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Divination

The Importance of Consent in Divination and Oracular Work

Since this came up recently elsewhere, I thought I’d share with y’all my basic guide to etiquette in divination and oracular work! It can be tough to figure out boundaries when you find divination and godphoning come easily to you, and you feel called to the role of a messenger or oracle. But as with most things, the first thing to keep in mind is consent.

So: before you do divination for someone else, make sure you have clear consent to do so. Make sure you’re on the same page as far as who (ex. Bast) or what (ex. their wyrd, The Universe) is being queried, and how the question, if any, is phrased. If you’re using a form of divination that has meanings associated with a symbol set, it’s also a good idea to make sure that you’re on the same page about whether you’re just pulling runes/cards/what-have-you and conveying those, or if you’re also going to interpret them. Also, if you usually charge money or take tips for readings, that should be clear upfront.

If you’re feeling like you ought to do divination on someone else’s behalf in order to offer them advice, that all still applies: don’t ask any spirits what advice to give someone unless:

  • 1) the person actually wants advice (as opposed to space holding or comforting),
  • 2) they consented for you to query these specific spirits,
  • 3) with these specific questions.

Asking your Deities, your Guides, and your Ancestors what your friend should do to fix their life isn’t usually very helpful, because they don’t have solid relationships to draw on, and you’ll need a lot of discernment skill to make sure they aren’t just telling you to tell your friend the advice you want to give. Asking their Deities, their Guides, and their Ancestors, with their permission, is more likely to get you helpful and nuanced answers, because those spirits are more aware of and engaged in your friend’s life.

However, quite a few people who feel called to this path have had an experience where, for whatever reason, a Deity or other spirit asks us to pass on a message, often in a too-real dream, during a journey meditation, or in a ritual. At that point, it’s best to tell the spirit that you will try, if the intended recipient is willing to hear it.

I don’t recommend promising you definitely will deliver the message, because there are times that the recipient is not going to be able to hear it from you, for a variety of reasons. First, we come back to that concept of consent: the best way to start this conversation with the intended recipient is just to tell them you’ve received some insight that is a message for them from a spirit (or name/ describe the spirit), and ask them if they wish to hear it.

Then, if they say yes, do your best to deliver the message as accurately as possible, and gently suggest they verify it again with another source if it’s something potentially life-altering (like changing jobs, or moving out of state, or getting divorced). Even if you practice divination, too, they should ask a different diviner. If they say no, they don’t want to hear it, just move on. You promised to try and you tried and that’s the end of it. If the message was truly important, the spirit will try again in a different way.

That might sound like unusual advice, but I believe we really do have agency in our relationships with Deities and other spirits, and I think one of the most important ways to use our agency is to make sure our actions are in line with our own ethical codes. Deities certainly have ethical codes as well, but they have a different perspective, and it’s important to remember that even if you’re given a divine message, you still have to be responsible for your own actions. Our personal relationships should be maintained with good boundaries and mutual respect, allowing us all to exercise our own agency. (Excepting in extreme circumstances, of course – sometimes agency is restricted for good reason, as when the individual presents a clear danger to themselves or others.)

Mostly what I have discussed above is about specific messages for specific individuals, but I also want to briefly touch on the type of oracular work my blog followers have probably seen before: monthly messages from certain Deities. With those kind of open community-wide messages, the consent exists in whether or not the person reading it wishes to consider themselves part of my community.

I’m usually pretty upfront about these messages probably being more relevant to people who have similar practices and beliefs to my own, and to people who are located in the same geographic and political region as me. People who aren’t nearby sometimes tell me that something resonated strongly with them, and I occasionally get similar comments from people who have very different practices and beliefs. And that’s okay, too! People can read it and take from it whatever they want.

Or – and this is really key – they can read one and decide it really doesn’t resonate or apply to them at all, and they can avoid my writing in the future! That’s perfectly fine with me. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking; I’m just sharing a message I was given, and hoping it might be helpful for a couple of others who find themselves in similar situations.

As with the individual oracular messages above, if the message seems to be suggesting some sort of change, it’s a good idea for other practitioners to verify community oracular messages that seem to resonate with them. They could do their own journeywork, or turn to divination. If the message is verified, that will also give them a bit more nuance about how it applies to their specific situation!

Hopefully this was a helpful (or at least an interesting) little excursion into how to apply consensual boundaries to divination and oracular work. If you’d like to discuss more, or to ask a question, please feel free to leave a comment below, or to send an email.

fae, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Spiritwork

Bealtaine with the Local Fair Folk

As frequent readers of this blog might guess, my upcoming Bealtaine* plans will revolve around the Fair Folk. While most folklore tells us to ward and protect against Them on festival days, here in faery-witchcraft-land, it’s a holiday to celebrate connections with Them, instead. I plan to do a simple solitary ritual on Oíche Bealtaine (May-Eve), and give offerings to a Local Fairy Queen who is an ally of mine. I call her the Rosegay Queen, since she seems to be associated with wild roses. I’ll also be paying my respects to the royal couple she has claimed descent from, Úna and Fionnbharr. To that end, I have some mead, and I’m thinking about making some of the Fairy Cakes Morgan Daimler learned to make in a dream. Perhaps I’ll top them with hawthorn jelly (it is SO GOOD), and maybe I’ll get some rose flavored tea or floral lemonade.

I was hoping to buy a young hawthorn tree this spring, but was warned not to because of the 17 year cicadas, which are due any day now. (Apparently they can stress and kill young shrubs!) So my May Bush this year is probably the rhododendron out front again – but I suppose that’s in keeping with the rose theme, as another name for those is the rosebay!

I’m still planning the menu for the family dinner, which usually is the bulk of the household observation of holidays. I tend to stick to dishes with ingredients that are in season locally. I have in the past made a strawberry-filled salad, but I think the strawberries are going to be a little later this year. The wild violets are coming up, though, and those are edible! I may do a side salad with violets and a quiche with local eggs, goat cheese, and fresh herbs. My herbs are all regreening in the bed out front, and I should have plenty. Maybe I’ll use some of the baby green onions, too – those will need thinning soon!

After dinner we’ll probably have a fire in the pit outside, and do a short round of offerings and prayer, like my household does for most holidays. My kiddo really likes to watch the fires, and even though he’s not really clear on what’s going on yet, he’s keen to be involved! As he gets older, he’ll understand more and can decide how much he wants to participate but for the moment he likes to toss things in the fire whenever he’s allowed to!

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll do my solo ritual after the rest of them go to bed, or earlier, at sunset, but I’m leaning towards earlier rather than later. None of the rest of the people in my household really interact with the Fair Folk much. Not on purpose, anyway, though sometimes They follow me home or come in to deliver a message, or some such. I try to keep “office hours” as best I can, but serving a Fairy Queen is a full-time job! Still, there are some perks, and with any luck I’ll be dreaming of celebrations in the Otherworlds on Oíche Bealtaine, as I have sometimes in the past. (And returning home in the morning, Gods willing!)


* Yes, I know this isn’t how a lot of people spell it, but I think it’s important to use the Irish spelling when I’m going to be honoring Irish Fairy Monarchs, and this is the modern Irish spelling. Living culture and all that. See Also: Úna and Fionnbharr, both of which have other Old Irish spellings.

Bright Moon, Kemetic, Paganism

Kemetic Bright Moon 4/26

I was not well enough this past weekend to do my full ritual, so this month I did an abbreviated ritual, and have received a shorter message.

When I spoke with them, Bast and Sekhmet stressed that this was not a good month to start new things: new travel plans, new ventures, or new gatherings. This is a period of careful transition, not a time for leaps of faith, or of reckless return to old patterns, as though the past year had not happened. We can’t go back to exactly the way things were before – we need to plan a new way forward.

So: plan carefully, friends. Try to smooth the transition, and look where your foot will fall before you commit to stepping forward.

The next full moon is May 26th. If you have any questions, or if you would like to request a personal message or heka for May, please email the shrine here. And if you are interested in supporting the shrine, I have a tip jar set up here. Thanks!

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Everyday Tarot

Deck: The Everyday Tarot
Publisher: Running Press
Writer: Brigit Esselmont of Biddy Tarot
Artist: Eleanor Grosch
Overall Rating: 7/10

image (c) Running Press. Cards shown are: Five of Swords, Death, and King of Wands

Cardstock: The cards are smaller than normal tarot cards, closer to poker card sized, and it can be a little awkward to shuffle all 78 of them. The cardstock is of good quality, though, not too slick and not too rough, and the printing is very vibrant. I find the borders not too distracting, and the gilded edges are a nice touch.

Artwork: The artwork is tricolor (white, gold, and purple) and combines flat white, luminous gold, and a watercolor textured purple. The images are done mainly with the human figures in silhouette, and a sort of minimalistic theme overall, but they’re recognizable to those familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith system, and have enough intricacies to be beautiful, rather than boring.

Book: The booklet is about the same size as the cards and 87 pages long. It has a short paragraph for each upright and reversed meaning for each card, which is a pretty good amount of information, but does not contain a list of keywords. Somewhat unusually, there isn’t any more information on the majors than there is on the pips.

Likes: It’s pretty straightforward, like a minimalist version of the RWS, and therefore an easy deck to read for anyone used to that system. I really do like the artwork, though I wasn’t sure about it at first. It grew on me.

Dislikes: I was somewhat surprised that the deck didn’t contain the two lists of keywords that are listed on the Biddy Tarot website! And the cards are somewhat awkward to shuffle, as I mentioned above. I also don’t really like the box. It’s a magnetic clasp wrap like the cover of a book, with no top or bottom, but there’s a clear plastic case for the cards that’s rather flimsy, and to get the booklet to stay in, it has to be inserted in a slot in the cover. I’ll be moving this one to a knit bag, probably.

Overall Recommendation

I think in a different carrying case this would make a very good travel deck. I think it would make a good first deck for new readers, if combined with the resources on the Biddy Tarot website. It occupies a niche in my collection somewhere around “neutral-pretty”, and may make a good in-person reading deck, though because of the pandemic I really haven’t been doing that lately. I’m glad I own it, but this is not one of the ones I’d buy again immediately if I misplaced it.

fae, Spiritwork

The Best Place to Meet The Good Neighbors Might Just Be Your Neighborhood

John Beckett wrote an article recently, about how we as pagans and magical workers ought to be paying attention to changes between the worlds, and I enjoyed it, and generally agree. As I think back, more than half of what I’ve done this past year in my spiritual-magical practice was just dealing with Otherworldly situations of one type or another:

  • Establishing and then maintaining relationships with who I refer to as my “Locals”, after I moved in March 2020
  • My regularly-scheduled oracular work, much of which focused on Otherworldly goings-on
  • Discussing Otherworldly turbulence with other practitioners (both local and not)
  • Divination to gain insight into Otherworldly encounters, both mine and others’
  • Helping friends and acquaintances deal with their own Otherworldly encounters
  • Etc.

The other less-than-half consisted mainly of ongoing divination studies, maintaining relationships with my Deities and other Allies, celebrating holidays, and using magic to help problem-solve mundane issues as they cropped up — business as usual in my life. I’ve also done my fair share of gardening and baking from scratch and attempting to entertain a lonely toddler who couldn’t go to the park or the pool during the pandemic, of course! But I think Beckett’s point that we need to be doing more than just mundane prep work, that we need to be monitoring the changes between the worlds is very important.

The article gives a rhetorical question: “So, what do we need to do to pay attention to the changes that are happening in the Otherworld and between the worlds?”, and then goes on to answer that: build foundations, be places you can observe, listen to your senses (including the inner ones), explore by journeying. Anyone who is familiar with Beckett’s writing will be unsurprised to see daily practice listed under foundations, and regular practice is definitely important, but I must admit my own practice is more “every couple of days on average” than strictly “daily”! I’ve never managed to do *anything* every day for longer than three weeks, but I do 3-4 days a week just fine for months at a stretch! So don’t be too disheartened if your practice looks more like mine, but I still generally agree with this point. It’s the second one that made me pause.

The second heading is titled “Put yourself in places to see what’s happening”, and while I agree with the starting premise (“if you want to encounter an Otherworldly person, your odds are much better if you put yourself in a place where they’re more likely to be”), I can’t say the same for the second half. It emphasizes the importance of going to wild places, and ends with the phrase “the wilder the better.”

I disagree.

I don’t think wilder is always better, when it comes to seeking out Otherworldly beings. Most of the Fair Folk I’m in most frequent contact with, I met somewhere nearby, often in one of the local suburban stream valley parks. I live in Northern Virginia, and while a lot of these parks are large and fairly sprawling, my chronic illnesses sometimes make it difficult to go longer distances across more complicated terrain, so I usually stay on or near the path, almost always somewhere I can still hear traffic noise in the background. And yet, I have encounters. Numerous encounters. Most any time I go out with the intention of finding a Local to wherever I am, in my own neighborhood, or in someone else’s (back when we could gather in groups!), I find Someone. Liminal times and places can be helpful, and the paved trails around here are liminal in their own way (as most people are only passing through) but they certainly aren’t very “wild”.

I think part of the reason that I have so many suburban encounters is simply because I, and most of my nearby friends, live in suburbia. That is the environment I am in the most often. In the places I frequent the most, I begin to develop relationships with the land wights and the nature spirits, as a matter of course, and along with that comes the possibility — or perhaps the likelihood — that I will eventually encounter whatever Otherworldly Neighbors also frequent these places. So if I walk out my door with the intention of meeting my Good Neighbors, I usually do. They have already “seen me around”, we already have friends in common, and the foundations for mutual hospitality have already been laid.

If I am somewhere very new to me, like when I travelled to conferences and events (back when those were in person!), I will give offerings and introduce myself to the land and the nearby nature spirits first, before I attempt to introduce myself to the Otherworldly Locals, and while I usually manage to find Them and exchange hospitality, it is in the wilder places that I have gotten the most push-back. Things like token acceptance, but no chit-chat; a sense of knowing that my offering is accepted, but no visions; only the bare minimum politesse. They are more standoffish, and I have fewer common relationships to draw on, especially when the human hosts are unknown to me. If I were looking for a new ally to help me better understand our current turbulence, I wouldn’t do it there. Do you talk to people who live somewhere else about your local weather and local politics, or do you talk to your nearby neighbors? I would think for most of us, it’s the latter, especially if we’re trying to understand the patterns, and not just recounting anecdotes. Your internet friends three timezones away might find your story about April Fool’s Snow interesting, but they don’t have the same kind of local knowledge as someone who’s lived in your town their entire life. When it comes to climate change, I’m interested in the wisdom of local humans. When it comes to the Otherworldly turbulence of Tower Time, I turn to the wisdom of Good Neighbors who’ve been been Local since before I came to this town — and perhaps also since before I was born, or before my grandparents were born, though they probably wouldn’t tell me!

The rest of Beckett’s advice seems good. Learning to develop one’s subtle senses is usually helpful, though I haven’t read Mat Auryn’s book, so I can’t comment on that, specifically. Exploring via journeys is something I’d also recommend, though I would suggest newbies start with Lora O’Brien’s Otherworld Journeys classes over at the Irish Pagan School. The first class is free, and after that there’s a lot of material at the higher levels. It isn’t how I learned to journey, but it does work well as remote learning for practitioners at any level. Experienced folk should be able to easily adapt to her methodology — I did! And the method is also designed specifically for the Irish Otherworlds, and as such, is designed to minimize some of the associated danger. I will still echo Beckett’s next point, though — this isn’t Safe. Exploring the Otherworlds isn’t safe, trucking with spirits isn’t safe, working for Deities isn’t safe, witchcraft isn’t safe. But it’s necessary work.

Likewise, I agree that sharing our stories is vitally important. I’ve been doing more of that, mainly on social media (in FB groups or on others’ posts mostly, and a couple of Discord servers), and in the few groups I was a part of pre-pandemic that I’m still regularly attending Zoom sessions for (which at this point is only the Potomac Ondvegisulur Seidr Guild, as the Fellowship Beyond the Star is somewhat on hiatus currently, though I hope to get back involved with our local UU Pagan group, Fox and Fungi at UU Reston). It helps to compare notes, to figure out what seems to be a larger pattern, and what may be a personal fluke instead. I have put some of it on this blog, and should maybe do more of that in the future, but with how fast everything seems to be changing, and with how deep into UPG Woo Land a lot of my stories are, at the moment I’m more comfortable sharing only the broad strokes of those insights in public, or contributing some details when they align with someone else’s experience. What and when to share, and when to keep silent instead, is a line I’m still figuring out how to walk, and I tend to err on the side of silence. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling like I should share at least the general shape of my interactions with the Fair Folk, and this seemed like a good place to start.


Note: Another thing worth mentioning, though it would have interrupted the stream of my discussion above, is that what most white Americans think of as “wild” or “wilderness” is a colonial construct, especially when the adjectives “pristine” or “untouched” get thrown around.  A lot of these places were carefully and gently tended by indigenous peoples for generations, possibly hundreds or thousands of years, before the settlers showed up and declared them “untamed”.  For more information on this, I suggest researching the importance of fires for maintaining the Great Plains, and the nurturing of berry patches and sugar maple forests in the Eastern Woodlands and Great Lakes regions.

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: You Fight to Protect What You Value

This time, when I went to see Na Morrigna, they were gathered already around the cauldron and waiting for me. When I arrived, and handed over the bottle of wine, they poured it into the cauldron, stirred it clockwise, and then all three of them transformed into crows, and dove into the the shimmering water. I was pulled along with them, face first, and emerged through that watery portal to a vantage point on a cliff, above what appeared to be a large camp, with tents and people milling about. I was told to compose a poem describing what I saw, and to convey their message to my fellow devotees.

On a ridge above a war-camp
Stand the Morrignae and I
People stirring below

Awakening from slumber
Tending the wounded
Preparing to fight

Fairy Wars rage
Over Land, Sea, and Sky;
Humans also struggle
Against invisible enemies.

Do not give up the fight;
Your battles are not yet won.
The War lingers.

We fly as scald-crows over the camp
To the scene of yester-eve’s battle
To cleanse the dead who lie still.

Find joy in the calm moments
To fortify yourself for continued struggle.
You fight to protect what you value.
You fight to protect those you love.


I got the sense that the “invisible enemies” we are fighting against are both physical things that are too small to see (like the covid virus), but also abstract things like injustice, so you should read that with both meanings.

Also, I clearly saw the crows we became when flying over the camp, black and grey, and I also heard them say what sounded to me like “skald crow”, but I didn’t write that at first, because what does a Norse poet have to do with a hooded crow? Though apparently I’d misspelled it – “scald” crow is apparently another name for the hooded crows I saw, and that was a strange little moment for me. “Yester-eve” was almost “yesterday evening”, but I was told that was not smooth enough, and that this poem needed to be pared down to the sharpness of just the few most necessary words.

Deck Review, Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: The Vintage Wisdom Oracle

Deck: The Vintage Wisdom Oracle
Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc
Writer & Artist: Victoria Mosely
Overall Rating: 8/10

image (c) US Games Systems. Cards shown are Release and Ancestors

Cardstock: They’re maybe a little thicker than I would like, considering the size of the cards. They measure 5.5″ tall and 3.75″ wide (or 14cm x 9.5 cm). My hands can’t riffle shuffle them very easily, but I manage with a combination of shuffling methods. The deck box is a two part hard case, which holds up well.

Artwork: The artwork is mixed media, using old photographs and paintings as the base, onto which the artist has added embellishments, both physical and digital. I really enjoy the dreamlike quality of it, and some of the base images are recognizable to me. (At least one of the cards is a Waterhouse painting.) If the art doesn’t speak to you, though, that would probably knock a whole point off my review.

Book: The booklet pretty large, 75+ pages, with 5-8 paragraphs describing each card and its meaning. The cards are all in alphabetical order which is a really nice feature, and makes it easier to look up a card. It also includes five example spreads at the end, and instructions for laying the cards.

Likes: I really like the artwork. It matches the card titles pretty well, and also most of card titles are pretty straightforward: Abundance, Adventure, Ancestors, Awakening, etc. This deck lends itself well to intuitive reading.

Dislikes: I would have liked the cards a touch smaller for easier shuffling. Also, some of the cards have more Christian symbolism than I prefer, despite the deck in general being very new age neutral.

Overall Recommendation

This is my go-to deck for messages from Ancestors, partly because it’s so easy to read intuitively. But as with some of the others I’ve reviewed, one’s enjoyment of the art will make or break this deck. If you don’t like the art style, if it doesn’t speak to you, it will lose most of its magic.

Bright Moon, Kemetic, Other Updates

Kemetic Bright Moon 3/28

This month I again sought an omen for my community, from Bast and Sekhmet, Eyes of Ra, on the occasion of the full moon. Their message follows:

You are besieged by worries, fears, bewilderment and anguish – they swirl around you, like incense smoke in the breeze. Ask for our help, and we will send a strong breeze. Ask for our help and we will blow those anxieties away! Our powers are for more than just spiritual problems. As in days of old, we have sway in worldly matters, as well. We can bless your material prospects, we can protect the path you tread. We wish to uplift you, to see you burn fiercely! Our power rises with the sun, and as the earth warms, we grow in might. Draw on our strength, when yours falters. Draw on our courage when yours fails. Let our fire burn through you, and destroy that which binds you.

It’s a good reminder, I think! And a hopeful message as we move into spring (and eventually, summer!)

The next full moon is April 26th. If you have any questions, or if you would like to request a personal message or heka for April, please email the shrine here. And if you are interested in supporting the shrine, I have a tip jar set up here. Thanks!

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Reconnect

This dark moon, when I went to visit Na Morrigna at my usual place, the cottage near the river, they were outside, seated around a cauldron, with a fire built beneath it, but not lit. As I approached, they stood. One of them lit the fire as I opened the bottle of wine I had brought, and I poured it into the liquid that was already within. As the fire rose I saw things in the liquid and in smoke, and they spoke to me, and I was told to condense the experience into a poem, a rosc. Here is what I wrote:

Liquid seethes,
Emotions roil;
A too-hot fire.

A spoon stirs.
Stirred liquid settles,
Simmers softly.

The stirring is best shared
With those closest to you,
One at a time.

Two can stir a large cauldron
better than one can alone,
But a crowd will cause it to spill over.

The time of distance is not over,
But isolation should end:
Reconnect.

I believe we’re being called to re-center meaningful relationships, to reach out to those we miss, but haven’t had many quality interactions with in the past year. Called to do something more than write a few words on a social media post. A lot of us are dealing with Zoom burn out, I know – but this is a call to reprioritize, and figure out which people you can really share your struggles with, whose understanding and compassion will help you feel more at ease, and who you can help in the same ways.

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 2/27

After a few months where I was too ill to properly do the oracular ritual, I spent extra time with my Eye Goddesses this month, copying prayers I had previously written into the new book that will house all my ritual material. The omen they gave me is very positive:

This moon cycle, let us fill you with joy and nourishment, as the sun returns to awaken and nourish the plants. This is a time of renewal, a time to celebrate abundance, and to make way for new things. It has been a hard year, but do not notice only the bad. Celebrate those things which went well! Celebrate what you accomplished! And plan for even better things to come. Join us, chewing onions and cucumbers, and be awash with the light of the Sun!

The message this time is also confirmation for an upcoming event in my religious calendar: The Feast of Ra and His Eyes, IV Peret 1-5. (Various sources will give various days, but I’d drawn a few together for this one, into something cohesive, which would make sense for a temple to both Bast and Sekhmet.) My celebration is as follows:

  • IV Peret 1 (March 7): Feast of RA, and the Presentation of the Boat
  • IV Peret 2-4 (March 8-10): Sailing Procession
  • IV Peret 5 (March 11): Feast of the Eyes!
    • Chewing Onions for Bast
    • Chewing Cucumbers for Sekhmet

You’re welcome to join me in celebrating this way, or devising your own celebration, but at the very least make time to notice the return of the light! (In the Northern Hemisphere, at least – sorry to any folks from the Southern Hemisphere, but you may need to devise your own religious calendar!) I will hopefully be sharing pictures of my shrine during the celebration, on the shrine tumblr.

The next full moon is March 28th. If you have any questions, or if you would like to request a personal message or heka for March, please email the shrine here. And if you are interested in supporting the shrine, I have a tip jar set up here. Thanks!