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 are 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.
I think it is hard for me to avoid the mystery of the runes in the part of the world where I reside. So I decided to research a bit on the runes and learn how to use them for divination. It’s a bit cooler to be reading runes when you meet up with the local vikings, right? And for me with my heritage, it is simply something I see as must be done. So, I have decided to use the Elder Futhark runes, which is quite standard if you use runes for divination.
There are some fundamental things that I find important when it comes to reading runes for divination that I think would be useful for beginners to know. The ancient art of rune reading is unfortunately not something that history has preserved for us in an unbroken line. What we have today is an attempt at reconstruction and anyone claiming anything else would not be speaking the truth.
Having that said, I don’t find that very problematic. If you look at modern tarot practice there are as many ways to read tarot as there are readers. There is no reason to believe that it would have been any different for rune readers back in the days. As tarot readers interpret the cards differently, rune readers probably also interpreted the runes differently. It is an art, and to be good at it, you have to make it your own (and practice a lot).
I don’t subscribe to any idea that there is a clear and definite meaning for the runes. When working with tarot we are working with archetypes and it is the same when working with the runes. The keywords for tmodern rune reading come from the rune poems: the Icelandic, the Norwegian and the Anglo-Saxon rune poems. And this is also where it is appropriate to point out that the rune poems aren’t actually based on the Elder Futhark. There are 24 runes in the Elder Futhark and the rune poems describe 16 runes in the Icelandic and Norwegian versions and 26 in the Anglo-Saxon version. The Anglo-Saxon version also shows influences from Christianity. So this means that the rune poems are based on the Younger Futhark and all that we have left for the Elder Futhark is an attempt at reconstruction. There may have been an older rune poem for Elder Futhark, but if so, it never survived.
There are various sites out there on the divinatory meaning of the runes, and I think it is important to realize that many have added their own personal interpretations. That is not to say that it is a bad thing, but it is important to know so that you don’t get stuck with what each rune means. It is the very same thing that make a lot of people struggle with tarot cards. Runes are arguably more difficult though, as there are no images to support your reading. My suggestion is to first start with memorizing the names of the runes and just a couple of keywords for each rune. Start with a notebook where you note down all the runes and the keywords and later on you can add your own if you find that it makes sense to you.
The reason I am writing this is that there has been a lot of false information over the years. Particularly during the 80s with New Age movement and pagan revival. Books and systems were being made without being completely honest about the motivation behind them and the origin of the material.
I think it is much better to be open about that it is a constructed system (tarot is also a constructed system), but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. In fact it means that magic is very much alive today. Perhaps it is meant to be something that is living and evolving and only then can you unlock the true potential and secrets of the runes. I will leave it at that and write another post about the nice set of runes that I got for myself. And perhaps later will I share some spreads that I find useful that I have created myself.
I thought I would give it an attempt to review this deck of oracle cards called Gods and Titans. It is made by Stacey Demarco, who also has made a similar deck called Goddesses and Sirens, which I might review later on. I have the feeling that these two decks of oracle cards would work better together. Beyond Words Publishing is the publisher and the deck is illustrated by Jimmy Manton.
First of all, I have to say that I am not all that familiar with oracle cards. This is actually my first deck of oracle cards, and I don’t intend to use them for divination. I think regular tarot cards are more than sufficient for that use. I am not saying that it is not possible to do so, I definitely think it is possible, but it is just not my cup of tea. For me it makes more sense to draw a single oracle card and contemplate or meditate over it. That is what I got them for.
I have actually had some aversion to oracle cards. Mainly because many of them have too much of a feminine vibe. Gods and Titans is being marketed as a masculine oracle deck and it definitely seems like they have succeeded in making a deck that isn’t too soft around the edges. It is even mentioned in the booklet of the deck that this deck is meant to bring back “the Masculine Divine” to our modern spirituality. Good. It feels like a breath of fresh air. And that is why I felt that I could buy them and actually put them into use. As a male, it can be difficult to identify with regular oracle decks. I am curious about the Goddesses and Sirens deck now. From the box set I don’t have the impression that it is very feminine deck either, despite its title, but I will have a proper look at it in another review.
I don’t have any particular concerns about the card stock. I see that some people have complained, but there are no concerns here. Treat the cards with respect and there should be no problems. The cards are rather large compared to regular tarot cards and as I am not someone with extremely big hands, it feels a bit clunky to shuffle them, but that’s okay. The positives for having large images make up for that as that is better when you just want to focus on a few cards like I intend to do anyway.
The images of the Gods and Titans are generally nice, but there is a lot of yellow, red and orange colours here. It definitely feels masculine, but maybe slightly over the top. For example I don’t find it necessary with the orange/yellow background for the Dionysus card. He isn’t a war god. It’s not necessary to go full on He-Man mode to make it masculine. It is not an issue though, merely a small observation from my part.
A nice touch is the booklet which includes a small introduction to the different Gods and Titans, but also a small invocation or prayer to each of the cards. Some are even with small ritual suggestions. That is not something for me to review though. How you look at that depends on your magical background, what tradition you work in etc. As I understood it from the booklet Stacey Demarco is a practitioner of witchcraft herself, so maybe it gives a little bit of flavor of that, which I found interesting.
My main issue with the deck is the amount of different pantheons it takes its Gods and Titans from. Here you find a mix of a wide range of deities from western, eastern and even Mayan/Aztec culture. I find that rather overwhelming and I doubt that most people will have a relationship to all of these pantheons. I think most people, like me, will have one, two or maybe three favorite pantheons. There are Gods in here that I never even heard about before I opened the box. So it is very difficult for me to have an opinion about those Gods and what they are supposed to represent. Maybe it would have made more sense to include fewer pantheons, but have both male and female gods and goddesses included in the same deck and instead organize the decks by different pantheons. I might actually do that and add the two decks together and remove the cards I don’t feel any connection to. There is a very big chance that there are some cards in here that I will rarely work with, or even work with at all.
It doesn’t mean that Gods and Titans is a bad oracle deck though. It is definitely one of the few out there on the market today that probably will feel acceptable for men. And if you are looking for a decent set of oracle cards it might be worth picking up these. I think even women would appreciate that the deck feels rather differently than the rest of the oracle decks on the market today and it could be relevant for them if they are looking for something else than the ordinary “only positive vibes” oracle cards.
-Thus spake the Night Spirit
Gods and Titans by Stacey Demarco – oops, looks like someone else made it into the picture as well.
I never really liked the term tarot master, because it gives you the idea that there is some kind of ladder involved that you can climb to improve your skills. It is true that you can improve your skills and knowledge of the tarot, but it is nearly impossible to measure it. I suppose it is quite measureable to analyze your hit/miss right for divinations, but is that all that counts?
It is my belief, that the more skilled you become with the tarot, the more you realize that divination is only a small part of what you can do with it. Reading about it and continuing working with it will in itself be rewarding.
When I picked up my first tarot deck it was of course the divination that I found the most exciting. Let’s be honest, it is probably the most exciting work you can do in the short term. You get an instant answer to your question and you may get feedback from clients. In this day and age where we live with social media and are used to get constant confirmation of our ego by others, it feels very good to feel that rush from a successful divination and positive feedback from an inspired patron.
I don’t deny that is fun and a great feeling, but if someone would ask me what my most valuable experiences with the tarot would be, it would not be those divination sessions. It would probably be the knowledge that I know I can acquire if I am willing to commit to keep studying and using the tarot. For example, if I take the fool card and ask myself how can I apply the ideas from this card into my life?
My answer to that is that it reminds me that I can allow myself to approach situations in life with a childlike curiosity and allow myself to make some mistakes while learning something new. It does not mean that I should be careless and irresponsible, but most of the time making some mistakes doesn’t really matter that much. And in many cases you will also learn from them and improve your skill.
When I first started out with tarot, I did not realize that you can get valuable lessons or advice from the tarot just by contemplating. It can be done with any card in the deck and it gets even more interesting when you put together cards that belong together. The lessons you gain from that can take a long time to comprehend though. When I did that for “The other part of Venus” post I wrote, I had no idea that it would take me a year to even get a grasp on how to approach the next part of the post. And I am not even sure if I have understood enough yet to write out the second part quite yet.
For me at least that is one of the deeper and more profound experiences that I have had with tarot.
I have also attempted to use tarot in spirit communication and felt that it has been a good tool for me to have there. Particularly, because I am not a person who tend to have a lot of visions or hear voices. I suppose this is not quite an unexpected way, but I included it anyway.
I also believe that you don’t really need to be particularly spiritual to benefit from tarot. It’s basically a deck full of ideas and can help to map out a difficult situation and challenge you to try and see something from different angles. I can understand though that it will be difficult for someone who isn’t all that spiritual to use a tool that is heavily connected to spirituality. But it can be done.
If you haven’t tried to use tarot for something else than divination, just give it a chance. Maybe the results will surprise you.
Once upon a time in my younger days I had to struggle myself through a book called “The Making of the Modern Mind” by John Herman Randall, JR. Or at least parts of it. I was nineteen years old at the time, and I was studying history of ideas. It’s an old book first published in 1926 and then edited and released again in 1940. It’s an excellent book, but perhaps not the easiest to read for a 19 year old with English as a second language. What I learned from reading it was how the worldview gradually changed to a mechanistic worldview where the world was treated like a dead object. It was during this period in the history of mankind that science as we know it today emerged. This led to a lot of technological breakthroughs and eventually the industrialization of the world. “God is dead” Nietzsche claimed. And many thought that eventually religion and spirituality would vanish. Today, we know that is not the case.
There is a thriving magic community alive today, and there are probably more books on the subject of spirtituality published now than ever before. In the magic scene old texts have been rediscovered and been put back together again by scholars then they are published so that they become available to anyone. People, read, discuss, argue and try to practice themselves.
When doing so, people are reading and reconnecting with a very different worldview than what is predominant today. They are discovering that there once was a very different world where it was not treated as a dead thing. In a historical perspective, modernity, which is roughly the past 500 years, is only a very brief moment in time. Science has given us many technological breakthroughs and greatly improved the standard of living for most people in the world, but the need for spirituality seems to be unchanged through all of it. Many people seem to think that spirituality and/or religion is contradictory to science, I personally, don’t think it is. Science is basically just a method of proving theories wrong (note that it is about falsifying and not confirming anything) based on experience. What science doesn’t offer is spirituality or a more complete understanding of the world. It is fragmented and often in disagreement with itself (which it has to be, or else science could not evolve further). There are some people who seem to think that science offers an explanation for everything and are even willing to use inadequate scientific models to construct their reality. I would refer to that as “Scientism”. Ironically though, that is exactly what science should avoid, so “Scientism” isn’t really a proper scientific view of the world.
What most people tend to get mixed up in the debate of religion/spirituality vs science are the criterias for what will be accepted as truth. A spiritual or religious understanding of the world is usually more fluid and less precise than what a scientific understanding of the world is. Therefore it doesn’t fit into the scientific model (and it never will). The problem though is that the scientific criterias are too strict. Religions and spiritual experiences are not something that can be shared and observed by multiple people at the same time and written down in a journal with precise language, which would be a requirement for it to ever be described properly in scientific terms. As I said, science is just a method and that method is not directly connected to our own human sensory experiences. We may have sensory experiences that would be very difficult to put down in scientific terms (or even in proper language). Dreams we have may be a good example where our senses can be distorted and when we wake up and remember the dream we rationalize it and try to make out what really happened in the dream, even though the experience itself felt hazy and distant. Only after we have processed it, it becomes a tangible memory.
So why am I bringing all of this up? Primarily, because it helps sort out my own thoughts on the subject and I find it very interesting. What I think will happen long term though is that the “collective consciousness” if we can call it that is going to change. It will no longer be purely scientific or religious/spiritual, but it will merge together and exist side by side (today it is more like you have to choose between one or the other). 500 years are nothing when you look at how long this world has existed. In a historical perspective paradigms are often thesis and antithesis to eachother and eventually they merge together in a synthesis (check out the Phenomology of Spirit). This is also what I think eventually will happen with science and religion/spirituality. And by that I don’t mean that they necessarily will merge into the same thing, but rather that there will be a way that they can co-exist and people have learned that they offer different criterias for truth and that it is actually possible to shift between them.
Having that said there is no denying that there are religious and spiritual groups out there who blatantly ignore science and what it stands for. This post is absolutely not for defending these people. I am of the opinion that any kind of spirituality that doesn’t take science into consideration, doesn’t have the right to exist.
I also realize that what I have written this far is merely the introduction to the topic. I think it is necessary though to explain the background before I start exploring what I think is a living and dynamic spiritual world. I will have to continue this later…
No, this is not meant to be a tribute to the Bon Jovi song. I quite like that song by the way, but it has also been the question for this blog for some time. I have not produced any new content in quite a while and that is what I wish to write about today.
Writing a blog has in my opinion several good side effects. It helps out to structure thoughts, experience ideas and in some ways it can also function as some sort of therapy. Usually I get the spirit over me and write when I feel passionate about something.
I am passionate about spirituality and philosophy, but when it comes to these things one has to understand that is something for the long term. I don’t think of or deal with these subjects all the time. In fact, sometimes it is better to do other stuff and then come back and revisit the ideas. After I started out with my post called “The Other Side of Venus – part 1” I realized that it was a very difficult exercise. Usually a spiritual realization on complex subjects don’t happen over night or during the course of a week. In fact, it took me several months with occasionally revisiting the subject before I could even begin to think of what part 2 will look like. Maybe I will feel more ready to write it soon.
Spiritual growth is for the long term and cannot be rushed, but to me it doesn’t mean that the blog is dead. I do think however, that I will make some changes, and expand my subjects a little bit beyond the tarot. For me the tarot is just a tool and if I was going to write about it all the time I would feel limited by it. It is a tool that I can use to teach me lessons in spirituality and obtain new spiritual insights, but it is not about the cards themselves. It is a representation of ideas, and a tool to help show the way, but they are, in my opinion, not the way itself.
There are so many people who are fixated on the tarot itself and put limitation on themselves to think that it is only a tool for divination. Sure, it can be definitely used that way, but I would argue that it is mainly a distraction from the true potential of the tarot. Let go of the divinatory meanings. It is not what tarot is about. Rather try and see each card as a story and when you put them together you are creating a story. In practice you are putting different symbolic ideas together. If you look at tarot in that way, it doesn’t really even mean much what kind of background you come from. You could call yourself religious or spiritual, and I think that even with an atheist background it is possible to gain insights from the tarot. Ironically, I think it would also lead to better divinatory results to see the tarot in this way.
So I have decided that I will write some posts that don’t deal with the tarot at all, but of philosophy and spirituality in general. After all the tarot, in my opinion, is mainly a tool to advance within these areas. It doesn’t mean that I will not also continue to write about tarot though.
-Thus spake the Night Spirit
Super full moon. There are either some lighting disturbances here or I just did not bother to clean my lens properly. It was hard to get a “clean” picture.