Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sharing space with animals

They've become such good friends
We have two dogs sharing our home, as well as two guinea pigs and three gerbils. Lots of traditional and pagan belief systems talk about animals as guides and companions, and I definitely think that letting animals into your home has enormous benefits, although I don't really incorporate them into my spiritual practices in any way. Unless, of course, you count letting the dogs sniff and otherwise interfere with my tarot spreads (they are really quite interested in the cards).

Interestingly, I remember being told by a psychic at a fair once that there was a spirit dog circling my legs and keeping me safe from negative energies. The dog she described was my childhood pet, who was a mongrel so it wasn't an easy guess...

The smaller animals really belong to the kids, and they are largely responsible for their care. Looking after a dependent creature is a valuable lesson for them, and a responsibility that they have really stepped up to (well at least our older daughter has - she has had gerbils since the age of ten and has been really good at caring for them; our younger daughter - 9 at the moment - has had less opportunity for full responsibility so far). In the picture, two of the gerbils have rushed down the ladder to investigate a treat made for them by the girls.

The first dog we got, a Patterdale Terrier cross (bought as a rescue from Dogs Trust three years ago) is the family dog. She immediately enriched our lives enormously. Suddenly, getting the kids to go on a walk was not as tough as it had been :) She's also very sensitive and brilliant at comforting you by snuggling up on the sofa just when you need it. She also loves to play in water, as you may be able to see here. In the picture, she's waiting for someone to come in after her and play (it hasn't happened yet, but hope springs eternal).

The second dog, also purchased from Dogs Trust, was bought for our older daughter. He is a lurcher and we've had him almost 18 months now. He's also loving, but mostly what he brought into our lives was fun. Watching him run for the sheer joy of it is a genuine pleasure that can't fail but brighten your day. Here, he's enjoying the sun on a Cornish beach, having captured the Evil Frisbee Ring of Doom and wrestled it to the ground.

I feel that having pets - the dogs in particular - has massively improved our lives. Our fitness levels have increased, due to the need to walk daily and that regular exercise, as well as the pleasure we get from the dogs themselves has definitely been good for us emotionally and mentally.

Do you share your space with animals?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

When Life Gets in the Way

It happens to us all: we just get busy, or something specific comes along to take up all our energy. At times like these, it's easy to neglect the very things that nourish us, those things that would help us to keep going and to weather the storm.

Unfortunately, this can so easily set up a vicious circle in which we can't get everything done (or can't concentrate enough to get anything done thanks to the current crisis), and our lack of self-care makes this worse while at the same time we feel we can't afford the time for self-care - as though it's some kind of luxury that we only deserve when everything's perfect. Sound familiar? I think it's true of many of us, and can certainly recognise these tendencies in myself.

Spiritual practices such as meditation and rituals can be - should be - part of this self-care and shouldn't be neglected, no matter how desperately we feel the time should be spent on something 'important'. The truth is, if we're neglecting ourselves, everything else will not be, cannot be done satisfactorily. I'm not saying that we should all spend hours a day in meditation or visualisation - that level of practice definitely sounds like a luxury! But actually, once you've established the habit, a few minutes can lift you out of your hamster wheel enough to give you a recharge.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

My Top Three Tarot Decks and What I Use Them For

I have quite a few decks by now, but still there are a few firm favourites that I use most regularly. Some other time, I'll share some of my more unusual decks with you, but for today, I thought I'd introduce the decks I use most often. Decks do tend to have a character, so they are suited to different kinds of readings, much as different friends will give you advice with a different tone or flavour.

Deck Number 3: The Gilded Tarot

This is my favourite Rider-Waite based deck. It's beautiful and luminous with jewel-like colours. In terms of readings, this is a good one for straight talking. I always know if someone chooses this one (I usually give querents a choice of decks), then they need some straight-up advice. It's also quite easy to read, as the images are pretty clear and representative, so it's good for face-to-face readings as the querent can see I'm not just making it up or going from hunches.

Deck Number 2: The Druidcraft Tarot

This deck, fusing druidry and wicca, is gorgeous in a more gentle, less showy, way than the Gilded. I find it works well for both practical and spiritual questions. I particularly like the re-presentation of The Lady and The Lord for the Empress and Emperor, and found that the pagan sensitivities in this deck have added to my general understanding of the cards. Querents generally respond well to the gentle images on these cards, although they are huge and difficult for most people to shuffle (I turn them 90 degrees and shuffle them lengthwise).

Deck Number 1: Songs For the Journey Home

I love this unusual round deck. I find it beautiful and also incredibly gentle and supportive in its readings. It's good for any topic but works particularly well with emotional and psychological issues . This is a really special deck to me; I was fortunate enough to meet and have a reading with its illustrator. It's a non-traditional deck in many ways - the suits and court positions are renamed, as are many of the Majors, often revealing a slightly different slant on more 'standard' decks. Those who choose it often are in need of its warmth and non-judgmental approach to their concerns. I also find for personal readings it's great for pointing out the things I'm ignoring. Finally, it's a very woman-centred deck (as are many of the round decks - rejecting the black/white opposition of upright/reversed seems to be a feminist approach, interestingly).

So there you have it - the straight-talking Gilded, the pagan-themed Druidcraft and the warm and supportive Songs - my top three decks for reading.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pendulum divining

Dowsing with a pendulum is simple and quite often shockingly effective. I have several pendulums on single chains, made and bought specifically for dowsing (see the lovely amethyst and moonstone ones), but I also sometimes use the wand pendant in the picture if I'm wearing it as a necklace.

I always dowse by holding the chain between thumb and finger of my right hand (some say it should be the left as left = intuitive side), and rest my elbow on a flat surface. I begin by asking the pendulum if it can help me. There are three main ways I use a pendulum: for yes/no questions; to choose between things and with more complex pendulum dowsing diagrams.

Yes/no questions

This is clearly the easiest way to use a pendulum. Some books/people will tell you that a certain way means yes and another no, but I find it easiest to ask the pendulum  "show me yes" etc.. I first dowsed this way without reading instructions and 'my' way for yes and no isn't what the books say. I get side to side for yes, front and back for no and round for 'not telling/don't know/you shouldn't be asking that'. It is also possible to gauge the strength of the answer from the range of movement - it really does swing more strongly and definitively for some answers than for others.

Choosing between things

I've used this for things like "which tarot deck would help me most for this question" or "which aromatherapy oil do I need most right now", and I simply lay the things out and hold the pendulum in the middle. Although it seems like it would have to swing back as far as it swings out, and therefore indicate two things, this is invariably not what happens. I've seen many people amazed that it will seem to swing out a long way one side and then barely pass the middle point to go in the other direction.You can use this for choosing between two things, placed left and right to the pendulum, or you can lay several around it in a circular pattern. You can also dowse over each of several things with "should I use this?" or a similar question and go with the one with the largest positive answer. I've also done something like this for essential oils - selected three or four to make a blend, and then dowsed for how many drops of each (using a diagram as below). Inevitably, this results in a blend which also treats something I wouldn't have thought to include otherwise (e.g. a 'help me concentrate and work' blend with anti-anxiety oils in it).

Dowsing diagrams

Years ago, I bought a book called "The Pendulum Workbook" (now sadly out of print) which is full of complex diagrams to be dowsed over to select things. The basic principle revolves around circles. Imagine you wanted a complementary therapy for a condition, but you don't know which to choose. Draw a circle and around the edge list the possibilities (homeopathy, aromatherapy etc etc - depending on what's appropriate and available to you). Then you hold the pendulum over the very centre of the circle and ask it to indicate what you should choose, and it will swing out to the right choice. Again, you would expect it to not be able to avoid indicating two things which are positioned opposite one another on the circle, since you begin in the middle, but again - amazingly - this is not what happens.

Another diagram that I learnt to use with a pendulum diagnoses the flow of energy in a person's chakras. You draw a simple (stick figure if need be!) outline of a person and put a dot at each chakra position. Then hold the pendulum over each spot in turn and draw onto the diagram what the pendulum did at each point. A closed or very low energy chakra will result in no movement, one that's just opening (or closing) will give you a diagonal oval and an open chakra gives you a circle. It's worth recording which direction round the pendulum went (they should alternate between clockwise and counter-clockwise). Further questions can be asked to find out whether a certain chakra is opening or closing, why there's a problem at a certain point etc, using yes/no questions or setting up another diagram if you have several possibilities to explore.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Affirmations: the chakras and the elements

Here are two sets of affirmations that I use regularly. I wrote them quite specifically to help me, so some of the ideas may need tweaking for your circumstances.

Yoga all chakras and chakraserpentThis first one I recite while focusing on each chakra in turn:

  • I am grounded: a child of the earth.  Energy flows through me into her warm darkness.
  • I am vital: a creature of impulse.  I am free to express my sexuality without fear.
  • I am comfortable: a being of value.  My existence enriches the world.
  • I am loved: a woman of warmth.  I have the power to reach out to others.
  • I am vocal: a person of confidence.  My truth is worthwhile for the world to hear.
  • I am open: a soul of clarity.  My wisdom is welcomed by others.
  • I am connected: a spirit of light.  Energy flows through me from her bright openness.
If you're new to working with chakras, this is a good introduction.

This second one I use with my four elements prayer beads bracelet, as a kind of gratitude prayer, helping me to focus on the blessings I receive through each element:

I earn the means to live comfortably in the world.
I share my knowledge with others.
I experience a connection with the divine through all things.
I feel the love of those around and before me.

These four lines run through Earth, Air, Fire, Water. I conclude on the pentacle with a reminder that "I am blessed".

I hope these help somebody. I certainly find them useful in setting my thoughts to 'positive' :)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Reading: revisiting an abandoned project

As a writer, I have various bits and pieces of ideas and half-completed things lying around and there's this children's project which I've been poking at for a while now. I had a complete first draft, then really shifted things around (added two new main characters, changed the perspective, constructed a new setting - no small thing) but failed to finish that rewrite. So, here I am with an okay-but-not-outstanding first draft and a half-completed rewrite. Do I return to that rewrite? Start fresh using some of the same ideas? Draw a line under it altogether? This seemed a good question to ask the beautiful Druidcraft deck.

It presented me with the following three cards:
What is the best course of action to take? Six of Pentacles
What is the likely outcome of this course of action? Rebirth
What have I been overlooking? Seven of Wands

The Six of Pentacles is about generosity and giving. As a Pentacle, it's also about work and there is no hint of a new start or going back to the beginning - and of course, as a Six, it's a good distance along the path of the minors, reminding me perhaps that I have already gone quite some way with this project.

The card of Rebirth is more traditionally Judgement, but the representation here is much more clearly about entering a new phase, rather than the ending which is quite clearly connoted in the traditional, Christian-influenced presentation of the day of Judgement. Maybe completing a new version of this story would help me shift up a gear in my (fiction) writing?

My final card, the Seven of Wands, is a rather familiar card - I've been getting this one quite a bit recently. This is always a card about determination and persistence. If I'm honest (and why not be here, right?), I struggle to keep focused on the writing I want to do. I've been quite successful of late in getting writing work in terms of educational materials and teaching resources, but it's very easy to neglect the fictional stuff which I want to write but which (at the moment) no-one is paying me to do. Maybe this card is here to remind me to stand my ground and defend my fiction writing against the other pressures on my time that threaten to push it out. Otherwise, I can't keep claiming that it is what I really want, right?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A-Z Reflections post

Well, I did it: one post for each letter of the alphabet, all posted within April. Yes, there was a 'Grr' moment in the middle due to what they may call 'technical difficulties', but as far as I'm concerned, I did complete the challenge of 26 themed posts in April.

So what did I gain? I found several cool new blogs to read, and I had some nice visitors here, and I also learned that I can blog every day, but would probably not choose to do so normally :). I also discovered that my overall blog theme - my personal experiences of paganism in my daily life - works and provides me with plenty of scope for posts, so I'll definitely be continuing.

At the moment, I've said I'll post here weekly, but that may yet increase as time allows. I've really used this challenge as a way to test out blogging, having only had a couple of posts before the challenge. I wanted the challenge to kick-start my blog, making sure I'd have a good few posts up on a range of topics, and I also wanted to test the waters and see whether I had things to say. I *think* I've established that I do!

Thank you for visiting and for making the challenge fun!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Z: Zoomorphic deities

Yeah, Z is hard :) I thought I'd close out the month with some thoughts on a few Gods and Goddesses traditionally represented with animal qualities or in animal forms.

Possibly one of the first zoomorphic gods people think of is Anubis: the jackal-headed Ancient Egyptian god of the dead. Several ancient Egyptian deities have animal features, in fact, usually combined with human aspects.

Cernunnos or Herne, the Celtic or British Pagan Lord of the forest, is usually depicted as antlered, linking him specifically to native deer. Blodeuwedd, the Welsh Maiden Goddess, was transformed into an owl, according to the Mabinogion.

In the British tradition, hares are associated with the Goddess, possibly representing her or being sacred to her. This may be due to their tendency to become 'moongazy', drinking in the moonlight (also seen as feminine and therefore associated with the Goddess), which some see as a kind of worship or reverence.

And, of course, shamanistic cultures often worship animals directly, and shamanic leaders may don animal skins to help them take on attributes of an animal, thus leading some early explorers of these cultures to claim that the shamans are seen as part-human, part-animal.

Even Christian tradition represents the Holy Spirit as a dove, and associates some of the angels with animals.

Well, I've posted something for each letter of the alphabet... Thus ends my daily posting adventure! I'll be back on Saturday with my thoughts on the A-Z challenge. I'm currently planning to post weekly on Saturdays from here on.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Y: Yule

What else could Y be on a pagan blog? There are plenty of places online to learn about Yule in general terms: what it means et cetera, so I thought I'd simply explain how we celebrate Yule and Christmas in tandem.

As I've discussed elsewhere, I'm the only pagan in the house really (no-one else has a faith as such), so I don't impose too much on everyone else. Also, my extended family is really quite Christian and I have no desire to upset or offend anyone (or cause them to weep for my poor hellbound soul). One of the benefits to us in the way Christianity simply co-opted existing celebrations is that there is very little I could do to celebrate Yule that would look out of place to any of our relatives.

So, these are the dual purpose things that we do in December:

  • The tree - always a real one (love the smell)
  • Candles and fairy lights
  • Other greenery - mistletoe when we can get it, holly wreath etc
  • Spicy baking, lots of cinnamon and clove
  • Mulled wine (or, more often, red grape juice - tasty and good for the driving or teetotal visitors)
  • Thankfulness and looking backwards and forwards for New Year

Obviously, my celebrations should be earlier than everyone else's, but it's just easier if we keep to Christmas day for the feast and the gifts. It's all symbolic anyway.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

X: the Unknown

That's what all religion, all faith, all spirituality is about isn't it? That which we do not, cannot, know.

For myself, being pretty pragmatic and down to earth, I think (as I may have indicated in my "Universe" post) that our depictions of deity or the divine are imperfect and human-centric because that's where we are. We cannot understand completely, we do not know what lies 'beyond', so we imagine and we invent and we seek. I know that some believe they know what God is or is not, that they have been spoken to specifically and given messages, but ultimately I think that, just as we are flawed, our understanding and communication of these messages is flawed and becomes coloured by our experiences.

But isn't it great that still we seek, still we search and still we yearn for the truth that we are sure is 'out there', somewhere?

W: World Tree Spread using Wildwood Tarot

I'd like to occasionally feature actual readings on this blog, so I thought I'd try out this spread from the Wildwood Tarot book, as I haven't used it before and it looks like an interesting one. My work life is somewhat complex at the moment, so I've focused on that for this spread which the book describes as idea for situations that require a broad and comprehensive overview.

Position 1: Roots - The Knight of Bows, Fox (Knight of Wands)
Position 2: Branches - 7 of Vessels, Mourning (7 of Cups)
Position 3: East - The Knight of Arrows, Hawk (Knight of Swords)
Position 4: West - 11 The Woodward (Strength)
Position 5: South - 7 The Archer (The Chariot)
Position 6: North - The Queen of Bows, Hare (Queen of Wands)
Position 7: The Way Through the Woods - 2 of Vessels, Attraction (2 of Cups)
Position 8: The Wisdom of the World Tree - drawn only after reading the other cards

The first thing I notice about this spread is the patterns within it: 2 Bows court cards, 2 Vessels minor cards, 2 Knights, 2 majors, no Stones (Pentacles). In a spread about work matters, you could reasonably expect to see earth element cards like Stones or Pentacles. I think the fact that there aren't any here tells me that although I'm asking about work, this is not a mundane work-related question, but it's about what work represents for me in terms of my very essence and identity (the Bows), how I feel about work (the Vessels) and my stage in terms of life's journey (the majors and the Knights both suggest - in broad terms - being on the brink of something, being young in experience).

Taking the cards one by one more systematically now, I see that the Roots position answers "What is the root of the issue" and the Fox is, unsurprisingly, about cunning and being a good hunter. The book says "Determination leads you to success but sometimes at personal cost. Your life may change or enter a different path at any moment." I feel that this is about the struggles I'm having with finding the time and energy to solicit new work. I embarked on a freelance career almost a year ago, and have not branched out enugh in terms of finding new sources of work. This, I think, is the Fox's message to me: hunt more widely; work does not just come to you.

The Branches position has the question "What are the possibilities of the issue?" and I am somewhat dismayed to see the 7 of Vessels here, with its keyword of "Mourning". But then, reading the book's description of the card, it is not about loss (as I feared), but about mourning in the proper, most appropriate way. In some ways, I am damaged by my working past (the last situation which I left was not a positive experience), so perhaps the message here is that my new (and yes, although it's been almost a year, it is still very much new!) situation will be healing for me, and help me to mourn what I feel I lost.

The East position's question is "What do you take with you?" and the Hawk's answer is clearly about quick thinking and good ideas, which was certainly a reason for going freelance where I could work with my own ideas instead of toeing the line of others' ideas that I increasingly frequently didn't agree with. The book emphasises swiftness and subtlety and, as an Arrows (Swords) cards, this is related to the intellect, so I am happy to see that I can continue to create opportunities for myself that offer mental stimulation and challenge.

The West's position asks "What do you leave behind you?" and although on the surface, leaving The Woodward (traditionally Strength) behind may seem like a bad thing, I'm seeing this as leaving behind the need for so much strength, patience and dogged perseverance. In other words, this is a reassurance to me that I have taken the right step in leaving steady and secure employment that was literally driving me crazy.

The question in the South is "What do you hope for", and The Archer (or Chariot) in this position is perfect. The Archer rules her own destiny. Accompanied by her hunting dogs, she makes her own way in the world and is reliant on no-one else for her food or her wellbeing. Quite. The imagery of the bow (allied with wands  - fire - in this deck) and arrow (associated here with swords - air) perfectly sums up the nature of my work, which requires creativity and intellect above all else.

The North addresses the issue of "What you fear", and the Hare seems a little odd here, as the Queen of Wands often represents business success and strong interpersonal links. Am I afraid of success? Ouch. I have been fighting many low-level health issues lately that have reduced my energies and made it very difficult to get on with what I need to, and I have felt at times like I'm almost sabotaging myself by being unable to work as much as I should. Hmmm. I am aware that procrastination can be about fear of really trying in case it's not good enough. Maybe there is an element of that in there. The cards are pretty good at drawing out what you don't always want to acknowledge...

The Way Through the Woods, answering "What enables you to engage with the issue?" also seems strange to be the 2 of Vessels (or Cups), so often a card of new love. Two things sprung quickly to mind: I need to love what I'm doing (so that is perhaps a way to help me carve out projects that I'll want to work on), and my husband can help me. I'm certainly already aware of how much his belief in me and support of me enables me to do mad things like leap into freelancing, even though that has meant risking our family's financial security (I'm the main earner here). Looking at the book meanings for this card, this deck seems to emphasise that spark of attraction as being instinctive, intuitive and natural, so maybe this is a message to use my intuition more in figuring out my workload and finding work.

And finally, The Wisdom of the World Tree - the hidden wisdom of the issue - is revealed to be the Ten of Stones, Home (10 of Pentacles). So much for no stones/earth/pentacles - and what a lovely conclusion to have to this reading! If I had any remaining doubts about the sanity of my choices (and I do; I'm not always sure how we'll meet the bills each month, but so far we always have...), this is the card to allay them. Tens always represent a kind of conclusion to the suit's journey, so the 10 of Stones is about a place of security, safety and love - whether that's a literal place or a figurative, mental place. The card reminds me that security is what most concerns me, but it also reassures me with its lovely calming depiction of home. And home for me has only positive connotations, I am fortunate enough to be able to say. We may not have all the latest material crap, but we are rich in terms of our relationships.

The Wildwood tarot is gorgeous, by the way, and highly recommended, especially if you are a pagan. It uses animals and birds for court cards (as you've seen!) and woodland archetypes for the Majors, and is beautifully painted by Will Worthington.

Note for the curious: until the end of August 2012, I worked full time as a middle manager in a college for 16-19 yr olds. When a restructure due to funding cuts arrived, I opted for redundancy to build on my writing career, having published a textbook and several teachers' resources, and contributions to various teaching websites. I now teach part time on a supply basis and am working on various educational writing projects, as well as some writing projects which are more about personal satisfaction but may one day lead to more pubishing (such as this blog: I'd love to write on tarot and spirituality; I also have various children's stories languishing on my hard drive which I hope could one day become books). My struggle is balancing the work that I know will pay (teaching, writing teaching resources) with the work I want to break into but doesn't yet have as clear a market. I do enjoy the educational writing, and the teaching, but don't want that to be all of me, if that makes any sense at all.

I'd welcome any further insights or comments on my reading :)

V: Visualisation

I've written here before about my difficulties with visualisation, but that hasn't stopped me making good use of it in my family life. Personally, I've had difficulties with stress and depression since I was a teenager, so I think that teaching my children to handle stress is one of the most important things I've done. One of the ways I've done that is by teaching them visualisation techniques for relaxation.

Since our daughters were quite young (maybe 2 or 3 - I'm not really sure now), I helped them to get to sleep by putting them (each) in a bubble. This involved talking through a basic relaxation visualisation, where their auras were flooded with colour, while running my hands over the aura (like sealing the bubble). Initially, I'd suggest what colour they should see themselves bathed in, but eventually they could choose based on their mood (with minimal direction from me, such as steering her away from black or red - not great bedtime colours).

As well as the bubble, when they were a little older I also taught them some other visualisations or meditations to help them drift off. We also gave them a CD of children's guided meditations (from Toni Carmine Salerno), which they really enjoy. I've found that from doing these simple sleep exercises, they've become quite proficient at using their breath to calm themselves down. My hope is that this will prove to have set them up well in life

Saturday, 27 April 2013

U: Universe

The Universe seems to have become a contemporary, New Age version of or replacement for God. Have you noticed this? People talk of 'asking the Universe' for help, inspiration or even material goods, in the same way they would once have prayed for them.

I wonder if this is related to a modern tendency to see religious faith as outdated? (Note: I'm only able to speak of the UK's attitude to religion here; I'm aware that this is not the same around the world). It's interesting that if you think of the word "credulous", the word "fool" fairly naturally follows it - maybe this newly negative association for a word that once simply described a person who believed something implies a new impatience with faith.

So perhaps in an age when people seem to equate religion with backwardness, reference to the Universe as an all-powerful force feels more modern. Personally, I feel it's all just labels, and we all use whatever makes sense to us. One God, many Gods, something that isn't anthropomorphic like 'The Universe' or 'The Divine': I think it's all essentially the same and we just perceive it in our own individual (and imperfect, being human) way.

Grrr: an A-Z Hiatus

I have been unexpectedly offline for the past five days, so have not been able to post my A-Z blogs - a clear sign I should have had the lot ready and scheduled :(

Anyway, I have some posts ready to send, but don't want to put them all up at once, so I'll spread them out over the next couple of days til I get caught up. Please don't kick me out of the A-Z blogger club :)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

T: Tarot - some beginners' resources

I've seen a few comments on my tarot-themed posts from people who have cards but don't really use them or aren't sure how to start, so I thought I'd share a few ideas for learning to work with them.

Joan Bunnings, Learning the Tarot

This is acknowledged as one of the best tarot learning methods, adopted as course book by the Tarot Association of the British Isles. The book focuses on keywords for each card, showing you how to combine these with positional meanings (within a spread, each location will have a particular meaning or theme) and with other cards to produce an overall story. In an incredible display of generosity, Bunnings has made her book freely available online. Please don't make the mistake of thinking this means it's worthless: it's actually invaluable.

Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI)

Assuming you are in the UK, TABI are fantastic, with a lively forum, an excellent beginners' course and mentoring for more developed readers. You can also join their team of readers providing free readings via the website, which is a brilliant way to hone your skills. (If you're in the USA, the ATA - American Tarot Association - seems to be an equivalent, although of course I have no personal experience of them).

Teresa Michelsen, The Complete Tarot Reader: Everything You Need to Know from Start to Finish

This book is as comprehensive as the subtitle sounds. It's also very detailed, going way beyond the basics without requiring any prior knowledge.

I'll feature more in-depth reviews of decks and books as the blog develops, so there will also be something here for the more experienced reader. If that's you, I'd also recommend checking out my blogroll, as there are several good tarot blogs there. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

S: Symbols

The language of symbols is important to me in lots of ways. Obviously, as a Tarot reader, I need to understand and interpret the cards using a range of symbols, and also spells and visualisations often work by symbol, making use of the associations we have with things. In my more mundane life, though, I am an English teacher and work a lot with both language - which is a system of symbols - and literature, which relies heavily on our symbolic literacy.

Now, as an adult, I find it amusing to look back and think how much I always loved moons, hares and green men. Now, as a pagan, I see my attraction to these images as evidence that I was always drawn to the pagan path. Both the moon and the hare are goddess symbols, while the green man is associated with Cernunnos, Herne, Pan, Robin Hood and/or Robin Goodfellow: all lords of the forest.

How much richer our lives can be when we allow ourselves to connect with the language of symbols! Symbolic communication can be deeper than communication using words, since it can connect directly to the subconscious without requiring the medium of language which is, essentially, an abstraction.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

R: Rhythm

The pagan year has a clear rhythm, with a solar festival roughly every six weeks, and of course the thirteen moon cycles of the year.

Although I recognise that these are not truly ancient festivals (the Wheel of the Year as we now know it was conceptualised in the 1950s when Wicca was constructed), this is not a particular concern for me. My paganism is not about trying to recreate ancient practice exactly as it was centuries (or millenia) ago; it's about celebrating and connecting to the universe in a way that makes sense to me.

I appreciate the festivals, both solar and lunar, because they remind us of the natural cycles around us, which it's all too easy to be disconnected from these days, living as distantly from nature as we do. This, for me, is a key reason that paganism enriches my life. It enables me to feel connected and part of the universe, in a way that I never had previously. It's particularly interesting to me as a woman to see how my own natural hormonal cycles relate to those in nature, and I don't think that this is something I would have been aware of otherwise.

How rhythmic is your life?

Friday, 19 April 2013

Q: Quiet

Peace is a rare commodity in our modern lives, and of course this makes it all the more valuable. Time for quiet thought and meditation, whether it's with a spiritual focus or not, is precious and highly beneficial.

We all know this, but finding that time for oneself can sometimes feel selfish. It's easy to feel that we're 'stealing' time from others or from our responsibilities, when of course the truth is that a few minutes in quiet contemplation can make us more effective and efficient in our many roles.

For me, the best time to grab those few minutes to myself is in the early morning. I'm used now to getting up before everyone else, before I really 'need' to for work, to give myself that bit of space that will start my day off right. The odd times I don't manage it, or I foolishly fill that time with other things, I really notice the difference to my mood and my attitude, and I'm far less able to cope with things. I'm an anxious type, and have had difficulties dealing with stress in my everyday life, so I know that it's important to do this for me, to give me every chance to function the best that I can. At the same time, those very tendencies - and my busy work life (teaching, writing textbooks and teacher resources and trying to write children's fiction too) - can mean I squeeze out my quiet time to get more words done, more marking done etc and start the day frazzled.

The importance of those few quiet minutes - and really, just a few minutes can do the job - cannot be overstated.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

P: Prayer Beads

A while ago, I discovered a wonderful book called Pagan Prayer Beads by John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn, which explains how to make your own prayer beads, as well as giving lots of ideas about how to use them. Basically, they're a meditation/visualisation/spell aid, which you use to help you focus. You have a mantra or chant to say with each bead, and you just follow the chain around. You can have your beads in blocked sets - for example, I have a lovely druidic set that I bought at an event, which has nine beads each in green, yellow and blue for the land, sky and sea - or you can use a repeating pattern. This prayer bead bracelet that I made has beads for the elements: tiger's eye chips for the earth, citrine for the air, polished red wood for fire and lapis lazuli for water.

I have used the one I made with various different sets of words, and sometimes when I'm preparing a spell or ritual, I'll use it to help me focus on how to work with each element. I also love that it's a bracelet, so I can wear it and remind myself of the blessings of each element discreetly.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

O: Outdoors

One of my favourite views: the dogs bombing off into the distance
What pagan doesn't love the outdoors? Can you really claim to follow an earth-centred religion without spending time out in nature?

I'm especially fond of woodland and forest, although open moorland is lovely too :). Having dogs and a relatively active lifestyle is also great for the kids - and us - of course. We are fortunate enough to live on the outskirts of a city with many brilliant country parks, and lots of wonderful countryside within easy reach for an afternoon's walk.

I also love the sea. I spent part of my childhood on the East Anglian coast, and now live in the Midlands, which means I appreciate the sea all the more when I get there these days. There truly is something special about sea air, although I must admit to not being very fond of the beach. Rock-pooly coastline is even more special (not least because there isn't any where I grew up).

What about you? What makes the best setting for a walk near you?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

N: Negative cards, negative readings

Traditional Death cards are NOT cuddly!
As a tarot reader, you never want to give people negative readings and there are, of course, some cards which seem to have a life of their own in the popular imagination: Death being particularly notorious. And however much, you have a nice little spiel ready about 'change' and physical death being unlikely and often it being a necessary and ultimately positive change, people still tend to blanch when they see that card.

This is one of the reasons that most of us don't do those 'does he love me?/ will I get married?' questions. With a yes/no question, there's usually a preferred response - and one that the querent [person having the reading] doesn't want to hear. Asking 'what can I do to bring about...?' or 'why hasn't x happened?' gives the  querent possibilities and doesn't render them mere victims of fate, waiting around passively for something to happen to them. It also makes a purely negative response far less likely.

Monday, 15 April 2013

M: Moonstone

Moonstone is one of my favourite crystals. Interestingly, I've always been drawn to images of the moon (yes, I had that crescent moon and stars stuff all over my room as a teen), and I've always appreciated moonstone jewellery.

Due to associations between womanhood and the moon, moonstone has always been seen as a good stone for women, particularly for hormonal imbalances or fertility issues.

I've always found moonstone attractive - in all its forms: rainbow with the spectacular blue sheen or the versions in creamy and milky whites with browns. I usually have a piece on the altar and I often reach for it when I have anxiety or depression recurrences.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

L: Love Spells and Misconceptions

I thought I'd take the chance at this point to begin to dispel some of the fears and misconceptions that people have about paganism, many of which can be rather neatly exemplified by the concept of the 'Love Spell'.

A Love Spell is something that sounds nice, love after all being a positive force, yet a love spell - in the popular imagination - is a thing of evil. Robbing someone of a basic human right - free will - and seeking control over that person's emotions, creating love magically would have to be a bad thing. I find it impossible to believe that a real pagan would never cast such a spell.

Spellwork is usually about attracting or repelling something, and is most often about self-development in practice. Most pagans who do cast spells (not all do, of course) would probably not hesitate to cast a spell to help them find the love they're meant to have, to put themselves in the position to meet the right person. But love spells as in the movies (make X love me) - that's a big fat no-no.

In any spellwork, you have to think about possible consequences, and try to reduce these as far as possible. Some Wiccans in particular will include a line in their spells about working only for the good of all involved, or 'harming none', effectively asking the Universe to make sure that their request wouldn't be bad for anyone else before granting it.

Personally, I find that spells are a kind of meditation focus. I find it a useful exercise in making certain that I've clearly identified what it is I want (e.g. not simply 'a job' but I would be fairly precise about location, type of work, salary, hours etc - and make sure I add in something about harming none, so I don't have to worry about being responsible for someone else losing their job). I like to include the appropriate coloured candle, relevant incense or essential oil etc and to have something to do (e.g. create something to go on the altar to remind me of the spell), as well as a clear statement of intent which can then be used as a mantra for the following few days. I find that organising all that helps me to focus and be clear about what I want. It's definitely true that no-effort spells are more likely to be no-result spells. It's really not as simple as waving a wand!

Friday, 12 April 2013

K: Kings and Queens, Knights and Pages: The Tarot Court

The Tarot court cards are often those that we find hardest to interpret. A 'traditional divinatory' approach would often limit them to signifying people with specific physical appearances, based on the suit. Since modern Tarot is much more focused on self-development than prediction, "you will meet a dark-haired, dark-eyed man" is rather less than helpful.

There are now various established systems for reading court cards, and most readers will use a combination, selecting the most appropriate interpretation for each reading specifically. Many of these use some kind of system of meaning for the court position (i.e. there is a meaning for the 'kingness' of a card), which you combine with the suit drawn. This can be based on qualities associated with the character of a King (e.g. mature masculinity), Queen (mature femininity), Knight (relative immaturity - a teenage or adolescent kind of energy) or a Page (childhood innocence). Some readers will also assign an element to each of the four courts, and read each drawn court card as an interaction between the court position's energy and the energy of the suit (e.g. the King of Pentacles could be seen as Air of Earth).

I find that the system I use depends more on the deck than on anything else. Some decks change the court labels for different people (e.g. Knights and Pages become Princes and Princesses in the Thoth deck) or rename them entirely - the Songs for the Journey Home deck has (element name) Resolving, Creating, Awakening and Innocence for the four stages. Some of the more RWS (Rider-Waite-Smith) style decks will depict quite traditional characters on the court cards and will more often lend themselves to interpretation as a person.

If you read tarot and would like some help with courts, I'd recommend you follow Alison Cross's This Game of Thrones blog, which focuses specifically on the courts. A good book on the topic is Little and Greer's Understanding the Tarot Court, which goes into a lot of detail on various ways on approaching it.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

J: Journeying

Now this is something I have not done enough of. I fall too easily into the trap of being too busy and don't often enough give myself the time for mediation and visualisation. Plus, of course, I find it difficult, and it's always easier to put off something that doesn't come easily, right?
Siberian shaman, drawn by Dutch explorer Witsen in the 17th century
Journeying (sometimes described as 'shamanic journeying'), in its simplest form, is a kind of visualisation where you take a journey. This can be guided, or free form, but usually there is some kind of musical accompaniment, often drumming. It can be specifically linked to kinds of wisdom - for example, you can journey into a Tarot card, or to get to know Gods from a particular pantheon - or you can let your Higher Self, Inner Self or subconscious (or whatever you choose to name it) lead you where you need to go. On such freestyle journeys, it can help to have a natural location in mind to visualise as your starting point. I usually use a forest, since that feels comfortable to me. What makes it a journey, rather than just a meditation, is the idea of movement, however pre-planned or left to chance that may be.

My problem is a visual one. I really struggle to visualise and to actually see anything. I can talk myself through any kind of meditation or visualisation, and I can imagine things, but in the literal sense of visualisation, which clearly links to sight, I fail. I wonder if it's because I am not, as the kids at school would say, a 'visual learner'. It's funny, because I can respond to visual stimuli - reading the Tarot would be a bit difficult otherwise! - but even when reading I don't 'see' things. I know or sense things, having learnt to trust my intuition, but there's no sense of getting visions or any degree of clairvoyance.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I: Incense

Image from Circle of Healing Center
Incense is an important component in formal rituals (like in Wicca or Druidry), used to represent the element of air. It's also useful in meditation, visualisation or spellworking (which, for me, is effectively a kind of visualisation with focus objects).

Incense is said to have been used in religious ceremonies for centuries as a means to carry offerings to the Gods. Traditional ground incense, made from valuable spices, fruits and resins, is smouldered over charcoal to allow its scent to be carried via smoke.

The reason it is useful in religious practices including ritual, visualisation and meditation is that it often includes ingredients such as Frankincense, which has the physical property of regulating breathing. This obviously has a calming effect and aids participants to focus.

Many new age and magickal supply shops sell a huge range of granular incenses these days, as well as the charcoal tablets and bronze censers, which can be found in pagan-friendly designs. Themed incenses for particular intents, or to work with specific deities are readily available, or you can make your own (although this is something I've never tried personally). I must admit to being a bit of a sucker for incense blends. I have them for the four elements, various intentions (divination, healing etc) and some specific energies and themes (e.g. a Green Man one and an Egyptian one).

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

H: Holy Days and Holidays

The Wheel of the Year
So, how do we celebrate holidays as a family? It's nothing like as straightforward a question as it should be, for several reasons, including:

  • My immediate family includes practising Christians who aren't aware of my paganism
  • Christianity was forced on me as a child and I don't want to do the same to my children
  • The culture I live in (the UK) is very much organised around Christian festivals

So, we celebrate Christmas with gifts and a tree, Easter with eggs (or other gifts) and I mark the Wheel of the Year festivals by myself. I keep an altar in the living room on the hearth, and do change it according to the season and any particular intent I'm working with. My family know about the festivals and sometimes have wanted to celebrate with me, but it's not an expectation. There are aspects of my practice that impact our family life (mostly natural living things rather than specific spiritual practices), but I generally keep the seasons in a solitary manner.

Image credit: By Midnightblueowl [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 8 April 2013

G: Green Man Tree Oracle by John Matthews and Will Worthington

This is a truly beautiful deck, offering 25 gorgeous cards and high quality accompanying book. The cards use the trees of the Celtic Tree Alphabet, and the deck is a great way to get to know this system - although I'm sure it would also appeal to those who are already familiar with it.

The book offers considerable background information on divination using trees, and on the concept of the Green Man before getting into each card separately. For every tree in the lavishly-illustrated deck, we get a single sentence summary of "Green Man Wisdom", as well as a detailed divinatory meaning and plenty of information about lore relating to that particular tree.

I drew a single card from this lovely deck to share with you, looking for a general message for today. I received

Scots Pine, for which the wisdom is "seek an overview".

Good advice indeed, since I've been very 'stuck in the details' lately. The divinatory meaning section talks about wise men shinning up trees and poles to gain a literal overview of their domain. I can't quite manage that, but I can remind myself to take a step back and examine the larger view. It's so easy to get bogged down in doing what you're doing without really thinking about why, isn't it? And that's how we end up sidetracked.

I've been kind of peripherally aware for a while that I'm not spending my time in the best ways to achieve my bigger goals because I'm, for example, picking up more teaching than I really want, which is depriving me of energy to do the writing that I want to. I seem to be eternally saying "I'll just get past xyz", and then I'll be able to do more 'me' writing. Well, it's not working. I need to commit to more regular fiction writing time, even if it's only small chunks.

Thank you, Scots Pine!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

F: Fatalism and Fortune-telling

Will my boyfriend ask me to marry him?

Am I ever going to be rich and successful?

How many children will I have?

What do these questions have in common?

Right - they're all things you shouldn't be asking a tarot reader. Long gone are the days of the reader acting as some kind of conduit to knowledge about everything that's going to happen. Long gone, in fact, are the days of thinking everything that's going to happen is already determined, with us being helpless puppets of fortune. Or at least, in tarot circles, these days are long gone. Out there, in the world of mind body spirit fairs and psychic evenings in the local pub, unfortunately there are still plenty of people who think it's worth paying for a reading to get a map of their future, to know what's going to happen to them, unequivocally.

Modern tarot is not like that. I haven't ever (except for on TV) seen a reader proclaim definitively "you will meet a man... he brings trouble". What we can offer is advice and often ideas on angles you haven't thought of. The best questions are phrased with "how can I" rather than "will I". For myself, I often read using a simple three-card format. A spread I use fairly regularly labels the three cards: what you should do; what you shouldn't do; what you're not seeing - and that last card is often the most valuable. Tarot is brilliant at revealing what I'm not thinking of, the unconsidered consequences of my grandest plans, or the unconscious motivation behind said plans.

Friday, 5 April 2013

E: Environment

Environmentalism is, I believe, important to those on a pagan path. If we venerate the earth and celebrate the turn of the seasons, surely doing all we can to protect the earth's resources becomes a sacred duty?

That said, I know I don't live in the greenest way possible. After all, here I am in my heated home, typing on a laptop under an electric light. Maybe if I were truly committed, I'd be generating my own electricity, or living in a hut in the woods. And yet, I am part of society, trying to minimise my family's impact on the environment while not entirely denying ourselves the benefits of these modern times.

I support Friends of the Earth and my local Wildlife Trust and get involved in campaigns (like the #beecause) where I can contribute, perhaps by writing to my MP, demonstrating my concern. We recycle (does anyone really not, these days?), we try to avoid the culture of disposable consumerism, we don't waste food or buy lots of prepackaged and highly processed foods, our home is insulated and we use low energy light bulbs et cetera et cetera. And we regularly make good use of the countryside around us - our two dogs might have some complaints if we didn't!

Ultimately, it's a tricky one. Being 'green' takes effort (like anything worthwhile, you might say), but how much is enough?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

D: Damh the Bard

D is for the fabulous pagan music of Damh the Bard. If you haven't discovered it yet, and you like the folk tradition and the bardic path, I would strongly recommend you go and rectify this immediately! He usually has a sample or two on his website to check out.

I've been a folk fan for quite a few years, and Damh has some great versions of trad songs, but it's his own pagan songs that I really love. Who could resist lyrics like these?:
Sunset, Moonrise,
See how the land is bathed,
In silver hue.
You feel so lonely,
Come with me and let me show,
There are others just like you.
Who feel the powers of Earth, Sea and Sky,
Of Dragon and Faerie and Shades of the night,
Hear the call of our ancestors of blood and bone,
Of womb and tomb, and standing stone..
Aren't they brilliant? These are the opening lines to The Cauldron Born, a stirring call to recognise your clan. His site also features his thoughtful blog and other projects, like the Spirit of Albion film, which dramatises a meeting between modern seekers and some of the Old Gods.

Oh, and there's another great D here too: the Druidcast podcast which Damh records monthly for OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids). It's around an hour and features pagan music, interviews with prominent pagans and discussions of all sorts of interesting topics.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

C: Chamomile - my favourite herb

Chamomile (Roman) is easily my favourite healing herb. Not only is it a soothing brew as a tea, but it is put to several other regular uses in my household.

I use the essential oil in a blend for tension headaches, and also neat and diluted in warm water for foot blisters and general soreness. We also use the tea (cooled of course) on cotton wool for eye problems such as styes and conjuncitivitis. (Note: do not put essential oils anywhere near your eyes.)

Did you know that the essential oil has antibacterial properties? (a lot of EOs do). It really is my go-to oil for lots of things, in the way that I know lavender is for many people. I personally intensely dislike lavender, and despite it being recommended to treat hayfever, I find it gives me a rash and makes me sneeze! As well as chamomile, I find that citrus oils end up in quite a few of my blends as I really like them. I'm not really a 'floral' person, but chamomile has quite an appley scent with a woody sort of undertone that appeals to me.

For me, using natural home remedies where possible is an important part of being pagan. It reminds me of the bounty that surrounds us, and helps us to avoid unnecessary chemicals and synthetic remedies.

Please note that I am not inherently opposed to modern medicine but I will use complementary treatments for simple everyday things and to (as the name suggests) complement allopathic treatments for more complex issues (such as my ongoing difficulties with anxiety and depression, which I do try to deal with without getting to the point where I need the GP's help, but I'll take the pills when I really need to).

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

B: Batons, Wands or Flame Songs

Batons for the Tarot de Marseille; Wands for Rider-Waite-Smith- inspired decks; Flame Songs for the wonderful Songs for the Journey Home.

Tarot is a system, but it's not as firm and fixed as some would have you believe. The cards have well-established meanings and possible interpretations, but different decks offer different shades within the pallette of possibilities. Thanks to this range, readings with different decks can take on different tones, and I have found some decks better suited to some kinds of reading than others.

In the example of the suit names that title this post, all relate to the fire element, with both batons and wands reminding us of something wooden, crafted by human hand from a living tree. Flame Songs is more direct, going straight to the element itself, but the cards within these suits all unite in themes of creativity, busy-ness (and business) and of projects requiring complex skills. For me, fire is the element most involved in spiritual belief - more instinctive than intellectual, more gut-reaction than emotion - and this idea can be seen woven through various cards from these suits also.

The flexibility and range within the broad structure of tarot is one of the things I love about it. Sometimes I'll read with two decks, comparing the angles I get by shuffling and drawing with one and then seeking out the same cards in the other. My knowledge of tarot has also enabled me to use themed decks to learn more about other subjects including Greek myth (The Mythic Tarot), the Celtic tradition (The Celtic Wisdom Tarot) and the sacred landscape of Britain (The Sacred Circle Tarot).

Basically, once again, I arrive at the conclusion that I enjoy making connections between things. Another reminder of the web that binds all things.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A: The Ages of Woman

A is for the Ages of Women (and also for Archetype).

Maid, Mother, Crone. The Triple Goddess. Phases of the Moon, Ages of Woman: a key aspect of paganism is the tripartite female deity.

One of the things I love about paganism is the freedom to make connections. Different mythologies, different pantheons often reflect and relate to one another.

  • Maiden goddesses, associated with the Spring, often with virginity and sometimes with hunting, can be found the world over. We may seek out Brigit, Diana or Blodeuwedd.
  • The Mother archetype, related to the Summer, fertility and creation are equally widespread, from Isis to Demeter to Juno.
  • Crone deities, linked with Winter, death and often war can also be found worldwide. Hecate, Persephone and Kali are examples.

These links between different systems speak to me of the amazing similarities between different peoples. Separated in terms of language, culture and geography, people have still represented the feminine divine in the same way. In some ways, a feminist approach to this representation might be to bristle at the seeming biological reductionism: women are their reproductive cycles. And yet, that isn't what we see at all, if we look closely at the range of femininity represented by goddesses the world over. Yes, we see doting mothers like Isis and grieving mothers like Demeter, but at the same time women opting for singlehood - huntress deities like Artemis and Diana can be seen to be choosing a life that isn't constrained by their ability to bear children.

Finally, A is also for Arlee Bird, creator of the A-Z challenge. It's thanks to him that I'll be blogging for A-Z this month. If you want to see more A-Z blogs, pop along to the A-Z focus blog.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

A to Z in April

You may have spotted the rather fine badge in the right-hand column for the A-Z blogging challenge. I've seen this done on other blogs, and it looks like a great way to commit to blogging, to generate some content and to connect with other bloggers.

The basic idea is quite simple: we blog six days a week in April, and work our way through the alphabet taking a letter a day. The organisers of the challenge also encourage us to select a theme for the challenge and mine will simply be the normal theme of this blog: my practices and beliefs associated with paganism. I gather that it works best if you can get at least some way ahead with scheduled posts before the challenge starts, so that it's easier to spend time visiting and commenting on other blogs.

I'm looking forward to getting to know some other bloggers and reading a wide range of posts over the next month.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Tarot and Me

My first real exposure to paganism came through the tarot. A friend of mine had a deck and, as these things go, having had a few readings, I became interested in reading for myself. I prided myself on my pragmatism and good sense even then, and didn't really get some of the superstitions around things like buying a deck ('they' are said to say you shouldn't buy your own) and how you store it (again, the ubiquitous 'they' will only consider black silk). So, naturally, I purchased a deck for myself.

Since this was back in the early 1990s and I didn't have a computer (I *know*!), I visited a few New Age type shops and chose from what was physically there. The Tarot of the Old Path was what I found waiting for me. I fell for its beautiful representation of the High Priestess: mysterious, strongly associated with the animals and - get this - silver accented.

I would go on to love its gorgeous imagery of the Empress, with her full round belly and suckling infant, and its phenomenal presentation of Death, renamed 'The Close' and featuring another happy infant as well as the traditional reaper figure and natural symbols of death and rebirth such as the snake, butterfly and owl.

Several of the things I particularly appreciated about the Old Path deck (including its gentle sense of death as part of nature) I was to find out came from its specifically wiccan belief base. Those cards lead me into discovering much more about this take on the world, although I was never meant to be wiccan as such.

I have many decks now, and also the odd oracle pack - although I always feel more confident reading with a tarot pack. I will always love the tarot for what it has taught me about our journey through life in the broadest sense, as well as the specific wisdom I've gleaned from it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What do you mean, a pragmatic pagan?

Welcome to my new blog, on this equinox, one of the traditional markers of the coming of Spring.

I thought it might be a good idea to start this blog off with a bit of background info: a kind of mission statement, if you will.

I've called this place "A Pragmatic Pagan" because I think that sums up my practical and eclectic approach to my pagan practice. At the same time, I hope it doesn't smack of too much 'what's-in-it-for-me-ism'. I'm not a proponent of all take and no give, but I also feel that paganism compares favourably with, say Christianity (I was raised in a very Protestant home) in terms of not insisting that greater misery = greater faith.

My pagan journey is, I believe, something I've been on all my life. I just didn't always know it. I define myself as pagan rather than a more specific path, because I am eclectic in my practice. There have been times that I've felt the label of 'witch' applies, and at other times, I've felt drawn to Druidry or to paths which try to follow ancient Anglo-Saxon belief.

Divination is central to my practice, mostly because it was the first thing I regularly did that was concretely part of this path. I've been working with the Tarot since the first half of the 1990s, and the cards remain my staple divinatory technique. I'll be using this space to experiment with different spreads and reviewing different decks and approaches to divination.

I also feel that my commitment to complementary health and folk medicine, along with a cynical approach to modern medicine, is an essential part of my pagan identity and belief. Natural substances, such as essential oils, herbs and crystals are available to us and are often at least as effective as more 'scientific' approaches. I'll also be sharing some home remedy tips from time to time.

Finally, spellwork, ritual and meditation are of course part of my practice, although for me these are more private aspects of my paganism. I have sometimes shared rituals with the family (I am married with two daughters currently aged 14 and 9), and I do have an altar in the living room, but most of this work is quiet and internal. Again, I may share some ideas and practices here from time to time.

So, this is me - or at least, my practice. I'm planning to post here weekly, on Saturdays, but to really get this blog established, I'll be doing the A-Z Challenge, with a pagan theme. My A-Z will feature aspects of my pragmatic practice, embedding my beliefs into my busy daily life, as this will be my blog's general theme.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Countdown: Two Weeks to Go!

This blog will launch at the Spring Equinox: 20th March 2013.

I'm going to be using this space to explore my beliefs - writing to work through my thoughts - and also to share tips. I'll also be sharing some experiments in divination, trying out different tarot and oracle decks and spreads and maybe some other tools too.

Hopefully, I'll be able to connect with other bloggers on pagan, tarot and related topics as well.

Watch this space!