So, my Friday paganism posts have sort of become a rare once in a while thing. Which, is fine. But, I really enjoyed a question posted last night on one of the Discord servers I am a member of. I thought I’d share my response to it here.
Question for September 10th:How would you describe your practice if it belonged to the main character of a story?
The man knows so much of the natural world and was friends with the forest and the things hidden there in the shadows between the trees and the dark hollows of nurse logs.
He is bonded to the world through earth and soil, crystals and sand, leaves and bark and clinging moss. Their energy is his energy, and his is theirs in turn, and with every day that passed his roots entangled more and more with those of the trees and green things within the damp forest soil.
Through this connection, the world speaks to him and he takes that knowledge and carries it forward, offering it to others that might seek to listen and learn. Using it to benefit those that reside in his heart, protect those that he holds near and dear, and to encourage those around him to do better… and be better.
Prompt: “What elemental system do you ascribe to? What are the correspondences of the elements in the system you use? What is associated with the elements? What are some other systems you know? Do you ascribe to more than one system, and if so where do you use/incorporate which?“
My faith is a four elemental system.
Earth is plants, soil, growing things, material things, the physical world, manifestation of items to the physical plane by creativity or spellwork. It includes our earthly pleasures like food and wealth. Its direction is to the North. The energy is solid and calm. The element of Earth is dark and still, nurturing and heavy. Grounding lives here among the tree roots. This element is the one that is most within our control and is filled with foundational strength.
Air is air and ether, wind and turbulence, strategy and thought. Communication and ambitions live here until you act upon them (then, once action is applied, they move to Fire). It’s direction is to the East where ideas rise from the depths of our mind like the sun rises over the horizon. The energy is ever moving and never still, restless. Although we can control our thoughts to a point, there is an element of lack of control here that is not present in the previous element.
Water is for wet, and is refreshing and welcoming. Comforting and soothing. Its direction is to the West. Emotions and the flow of creativity reside here, as well as intuition and the subconscious. Spirits of those that have passed often linger here in this energy. As emotions are far less easily controlled than thought, so Water becomes the third element as we get further from the earthly plane and closer to divinity. Centering oneself lives here in the depths of still waters and quiet calm among pondweed and cattails.
Fire is for flames, heat, and enthusiasm. It’s direction is to the South. It is what lights us up from within and pushes us to act. Too much fire will burn your life to the ground, too little leaves your life empty and listless. It’s energy dances and sparks, for it is through action that this element is most commonly expressed. It is the fervor of our lives, and is where our ethics and principles stand tall. Pride also lives here. Within this element, we have the least control, for it is where our soul sings out to speak of what is right for us… and what isn’t.
You will note that although the four elements above climb a ladder from what is most in our control to what is least in our control, there is no element here for divinity. Each of these elements holds their own spirituality within them. Divinity, for me, resides beyond and “above” these elements and is best defined as the energies of creation, evolution, and balance. I do not feel that it is an element, so much as the beginning and end of all things… and all that lies between those two points as well.
Having been raised Wiccan, I am of course very familiar with Wicca’s five-element system (earth, air, fire, water, spirit) of that faith. I am also familiar, through my father and research, with the Japanese Gogyo system of five elements (fire, water, wood, metal, earth). Although the Wiccan system is similar to what I use now, I don’t use either of these systems in my practice at this time.
Although a lot of people look upon the terms “grounding” and “centering” as one in the same, in truth they are two very different things that are often used in conjunction together.
Centering, which is usually done first (although not always), is about drawing in your chaotic energy. Imagine your energy as a sphere that surrounds you. When you are feeling chaotic, distracted, scattered, etc, the particles of energy in this sphere are agitated and disorganized.
In centering, you are taking these particles of your energy and drawing them from the sphere and in closer to yourself, even into yourself. Drawing these energies in, they condense and calm, ceasing their agitation and disorganized behavior. This is called Centering. It is bringing your energy “to center” in order to “piece yourself together” and calm your energy into a state of solid stability.
Grounding is usually done after centering, although some people do them simultaneously (or only do one or another depending on what works for them). Grounding is taking that stability within you and connecting it to “an anchor”. There are lots of things you can use as an anchor, but in my case it is always very literally… the ground.
Grounding helps preserve the centering that has been done, giving the stability found in the centering a more solid and long-lasting quality. It can also be used to help release excess energy that can build up when one is dealing with things like nervousness or anxiety, or otherwise balance out one’s energies.
My go-to way of grounding is through rooting. This is when you allow yourself to connect through your feet (or other part of your body touching the ground) and imagine your energy creating roots that dig down into the earth and spread beneath you. These energy roots create an anchor that helps cement stability in place, and allows a give-and-take of energy with the earth to level out any excess or depletion taking place.
I center and ground many, many times a day. It is a habit that takes a few second at a time, or can take a few minutes if done consciously and with intention for a stronger effect.
In spellcraft, these techniques are especially important as they are used to help condense and prepare your energy for use and direction. Casting a spell without centering and grounding would be like shooting an arrow out of a bow with the feathers loose. The energy (arrow) may get where its going, but it sheds a good deal of energy along the way (the feathers) making the spell less effective,
By centering and grounding first, you are essentially securing those feathers to the arrow (creating fletching) so that when the arrow flies, there is no loss of energy along the way and the arrow’s accuracy is greatly increased. Thus, your intention and energy in the spell is not wasted and flies true as well.
This is why you will find in the large majority of witchcrafting communities, when people ask why a spell didn’t work or why it went awry, the first question usually posed by those with experience is “Did you center and ground first?”
Today’s question is brought to you by two of the witchy type servers that I’m a member of on Discord. Both servers asked the exact same question within a few days of each other and I thought it might make for a good topic here.
Prompt from Server #1: “What song(s) put you in a witchy mood?” Prompt from Server #2: “What kind of music do you like to listen to when you work magic?“
Okay, so I love music. I really do. But, there are a number of activities that I can’t do while listening to music. Because I have sound → sensation/smell/taste synesthesia, music can often have unintended distractionary repercussions, so I have to be careful to what I listen to and when. For example, I have a playlist of music I can listen to while driving because none of the songs cause me physical sensations that would distract me from what I’m doing. I couldn’t guarantee that if I were listening to the radio, where a song or sound might come up that could create a painful pinch in my hand or arm, or a pins and needles sensation in my foot or leg.
For this reason, most of the time when doing spellcraft and different spiritual workings, I don’t use music as it can create “phantom sensations” that can be distracting. That said, I do have a playlist full of certain songs that safely “fit the mood” that I will use when I want to include music. Some of those include…
Not all of these (or all of those on the playlist) are sensation-free sound. But none of them create unpleasant sensations, smells, or tastes that might distract me from my focus. And, of course, all have the same “vibe” to the music that helps “set the mood” that I like for spellcraft and witchy-type activities. I think that for a lot of people, music can really add another level of depth to their practice, and even another element of “flavor” to the magic itself.
Prompt: “How do you incorporate divination into your day-to-day life?“
Ok so first, I guess that I should point out that, although I know a vast array of divination techniques including pendulums, rune casting, charm casting, stick and stone casting, stichomancy (aka bibliomancy with regular books), tasseomancy, dice casting, etc… my main method of divination is (not surprising anyone here) cards. All kinds of cards, but cards all the same. So when I refer to day-to-day divination, it is with this method I refer to, as the others are just occasional use. So, here we go…
1) For the past two years, I have been doing a COTD mental health exercise. My shrink wanted me to start a “daily affirmation” meditation exercise. But none of the affirmation generators I could find were giving me anything I could relate to or even take seriously. I switched it up to a COTD exercise where I ask for “a positive message to carry with me throughout my day and foster perspective” and whatever card comes out I have to find the positive message in the card for me that day, then meditate on it and journal it. Surprisingly, it has helped immensely in my day-to-day life, and also in climbing back out of the dark pit of depression whenever an MDE sneaks up and swallows me whole.
3) Writing exercises. I often use cards as prompts and as “flavor” in my writing, whether it’s just little short stories, a poem, or long drawn out interactive storytelling with Gideon.
4) Teaching. I teach tarot, lenormand, and cartomancy. At any time over the past decade (or so) I have sustained between 1 and 6 pupils/mentees depending on my workload and energy levels. Not to mention past pupils and mentees that come back from time to time with questions, thoughts, or just a need to discuss something in order to help them wrap their head around it a bit better.
5) I help run a server that is a tarot focused learning environment on Discord. I occasionally teach classes on the server, and I spend a good deal of time there helping others, answering questions, and just hanging out with others with similar interests.
6) Personal readings. I read for myself daily by doing monthly challenges, and I share those readings here on my blog as well as on the server mentioned above. The purpose of this is three fold, as it allows me to check in on myself, it allows Gideon to check in on me and get an in-depth look at how I’m doing emotionally and otherwise, and it provides examples for that learning server I mentioned for those that want or need to observe how others read the cards and their process in doing so.
Thinks… I think that’s it. It’s probably not, but I think it is.
Oh yeah. Lets not forget about deck shopping. I window shop (and often buy) decks on a pretty regular basis.
Learning tarot is something that a lot of people are intrigued about at one point or another in their life. For some, it’s a phase that they dabble in and then move on from. For others it is an opportunity to exploit others. For some it is a lifetime fascination. For still others, it is a part of who they are… or a part of their spirituality.
There are plenty of assumptions about the tarot and plenty of abusers that use the decks for their own purposes. That use the tarot to manipulate people, or to hurt people… or as a game, unintentionally hurting others simply by not understanding or being unwilling to grasp the power that the tarot can possess.
The sad thing is that this type of harmful behavior is going to be the case for no matter what you are talking about. There will be some that respect these different things, and others that won’t. Just as there are those that will appreciate a public garden, and others that will only pause to piss on the flowers.
The thing is that most of those who are truly invested in tarot in some way, whether that is through helping others or helping themselves, acknowledge that tarot is more than just a handful of cards. They aren’t out to hurt people, manipulate people, or use tarot as a game or a weapon. They are seeking to use the tarot to help themselves or others, seek out guidance for themselves or others, to delve into their psyche in order to heal themselves or others.
Tarot is a way to reach into the minds and souls of the self and others, and to find depth… to find answers. Whether a secular or spiritual reader, I think that it’s important to respect and own the responsibility that using something that can do this inherently holds. I find that I sometimes struggle with fresh, brand new beginners because of this. Because they aren’t ready yet to grasp the responsibility behind what they’re seeking to learn. They don’t realize that it’s not a toy or a game, but rather a tool to help that can also harm if we aren’t careful.
For this reason, I try to remind beginners (and even some that have dabbled for quite some time but don’t seem able to grasp the gravity of the tool in their hands) that reading tarot is not just about getting answers. It’s about how you present those answers, either to yourself or to others. It’s about acknowledging that anything that you say can have a huge impact on another person and their life, etc. And therefore, when reading the cards, it’s important to present things in a way they understand and that is empathetic to another person and their journey.
Without empathy, understanding, and a sense of empowerment in the message… the cards can easily become something that can do a great deal of harm instead of good. When people speak of “respecting the tarot” it is this influence… this responsibility… that they are referring to. A responsibility that I feel is absolutely essential, especially in reading for others… but also in reading for yourself.