Deck Unveiling: Dark Days Tarot

Favorite month = favorite deck! Dark Days Tarot, a small-run independent deck, came rather recently. The deck is square, and instead of being read in just upright or reversed positions, the cards are meant to be read 4 ways (don’t worry, the guidebook covers each directional reading). It’s a really great concept that lets you dive in much deeper than many other decks.

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The deck, inspired by the dark moon, lets us delve into our shadow selves, exploring our dreams, desires, and the unexplored crevices of our subconscious. And it’s is queer as hell, and full of mermaids.

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Plus, Wren has one of the most extensive websites I’ve seen devoted to a single deck, and sends out a tarot newsletter with every dark moon. Go get lost in the magic at DarkDaysTarot.com

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“Fuck That Noise” blend

I’ve been wearing a raw black tourmaline pendant, pretty much exclusively, since November, and upped protective magic in my overall practice. I think a lot of us have, tbh. And there’s this thing that I’ve noticed, that when my focus is solely on protective work, with fists raised, I harden so quickly. Because I forget to add a little something to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.* What good is protective magic if we’re not protecting ourselves from shutting down emotionally?

So here’s a simple blend for oil or a spell jar that doubles up on protection from all the hateful noise around us (and within us), while keeping our emotional health at the forefront.

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In a 1/2 oz. jar (oil) or 1/4 oz. jar (dry)

1/8 tsp. Dragons blood resin chips and powder (may replace with 6-9 drops of oil if making an oil)
1/16 tsp. ground Palo Santo wood (may replace with 3 drops of oil if you are making an oil)
3 black whole peppercorns
9 straight pins
Pinch of coarse sea salt
Carrier oil if making an oil

A suggested incantation to say while making the blend:

Dragons blood and peppercorn,
keep me safe and keep me strong.
Palo Santo, for head and heart,
sooth me as I go along.
3 pins help self-doubt decay,
3 pins make others words wash away,
and 3 pins keep the worlds shit at bay.

Happy crafting!

Notes: if you use raw materials for oil, let sit for 3 days before draining, and remember to keep the straight pins in the bottle. Also, as this blend contains black peppercorn, be careful if using it as an oil for candle work. As always, be safe, smart, and sensible.

 

Welcome, October

Whoooo hooo!! Time for my (and many others) favorite month! Outwardly, it means getting less side-eye when wearing spirit-board leggings and or my resin quail skull necklace. It also, a little weirdly, means I get a little nicer. I find myself saying shit like “Oh, you want a free 3-hour tarot reading? sure, why not!” or “Here’s the perfect combination or crystals and herbs, I think, for you… what’s that, you want me to make you a charm bag? no problem!” Or, in other words, the outward emotional labor of witching in October verges on, well, fun. Also! Halloween parties! Costumes! Old classic witchy movies! Silly B-grade horror movies! Down right terrifying movies! So. Many. Movies!

But October is so much more than the outward display and fun. For me, it’s a time to make a concerted effort to focus inward by refocusing on pursuits like knitting, weaving, writing or drawing left ignored under the summer sun, to get the last of the household duties tied up and put to rest as the earth seems to go to rest, and to (re)connect with and step my game on honoring ancestors (by blood or choice or respect). It’s a chance to make a concerted effort to honor them, in some way, every day (and it’s, of course, also the month where they are most likely to answer back). My dreams get wild in the fall.

Since moving I still haven’t fully gotten all my little altars up everywhere, but I wanted to make sure my house altar was cleaned and pretty close to finished by October 1st. My house altar is literally a house (thanks, Ikea!) and I love it! It includes photos of my blood ancestors, trinkets from dead relatives and friends, and, in one room, trinkets and photos of my living family. There are many schools of thought on mixing altars to the dead with altars to the living, and I sit in the camp that it’s just fine, and more powerful, in some ways, to have the ones we love(d) in close proximity watching over us. Even so, our little family household is in a room to it’s own, connected, yet disconnected.

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It still needs a little work, but some photos and trinkets need to be tracked down, and as they pop up they’ll be added. One of the aspects I wanted to honor in my house alter was hard truths–there’s a lot of history of mental illness and substance abuse throughout my blood lines. There’s also extreme resilience (and stubbornness) and grit. The blue of the candle is to bring some peace and harmony, and the raw amethyst and rose quartz (both which I haven’t used on a regular basis in a long time, but am trying to soften myself to and be more open to using) is to bring some healing, balance, and clarity to all of us, living and dead. Whiskey in my great grandmothers teacup is for all us femme spitfires. And fresh water because it’s the least I can do. My core family space also houses lavender from our wedding, a peach pit (love and protection), and tiger iron (protection and clarity).

What does October mean to you, and how are some ways you honor that?

Breakfast Witchery

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, but I did run off into the woods for a few days and ended up spending time with some of my favorite folks at one of my favorite places. And I ended up doing a bunch of tarot readings, and running a (moderately/ kind-of-sort of but not really) successful candle workshop (also reworking how/ when/ for whom/ I do future workshops). Not a bad way to spend the weekend after the equinox.

In the midst of that I saw a little blip go up on one of my social media feeds asking for self-forgiveness witchy spells/ herbs/ stones etc. I drummed up a few things I could think of and relayed them, and then of course ruminated about it for a week.

The thing about self-forgiveness is, I think, it’s a newer concept and likely more supported by the more neo-pagan branches (this is totally just an educated guess + hunch) where self-care + self-forgiveness language is so prevalent. But what about those of us witches that choose to follow more folklorist or reconstructionist paths where, even when our personal or secular community use this language, our witch paths don’t? I can’t speak for others, but I rely (as i suspect many of us do) on the already paved traditions to inform strategies for spells and rituals that are relevant for the present time.

So. Back to self-forgiveness. I started by looking at general forgiveness, reconciliation, and general sweetness. And then with self. And came up with two very simple breakfast recipes for self forgiveness.

Yogurt with Figs + Honey

Whole Day, Taste Test

Honey (or agave or maple syrup) is the sweetener of choice here. There are threads of figs in reconciliation work here and there-not quite as popular as other fruits, but they are in season where I live and delicious, so I’ll give them their dues. Once I mentioned honey and figs in the same sentence, the yogurt (kite hill…yum…) and breakfast idea just seemed so obvious. Taking the time to thoughtfully put together a nice meal for oneself, while focusing on being sweet and forgiving, and then ingesting the spell while you think about why you are forgiving yourself and what you want to let go of, may be a rather nice way to start the morning.

Cinnamon Toast

Cinnamon toast is a comfort food for me, and when I blurted out sugar and cinnamon it’s where my mind naturally gravitated. Sugar is the sweetener of choice here. The cinnamon speaks to prosperity, but also reconciliation and love. I recommend thinking about the reasons why you love yourself while mixing a blend of sugar and cinnamon together to put on your toast, and again, reflecting on forgiving yourself and being sweet to yourself while enjoying your breakfast.

Simple, maybe. But that’s how everyday witchcraft works.

xoxo.

 

 

A General All-Purpose spread

I’ve been busy laboring in my (non-witchy) vocation, but I finally have a few days off to catch up on life stuff before running out into the woods to camp for a few days (and leading a candle making workshop! Yippie!). But I did come up with a tarot spread to share.

I generally steer away from general spreads if I can, preferring to engage in a bit of conversation and coming up with a (usually) 3-card spread specifically designed for the person I am reading for. But sometimes that approach isn’t viable. Sometimes folks don’t want to just start chatting away about their personal life. Or sometimes their personal life is all sorts of chaos and trying to pinpoint a specific thing to talk about is damn near impossible. That’s when it’s a good to have a general spread arsenal in your pocket.

General-011: The issue

2: What is behind you

3: What is beside you

4: What is before you

5: What is within you

6: The question behind the question

Card 1 clarifies the overall issue to focus on, but is informed by 2, 3 + 4. The last time I did this spread it i drew swords for 1 + 2 and cups for the rest of the spread. The intellectual issues in the swords were of course influenced by the cups (mostly family centered cards). Cards 2-5 focus on your roles and how you navigate the issue. And card 6… well, that’s the heavy hitter. That’s the question behind the question. It can change the reading all together by changing the heart of the issue. It can enhance the reading up to that point. Give it a try and see what you think!

 

 

 

 

Slow Holler Tarot

The Slow Holler deck is a queer, collaborative deck based out of North Carolina. According to the Slow Holler collective, “One of the goals of this project is to amplify southern voices, voices with southern ties, queer voices, and voices that speak from the intersections of those identities.” And Babe, does it ever!

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The Slow Holler Tarot is really one of my favorite decks to come out in the last few years. It’s one of the few collaborative decks I’ve found that is seamless, despite having work contributed from 30 different artists. Although you can certainly tell the pieces are made by various artists, it almost seems the same divine inspiration flowed through each artist when they were creating their cards. Also, there is something about the bone deep ripples of resignation and resilience that I found when I lived in the deep south (that also perhaps become amplified when also existing in queer or other communities) that comes through in this deck. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t touched those feelings, and in part, I think this is one reason why I connect so strongly to the Slow Holler deck.

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It’s also queer, queer, queer, and destroys binaries and the hierarchies on which more traditional decks are built. Slow Holler is artistic and poetic resistance. This also comes through in my readings. I find each deck I use has their own distinct personality, and Slow Holler is no different. The cards smash any illusions we are holding on to with an iron fist, calling us out completely and brutally. But only, I think, so we can fully commit to bettering ourselves.  I find I often read using this deck for people when they are incredibly vulnerable under calm exteriors and inevitably all sorts of shit gets stirred up and brought to the surface. In short, it’s not a deck to use if you aren’t willing to be cracked open a little and willing to do the work to move forward from whatever muck you find yourself stuck in. And it’ll help guide you where you need to go if you commit to listening.

 

Full Moon Feels – Harvest Moon in Pisces

Mercury has finally station direct. I don’t know how y’all have been holding up but it’s been a doozy around here… stress, injury, and mayhem seemed to run rampant on a micro level, and the world, well…. does anything really need to be said?

The full harvest moon in Pisces yesterday coming off the heels of Mercury in retrograde AND the heels of the solar eclipse AND the new moon in Leo has been giving me major feels (perhaps heightened by the fact my sun sign is Pisces and my moon sign is Leo). I am carrying around ametrine (a cool combo crystal of amethyst and citrine), adventurine, and my favorite piece of raw rose quartz, trying to keep the pit of anxiety in my stomach at bay. I have been doing little death breaths at random intervals throughout the day, taking 5 minutes wherever I can to stop, ground myself and dispel negative energy from my body and bring up grounded shields around me. All of this so I can simply do the bare minimum to continue to exist and not lose my shit. Which, on a good day, I am successful at maybe 50% of the time.

But yesterday, under the full moon, I felt the energy shift a little. I made a commitment to show up to the Night Flowers Tarot Collective in the evening and I’m so glad I honored that commitment. I read tarot, and had tarot read for me. The pentacles that have been popping up for months are subsiding, and cups, which I haven’t seen in a long time, are popping up in full force. Wands are starting to show up a bit as well. And it makes sense… as the fall chill starts to drift in the air I always start to turn inward, and fall becomes a time for reflection and emotion, as well as action and crafting. A few more weeks and I have a feeling I may be able to breathe, at least a little, again.

A Slow Holler deck reading for the full moon in Pisces

A Slow Holler deck reading for the full moon in Pisces

Mostly though, I am grateful I was able to be in the company of rad witches I adore last night as life continues to transition. It’s important, being in the company of good people who hold good energy, who hold quietness, who hold stories, and who hold magic. And it was a good reminder to show up for the people and things that calm us, push us, and have the potential to show us how to heal.

What are your goals for the new month? What intentions did you set under the moon last night?

Book review: Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea

y648I just finished the last page of Modern Tarot: Connecting with Your Higher Self through the Wisdom of the Cards, by Michelle Tea. Tea effectively demonstrates using tarot for personal guidance, and looks at the tarot through a queer, politicized lens. She’s not the first to do this, of course (Cassandra Snow, Andi Grace, Maranda Elizabeth + more all have posts and ongoing series over at Little Red Tarot–and throughout the web–that focus on looking at tarot through various lenses), but it’s refreshing having a complete guide that can be used across decks in book format. And the Modern Tarot boasts 1-3 spells accompanying each card meaning. Also the artwork by Amanda Verwey is an updated and fresh take on the classic RWS deck–fingers crossed it gets printed someday!

It’s a fast and enjoyable read, peppered with stories of how Tea derived certain meaning for the cards from her personal life. But I found the card meanings far from original and innovative. A good beginner book, especially for the social-media politically active minded, but fair warning that if you’re familiar with the tarot already you may not find a bunch of creative meanings between these covers. I mean, honestly, I’ve read more than a few fresh takes on the 7 of cups lately that call it the FOMO card. And now I can add Tea’s interpretation to that list. That said, there were a few nuggets in there, mainly focused on small symbolism in the RWS cards that are not usually focused on in intro books—I’m not calling Modern Tarot a waste of time by any means, but I am saying I didn’t find it as groundbreaking as the bulk of Goodreads reviewers.

Halfway through the Major Arcana I decided to focus on the spells corresponding with the cards. Crystal correspondences and herbal infusion/ tea drinking reflections abound, but there’s also candle spells, herb mixes, and a variety of other spellwork. I always enjoy hearing others opinions on meanings and ritual, and learning how others follow their craft. For the most part I quite enjoyed the spell sections. The spells are calls to act directly with the energy of the cards and the influences happening right. Fucking. Now. In YOUR life. I love that.

But I’ll also say that the tenants of “Be Smart. Be Sensible. Be safe.” Seemed to sometimes fly out the window completely. Dressing a candle with chili oil or including a whole chili in a handcrafted candle, even with the warning to burn outside is careless. I mean, I could also go spritz some pepper spray in my own face, but I think I’ll pass. Thanks. And to be honest, I find some of Tea’s writing socially careless as well. We live in an age where social support and programs are being stripped away by politicians in record speed. The careless remark of “people on government assistance are afraid to get a job because they’ll lose their paltry paycheck,” seems not only dismissive, but downright dangerous at this juncture in US society.

In the end, if you want to read Modern Tarot, you should go for it. There ultimately is enough between the covers to make it a worthwhile read. Just read it with an ounce of skepticism.

 

Deck Reveal: Shadow of Oz tarot

Many folks who know me know I’m a little bit of a comic nerd and a little bit more of a Wizard of Oz nerd. Movie + book series. When I first heard about the Shadow of Oz tarot deck a few years ago I was on the fence. First of all, I am extremely picky about collaborative decks….does the deck flow? it it cohesive? does it read as one piece or many? Second of all, I am extremely picky regarding decks that embody subjects I may be a bit fanatical about…can I use them? Will I connect? Will the cards show what I love about the story? etc. etc. etc. I also know the cards were wider than many standard decks and I worried about the physicality of them. I couldn’t dispel any of my concerns from the info online.

But when I ran across the Illogical Associates booth at Emerald City ComicCon 2 years ago, saw the deck for myself +shuffled it in my hands, I connected with it more than I thought I ever would. To begin with, the deck is based on all 14 of Baum’s original Oz books. The deck is more than Dorothy’s fools journey from the movie. It’s Dorothy’s fools journey through out the series. The deck is also the story of Ozma, the Patchwork Girl, the Hungry Tiger, the Nome King, Polychrome, Tik-Tok and so many others.

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And although it the artists included in the deck all have very different styles, as comic book artists each card seems truly approached as a single cell of an ongoing story. The borders represent the different suits + the major arcana. The cards are sturdy and withstand use, though they are a bit wider than standard tarot cards and can take a while to get used to.

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While the deck can be used with little knowledge of the OZ realm, because of how heavily the full deck is based on the 14 book series, I find a base knowledge of the characters and stories across the series is incredibly helpful, and helps deepen the meaning of the cards and therefore the depth of a reading. I also suspect that, if you were given a reading to someone else, they might want to have a little familiarity with the stories.

These are reasons I don’t break out this deck often. But when I do use the Shadow of Oz it’s a really lovely and connecting experience. Because I am literally holding the wonder of OZ in my hands, and walking through a magical world with a cast of characters I hold dear. Which is not to say that it’s a deck overflowing with carefree joy (Dorothy did eventually say “fuck it” and moved everyone on the dusty, dying Kansas farm to Oz for good, after all) but it is a deck filled with whimsy.

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Working with Ancestor Dirt

On a shelf in my alter-bookcase (literally what it sounds like…a bookcase where some of the shelves serve as resource + supply storage, and where some of the shelves serve as alters) sits my great-grandmother’s candy jar. It’s a common thing, made of depression glass, but it’s pretty. I remember it on our kitchen growing up, holding conversation hearts near St. Valentine’s Day. When we moved into our current house I rescued it from thrift store donation, knowing its new purpose as I brought it inside. So now it sits on a shelf in my alter-bookcase, and holds ancestor dirt. Probably not what my great-grandmother ever intended, but hey, at least it’s still hanging out with family!

It took me years to begin using ancestor dirt in my practice (for reference, I am 35. I started practicing magic in high-school, and it’s been a winding process with pauses and sprints and changes of directions all along the way. It’s still that way. And I’m okay with that… but more on that another day). And I certainly didn’t waltz into a graveyard one day and just grab a handful of dirt and be on my way. When I started entertaining working with ancestor dirt I had already been paying respects by helping tend some of the family graves for years. One branch of my family ancestors are highly concentrated in a small-town cemetery in central Washington. There are hundreds of, if not over a thousand, living family members in the surrounding areas. But there are only a handful of us who go out yearly and tend graves.

So by the time I committed to working with dirt as a form of working with energy (as opposed to exclusively working esoterically with energy), I was already familiar with the physical site, who was where, familial relationships, and the energy strengths and weaknesses of my resting family. And now when I tend graves, I am the only one who brings gifts other than flowers (not that I am docking flowers at all–my living relatives that also tend graves bring flowers from their gardens, including roses started from the bush our matriarch brought from Germany over a century ago. That’s pretty witchy in itself).

I am lucky to have record and knowledge of these things. I know who to ask for dirt if I am looking for feminist glass-ceiling breaking energy. I know who to ask for dirt if I need strong empathy. Or need some help buckling down and doing hard work. Or creating strong foundations at home. Or who is simply not going to be OK with their dirt being used.  Like, EVER. All of this comes from years of chatting with my ancestors as I pulled weeds from around their headstones and brushed dirt from carved names and inscriptions.

I’ve also learned to not take more than I need, to ask, to listen for answers, to spend some session just tending, and to bring libations to offer. I’ve learned that although I have blood relations I work with, ancestors, or the energy from the dead that I might choose to work with do not necessarily have to be blood relatives. They just have to be someone I have a relationship with, either before or after death. And a solid relationship at that, based in tending and learning + remembering. I’ve learned to walk out of graveyards backwards, sprinkling salt on the threshold as my feet cross, as a form of respect. And to bathe afterwards, which i usually do after most magical work. working with my ancestor’s energy through dirt has been, like all things witchy for me, a slow and reflective path, but so very worth it. And it’s helped me to recognize being a witch means to not always work in safety and comfort. And that’s how it should be.