Sometimes, the tarot tells you that the energy is right for embarking on a new adventure. Like the Ace of Wands, for example. Sometimes, it uses eight sticks to goad you into doing a thing, instead.
This week, I drew the Eight of Wands. I’ve got to hand it to it — I have been feeling a lot of momentum lately. I don’t know if it’s the warming weather or the appearance of the sun during what’s felt like a very cloudy winter, but I definitely get that sense of motion!
In every respect, the Eight of Wands is progress, and very rapid progress, at that. It’s a wind that picks you up and carries you along. It’s an upswing in energy. It’s a rapid recovery from a low point, It’s infatuation, movement, high energy, and flight. It’s results.
I’m happy to see it.
Positive omens are lining up for beginning another round of studying! I found a new Meetup group! I’ve made a lot of very interesting breakthroughs while meditating and journeying that I don’t really want to get into right here, because they probably won’t make any sense and will alienate literally everyone else! I have so many paintings to photograph and list, my dudes.
As advice, the Eight of Wands can be the harbinger of good news. It’s learning from a positive experience, and letting that confidence carry you to greater heights. It’s finally gaining the understanding that, even if you had to start from zero again, you have what it takes to achieve what you want again and again, as many times as you need to. It’s a thumbs-up from the universe, a pat on the back, and a sign not to quit now.
The Eight of Wands is near the end of the Wands cycle, but it isn’t the ultimate culmination. It’s just a high point, a small success that gives you confidence that the larger success is possible. It might be tempting to take shortcuts, but that isn’t what got you here and it won’t be what gets you to the end.
After finishing the Dedicant Path, I needed to figure out what to do. Continue with the Initiate Path? See what’s required to pursue ordainment? Join a Guild or Kin and follow their path of instruction? I gave myself until the 8th to decide, and I did.
For now, I’m going with the first one. Having read about it, it sounds like it will bring me the closest to where I want to be. The curriculum covers things that I have experience in, and that I know interest me (trancework, divination, ceremonial magic), and covers things that interest me, but which I lack confidence in (liturgy, the bardic arts).
I did apply to join a few Guilds as well, but I think I want to work on them afterward.
It’s funny — it all feels almost like declaring a major in college. (Hopefully it’ll involve less organic chem.)
The only thing standing between me and the Initiate’s Path right now is the Initiate’s letter. It’s the answers to three questions, seemingly designed to figure out why, exactly, the respondent is interested in pursuing initiation, and how they plan to use it when they have it. Knowing I’d spend weeks writing and re-writing if I let myself, I answered and explained myself as best as I could, and fired it off.
Now I just have to wait. I’ll know if it was acceptable within the next few weeks, then I get to jump into another round of reading and writing!
Following the Three of Cups last week, I guess the party isn’t over! The Nine of Cups, upright, is another overwhelmingly positive card. As a Nine, it is near the end of the cycle of pip cards. The only thing after it is the Ten of Cups, so the Nine of Cups is a good indicator that the hard times are in the past (for now) and things are looking up.
In love readings, it’s a sign of emotional fulfillment, pleasure, and satisfaction. In career readings, it points to success and recognition. In a more spiritual context, it points to spiritual fulfillment and a soul that radiates joy and positivity.
Even in terms of advice, the Nine of Cups is a good sign. Looking at the traditional imagery of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, there’s a man sitting in front of a row of golden chalices, arms crossed and a frankly smug expression on his face. All of the cups are upright, none are spilled. He’s got a ton of resources to back him up. Whatever this guy wants, he is probably going to get.
In the Crow Tarot, the imagery is similar:
He sits on top of a pyramid of Cups, filled with fruit, fish, flowers, and the keys to whatever his little bird heart desires. The world’s his oyster.
I could use this energy right now. I’m taking on some things that are pretty new to me, and a few that aren’t — though they are rather high stakes. If I do have the keys to everything I want right now, I plan to use the crap out of them.
Some materials that make it into the gem trade pretend to be something they aren’t. They might even come complete with a list of healing and metaphysical properties, leaving buyers none the wiser.
Wait, fake crystals?
There’s a whole spectrum of things covered by the term “fake crystal.” On one hand, it can mean a gem where the trade name doesn’t reflect the mineral itself (e.g. various types of crackled or dyed quartz). It can also mean a material that’s treated like a gem when it isn’t. It might be made into towers, molded into points, tumbled into nuggets, or even shaped into palm stones and spheres.
How can you tell if a gem is actually a crystal vs a man-made material?
Honestly, the best way I’ve found is to know the various types of art glass that end up in the gem trade. If you’re trying to suss out a man-made crystal masquerading as a natural one, there are certain tells you can look for. That’s a better subject for another post, however, so let’s look at art glass that’s frequently sold as and mistaken for natural gemstones.
Opalite is a type of opalescent glass, sometimes sold as sea opal or opal moonstone. There is a natural stone called “opalite,” but you’re more likely to come across it under the name “common opal” since synthetic opalite is much more prevalent.
Some unscrupulous sellers will try to pass off opalite glass as natural opal or moonstone. Fortunately, opalite is pretty recognizable — it’s smooth, evenly colored, doesn’t exhibit any cracks or inclusions, and may occasionally contain air bubbles.
Crystal healers sometimes credit opalite with the ability to shift energy blockages, improve one’s ability to communicate, and stimulate creativity.
Goldstone, or aventurine glass (no relation to aventurine), is a stunningly sparkly type of glass made in a low-oxygen environment. It has to be produced in a specific type of environment to allow the copper ions in the mixture to reduce to pure, elemental copper, and within a very narrow temperature range to allow the glass to stay liquid while the copper precipitates out, creating the evenly-distributed gold glitter throughout the glass.
I have seen goldstone marketed as sunstone, as well as sold in ways that obscure the fact that it’s a man-made glass. Goldstone doesn’t really look like natural sunstone, however — the color and distribution of metallic crystals is too even.
Some crystal healers say goldstone promotes energy, confidence, vitality, and ambition.
Blue goldstone looks very similar to regular goldstone, the only difference is the color. Blue or purple goldstones use different metallic elements in their formulations, giving the stones a deep blue or purple color (hence the name) with silver glitter.
Blue goldstone doesn’t really resemble any natural stone, but I have seen it sold as “blue sunstone.”
Like goldstone, blue goldstone is said to help with vitality. It’s also credited with the ability to soothe anxiety and communication.
With a cursory visual inspection, molded glass can pass for quartz. There are a few key things to look for to be able to tell regular glass from the real McCoy:
Quartz is probably going to be cold to the touch, colder than glass.
Quartz will probably be slightly heavier — it generally (not accounting for differences in composition of the matrix, inclusions, etc) has a density of 2.65 g/cm3 while borosilicate glass is about 2.2 g/cm3.
Glass is likely to contain air bubbles, and probably won’t have the natural imperfections of quartz.
Glass is softer than quartz — it won’t be able to scratch a glass plate, but quartz will.
Some low-quality quartz crystals are ground up, melted down, and used to create reconstituted quartz. This is frequently used for scrying spheres, since it offers perfect clarity along with the other properties of quartz. The best way to tell reconstituted quartz from naturally-formed quartz is its lack of imperfections, and its price tag. A reconstituted crystal sphere of a given size and clarity is much less expensive than its natural counterpart.
Does it matter?
If you have a piece of opalite, goldstone, or even resin or glass that you get something out of, I’m definitely not going to tell you you’re wrong. I’ll be the first to tell you that something’s origins or how natural it is don’t necessarily dictate its usefulness; I’ve used literal, actual garbage in spellwork before.
That said, it royally sucks to get mislead by an unscrupulous seller. If you enjoy opalite and find that it’s useful for you on your spiritual path, that’s awesome! Just please make sure you know what you’re buying, and don’t let someone overcharge you for their “super rare sea opal.”
It can also be important when you’re looking into making things like gem elixirs. While glass is pretty much inert, you really, really want to make absolutely certain that you’re not working with something that’s going to leach harmful compounds into your elixir. For that reason alone, you absolutely want to make sure that you know exactly what kind of minerals — natural or man-made — you’ve got.
Of course, no man-made material is going to have the exact same physical or metaphysical properties as the gemstone it’s imitating. But (as I mentioned in my post about identifying natural citrine) goldstone, blue goldstone, and opalite can have a legitimate use, even in a very traditional magical system. Color magic is a viable aspect of witchcraft, and just because goldstone was made in a factory instead of underground doesn’t make it any less orange and sparkly.
If you try to use nature-derived material in your spellwork, you might want to familiarize yourself with the man-made stones that occasionally make their way into the crystal and gemstone market. If you don’t really care, or feel drawn to these stones for their own sake, there’s no reason to avoid them. Opalite, goldstone, blue goldstone, and reconstituted quartz are all beautiful and useful in their own ways. If you find a piece that resonates with you, enjoy it and treasure it — no matter whether it came from the earth, or from a laboratory.
It took me some time, but I submitted my ADF Dedicant Path work, received some feedback, elaborated where I was asked to elaborate, and… I passed!
It’s an enormous relief — perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the feedback I received involved me being “too hard on [myself]” when rituals didn’t go perfectly to plan. I don’t consider myself a type A personality, I don’t really think I’m a perfectionist (well, most of the time), but I can see it. Completing this path work was very important to me. Upholding the virtues and things I’ve learned in the course of doing it is still important to me.
There’s only one problem: where do I go from here?
I’ve considered trying to pursue ordainment. There are also other paths of study within each of the Druidry guilds. With how long it took me to finish my Dedicant Path work to my satisfaction, I’m a little hesitant to jump into another round of studying and writing so soon. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t calling to me, though.
Do I explore other Druid groups alongside ADF, and see what knowledge they have to offer? Do I choose a guild or two to concentrate on?
I’m giving myself until February 8th. By then, I will have looked at my options and picked a course of action.
I celebrated alone, as I often do — as much as I like having other Pagans to share with, i still really enjoy the headspace of a solitary ritual. It can get much more improvisational. If it feels right to do a ritual in the alley next to the dumpster and pour out my nature offerings right where the birds can get them, I can do that. If I want to honor my ancestors by making and offering of some of the really awesome BBQ pizza I reheated from the night before, I can do that. If the spirits move me and I want to cover my floor in newspaper, smear my body with paint, and express myself by doing the worm across a piece of unstretched canvas, I can do that.
Not that I did, or anything. But I could!
Oddly, being able to get out and about more now has given me more of an appreciation for solo rituals. The difference between having to celebrate alone and choosing to do so is much bigger than I thought.
I don’t generally get much opportunity to decorate for the High Days. Kiko would eat whatever I put out, and Pye would throw it on the floor in a fit of pique if he thought his food bowl didn’t contain the right ratio of freeze dried bits to crunchy bits. I love my cats dearly, but they are kind of jerks.
And so, I had a small Imbolc celebration sitting in the big, comfy chair in my living room, with my coffee table as an altar and a very fancy candle I choose specifically as an offering for Brigid. The Nature Spirits received mung beans, my Ancestors received candy, the Shining Ones received bourbon and incense, and the waters of life were the tail end of a bottle of very excellent cucumber, mint, and geranium lemonade. (I’m a sucker for cucumber and herbal flavors.)
It was peaceful. It was low-key. It was just what it needed to be, in a place where the pavement often keeps me from being able to see the first early flowers make an appearance, on a day when the overcast sky seemed to blanket everything in downy gray and the brightness of spring still feels far away.
I’m not complaining, of course. Cups cards are the cards of emotions, and most of the Cups I end up drawing are all about fulfillment and good times.
This weekend, my S.O. and I had a little cause to celebrate. I’ve been able to get out more now, so we packed the weekend with things we’ve needed to do, and a few that just sounded like fun. The rain dampened our plans a little bit, but that’s alright.
The important thing here is that I’ve got so many plans for stuff I want to do, my dudes. i have a group of tabs open for some local theaters and concert halls, which I’ve been idly refreshing in my spare time to see what’s on offer. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to do that, pick a show that looks like fun, and actually plan to go, instead of feel like I’m tormenting myself with FOMO.
So it feels pretty appropriate to draw the Three of Cups this week. I’ve pulled it before, when he and I were about to move into our new place, and we each had a ton of irons in the fire that we were both very excited about. This time around, I’m continuing existing projects more than starting up new ones, and I don’t really have a major life change on the horizon that I know of. There are always more things that I want to do and see, but both my S.O. and I are in a very good place at the moment. I’m very happy to enjoy my new freedom, though!
Saturday, we’d hoped to go see World in a Box. Unfortunately, the stars didn’t quite align — they were sold out, and the rain made navigating there a bit of a challenge. Still, it prompted me to look at what else Rhizome has coming up, and given me a lot of new ideas.
I love this card. I love the Crow Tarot deck. I love where my life is right now, and I’m excited to see where it’s going.