In the beginning

When did you start working with divination?

This has been a question which I have usually answered by talking about my experiences in church. As a teen in a charismatic church it was common practice to “lay a fleece” before the Lord or to practice bibliomancy by opening open my Bible at random and place my finger on the page for a message. At the time I didn’t realise these were forms of divination, and other forms of divination such as tarot were considered “of the devil”.

But this week I’ve been digging deeper into these roots. Where did my divination practices begin? What were the seeds?

I realised that I’ve known about and used divination since I was perhaps six or seven years old. Likely you have too.

First there were the fortune teller fish. These often came in party bags, or maybe in a comic as a free gift. You place the tiny cellophane fish on your palm and you read a message according to how it behaves, so if it curls it might mean you are in love, if it flips over it might mean you’ll soon be rich.

Then there were the paper fortune tellers. Never the most coordinated person I could find these a challenge to make (where I am folding and what bit gets written on?) but I could often get my mum to help me. I tried making one of these today and it was so much fun. I watched this video first to see how to do the folding, and then this one to see how to use it and where to write the fortunes.

Then there’s the old “flip a coin“, what shall we do? Whose turn is it?

Nature was also an oracle. We were taught the traditional rhyme “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.” I could never work out if it was true or not, but I still say it when I see a rosy sunset.

Daisies too, to work out if “he loved me” or not. I remember sitting on a field and picking out each petal carefully as a nine year old. And how if I wasn’t quite so careful I could pick petals to get the answer I wanted!

Divination is a powerful part of folk traditions and folklore in a way I hadn’t realised before. What are the divination traditions you recall from childhood?

I hope we can keep these alive for future generations.

Put the cards down and step away from the pendulum

The past few months I’ve been pulling cards less often.

I found that when I pulled cards or did a spread what came out was the same. I felt stuck, a bit confused, divination has been a reliable friend and ally in navigating life’s often stormy waters and getting me through tricky and unpredictable times.

Now, though, I felt let down.

The other day, in the middle of getting ready for work, I grabbed my Enchanted Forest deck from the bookshelf and pulled a card. Let’s see, I thought, what is going on.

I pulled the Seven of Visions.

It describes a visit to a magical pool where you can seek guidance.

It also gives the wisest advice I’ve heard in a while, a much needed reminder.

That if seeking guidance from divination is creating confusion, then stop.

I realised that maybe the reason I wasn’t getting any guidance through was that I’d already had it. That I needed to put into practice and work through the information I’d already been given.

I often see posts about daily cards, and certainly at times this has been part of my practice. However as with anything there are challenges linked to overuse. We seek guidance from oracles in order to create powerful changes in our lives, in order to dig into our intuition and access the wisdom that is often hidden from us by our conscious minds. Once we have received our message then the time comes to work that through.

I think that I come back to the cards repeatedly when I don’t like the answer they’ve given me. I pull from different decks to see if there’s a different message. Maybe Spirit was having an off day? Maybe the signal from Source wasn’t great when I did that reading…maybe there’s a way to shortcut my way to having it all sorted out?

This of course isn’t the case. It’s born of a desire to escape the hard work of doing the work.

Life for all of us has been challenging the past eighteen months. I expect we’d all like to feel that things were going to “settle down” and we could get back to something comfortable and “normal”. Maybe we pull cards because we want to see this return to what was on the horizon, we need the reassurance, lost as we are in an unfamiliar landscape.

Our divination tools can be great helpers on our life journey, but there are also times when it is ok to set them down and get on with getting on. Sometimes it is enough to do what is in front of us, and not have big plans for the next year or five years or ten years.

Sometimes its ok to just take the next step.

If you find that your cards don’t seem to be “working” for you then it is ok to set them aside for a while. You won’t suddenly lose the ability to read them or fall off your spiritual path. They are tools to help you and if they aren’t helping at present its ok to leave them aside for a while and rest in the moments where you are.

Gently does it.

22 Ways – A Tarot Pilgrimage

Back in 2001 I began a “retreat in daily life”. I had been wanting to work through the spiritual exercises of St.Ignatius for a while but as a young parent with a five and three year old the option to depart on a month long solo retreat wasn’t an option.

I found a local spiritual director trained in guiding the exercises and began a year long journey of daily reading, meditation and reflection. This was one of the most significant spiritual experiences of my life, transformative in ways that can only be known if you’ve ever been on such a journey.

When I began thinking about my practical project for the priestess class I’m working with at present I was reminded of this experience. “Pilgrimage” does not necessarily need to involve far-flung places and (currently proscribed) international travel. We can journey right where we are, in our everyday experiences and environments, and discover ourselves “knowing the place for the first time” as new understandings unfold for us.

In 22 Ways we will make a virtual pilgrimage and retreat in our daily lives. We’ll begin with a live call on July 5th to set our intentions and pack our metaphorical travelling bags.

There will be reflections over the following weeks on each Major Arcana card as we make a vision quest with the Fool on their journey, carrying out our own pathwork as we do so.

On Sundays there will be space to rest and integrate our explorations.

At the close of our journey we will share space to reflect on both the journeying and the place we have come to.

For the duration there will be a pop-up Facebook group for sharing.

I will be posting all the content without charge in public posts through my Patreon. (To receive notifications you’ll need to create an account and “follow” me).

I hope to see you on the road 🙂

The Light from Stones

Around four years ago I created a crystal oracle. A teacher I was working with suggested it as one way of working with divination. I chose thirteen crystals from my collection of tumbled stones, gave them meanings based on their correspondences and uses in healing, and would pick them to see what my focus for the day was or use them alongside cards to add information to my reading.

It wasn’t until last month that I came across the term “lithomancy”, spotting it in someone’s Instagram bio. Naturally curious I wanted to know more.

Lithomancy is a divination practice which uses stone casting. According to Wikipedia it is popular in the U.K. although it is not something I had encountered before. Readings can be just a few stones, or may use thirteen or more stones.

I came across three possible ways to approach lithomancy. Firstly the classic yes/no questions. You could choose two stones each allocated with a given meaning, one for yay and one for nay, and pick one at random to answer your question. Alternatively you could choose a flat stone and decide which side is yes and which no. If it is a very smooth with little to distinguish it you could mark it with a sharpie, so that your stone becomes akin to a flipped coin.

Your second way to work is to allocate meanings to your stones, as I did with my crystal oracle. In traditional practice in the U.K thirteen stones are used. One stone is set as the significator or key stone and this creates the centre of the reading, with other stones being read in relation to it. Sometimes seven of the stones will be given astrological correspondences and you can read more about this here on the Good Witches Homestead blog. The others are given other meanings such as home, luck, money and health.

A third way is to use a board or casting cloth. Just like the casting mats I use for charm oracle work these have allocated sections and the reading depends on where the stones fall on the cloth.

You could create your own set of stones either by collecting them from the beach or river, or by picking out some crystals. You might want to give them meanings, or create symbols to draw on with a marker pen (you can use hairspray as a fixative to make sure they last).

In July I’ll be running a workshop on creating a crystal oracle and we’ll talk more about creating meaning and working with stones there, details are on the Workshop tab here.

If you’d like to get started on your own set right now you can find suggested instructions here and also from Maxine Palmer here.

I also really enjoyed this podcast from Two Kentish Witches on divination, you can find the section on lithomancy at 19:17-23:01 of the recording.

The more I explore divination practices the more I am drawn to those we can literally “pick up”. A needle and thread, a bowl of clear water, or a handful of pebbles on the beach which we could use for lithomancy. Our opportunities to communicate with Spirit don’t ever need to involve huge financial outlay, nature gifts them to us freely, waiting for us to receive the gift.

Divination Inspiration – a recipe for reading.

I love divination. Divination is more than just tarot or oracle cards. It covers many different modalities and tools. When we engage with these tools for the purpose of seeking wisdom or to connect to the divine we are practising divination.

Divination is something most of us have done at some point in our lives, whether we have looked for signs before applying for a job to know if we will be successful, or decided that if our latest crush calls in the next ten minutes then we’ll definitely go on that date.

I looked up the “definition” of divination. Wikipedia describes it as;

“(from Latin divinare, ‘to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy’, related to divinus, ‘divine‘)…is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of a…standardized process or ritual. Used in various forms throughout history, diviners ascertain their interpretations of how a querent should proceed by reading signs, events, or omens, or through alleged contact with a supernatural agency.”

There are a lot of technical words in there, but what does it really mean?

For me, a more everyday format might be helpful. Let’s imagination divination is a cake that I want to bake. What do I need to include, how can I put it together?

You will need:

  • One supernatural being (this could be a deity, spirit guide, ancestor, angel, your own inner wisdom or a gathering of these).
  • One querent (the person asking the question, this could be you)
  • A divination tool (tarot cards, runes, witch stones, charms, bird in flight, clouds and so forth)
  • A question

Method:

  • Create a sacred space. Do this by breathing in, saying a prayer, lighting a candle, making a cup of tea, turning off your phone, laying out a cloth, or all of the above.
  • Prepare your tool/s
  • Welcome your querent into the space (whether physically or virtually)
  • Agree the question
  • Ask the question
  • Lay out your cards, pick your runes, throw your charms, cast your bones.
  • Read the answer in consultation with your querent
  • Check in with your querent
  • Say thank you to your divine/ spiritual helpers
  • Close the space

You can practice divination when you’re out in nature, noticing the plants and animals around you, or looking for patterns in the sand at the beach. You can choose to use tools such as tarot cards or charms. However you do it divination is a wonderful way to engage with your spiritual support team and be active creators of our life-path, unlocking our own magic, taking the wheel and steering our course forwards.

Charm Oracles 101

Charms give wonderful, clear guidance and they are great fun to work with. Rather like Lenormand they are direct and no nonsense in the readings they give, whether you’re looking to read for yourself or incorporate charms into your readings for clients.

I started working with charms as a divination tool in 2017, after taking New Age Hipster’s Totally Spiritual class . Passionate about all forms of divination I began researching and looking for tools online. I could find very little. A small but insistent voice within reminded me that before the internet people would have to find these things out for themselves, through study, practice and their own connection with Spirit.

In the spirit of exploration I set to work.

It started with a bag of mixed charms from Amazon. I sorted out duplicates and any which I didn’t like the look of. Next I began noting down what I felt each charm would mean in a Word document. I would take time to get quiet and then see what messages came through. An angel wing charm could mean blessing, a key could mean that an answer was coming, an elephant would mean “stay strong.”

I continued working with charms, sometimes using them on their own, or with other oracles such as tarot cards to give depth to my readings. When I opened my shop in 2020, I remembered how difficult it had been to find sets of charms when I started out. I thought I would stock a few sets just in case anyone was interested. Each set would be a unique creation, intuited for the person buying.

Over time I wanted to share my discoveries and passion for charms, I ran a workshop on charm reading in the autumn of 2020 and published a small book Creating and Working with Charm Oracles in early 2021.

If you are interested in reading with charms but not sure where to start I’ve created a free video series to explore the basics. You can find the series on the Tea Break Tarot School channel here. There are eight short videos covering:

  • Choosing your charms
  • How to divine meanings
  • Cleansing your charms
  • Reading charms by pulling or casting
  • Using charms with other oracles such as tarot

If you’d like to ask any questions you can find me via these links.

Wishing you joy on your “charmed” oracle journey.

Tea Break Tarot School: Tarot Playbook

We began this journey in January 2019. I was eight months into living with my folks and helping care for my mum, still caring for children and trying to manage some work on the side. Rather than the freedom I had hoped for once my children reached adulthood, I found the walls closing in again with renewed caring responsibilites. Oh woe and so forth.

I spent a while feeling sorry for myself and then decided I needed to do something about sorting that out.

I began working through the Artist’s Way. I was also coming up on three years of working with tarot, which had been an incredible support during significant health needs and big personal transitions.

At that time I was still deeply in the mindset that I couldn’t do things unless “an expert” showed me how, or I got a piece of paper which said I was “qualified”. I was also conscious that tarot could be an expensive interest. When I was a young mum in the late nineties there were times when we couldn’t afford food, and I knew that not everyone in the world had access to the resources to pay for classes and materials.

I imagined that younger version of me, toddler in the hallway, baby on hip, prepping pasta and canned tuna for dinner in a one bed flat. What would she need to learn tarot? She didn’t have much time, what with two children under two. She didn’t have much energy and she didn’t have much money. She would need small bite lessons, not more than ten minutes, she would need an encouraging voice, she would need something light and fun and inexpensive.

I decided to create a free tarot class, and a blog was the affordable way to do it. I also wanted to experiment and see if I could really “read” tarot from just the images on the cards…

I gathered the decks I had and began.

Now some two years later I’m gathering the blog posts together to publish them. They are still essentially blog posts, though I have rewritten them, and added material throughout. In some cases my views of the cards are different now, life has moved on and with it my understanding of spirituality and tarot, so the updates reflect this. I was a literature student at university. I learned that meaning doesn’t exist in the book itself, rather I make meaning as I read, I am a co-creator of meaning. With this in mind the writing is creative and reflective, hopefully to encourage folks to work with their own imaginative and creative selves as they engage with the cards. The intention is that readers will create their own meanings for cards which draws on their lived experiences. In this way we can add to the understanding of tarot as a book of wisdom for our post-modern mystical lives.

The book is structured as a “playbook” (I liked that better than “workbook”), with space for notes and comments, sketches and doodles. It won’t tell you what to think but I hope it will encourage you to explore further with tarot and play with your own emerging meanings.

I’m hoping to have it “out there” by the end of April 2021.

Empathetic Tarot

When I began working with tarot I learned to read intuitively. I studied the Rider-Waite deck, as so many modern interpretations use this system, but I also learned to use my intuitive abilities and inner-knowing to read. I would take the card and notice the images, seeking connections in memory and imagination to draw out the reading.

What has struck me recently is that alongside this way of reading I also read tarot empathetically.

I spent the first few years of writing this blog living with the cards. As I wrote each of the original card posts I found that it resonated in my lived experience, when I was working with the cups I was dealing with deep emotional work, with the swords major adjustments in thought patterns and shifts in ideology.

I don’t know whether the cards where influencing my focus in a subtle way, or whether I was facing these situations in any case and the cards resonated; I suspect it was a mystical symbiosis of the two.

In any case I discovered, as you may have also, that I could “feel” the cards. The ten of cups would bring a deep sigh of contentment and satifsfaction, with a bittersweet realisation that this bliss could and would not last forever; the devil would bring me back to a sense of my patterns and well-worn ruts, I could feel the stuckness, the cycle of repetition and the drowsy numbness it induced, safe but also frozen, deadening.

I am coming to realise that for me this is how I read. When I pull a card it is not just the image which captures my notice now, not just the idea of it; I feel it throughout my body, like a plucked string, vibrating. In a reading this means that I can “feel” something perhaps of what the querent is feeling; in a deeper way I can “see” the situation that they are inhabiting, and also the way they might take to get through and out.

Maybe this is true for all readers, but I have felt that this is something we don’t talk about when we speak of intuitive readings, not just our mental faculties, also the knowledge of our bodies and their wisdom. We are one species, and our species has shared the experiences of life we see depicted in the tarot, over millenia. It is a common language of feeling.

How can we deepen our working with this understanding of the cards?

In the Tea Break Tarot live class we are working with a card each week. The card becomes our companion as the week progresses, perhaps we keep it on our altar, or carry an image of it with us. We notice its energies at play in daily life; in the people we encounter, in daily routines and experiences. We know how it feels, for instance, like the Emperor, to take charge of a situation, to put plans in place, whether we are engaged in a creative project or planning a house move. We know how it feels to wait suspended like the Hanged One, relaxing into a situation over which we have no control, consciously choosing to surrender.

Connecting these lived and felt experiences to our readings brings them to life and, when we share readings with others, adds an extra layer to our understanding. We can never assume that we know what someone else is experiencing but using our empathetic abilities alongside our imagination enables us to read with compassion and humanity.

Well meaning

This post is inspired by the folks over in the Tea Break Tarot Facebook group.

Discussion yesterday explored the idea of tarot card meanings. This was one of my biggest blocks with tarot when I began working with the cards…how on earth would I learn what they all meant, how would I recall that information during a reading? Seventy-eight different cards, and the variety of different combinations found through working with several cards at once had me in a spin.

When I started out I did choose to explore the Rider-Waite system and worked through a teach-yourself-tarot book to get me underway. However what I realised afterwards grew out of my experiences as a life-long bookworm and English literature student.

I came to understand that to give a fixed meaning to tarot was similar to saying that Van Gogh’s Sunflowers had one set, authorised meaning, or that a particular poem could only be understood in one way. I came to see that tarot was like the books and plays I had studied, that while the writer might have had certain thoughts when they recorded their text, once it was “out there” the reader had at least as much of a creative role in developing their own meaning as they read, from their own perspectives and lived experiences.

I believe the same is true of tarot. While there do seem to be common, archetypal themes within the tarot, situations that are shared as part of human experience, each individual tarot reader brings their own “reading” to the cards. Each of us looks at the cards with our own unique “lenses”. These are made from each of our individual life stories, and are constantly evolving as we do.

While it is helpful to reference the tarot collective for information and wisdom, it is as important to allow the “meanings” of the cards to come to us through our own intuitive gifts. There is no awarding body able to rubber stamp or authorise our interpretations, and while some people believe that there is only one right way to do tarot I personally think that’s a bunch of gatekeeping nonsense (I substituted this for my original more Anglo-Saxon word choice). Give yourself time but in the end this is a personal journey, as much as any creative and intuitive practice; others can support you in gaining skills but how you go from there is your gift and also your contribution to the collective wisdom and understanding.

I am also struck by the notion that the “traditional” Rider-Waite system is a mere hundred or so years old (and given that tarot is at least 600 years old therefore not that traditional) and created by white, well-off Victorian folks who were mostly male. Whatever we take from these cards it will be helpful necessary to filter it through the perspectacles of inclusivity watching out for racism, able-ism, sexism, homophobia and other bias along the way.

It can feel scary and strange to wake up to the realisation that there is no “ultimate truth” to learn or uncover in tarot. Ultimately there is no single answer to the question “what do the cards mean?” Divination is a journey, a means to guidance, not the destination. For me, that is the wonder and gift of oracles, exploring the key, unlocking the magic, having the discussions, uncovering the path one step at a time.

Needles and pins

A friend recently shared some information about household divination. This brought me back to how I got started in Tea Break Tarot School; the desire to make magical practice and divination inclusive and accessible. I have often wondered what I would do without Amazon or Etsy or Facebook and Instagram to show me smart new oracle decks and divination tools? I wonder what my foremothers did when they needed to seek answers?

Reading tea leaves, using a block of laundry blue in a bowl of water, making a needle pendulum, dropping marbles, candle wax…these are methods of divination under the wire, without the approval of a publisher or brand, no certification available, only a trust in your own wisdom as you work your way, inching forwards, with ancestral whispers for guidance and support.

I love these older methods of practice. I love them because they are at hand. I want to do some pendulum work; I find an old needle and a piece of thread and I can begin. There is no need for excess income or to wait for a delivery driver. In a society driven by the need to consume there is a magical freedom to discovering and practising a form of divination without a book’s guidance or YouTube video.

I sit at the table, looking over a rainwashed sky and thread my needle. It swings wildly and enthusiastically in a wide circle of yes as I test it out, then a definite back and forth line for a no. It seems happy to help, keen, like a puppy, to retrieve answers, quivering over my palm as it comes to rest. I have used needles countless times in my life but never for this purpose. I wonder what other tools are waiting to be uncovered among kitchen cupboards and bedroom drawers.

This year I am working with the idea that less is more, embracing the resources already at hand, shedding the unused or surpassed. I feel a shift within as I acknowledge a way of knowing lost in the sterilised and sanitised work of mass-produced oracles, the rawness of magic teased from everyday tools hovering expectantly, waiting for me to wake up to its presence, and my own power.