes. In this process I decided to buy the book Runes For Beginners – A Guide to Reading Runes in Divination, Rune Magic and the Meanings of the Elder Futhark Runes. In this post I will give you my honest opinion about this book.
When I first picked up the book I had no idea about who Lisa Chamberlain is. After some research I found out that she runs the website Wicca Living. She has written several books on various topics related to Wicca where many of them seem to be on a beginner level, like the book I am reviewing here. She has also written a book on tarot for beginners, which I am not familiar with.
About the book
I think it makes a good starting point to say that Runes For Beginners is not written only for people who are attracted to Wicca. In this book she is trying to go for a little broader audience and argues for that it can be used both by neopaganists and reconstructionists alike. I find her approach to be reasonable and she is being very honest and clear about the history of the runes, which is why I think that this approach is working for a broader audience. I don’t consider myself a Wiccan, and while I am not a reconstructionist either, I felt that this book had a lot of good information in it. The reason for why I chose this book was that I wanted something that was written fairly recently (2018) on the topic so that it was up to date with a list for further reading if I would be interested in that.
The book is logical and well-structured and presents the information in a good order. It starts telling the reader a little about what the runes are, their history and what the myths say about them. Then the second part goes more into detail of Rune Magic and Divination and the last section is simply the meaning of the Elder Futhark runes.
A lot of the information I had already found on the internet, but the internet can be a messy place, and the author does a good job with compiling the most important information in one place.
I also find it interesting that it brings up both Rune Magic and Divination. When I first got the book, I bought it for the latter, however I don’t think the Rune Magic should be ignored as it was rather interesting. I found that it had a lot of similarities to Sigil Magick. I had not really considered Rune Magic as an option before, but maybe I will give it a go in my own work at some point. Naturally though, it cannot go too much into detail of how you perform your rituals, as that would depend on your tradition and what path you follow.
The divination part gives us some best practices and list of spreads that can used. There are many suggestions here and it is just a matter of finding out which ones will be working for you.
All the runes are presented with clear pictures, a guide to pronounce them, what it translates into and with keywords. In addition there are both primary themes and additional meanings for each rune which goes a little bit more into depth of the runes. It offers both normal and reversed meanings.
I don’t really have much negative to say about this book. I am happy with it and think it serves well as an introduction to runes, but there was something that caught my attention when reading through the rune meanings “A related interpretation of Raidho is ‘reunion’ – specifically, the return of old friends in your life or even the arrival of new people with whom you made a soul agreement before incarnating into this life.”
I don’t think all readers of the book would necessarily agree with that there is such a thing as a soul agreement before incarnating into this life. There is nothing wrong with having that opinion, but I just think it looks like the author at this point added a bit of her own opinion and took that part a little bit for granted that the readers would share it. As it aims a little bit broader, I think some of the readers might take notice of that. It’s not a big thing though, and it was even found under “additional meanings”.
I think this is an affordable, well researched and good approach to runes. The book was everything I expected, and even a little bit extra. You don’t get into any complex material in this book, but if you want to dig deeper, it also offers a list for further reading. For most people though, this book should be more than sufficient to get started with runes either you want to learn divination, rune magic or both.
Runes for Beginners (2018) Lisa Chamberlain – Published by Chamberlain Publications
Sometimes I write posts for others, and sometimes I am mostly writing for myself. This post is mainly something I am writing for myself to sort out my own thoughts. Happiness is probably one of the most discussed topics for mankind through all times. It’s also a concept which many have tried to explain. One of my favorite quotes related to happiness is from the philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau:
Happiness requires three things, a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.
What I like about this quote is that it says nothing explicitly about what happiness is, only three things which are required for it without really being too specific. Still it is simple and easy to understand.
In modern times, the ideology of individualism has gotten an increased importance. My argument is that it began after the 2nd World War when the shock from the two world wars was over and the economy was growing again in Europe. Groups which used to be marginalized got increased individual rights and the possibility to take place in and be heard in a society which traditionally had been ruled by white men. Welfare increased, I am not saying without any issues, but the argument here is that with better economy, social and technological advances it became easier for everyone to break out of the homogenous society and eventually a diverse society of individuals evolved. So before any group that feels marginalized cries out, I realize that many groups think they are quite far from reaching their end goal, but at least we have come quite a long way since the starting point for many of them.
The point here though is about happiness. And my argument is that with the increased diversity and individualism, the idea of what happiness is about, is also more diverse than before. And the focus on the individual has just continued to increase together with advances in technology and economy in particular. What I find interesting though, is that suddenly happiness, for many, doesn’t seem to be that simple anymore that it could fit with that simple quote by Rousseau.
The Modern Idea of Happiness?
The world has most definitely changed with social media. Those of us who have chosen (is it really a choice for many of us though?) to be on social media are constantly bombarded with impressions and statements from every possible direction. At the same time most people try to make a portrait of themselves as successful as possible. The right selfie at the right time is important to us now. Some people are even risking their lives for the likes they get on social media, just so that they can get recognition by others, because that is what brings happiness nowadays, right?
Apparently the worst insult you can say to someone nowadays is: “there is nothing unique about you.”
Today perhaps this version of Rousseau’s happiness would be more fitting:
Happiness requires three things, a good bank account (as long as you can show off your prosperity to others), a good cook (remember to document what, when and where you ate), and a good digestion (be sure to express how healthy and well you feel now with a smile).
I guess most looked over to their neighbour in the past, but I don’t think we have compared ourselves to others as much as we are doing today than anytime before.
So am I going to be that one guy who tries to tell you to get your act together and live a simpler life? Most certainly not. That might work for some people, but for us knowledge seekers who would like to understand the world, it is not a satisfying answer. It must be broken down further so we can understand it.
I don’t think it is possible to find happiness as long as the main focus in on happiness itself. In search for their own happiness many seek to have ambitions. As long as they reach their ambitions, they think that will be satisfied and live a happy life. Then when they fulfill their ambition and realize it does not hold up to their expectations, they realize that they are still not content. Don’t misunderstand me and think that being unambitious can remedy it. Ambition has its uses, but they are not for the pursuit of happiness itself. What I mean is that we are building up our Ego, which is a false self. The Ego can never be satisfied or be content over time. It will always desire more or desire what is lost and cannot be retrieved again. Therefore the Ego is an enemy of happiness.
To free oneself from that and “live a simpler life” is not a simple thing to do. It may mean accepting one’s fate, in the sense that there are circumstances outside of our own control, and that we may have to accept some rather uncomfortable truths in our lives. With social media we seem to have raised the expectations of what we can achieve beyond what’s reasonable.
Having a decent economy so that they can eat healthy and enjoy good health are things that most people in the western world can achieve. It’s fairly basic, but it only relates to things that you to some extent have control over. It does not involve other people with different agendas, which will happen when the desires gets more complicated.
What can the tarot teach us about happiness?
Tarot is of course not a tool that will guide you to a simple path on your way to happiness, but if used correctly, as the tool that it is, it can challenge you to question some parts of your self that might be counterproductive.
This is why I find it so repulsive when people try to lighten up the tarot or even remove the darker aspects of it. I just don’t subscribe to this endless well of positivity that seems to be quite popular in big parts of the New Age or Alternative Movement.
On the other hand it can be equally annoying with people claiming that difficult situations are just a part of a growth process.
I don’t think the tarot is about any of that. It attempts to tell the whole story as it is. What is, simply is. It’s purely descriptive and it is our job to interpret it. If you go through the Major Arcana, you can put together quite a dramatic story. It has been done before and popularized through the “Fool’s Journey”. Some people put a lot of emphasis on it and like to teach beginners, because it makes it a little easier to remember what’s going on in the Major Arcana. I am not sure about its origins, but I think it is a fairly modern invention. Some people like it, some people don’t. The point is that it tells the story of the spiritual development of a character with all its ups and downs.
I am personally quite fond of Søren Kierkegaard’s three stages of existance: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage and the religious stage of life. You can be content in any of these stages, but Kierkegaard’s argument is that it is not something stable that will be lasting in the first two stages. According to him you need to take a leap of faith and enter the religious stage before you can become truly happy. Kierkegaard was a Christian, so for him it was an attempt to explain why Christianity was important. I don’t think that following Christianity or any other religion is the correct way to happiness, but I do think that they offer some kind of spirituality that will allow people to deal with the hardships of life.
The Major Arcana can be split up into 3 equal parts 1-7, 8-14 and 15-21. The Fool is left out, as it is both the beginning and the end. I think it is quite plausible to add Kierkegaard’s three stages to them. The religious stage would be the last of the three categories as this is the part that deals with existensial crisis and spiritual questions. It is here that some of the darkest cards of the tarot appear such as The Devil and the Tower. On the other hand, it is also here that some of the most positive cards appear such as the Star and the Sun, and at the end The World (I prefer the Universe).
So how can tarot really help us towards happiness? It reminds us that there are no shortcuts to the ultimate goal. Once we accept who we are and focus on our own journey or development all these other factors or disturbances don’t really matter anymore. It forces you to accept that there will be some hardships, but also better times. Accepting both are equally important. It is impossible to be happy if everything needs to be perfect all the time, but it is also impossible to find happiness without hope or the celebrations of some achievements. Tarot is of course not necessary, but it is a tool that can be used as a reminder for or as a guide to self development. It is easy to get distracted towards something else without a focus point. As stated in the article I linked to above: “Kierkegaard believed one should look to oneself and in that relationship look to Christ as the example instead of looking at others because the more you look at others the less you see of yourself.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that it is just a tool. As the Chinese proverb says: “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”
I don’t think my thoughts here are either new or revolutionary. Yet we seem to live an age where people look more to others than ever before rather than concentrating on themselves. This kind of ego-driven individualism where it is more important to look good in the eyes of everyone else is counterproductive and in some cases even dangerous. There are so many bad things coming with it such as virtue signaling and political correctness, which can be a very dangerous unless the values that are being promoted are sometimes questioned. I think we need diversity. Accepting something, does not mean that it has to be something you agree with or something that you like.
If everyone looks to others for their own happiness and need their acknowledgement for it, then I don’t think it is possible to ever become truly happy. We also end up being very similar to one another and most likely trying to put on our brave masks in public, while in reality we probably (at some point at least) feel quite empty inside.
Rousseau was right, you don’t really need much more than a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.
-Thus Spake the Night Spirit
Have you ever been out in nature all by yourself and felt like the wind, the trees and the animals are trying to tell you the same story, but all in their own unique way?
It’s here! The last deck in the Thelema trilogy with artwork by Renata Lechner and published by Lo Scarabeo. About a year ago I wrote my review of the Arcanum Tarot deck and now it is time for a review of the last deck in the series.
As with the other decks in the trilogy it comes with a nice box and a small booklet. The box is sturdy, and will protect your deck, so it isn’t necessary to get a tarot pouch for it. I find that to be a big plus. Besides the box itself is nice looking with images taken from the deck. I wonder if they are randomly chosen or if they are among the artist’s personal favourites. In my previous review I mentioned that I did not find the booklet that interesting. I don’t know if its writer Jaymi Elford read my review (probably not), but this time around the booklet is a whole lot more interesting.
This time it left me feeling quite impressed. I will not go into details of it, as I think you should get the deck if you find it interesting, however I will say as much that they present an elemental alignment spread. Instead of shuffling the whole deck together you shuffle each suit and the Major Arcana separately and position the cards in the formation of a pentagram. It’s a very interesting idea and I am looking forward trying it out for myself. It definitely felt like the booklet gave me something extra. Very nice!
Unlike the two previous decks in the trilogy, the Millennium Thoth Tarot is based upon Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. The booklet provided points out the differences made by Aleister Crowley and the traditional RWS deck, which is great for those not already familiar with the Thoth deck. A bit sloppy though that his name is misprinted in the booklet. It’s a minor thing and not really something I care about, but it should have been possible to get it right.
Artwork and Symbolism:
The artwork continues with the same style as the previous decks in the trilogy with borderless cards and the title situated at the bottom of the card.
The artwork is of course based on the Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley, and those who are familiar with it, can recognize the artwork and symbolism from there. I cannot claim that I understand all of the symbolism in the Thoth Tarot, as it is very complex, and Aleister Crowley struggled to write simply. It seems to me though that Renata Lechner has done a good job with it. They are quite rich in symbolism, but there are a couple of cards where some elements from the original Thoth seem to be missing, For example the Lovers and the Aeon cards (The Aeon card looks absolutely stunning though!).
In my opinion these are also some of the most difficult cards to understand in the Thoth deck. Even Crowley himself states in the Book of Thoth that the Lovers and Art are two of the most obscure and difficult trumps. I also think a lot of people find the Aeon card hard to break into.
In any case, I don’t think you would get the Millennium Thoth Tarot unless you already have an interest in Crowley’s tarot, so it could make for some interesting comparison and contemplating sessions where you examine both decks at the same time. And I don’t think that there are differences will be any major issue. I find the deck to be quite true to the original symbolism of the Thoth Tarot.
As with the two previous decks in the trilogy I really like the visual style. Again, because of the art style some of them might come across with a bit of a feminine vibe (although maybe slightly less so than the previous two in the trilogy?). It’s not much of an issue though. The only card I personally don’t like so much is the Magus. He shows a lot of skin in Crowley’s version too, but as it is not as photo realistic it becomes less prominent. Here he reminds me a bit too much of the Knights of Flowers from the Game of Thrones TV-series.
The Court Cards also follow the Thoth Tarot with Princesses, Princes, Queens and Knights rather than the standard Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings from the RWS.
The Minor Arcana cards are also looking great, but I disagree a little with the design of these. The reason for that is that in Crowley’s Thoth the Minor Arcana cards had titles, but they have been omitted from the Millennium Thoth Tarot. The Minor Arcana cards in the Thoth deck is quite abstract compared to regular RWS tarot, so it makes it a lot more difficult to remember the cards. I find that the card title helps a little bit with it, but as they are omitted here it there will be quite a bit more to memorize. Abstract images are also more difficult to connect to intuitively.
The Magus, The Lovers and the Aeon from the Millennium Thoth Tarot
The Millennium Thoth tarot is a great addition to my tarot collection, and it is probably a deck that I will be using quite a bit. Some decks I enjoy just because they look nice and never use them, but this one has plenty of interesting symbolism and great artwork. It is much prettier than the original Thoth, which is why I find it appealing to me.
I would not get it however, unless you already have the original Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley. It is somewhat necessary to remember the Minor Arcana titles from that deck, so it would be good to have both decks so that you can compare and see the similarities or else it is going to take a lot of difficult memorizing work to remember everything. The thing is that as they are so abstract, that I don’t find it that simple to connect to them intuitively.
In my previous review of the Arcanum Tarot, I suggested that you could mix the different cards you like the most of the trilogy. When I wrote that, I did not realize that the Millennium Thoth Tarot would be based this closely on the Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, so I would advice against that now. I suppose it is still possible, but it would feel a bit more messy now with different titles and the order of the Major Arcana not being the same.
The booklet also suggests that you need a little bit of patience with tarot, and I agree with that in particular for this deck. If you do give it some time and patience, I think that its deep symbolism and nice artwork will feel very rewarding. Just don’t choose it as your first tarot deck, as it may be a little bit on the complex side and might discourage you. If you are really interested in the Crowley Thoth Tarot, get that one first if you don’t have it already, then get the Millennium Thoth Tarot next.
All in all I am positively surprised by this deck. Unexpectedly it will probably stand out as my favorite deck in the trilogy, as I am using Crowley’s Thoth quite a bit. I had also not expected such a new (to me at least) idea in the booklet. So It was definitely worth getting for me.
Millennium Thoth Tarot (2019) by Renata Lechner. Published by Lo Scarabeo.